Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Taipei Railway Workshop - A 'work-in-progress' Museum




It’s very rare to see a museum as a work in progress. This is what I saw on my visit to the Taipei Railway Workshop Museum. This was the actual workshop where Taiwan’s trains were repaired beginning during the Japanese occupation and used through the turn of the century. This is a huge complex with many large buildings that housed the locomotive engines and passenger cars for repair. Also, adjacent was a machine shop which could fabricated any part needed for the trains.



After Taiwan’s rail system was electrified and maintenance facilities spread along the new line the large workshop in Taipei became redundant and obsolete. Many people had a vision of turning the old workshop into a Railroad Museum. For more information on the museum's progress, check out this link here.








The employee bathhouse was first to be designated a historical landmark in the early 80's and preservation was carried out shortly after. The other buildings are pretty much how they were when the workshop closed earlier this century.

Communal bath

I went on a ‘reservation only’ tour. The only way to currently see the workshop is by a guided tour and the tours are only given in Chinese. There is a very limited schedule for tours. Check this website for more information here.






From what I saw, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make this a world class museum. The preservation of the huge buildings I’m sure will be very expensive. Then you have the restoration costs of the locomotive engines and passenger cars.  Regardless of the current state of the workshop, I felt honored to have seen it as it was left when the shop closed. It was kind of eerie how the tools were still left out and the workers’ names were on the chalk board.







My hope would be that Taiwan can turn this into a Taiwan transportation museum displaying everything from pedicabs to the high-speed train. I think for this size of undertaking they will need help from corporate sponsors or income from renting out some of the space in those huge buildings. I could see the restoration of the old trains keeping many people busy for a long time. All Aboard Taiwan!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Miniatures Museum – Another ‘Other’ Museum of Taipei



I have heard about this museum on previous visits to Taipei, but never had time to visit. The subject matter didn’t really interest me. I have seen dollhouses before with miniature furniture, but I was pleasantly surprised by this museum.

Look for this small sign outside

The office building entrance. Enter here.

Another sign outside pointing to the museum.



Take stairs or the elevator down to the museum.

Welcome!


The museum is in an unlikely place in an office building. Follow your Google Maps directions and when you find the building, head downstairs.  The security guard will direct you.

Many different displays.


Walking the plank!

Dinosaurs!






Pay the entrance fee then head into the museum. What really surprised me was the number of “settings.” I used the word “settings” instead of dollhouses because there are more than just dollhouses. There are castles, miniature replicas of old buildings, and of course dollhouses.


"Oriental" room designed by a Westerner.







It was fun looking at all the detail of the little objects in the settings. Overall, it is a nice place to visit on a rainy or hot day. The nearest MRT station is Songjian-Nanjing.



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Friday, May 18, 2018

Kinmen Island, Taiwan – Violent Past, Preserved Beauty




Kinmen Island is closer to the mainland of China than Taiwan (you can see China on a clear day). Kinmen consists of two islands, the large dumbbell shape island also known as Quemoy and a smaller one, Lieyu, referred to as Little Kinmen. The two islands have been slow to develop compared to the rest of Taiwan due in part to its violent past.  Being near China made it an easy military target during the dispute with the communists on the mainland.  The island experienced an invasion in 1949, then artillery bombardment occurred in 1954-55 and again in 1958 and lasting at a decreased and less lethal rate until 1979. So obviously the government on Taiwan was not encouraging civilian economic development while this was occurring. Only when the cross-strait tensions decreased was the military reduced and thought was given to economic development and tourism.








Kinmen is close geographically to Xiamen Island (part of the Peoples Republic of China). Both islands became important in maritime trade in the early 17th century to compete with the Dutch East India Company. During the second half of the 17th century, Koxinga (General Cheng Cheng-gong) confronted the Qing Dynasty rule on these two islands on behalf of the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The islands then served as a military base for launching his attacks on Dutch occupied Taiwan in 1661. The islands were eventually incorporated into the Qing Dynasty and important trade routes were established along coastal China and into southeast Asia. Xiamen being nearer to the mainland, began serving as a free port to the world and gradually became the economic center of southern Fujian Province. The two islands, because of their proximity to the important trade center, became the homeland of many wealthy overseas Chinese who brought western influence to the houses they built.





The two governments across the Taiwan strait took different strategies in the development of their corresponding islands in the 1980s and 90s. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China designated Xiamen City on Xiamen island as a special economic zone resulting in large foreign investment and a building boom in factories and high-rise buildings.  The Taiwan military administration of Kinmen ended in November 1992 and there were political pressures to lift all restrictions on development. However, the lack of economic development when Kinmen was under the military administration preserved the islands of Kinmen with traditional villages and an ecology largely untouched. Seeing this unique asset, conservation groups formed to sway public opinion for the protection of the island’s biodiversity, natural environment, and unique historical and cultural heritage. The result was that a large part of Kinmen and Little Kinmen became a national park and the government began the restoration of old traditional houses and buildings.










The preservation of Kinmen has created a tourist destination like no other in the world. Where else can you walk in a bird sanctuary, stay in a Ming-era homestay, visit some war relics (tunnels), then relax with some kaoliang, the local liquor made from island sorghum!




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