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Way Up High in Taipei

So where is the coolest part of town nowadays? The answer is one of the last places in Taipei City to be developed: the Xinyi District.

Perhaps the high real estate prices of this mid-western part of the city aren't enough to convince you how popular the area is. Take a trip down there and see for yourself – the district is packed with financial buildings, one-after-another shopping malls, as well as Taipei World Trade Center. Oh yeah, and it's also in the shadow of the grand Taipei 101, the city's No. 1 landmark since a decade ago.

Nevertheless, Xinyi isn't just another developed corner; it symbolizes the progress of modern Taiwan.

Before embarking on the journey towards the futuristic Taipei, let's stop by Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Memorial Hall to reflect on his contribution towards the making of Taiwan.

Paying Respects to Dr. Sun Yat-sen

In commemoration of the country's “Father” Dr. Sun Yat-sen's incomparable dedication to revolutionary activities that transformed the history of Republic of China, the memorial hall was built in 1972, after six years of drafting and careful planning.

Not only did the beautiful monument honor the nation's founder, but it also added culture and an artistic touch to the area. It's also an additional perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon.

The majestic, solemn structure with a golden-orange roof spread so wide like a big birds' wings, which reminded me of a phoenix, was based on renowned architect Wang Da-hung's design, later modified by former President Chiang Kai Shek with Chinese architectural elements.

The hall, committed to promote Dr. Sun Yat-sen's many philosophies, prolongs the Three Principles of the People – Nationalism, Democracy and Livelihood; the aim is to integrate his beliefs with contemporary Chinese culture. It is also an educational and cultural arts center where various exhibitions and performances take place.

I attended a concert in the national performance hall and clearly remember being bowled over by the space's dimension and the traditional Chinese ambiance. The hall's also internationally renowned for its combination of elegance and practicality, with innovative projection and audiovisual systems.

There is also a shallow pond in the area, adding colors to a lush park with its pink lotuses and reflecting the sky and clouds. Turtles paddling around the pond or resting on rocks make the environment even more inviting.

Now let's move forward towards the 21st century of Taipei via the Taipei City Hall direction.

The Celebrity Structure

Without a doubt, Taipei 101 is the island's must-visit site, especially the Taipei 101 Observatory.

In 2004, Taipei 101, the “pride of Taiwan,” became the world's tallest building standing at 508 meters, until Burj Dubai (opening January 2010) topped its height at 818 meters. Nonetheless, I was overwhelmed by the structure's countless amazing attributes.

As I walk closer and closer to the building, my neck gets sorer and sorer. It's hard to believe that something so tall and stylishly stunning was built by men.

The tower combines the centuries-year-old Chinese wisdom of feng shui with innovative design and advanced construction. Shaped like a bamboo with eight units of eight floors each, the edifice stands for growth (bamboo) and prosperity (the number eight).

Situated on the skyscraper's 89th floor, the observatory sits at 382 meters above ground, offering visitors a 360-degree view of the city. The floor is clean and spacious, with audio guides available in eight languages, including English, Japanese, French and Spanish.

Besides a delightful must-have-in-all-tourist-traps souvenir shop, the floor also houses the “highest mailbox,” where visitors can send off postcards to family and friends.

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 Way Up High in Taipei 
Gardening during the midday-heat at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. (By James Topley, The China Post)

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