We were lucky enough to witness the elaborate changing of the guard ceremony.
Political demonstrations are rare in Canada. Serious ones at that, I mean. Sure, you get the odd gathering of a few dozen 'activists' upset over something they usually know very little about - they just feel like bitching because they have nothing better to do with their time. Some moron is yelling into a megaphone, a few rocks are thrown, a squad car rolls up asking them to 'please stop it', and the end result is some raving lunatic on the six o'clock evening news whom you would like nothing more than to beat senseless with a phone book.
That's not the case here in Taiwan, when on National Day over one million people marched through the streets to support the deposition of President Chen Shui-bian
. A staggering 70% of the population favours the removal of President Chen because of his blatant lies and corruption - seems that Chen and his family enjoy dipping into the cookie jar every now and then.
Normally, foreigners are discouraged from attending demonstrations, as the scene could quickly escalate to violence and you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. But this was the first time either of us had been in a situation
I love the way the guys arms are casually at his side while he relieves himself.
like this, and we were curious to observe. Many of the streets were blocked off with barbed-wire gates guarded by military personnel, and the police were out in full riot gear just in case things got nasty. There was a bit of tension in the air, but the people proved this rally would remain peaceful - as their beef was with the President, not law enforcement - and eventually several hundred police officers marched off through the crowd amid loud cheers, chants, and singing.
When we arrived on the scene - around 5:00pm - the crowd was about 100,000 strong on Zhongxiao Road in front of the main station, every single one wearing a red shirt with the slogan
and a thumbs-down picture on the front. Despite being anti-government, there was an overwhelming sense of national pride and dedication to the cause, and we felt this first hand while crossing through the massive crowd to get to our hostel.
After getting settled we went to dinner (so good!) and strolled through a night market before returning to the hostel around 11:00pm, only to find the crowd hadn't shrunk by much and the noise was still very loud.
At 508m, it's the tallest building in the world.
Eager to learn more about the demonstration, I approached a nearby couple sitting atop a subway entrance. Floyd and Alison were gracious enough to answer my incessant questions regarding the event and even got us chanting along with everyone else. We bought t-shirts to show our support and wished them well in their collective pursuit of a new leader.
Our time in Taipei spans a few days, so we were able to see and do what we had intended. From relaxed Danshui to chic Xinyi, smoke-filled temples to mouth-watering food stalls, towering Taipei 101
to the world class National Palace Museum
, Taipei has so much to offer. It's a busy city and the traffic is mad, but it's clean, the people are great, and the food...mmmm, tasty
! Some other highlights are the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and surrounding grounds, entertaining Snake Alley night market, and the asian food court and swaying in the breeze on the 91st floor outdoor observatory at Taipei 101.
After spending some time in historic west coast cities and the cosmopolitan capital, it's time to head down the scenic east coast and get our fill of Taiwan's natural wonders. And I'm sure the food's pretty good there
Formerly a Japanese Shinto shrine, now it's a backdrop for wedding photos.
too. Camille & Denise
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