February 28, 2011
Shilin Official Residence
As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I am always on the lookout for open spaces in Taipei, and one of the best is the Shilin Official Residence.
Located, not surprisingly, in Shilin in north Taipei, the Official Residence is so named as it was one of the residences of former president Chiang Kai-shek. In fact, this was the last place where the president and his wife resided before his death in 1975.
The actual house is situated in around 1,300 square meters of grounds, and it??s the grounds that are the real draw. The house is "open" to visitors, but the number of visitors is limited. You can reserve admission tickets online, but at present the website is only in Chinese.
The grounds are well looked after and known as an "ecological park" and offer a welcome dash of colour, with roses, orchids, plum blossoms, chrysanthemums and more depending on the season.
The whole area is enclosed by trees shielding off the city and providing a level of shade. Most of the plants are labelled in English as well as Chinese if you are interested, and there are areas of grass where children can run around.
There are also various pavilions where the adults can take a rest, and a central exhibit which changes on a regular basis, such as giant fish sculptures when we were there. Due to the scenic nature of the place, and also due to the wildlife (well birds as one photographer told me), you??ll see an impressive array of cameras. I should also point out that if you do come with children and they are posing for a photo, the local Taiwanese may also take a few snaps (due to the "cuteness" of foreign children). I really don??t think there is anything sinister about this in Taiwan, but it??s something you might like to be prepared for.
As well as the main house, there is a small chapel in the grounds. As devout Christians (according to the information outside the chapel), both Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong May-ling, used to worship here every Sunday. Of note, US presidents Nixon and Eisenhower both visited the chapel. Although you can??t actually go in these days (I was unable to determine whether services still take place), you can take a look.
On entering the grounds, you will find a cafe to the right with seating outside and in, plus gifts relating to Taiwan and Chiang Kai-shek. This is really the only place for refreshments, so stop here first if you are thirsty. As always in Taiwan when it??s hot and you are not used to a tropical climate, make sure you drink plenty of water. If you didn??t bring any with you, stock up here before you hit the gardens.
The best way to get here is via the MRT (Shilin Station). There are maps in every MRT station which show details of the surrounding area, or you can ask for help at the information desk. Opening hours for the Residence are 8am to 5pm year round, except for holidays and June through August when closing time is extended to 7pm. And again, entrance (at least to the grounds) is free!
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