I still had the whole morning for sightseeing on our fourth and last day in Taipei so I availed of the Northern Coast Tour (Keelung City) offered by Edison Travel Service (NT$1,000/pax). After breakfast at the hotel, Jandy and I, as well as a 69 year old retired USAF serviceman named Gerald and his wife Leona, were picked up at the hotel lobby by our tour guide. The sun was already up and shining (this after 3 days of rain) when we boarded our van for the 45-min. drive to Keelung City. Nicknamed the “Rainy Port” (due to its frequent rain and maritime role), Keelung City is Taiwan’s second largest seaport (after Kaohsiung).
From the city proper, our van drove up a hill, east of the city, to Chung Cheng Park (derived from Chiang Chung-cheng, a given name of Chiang Kai-shek). Situated on the side of Ta Sha Wan Shan, atop a hill off Hsieh Road, Chung Cheng Park (also spelled as Jhongjheng Park) was formerly called Kang Park in the past. The first immigrants to Taiwan used to fight with each other for land. In order to stop these disputes, they set up a temple for yearly worship. During the Japanese occupation, the temple was in Kao Sha Park and later moved to Chung Cheng Park.
There are three levels in the park. On the first level is a historic cannon fort. On the second level is a Buddhist library, Chung Lieh Temple and Chu Pu Tan Temple. The temple attracts many worshipers on July 15, the Chung Yuan (Hungry Ghost) Festival, when families lights a lamp in front of their door in order to light the way for ghosts at night.
Our destination was the Kuan Hai Pavilion, on the third level. Here, we had a scenic view of Keelung City, its excellent 2,000 m. long and 400 m. wide harbor (embraced by mountains to its east, west and south); luxury passenger ships; smaller commercial craft; naval and coast guard vessels: and the azure Pacific Ocean.
Also here is the 22.5 m. (74-ft.) high, white smiling statue of Guan Yin (the Buddhist message of compassion and peace), the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The landmark of Chung Cheng Park, it is the biggest goddess statue in Southeast Asia. Inside the statue, Jandy and I climbed a steep stairway leading to the top. From portholes on the sides, we could take in views of the harbor and the city.
For me, Chung Cheng Park is a combination of a Buddhist holy site and amusement theme park. The grounds by the Guanyin statue are crowded with snack vendors and souvenir shops while toy vehicles for children to ride around on, some of them musical, are offered for rent.
Behind the statue is a Buddhist temple. We noticed a backwards swastika, a Buddhist symbol of peace (as opposed to the forward facing Nazi symbol), on top of a bell tower (you can ring the bell for a NT$50 donation). Further downhill are several 3-storey pagodas, a museum and a martyrs’ shrine. Since this park is near downtown, it is popular with city folk as well as tourists.
Chung Cheng Park: Keelung City, Taiwan. Tel: (+886-2) 2428-7664.
How to Get There: take 206 bus and stop at provincial hospital. The park entrance is on the other side.