Monday, March 31, 2008

More on the Chiang Kai-Shek legacy

I'd read that today was the last day of an exhibition at the newly re-named Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall - formerly the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. I'd meant to visit for some time - especially to view the amazing kites hanging in the hall, made by Taiwan kite master, Buteo Huang.

Later tonight they and other exhibition materials displaying events in the journey along the island's democratisation, will be dismantled. Leaving just the statue of the former late President Chiang Kai-shek standing in the main hall


The kites are going to be displayed in the US; the exhibition boards will tour various universities in Taiwan. The display was designed to mark the 60th anniversary of what's known as the 228 or February 28 Incident as well as the 20th anniversary of the lifting of martial law.
The election of Ma Ying-jeou is once again raising debate in the media about the fate of the hall...will it be renamed again? restoring its original name?

In December, the characters to the monument and those above the main gate to the square were removed...and changed to ones reading "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" and "Liberty Square."

The memorial hall was built in 1980.

But President-elect Ma Ying-jeou - who says he considers the name-change invalid, is also speaking quite cautiously on the issue. He says whether the hall will revert to its former name will require further evaluation and that the issue will only be decided after consensus had been reached.

http://www.buteohuang.com/
http://www.culture.tw/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=232&Itemid=157

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mass migration of butterflies

Schoolgirl helps to mark this butterfly as it makes its way from Linnei township in Yunlin county to northern Taiwan

The authorities in Taiwan have stepped up measures to protect as many as a million Purple Crow butterflies as they make their annual mass migration from southern Taiwan, where they winter in warmer climates, to their breeding grounds in the north.


For the second year running, one lane of a highway in Yunlin county will be cordoned off to traffic during the butterflies’ peak flying periods – as it lies along their migratory path. Taiwan used to be called the Kingdom of Butterflies, with more than 400 species; 40 of them unique to the island. But in recent years, their numbers have fallen. close up of this gorgeous butterfly

The authorities are closing off a 2km section of the outer lane of the motorway when the number of butterflies flying past exceeds more than 500 per minute. 4 m high safety nets have been set up to encourage the insects to fly high above the traffic. And hundreds of new trees have been planted alongside the highway to serve as natural safety nets and rest areas. Lights have been installed under an underpass to encourage the butterflies to travel below the road, avoiding traffic altogether.


Altogether, its costing around $80,000. But Lee Thay-Ming, director general of the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau, says its worth it.


"Its very special..only can find in Taiwan so we are proud to spend a little money to do some protection for the butterfly and environment; to protect them for our next generation. "


Many children from local schools have got involved in projects to track the butterflies and learn more about them. Jefferson Tseng is a teacher at Cheng Kung elementary school

"I want the children to know where these butterflies come from and where they are heading", he said. " The butterflies face a lot of problems, such as this highway that causes a barrier to their migration. I brought the children here to learn more about the animal, to foster more love for our land, Taiwan. "

videoI
Its hard filming butterflies..believe me; especially without a telephoto zoom. Anyhow, this is part of my effort!


There’s little sign of butterflies along the road when I visit But I travel to a farm, just 20 kms away, where thousands of Purple Crow butterflies are taking nectar in the woods, gathering strength before they continue their long journey. They’re highly sensitive to cloudy or cool temperatures – and will not continue their migration until the weather conditions are perfect.

"In the world, there are only 2 kinds of butterfly they migrate like a bird..and in the winter, overwinter in a particular valley", says Chan Chia-lung, a researcher from the Purple Crow Conservation Society, who has been working with the authorities to help protect the insects. "One is in Mexico, its [the] Monarch [butterfly], the other in Asia, in Taiwan, is the Purple Crow."


He tells me the health of the butterflies is an important indicator about the state of our environment. "The butterfly, the population declines over the past 5 years; its an important signal that our environment is bad. so we have to pay more attention about the butterfly and the environment."

The loss of the butterflies’ natural habitats – through road building and other human activities – is the main reason their numbers have fallen. But environmentalists hope that these latest steps to provide the purple crow a safer passage home – coupled with a greater public awareness of the threats they face – can help to reverse that trend



And this is just a pretty flower I took a photo of as we started to make our way home.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Winds of change

Frank Hsieh, the defeated candidate in Sunday's presidential elections, announced his resignation at a meeting of the DPP's central standing committee today - in line with his election pledge to quit politics if he lost.

And he offered some pointers to his party: bring in younger people to top positions; reform and renovate; and become a relevant party.

"The DPP has for so many years promoted native consciousness, which has already won consensus in society. In the future the party will no longer monopolize Taiwan."

He said the party should hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss its future, saying "We must let the sound of reform ring out."

Some analysts wonder if the party can hold together, after suffering such big election defeats - with the KMT's landslide win in January giving them a 2/3 majority of the parliament.

But maybe not much of a honeymoon for Ma Ying-jeou, either, who has some formidable tasks ahead of him. This was what I wrote in a BBC analysis piece on Sunday.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7310627.stm

The decisive win by the KMT’s presidential candidate, Ma Ying-jeou is being seen as a milestone in Taiwan’s political development, where he’ll become the first non-native Taiwanese to become President.

Mr Ma was born in Hong Kong to Chinese parents. And many had suggested that his Mainlander background could handicap him at a time of surging pride among the Taiwanese in their native roots – carefully fostered under President Chen Shui-bian’s administration to counter-balance decades of sinicisation when Taiwan was under the KMT’s one-party rule.

In previous elections, the governing Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, had successfully highlighted national identity issues and the threats from China to mobilize grass roots supporters. This time, though, much more practical issues – the economy and good governance – were the main issues influencing people’s voting behaviour.

“Mr Ma’s success shows us that ethnic mobilization by the political parties will not get them anywhere; most people are tired of it, especially when its whipped up during election periods”, said Wu Yu-shan, at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Political Science.

“This is a turning point. Hopefully this will turn a new page in Taiwan’s domestic politics. The losing party, the DPP, will have to do a lot of soul-searching to find a new direction. This is the biggest crisis the party is facing in its recent history…and I would not exclude the possibility of it breaking up into different political groups.”

Many are hoping Mr Ma’s win will also open a new chapter in the island’s turbulent relations with its giant neighbour and political rival, China, which regards the island as part of its territory.

He had promised voters an economic revitalisation and better ties with China. In the short term, he wants to lift existing restrictions on doing business with China and push for regular direct flights. The Kuomintang, or KMT, banned direct flights with China after they fled to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. But in recent years, there have been a limited number of charter flights during the main Chinese holiday festivals.

Mr. Ma also hopes to negotiate a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with Beijing. In the longer term, he’d like to ink a peace accord, and agree military confidence building measures to avoid potential conflicts. "These are very ambitious plans which will require the other side's goodwill, but we have no choice," he told reporters one day after his election. However, he’s also made clear that before any peace talks can go forward, Beijing must first remove missiles targeted at the island.

“He will have smoother relations with China”, predicted Ta-Chen Cheng, professor at the Graduate School of Strategic Studies at Tamkang University.

“At lot of people expect Mr. Ma to improve the situation very quickly; especially since he says he’d like to have direct air links within one year. He will work to resolve this quickly; and he has a good team in place.

But many analysts are cautioning against overly-high expectations. “Economically, we can expect better relations”, said China-watcher, George Tsai, at Chinese Culture University. “But politically, we should not expect too much. The two sides need to build up mutual trust. Improved political relations will not be his first priority.”

Emile Sheng, professor of political science at Soochow University, agrees. “He wants to put aside all political controversies, and open up direct links and investment restrictions.

“But half of it depends on the Taiwan government and half depends on the Beijing government whether it is willing to open up economic ties without any political strings attached .I think that still remains to be seen.

“We’ll be able to see a more peaceful cross strait relationship because we know Mr Ma ..is not going to do anything dramatic to provoke the Beijing government. But there are a lot of difficulties to be managed.”

The scale of Mr. Ma’s electoral victory – which netted him 2.2 million votes more than his rival – is a sign that the public wanted change and a new direction after eight years of Chen Shui-bian’s administration, which had brought the island into sharper conflict with China and, at times, also strained ties with the United States.

The US – the island’s most important ally – was among several countries that had strongly criticized a referendum backed by President Chen on applying for UN membership under the name “Taiwan”, rather than the island’s official title, the Republic of China, calling it unnecessarily provocative. The move failed to muster enough support to pass.

“In the case of the UN admission, the DPP’s proposal is tantamount to a disaster”, Mr. Ma told foreign reporters, “causing very serious downgrading of our mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States and actually antagonizing many of our friends in the United Nations”.

Mr. Ma will have to do some diplomatic fence-building. He has already said he will visit a number of foreign countries before he is formally inaugurated into office in May. He also wants to widen the island’s diplomatic space, which has been squeezed by China, which often blocks the island joining international organizations, but says he will take a flexible and pragmatic approach.

The Taiwanese electorate have voted for change. But, Wu Yu-shan, at Academia Sinica, warns that they may have overly-high expectations. “I think his honeymoon period will be very short”, he said.

Without Beijing’s cooperation, Mr Ma cannot make headway with his cross-strait plans; and a worsening global economy could make it hard for him to deliver on his economic promises of higher growth and salaries.

But Mr Ma is not so pessimistic. Only a day after his election, he’s suggested that he’ll be able to make enough progress to win a second four-year term in office.

Friday, March 21, 2008

north and south


In politics, it is said, Taiwan is a divided island: the north, a stronghold of the opposition Kuomintang, or KMT, and its “pan-blue” political allies; the south firmly favouring the governing Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, and its “pan -green” allies.

The career paths of the two presidential candidates reflect that pattern.

Frank Hsieh, the DPP’s candidate, a former two-term mayor of Taiwan’s second largest city, Kaohsiung, in the south, rose to public prominence as a lawyer defending political dissidents arrested during an anti-government parade in the city in 1979 when Taiwan was under martial law. Known as the “Kaohsiung Incident”, it was later regarded as a defining moment in the island’s democratization..

His opponent, KMT candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, served two terms as Taipei city mayor, the island’s capital in the north.

Yet legislative elections in January overturned the political truism: bringing the KMT a landslide win and large gains in the DPP’s southern heartland.

Former DPP voters like 47 year-old Lee Chen-her, who runs a small dried food business, have switched allegiances. “It’s time for a change”, he told me. “I’m getting desperate.
Lee Chen-her

“The economy is bad, especially for small businesses like mine. Things are getting worse and worse.”

Across town, 44 year-old Lee Zhen-hua now answers the telephone himself in his car repair shop – having cut staff to save costs. He once voted DPP – but says he will vote for the KMT’s candidate, Ma Ying-jeou.
“I feel very disappointed. People feel no hope. I think the KMT can bring the people a brighter future.
Lee Zhen-hua

“During the past few years, I can see in South Korea and even India, their GDP are higher than in Taiwan..I can’t accept this. I want a government that will give the people a better life.”

This, in a city in which Frank Hsieh should feel confident of support. He was narrowly elected mayor in 1998 by the slimmest margin. But when he left office in 2005, he had the highest approval rating of any city or county head.

He still enjoys strong personal support among locals who credit him with helping to transform Kaohsiung’s image, cleaning up a dirty industrial port city, including the poetically-named but formerly heavily polluted Love River; improving public transport with the construction of a mass rapid transport system; and making the city greener and more arts-friendly.

“I support the DPP stand…they emphasize Taiwan first, not China first. That’s the big difference between Frank Hsieh and Ma Ying-jeou”, Hsieh supporter, Joshua Su said at a campaign rally in Fongshan, Kaohsiung County.

He accused Mr. Ma of being indecisive and poor at crisis management.
“Mr Hsieh is a better leader. Ma Ying-Jeou – he doesn’t do anything, commit to anything”, he said. “He says something, but changes it later on. His character cannot be trusted.”
Joshua Su
Frank Hsieh was a founder member of the Democratic Progressive Party who also proposed its name and served as a former party chairman. He’s been closely associated with key events during Taiwan’s democratization, and served as a former premier and legislator.

But he’s had setbacks in his political career. One of the most serious was when he ran as deputy presidential candidate in 1996, and was accused of taking inappropriate political donations from a sect leader, who was later charged with fraud.

The scandal forced Mr. Hsieh temporarily withdrew from the political scene.

He’s a skilful debater; a pragmatist. Like his KMT opponent, Mr. Hsieh says he favours better ties with China, including closer economic links. Yet the two men differ over the pace and degree. Mr. Hsieh has strongly attacked his opponent’s plan to push for an economic “common market” with China, warning it would sell-out Taiwan’s interests and lead to many job losses.

Frank Hsieh campaigning in Kaohsiung


During the campaign, Mr. Hsieh has been careful to distance himself from President Chen – who takes a much more confrontational approach towards China, but whose popularity has plummeted amid a series of corruption scandals, a sluggish economy, tense relations with China as well as strained links with the island’s main ally, the US.

“Mr Hsieh is a leader of great vision, a man of strong will and leadership. He’s very good at communicating with his whole team, so they can work towards a common goal” said Kaohsiung legislator, Kuang Bi-Ling, who is regarded as close to Mr. Hsieh.

“He has better governance and showed better leadership [than Ma] when he was faced with challenges. He stands for the protection of the Taiwan people’s benefits.

“As a Buddhist, he understands life has its ups and downs.. When he is in a bad times, he knows the good times will come. It never stops him from continuing to push ahead with his dream”.

But even his most ardent supporters concede Hsieh is facing a tough battle against his opponent Ma Ying-Jeou, who has been leading in opinion polls.

Telegenic Mr. Ma is Harvard-educated, fluent in English, and a former justice minister with a reputation for integrity. He was groomed for a political career from an early age. Ma Ying-jeou, campaigning in Kaohsiung

He’s particularly popular with women and the young. Once nicknamed “non-stick” or “Mr Teflon”, for his efforts in fighting corruption, his image is a little less shiny since standing trial – though he was eventually cleared – on allegations of misusing a special allowance fund while Taipei city mayor.

“He’s an honest person; generous; energetic”, said Huang Chung-Ying, who has known Ma for more than 20 years and helps run his campaign headquarters in Kaohsiung city.

“His executive ability is very good. He’s very detail-oriented. He knows how to move Taiwan to a better tomorrow”. The tightly-contested election race has often focused less on policy and more on personal attacks, with the two camps accusing each other of negative campaigning and smear tactics.

Liao Dachi, at the Institute of Political Science at National Sun Yat-sen University, believes that is because the two candidates have both shifted to very similar centrist positions – and the campaign has become one more about personality.

“They are two different kinds of people. And their background can also tell their differences”, she said. "Ma Ying-jeou comes from a middle-class, stable life. He knows his goal; his father tried to nurture him as a leader.

“But Frank Hsieh comes from a relatively poor family. His political career is not as successful. So he knows how to fight, to understand people’s feelings; he knows human nature so well, because he was really on the bottom ..he came from the grass roots.”

Opinion polls in Taiwan have never been very reliable; and Frank Hsieh, while not considered the frontrunner, is an accomplished campaigner. His supporters say he could yet pull off a dramatic election upset, as he’s done in the past.

see:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7302187.stm

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tibet and the Taiwan elections

The unrest in Tibet has become a hot issue in the run up to Taiwan’s presidential elections. For the second time this week, Frank Hsieh – presidential candidate of the governing Democratic Progressive Party – has attended an event to show his support and solidarity for the people of Taiwan.Around 2,000 people turned out for the event at Daan Park.
Mr Hsieh is using the issue to mobilize his supporters in the final days of this campaign; and believes that it can help him to narrow the gap between him and his rival, election frontrunner Ma Ying-jeou.

While both men have condemned the violence and called for the restraint, Mr Hsieh says the events have implications for Taiwan. He says Taiwan could be the next Tibet and has highlighted the threats that China poses . Her says he's the man who can best safeguard the island’s interests.

Mr Ma – anxious to fend off attacks that he is soft on China says if he is elected and the situation in Tibet worsens, he would not rule out the possibility of a Taiwanese boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games.

But he still wants to purse closer economic ties with China and pursue an eventual peace treaty. He says he’s fully aware of the risks China poses but argues negotations are the best way to minimize the risks and maximize the opportunities


The big question is how much impact events in Tibet will have on voters in the final days of the campaign. Some people told me they were strongly green (ie dpp) or blue (kmt) and that Tibet would not be a factor. But the undecided voters or those referred to as "light green" might be swayed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tibet peace vigil

Several hundred people - including Tibetan exiles - took part in a candlelight vigil Monday night to show their support for the people of Tibet, following several days of violence, in which at least 80 people are feared dead.
Tibetan peace prayers were chanted as the crowd, holding candles, gathered in a circle. In the middle, more candles, grouped to spell out the words: Free Tibet.
Tibetan monks, Taiwanese Buddhist monks and Christian religious leaders, together with several politicans - including the DPP's presidential candidate, Frank Hsieh, were among those who had gathered to show their support and concern for the people of Tibet.
"We want the world to know that Taiwan supports the freedom of Tibet..and we are also threatened by communists,; we have common feelings with Tibetans in Tibet", said Mei Li Chow, one of the organisers, who heads the group, Friends of Tibet in Taiwan. Addressing the crowd, Khedroob Thondup - a nephew of the Dalai Lama - said the Chinese were wrong to blame outside forces for the violence.

" Beijing blames the Dalai Lama for the events that took place. I want to clarify all of you, that the Tibetan people are fed up with 49 years of suppression and repression… this is a people's movement inside Tibet."





The unrest in Tibet is also becoming an issue in Taiwan's presidential election.


Both candidates have condemned the violence and called for restraint. But the DPP's candidate, Frank Hsieh, goes further: warning Taiwan could be the next target - and alleging that his rival, Ma Ying-jeou, of the opposition KMT, who has said he wants to negotiate a peace treaty with China and establish closer trade links - would sell out Taiwan's interests .


At a news conference earlier in the day, Mr Ma said he disagreed with Mr Hsieh's view that Taiwan would be China's next target. "Taiwan is not Tibet", he said.


"I have always maintained that China is a threat but is also an opportunity to Taiwan. What we should do is maximise the opportunity and minimise the risk. That is why we propose we should engage the mainland."

Election kitsch

Its election time. That means all kinds of kitsch memorabilia is starting to appear at campaign events. Plastic dolls and watches seem to be the most widely-circulated as collector's pieces.
These pix of DPP memorabilia were all taken from a recent visit to Kaohsiung.
"Push lens to snooze" reads this label...I don't think they are insinuating the candidates make you drop off to sleep....


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Super Sunday


Its been dubbed Super Sunday - the last chance for big weekend rallies before the island votes for a new president.
Both parties were pulling out all the stops to get the crowds: aiming each to mobilise more than a million supporters island-wide. The governing DPP asked people to gather at designated points along the length of the island and to walk anti-clockwise, highlighting its campaign slogan to Reverse the Tide – to turn back their political fortunes and that of their candidate, Frank Hsieh who has been trailing in opinion polls. Mr Hsieh attacked his rival’s plan to establish an economic common market with China, warning it could cause social unrest and job losses.


satirical sketch - showing the "Trojan horse" - the likely impact of Taiwan's opening up to Chinese goods. Its also a pun on the name "Ma" - which means horse in Chinese.

shoddy China-made goods come under fire

Frank Hsieh on a campaign truck
Mr Hsieh said he and his party stood for the protection of Taiwan’s core values –which was important if the island was to avoid the fate of Tibet, which had seen peaceful protests violently put down by the Chinese military in recent days.
For its part, the opposition KMT or Kuomintang, held its own rallies in every city and county.
young kmt supporters

Its presidential candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, speaking in southern Tainan - and speaking in Taiwanese dialect - attacked the government’s record over the past eight years, promising he would lead an economic revival.
kmt supporters
Organisers of both events said they were partly aimed at showing public opposition to China’s anti secession law, passed three years ago, which authorises force against Taiwan if it formally declares independence.

The threats posed by the law have taken on added significance in recent days, following the use of force by Chinese troops to quell protests in Tibet. Both presidential candidates have condemned the violence. And government officials here issued strong statements, warning that the events in Tibet showed that China would never give up the option of using force against Taiwan to resolve cross strait disputes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

trouble at DPP Taipei campaign hq

Elections in Taiwan may be heated affairs, but are normally free from violence.

So the clashes at the DPP’s Taipei campaign headquarters on Wednesday night are having wider repercussions.

Finance minister, Ho Chih-Chin, resigned. "It (the scuffle) has caused unease in society," he said. I'm deeply sorry." The KMT's presidential candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, has issued public apologies, as has the KMT chairman, and one of the legislators involved stepped down as KMT caucus whip.

So what happened?

The minister had accompanied several legislators from the opposition KMT to the DPP headquarters. They had alleged the building – owned by a bank which was supervised by the finance ministry - was being unlawfully occupied, claiming little or no rent was being paid.

After gaining access, they were blocked from leaving. clashes then broke out and riot police were called in.

The DPP has strongly condemned the incident; while the KMT’s presidential candidate, Ma Ying-Jeou, apologized and condemned the violence – although his aides made clear his campaign team had no prior knowledge of the event. Alex Fai, one of the KMT legislators involved in the incident also apologized and resigned as party whip.

While Ma's camp are denying any connection to the event and the legislators' actions, clearly, its highly embarrassing - and possibly damaging. The DPP campaign has highlighted the threats, as they see it, of a KMT dominated legislature and presidency. This is perfect ammunition for them to underscore their point.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New-look Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung: old and new

fisherman's wharf...its being yuppified; a bit like San Francisco's wharf area

I spent a couple of days in Kaohsiung last week. And I was impressed by how much the southern city is changing - trying to shed its image as a dirty, polluted industrial hub, and become a modern, world class city, emphasising art and culture.

Dancers peform at the unveiling of The Dome of Light, at R10 MRT station - also known as Formosa Boulevard station

One step towards that goal: the opening of the first section of the city's new mass rapid transport system, or MRT, one section of which (the Red Line) was finally opened to the public on Sunday.

Section of The Dome of Light - the largest glass art in the world

The Red Line of the MRT runs from north to south, and connects the high speed railway station in Tsoying, as well as Kaohsiung’s international airport, to the city centre.
R10 - also known as Formosa Boulevard station - is set to be the busiest on the line, as it will intersect with the east-west Orange Line, which is due to open later this year.

Italian artist, Narcissus Quagliata, spent five years constructing his amazing work - which is 30m in diametre - and is the centrepiece of the station. It displays the four cosmic elements - water, earth, light and fire - and also takes as its inspiration the human life cycle: birth and growth, creation and destruction; resolution and rebirth.

"It's a poem to make people dream", he told me when I asked him to tell me about the inspiration for the work.

He also said he had been heavily influenced by spending some time in Kaohsiung and learning about its history (the MRT is the closest station to the spot where the Kaohsiung Incident occurred - a landmark moment in Taiwan's democratisation).
"I was here and decided what to do after I spent quite a bit of time here studying the place. I did exactly what they don’t have....in other words, I tried to make for a utilitarian city something that is very frivolous, something that is for pure enjoyment..not for utility. "

R8 Sanduo Shopping district station Central Park - on the MRT's Red Line.

The entire transport project – originally planned 17 years ago and costing more than $5 billion US dollars – is seen as an important part of Kaohsiung’s transformation from a polluted, heavily industrialised city, into a modern world-class city

Construction, which began more than six years ago, was beset with problems, including several road collapses and rioting by Thai labourers. Many officials were also indicted - and found guilty - for their part in corruption scandals surrounding the project.

the finishing touches on a "windmill garden" outside Central Park MRT

Central Park MRT
The exterior of this station was designed by British architect, Sir Richard Rogers. He wanted to design the exit as a flying leaf...showing the area's green scenery, and symboling Kaohsiung's hopes of flying higher.

"I think for the public construction, its very normal that you have to encounter and conquer all these problems", said Fan Chen-Bou, President of the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation, which runs the operation.

"I think for the citizens, its worth it. we are all very proud. for such a long time, our workers, engineers sacrificed their time, energy. The MRT...will change the city, change the style of living for all the citizens in this city..giving them a better life, an easier life", he said.

Its clean, fast and efficient. Unlike a similar system in Taipei, the stations in Kaohsiung each have their own look and feature some stunning public artwork.
Man inspects another amazing glass art work - Emerald Laminata, at R4 - Kaohsiung International Airport Station, which looks like a wall of flowing water

Local people I spoke to also seemed extremely proud of their new transport service - despite the long wait and the general inconvenience of the construction over the years.

City officials say the biggest obstacle will be to convince Kaoshiung’s population of 1.5 million to abandon their motorbikes – with more than 1 million registered – and turn to public transport, to help the city become cleaner and greener.