By CHRIS TAYLOR
If you're willing to venture a few more miles to escape the summer simmer, there are excellent options on hand.
Sure, there are white and black swans, bamboo groves and flower gardens, but the lovely views at Taiwan's Tzuhu Lake are not the only draw for the 1.5 million visitors who travel there each year.
As part of its summer celebration, the Van Thanh Tourist Park in Ho Chi Minh City is launching a weekend program called Gastronomic Inspiration.
Singapore Airlines is offering a June Internet special on flights to destinations around the region. Sure, there are white and black swans, bamboo groves and flower gardens, but the lovely views at Taiwan's Tzuhu Lake are not the only draw for the 1.5 million visitors who travel there each year. The real reason crowds flee Taipei's urban scrum for this rustic retreat 45 km to the southwest is its history. Tzuhu Lake is home to the mausoleums of Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo.
Never mind Chen Shui-bian's presidential victory, which ended an era by knocking Chiang's Nationalists from power after more than 50 years of rule, the crowds are still flocking to the Generalissimo's resting place 25 years after his death. It's the same as normal, said harried mausoleum official Chiu Ying-wu on a recent Sunday. We'll probably have 10,000 people today.
With remarkable patience, the mostly Taiwanese visitors queue in front of a modest building, freshly painted in white and blue and built around a courtyard. They file quietly past two guards who, apart from the occasional flutter of their eyelids, might be carved of stone. Then, for the briefest of moments, they pause, palms together in prayer, and bow before Chiang's imposing marble sarcophagus, adorned only with a white chrysanthemum cross donated by his long-surviving wife Soong Mei-ling and changed every three days.
Before long visitors will find more to look at. Local township officials plan to decorate the mausoleum's grounds with Chiang statues that, elsewhere on the island, are increasingly seen as vestiges of the old order. Only one has found a home in the park so far, but another 11 are in storage, and over the next few years some 200 will take up vigil over the lake and rolling hills that reminded Chiang, when he first visited in 1961, of his hometown in China's Zhejiang province.