921 Earthquake Museum 九二一地震教育園區

921 Earthquake Museum 九二一地震教育園區
The ruins of the collapsed Guangfu Junior High School in Wufeng.

Deep in the night on September 21st, 1999, the devastating 921 Earthquake ripped through central Taiwan 台灣. Thousands were killed, hundreds of buildings collapsed, and entire towns were leveled to the ground, particularly in Nántóu 南投 and Taichung 台中. Nowadays there are many reminders and memorials to the disaster scattered across the region, among them the 921 Earthquake Museum 九二一地震教育園區 (Chinese version; official site) in Wùfēng 霧峰, which I visited in June 2014.

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Fuyou Building 富有大樓

Fuyou Building 富有大樓
Outside the Fuyou Building, a derelict shopping complex in Taitung City.

Last time I was in Taitung City 台東市 I went wandering near the site of the old train station, which was transformed into the Taitung Railway Art Village 台東鐵道藝術村 in 2004. I had a hunch I might find some hulking derelict near the old station front, perhaps an entertainment complex or shopping center in terminal decline, for the new Taitung Station is located far outside the downtown core.

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The entrance to Xinpu Market

The entrance to Xinpu Market
The chaos outside Xinpu Market from the MRT station exit.

I haven’t spent much time in Bǎnqiáo 板桥, one of the most densely populated cities in Taiwan 台灣, so it was with some degree of surprise that I emerged at street level from Xinpu Station 新埔站 to this chaotic street scene. Pictured here is the entrance to Xinpu Market 新埔市場 (pinyin: Xīnbù Shìchǎng), mere steps from from MRT exit. Much like a Japanese shōtengai 商店街 (shopping street), the entire length of the market is covered with an arched roof to provide some measure of protection from the weather.

The endless urban sprawl of Zhonghe

The endless urban sprawl of Zhonghe
The seemingly endless urban sprawl of Zhonghe from near the top of Honglusai Mountain.

The urban sprawl of Zhōnghé 中和 stretches to the hazy horizon in this photo captured yesterday from near the top of Hōnglúsāi Mountain 烘爐塞山 at the southern edge of the city. At the far left and center you can see the apartment blocks towering over Nanshijiao Station 南勢角站; the school centered in the foreground is Zhonghe Junior High School 中和國中; and finally, the massive building near the top right is the Tuntex High-rise Building 摩天東帝市 (not to be confused with the Tuntex Sky Tower 高雄85大樓 in Kaohsiung 高雄).

For me, the most striking feature of this image is what it almost completely lacks: green space. For whatever reason, both Yǒnghé 永和 and Zhōnghé 中和 seem unusually devoid of parks and recreational spaces in amidst the crush of high-rise buildings. Apart from the mountains at the southern periphery and the 823 Memorial Park there are virtually no open spaces in this part of the urban landscape.

Double rainbow over Zhonghe

Double rainbow over Zhonghe
A double rainbow over Zhonghe from near the top of Honglusai Mountain.

Everyone’s been posting photos of today’s double rainbow (oh my god!) so I figure I may as well make my own contribution. I captured this shot from Hōnglúde Temple 烘爐地南山福德宮 near the top of Hōnglúsāi Mountain 烘爐塞山 in Zhōnghé 中和, just south of Taipei 台北. From this vantage point the rainbow appears to end at Hwa Hsia University of Technology 華夏科技大學. Pretty, isn’t it?

Eye on the road, head on the shed

Eye on the road, head on the shed
Weird art on the way up Honglusai Mountain.

It’s hard not to notice the giant freaking eyeball and neon orange head hanging out at the side of the road leading up Hōnglúsāi Mountain 烘爐塞山 at the southern edge of Zhōnghé 中和, Taiwan 台灣. After taking in the scene I jokingly came up with a new slogan for the tourist bureau; “Taiwan: don’t ask why!” But of course that’s not really my style — I always like getting to the bottom of the seemingly inexplicable things I encounter in my travels here.

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Impressions of historic Guelph

Last week I spent a morning in Guelph, Ontario, after cycling all the way there from Hamilton the previous day. Not knowing what there was to see, I biked around downtown, keeping an eye out for historic features of the urban landscape.

Impressions of historic Guelph
The abandoned Petrie Building immediately captured my attention.

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On the platform at Beitou Station

On the platform at Beitou Station
On the way to the hot springs in Beitou.

I captured this photograph on the platform at Beitou 北投站 in late June of 2013 on the way to the public hot springs in Běitóu District 北投區, the northernmost part of the city of Taipei 台北. This stretch of the Tamsui Line is particularly scenic, affording views of the mountains to the north and east as well as occasional glimmers of the Tamsui River to the west.

Exploring the badlands of southern Taiwan

Exploring the badlands of southern Taiwan
Sundown in the badlands of southern Taiwan.

The badlands of Taiwan 台灣 are one of the island’s most captivating and unusual landscapes. There are several scattered around the island but the most extensive badlands can be found along the hilly borderlands of Tainan 台南 and Kaohsiung 高雄. Known locally to Taiwanese as Yuèshìjiè 月世界, literally “moon world”, these landscapes are composed of weathered mudstone outcrops that erode too quickly for plants to grow.

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