South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City

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The view looking northwest from Carp Mountain, Taitung City, across the alluvial plains toward the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

, the administrative capital of , was my final destination on a multi-day bicycle tour around southern in the summer of 2015. Previously I shared words and photos from every day on the road so this post will act as something of an epilogue. Start at the beginning or read the last chapter to get up to speed—or treat this as a singular post about some of what I saw in an extra day of exploration around the most remote major city on the Taiwanese mainland.

Outside Quan’an Hall 全安堂

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In front of the Taiwan Sun Cake Museum in Taichung.

Quán’ān Hall 全安堂 is a century-old building on Taiwan Boulevard 臺灣大道 not far from the old train station in . Built in 1909 with red brick, reinforced concrete, and a Neo-Baroque style commonly attributed to Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo 辰野金吾 (中文), it was a pharmacy for many decades, and more recently a bakery. A few years ago it was rebranded as the Taiwan Sun Cake Museum 台灣太陽餅博物館, which now operates a gift store on the ground floor and, beneath the exposed wooden beams of the restored rooftop on the second level, a cafe, event space, and interactive museum.

Liancun Tobacco Barn 鎌村菸樓

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Rice fields in front of the Liancun Tobacco Barn in rural .

Liáncūn Tobacco Barn 鎌村菸樓 is a historic building on the rural outskirts of , , and one of the last of its kind. Back in the heyday of the 1950s there were more than 100 tobacco barns in this small agricultural community. Almost all the others have been torn down or fallen into grave disrepair over the years but this one remains in surprisingly good condition, a testament to the upkeep of the owners, who still live inside. I haven’t had any luck sourcing credible historic information about this place—it isn’t an officially designated heritage property nor a tourist attraction—but I’d hazard a guess that it is at least 70 years old. I would have asked the old lady in the courtyard but she didn’t seem all that interested in having a chat—though she warmly granted permission to shoot these photographs when I asked permission.

An empty shell on Dayong Street 大勇街屋

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Broken open south of the new Taichung Station.

The south side of central is undergoing massive changes with the opening of the new Taichung Station. Formerly one of the most rundown parts of urban , it is now the front of the station, and many old and decrepit buildings like this house on Dàyǒng Street 大勇街 are being torn down to make way for lucrative new developments. It is a minor ruin, one for which I have uncovered no specific history, although a little sleuthing around on Google Street View indicates the building was still intact in February 2015 and boasted a simple signboard for a tea shop: 茶點複合式冷飲. Judging by the construction style I would guess this place dates back to the 1960s, give or take a decade. Gathered here are several photos shared more for their aesthetic appeal than intrinsic historic value.

Beidou Far East Theater 北斗遠東戲院

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A glimpse of the elegant facade of the historic Far East Theater in the heart of Beidou, Changhua.

is home to the historic Far East Theater 遠東戲院 (pinyin: Yuǎndōng), originally built in 1955. Like most vintage in it struggled through the home video era and eventually shut down in the late 1990s. Unlike many other cinemas of its generation it does not appear to have been subdivided into smaller theaters prior to going out of business. It was, however, converted for use as a karaoke bar or gambling den at some point, judging by what I observed during a recent visit. Nowadays the interior is used for nothing more than storage, particularly for a restaurant that has since colonized the area adjacent to the former ticket booth and entrance.

Bafen Catholic Church 八分天主堂

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An old Catholic Church next to the highway in rural Changhua.

In late November of last year I was riding through southern on my way to when I noticed an unusually old building at the side of the highway. With a little research I puzzled out this is the obscure Bāfēn Catholic Church 八分天主堂, a parish dating back to 1906 and located in Méizhōu Village 梅州里 on the western outskirts of . I haven’t found any primary source material establishing its age—but the style of the church reminds me of Zhongshan Hall 中山堂 (originally Ershui Public Hall 二水公會堂) in neighbouring , originally built during the in 1930. At a glance I would guess it was built sometime between 1940 and 1960.

7 album artwork

I haven’t dabbled in graphic design for quite some time but ended up completing a project on the penultimate day of 2016. Here you can see the album artwork for Xamanist’s second studio album, 7, named for the span of time that has elapsed since his debut came out and the number of tracks it contains. I also happened to finish the artwork at 7 in the morning and began around midnight so there’s that too. It was a rushed job to ensure that the album was actually released in the 2016 calendar year—otherwise the chain of sevens would have been broken!

Donggong Theater 東宮戲院

An abandoned 60 year-old movie theater on a main thoroughfare in Dongshi, Taichung.

Dōnggōng Theater 東宮戲院 is located in Dongshi, a majority township in mountainous central . Dongshi (or Tungshih in the older Wade–Giles Romanization system) is the gateway to the densely forested interior and was a major center of the lumber industry in prior to its decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Disaster struck in 1999 with the devastating 921 Earthquake. Dongshi was among the worst hit; over 300 people lost their lives and hundreds of buildings collapsed—but not this grand old theater.

Xizhou Chenggong Hostel 溪州成功旅社

An oblique shot of the historic Chenggong Hostel in Xizhou, originally built in 1921.

During a recent visit to , a small rural township in southern , I made a brief stop to check out the historic Chénggōng Hostel 成功旅社. I had no idea what to expect, having learned of its existence while browsing Google Maps in search of points of interest, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found there. It is privately owned and operated but they’ve gone to some lengths to preserve the building as a tourist attraction and community space. The ground floor is home to a shop showcasing local products and a dual-purpose agricultural library and event space. Upstairs is something of a museum, lightly furnished with rickety beds and tatami mats. The floorboards creak and there is a mustiness about the place that makes it feel genuinely old. It wasn’t difficult to imagine what it might have been like half a century ago in the midst of the sugar boom.

Return to sender in blue

A vivid shade of blue adorns a derelict home in Wuri.

Yesterday I made a brief stop in to located and document the stationmaster residence. A metal fence has been erected outside the residence so I went for a walk around the perimeter to look for another point of entry. Along the way I passed several derelict and homes of a more recent vintage. These homes were constructed in a more provisional style common to the and were probably built to house railway workers or military veterans and their dependents—but that’s just a guess. Whatever the case, I was momentarily transfixed by the vivid shade of blue on the trimmings of one of these modest homes and lined up a shot of the overstuffed mailbox worth sharing. You may also notice duplicate address plates which reminds me—I’d love to know when various versions of those plates entered into use in different districts.