Forlorn sentinel

Forlorn sentinel
A forlorn sentinel on the Dadu Plateau in Taichung 台中.

Pictured here is an outtake from my post about the #7 Anti-Airborne Fort 七號反空降堡 on the Dàdù Plateau 大肚台地 in Taichung 台中 (follow that link for the whole story). In short, this is a military fortification designed to repel a communist invasion that never came. As with all but one of the other six forts in the area it was abandoned at some unknown point in the past. Now it stands silent and forlorn, overlooking the coastal plains and the urban sprawl that surrounds the Port of Taichung 台中港.

Mormon missionaries in Taiwan

Proselytizing at an intersection in Fengyuan
Proselytizing at an intersection in Fengyuan. These missionaries held up traffic after the lights changed as they weren’t quick to get out of the way.

Pictured here are two young Mormon missionaries pushing their weird religion on someone stuck at an intersection in Fēngyuán 豐原, Taichung 台中. This is not accidental—missionaries actively target people at long lights, endangering themselves and everyone else on the road in the process. Taiwanese people are generally too polite and conflict-averse to tell these delusional clowns where to go—but I’m not, on the odd occasion they dare to make a play for my immortal soul. Sorry, it’s already taken…

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Huangxi Academy 磺溪書院

Exterior view of Huangxi Academy 磺溪書院
Exterior view of Huangxi Academy in Dàdù 大肚, Taichung 台中.

Built in 1887, Huángxī Academy 磺溪書院 is one of dozens of schools of classical studies in Taiwan 台灣. Located in Dàdù 大肚, a small town in southwestern Taichung 台中, it provides a window into a time when scholarship was more closely interwoven with spirituality. Apart from classrooms and areas for quiet study the academy also has an altar to the Five Wénchāng 五文昌: Kuí Xīng 魁星, Zhū Xī 朱熹, Guān Yǔ 關羽, Lǚ Dòngbīn 呂洞賓, and, of course, Wénchāng 文昌 himself. Collectively these Taoist gods represent classical Chinese culture and several are commonly venerated by students prior to writing exams. Structurally the academy follows a plan similar to a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home or with the addition of a large gatehouse and pavilion.

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Shuidui Settlement 水碓聚落

Still here after all these years
Still here after all these years: the remains of a traditional courtyard house in the rural margins of Taichung.

Taichung 台中 is undergoing a massive transformation as vast tracts of rural-industrial sprawl are cleared to make way for new developments around the high-speed rail station 高鐵台中站 and the future Taichung Metro system, particularly in Běitún 北屯, Nántún 南屯, and Wūrì 烏日. Google’s satellite maps are out of sync with the streets, many of which are so new that they appear only as ghostly lines coursing through the former rice paddies. With large parts of the urban periphery slated for wholesale demolition and renewal many grassroots organizations have formed to preserve cultural assets found in these doomed territories—as was the case with the Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓. Today I chanced upon another example: Shuǐduì Jùluò 水碓聚落, a rare 17th century Hakka settlement in Nántún 南屯 with an ambiguous future.

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Through the round portal

An ornate doorway inside Huangxi Academy 磺溪書院
An unusual round gate inside a restored Qing dynasty academy in rural Taichung.

I captured this image while visiting Huángxī Academy 磺溪書院, a school and temple in Dàdù 大肚, a rural district in southwestern Taichung 台中 on the border with Changhua 彰化. Built in 1887, it was looted after the war and almost destroyed by a flood before being restored in the 1980s, a story I detail in my full post about this academy. Pictured here is an unusual round gate (huánmén 環門) connecting the two entrance halls (méntīng 門廳) to the inner courtyard (yuànchéng 院埕). From what I’ve read there aren’t many gates like this in Taiwan 台灣, particularly not made out of brick, but I really wouldn’t know. Mostly I appreciate the symmetry of the shot, the apparent antiquity, the promise of something intriguing just around the corner.

From the far side of Yeongdo Bridge

The far side of Yeongdo Bridge
Looking back at Nampo-dong and the Korean Peninsula.

Pictured here is the historic Yeongdo Bridge (Yeongdodaegyo 영도대교 in Korean), originally built during Japanese colonial rule in 1934 as a single-leaf drawbridge to allow large vessels to pass. It was the first bridge connecting the island of Yeongdo with Busan 부산 and the rest of the Korean Peninsula. By the 1970s it no longer operated as a drawbridge but was restored to its former glory in 2013.

I happen to be visiting Busan 부산 for a few days and went walking around Yeongdo-gu 영도구 to look for traces of Japanese colonial history in the area. It was hot as hell out there today so I didn’t start my walk until late in the afternoon—not an ideal time for taking photos from this vantage point, but I’ll work with what nature provides. To further explain some of what can be seen in this frame: to the left is Nampo-dong, originally a Japanese concession predating the colonial era, as well as Yongdusan Park with the modest Busan Tower in the background.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Dawu to Taitung City

Pacific vista
The vast Pacific Ocean from the east coast of Taiwan. Due east of here is Mexico.

My last big day of riding around south Taiwan in June 2015 began in Dàwǔ 大武, Taitung 台東, with only about 55 kilometers to go before arriving in Taitung City 台東市. I had been out in the sun far too much the previous day and was feeling rather sluggish and a bit sick so I didn’t end up taking any side trips into the mountains as I made my way north. Even so, the scenery was fantastic, and while I won’t have as much to write about this particular day of my trip, I have plenty of beautiful photographs to share.

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Nga Tsin Wai, the last walled village of Kowloon

The entrance to Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
The entrance to the last walled village in Kowloon.

Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村 is widely known as the last walled village of Kowloon 九龍. Located not far from the former location of the infamous Kowloon Walled City 九龍城寨, the village traces its history back to the 1352 founding of its modest Tin Hau Temple 天后宮. It was fortified in 1724 to defend against bandits and pirates but has, in modern times, lost the moat, walls, and watchtowers that once protected residents from harm. As the very last of its kind in the urban heart of Hong Kong 香港 it has become a flashpoint for conflict between the Urban Renewal Authority and the many activist groups and citizens passionate about preserving what remains of Kowloon’s cultural heritage.

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South Taiwan Ride 2015: Manzhou to Dawu

A valley in the mountains of the Hengchun Peninsula
Riding through the remote valley of Manzhou in Pingtung, Taiwan.

My fifth day of riding around southern Taiwan in June 2015 delivered me to the most remote parts of the island’s 1,139 kilometer-long coastline. On the previous day I rode from Fāngliáo 枋寮, on the southwestern coast, around Héngchūn 恆春 and into the foothills of the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 to reach Mǎnzhōu 滿州, one of the last places to find lodging before forging on to Taitung 台東. I had already taken this route while riding all around Taiwan in 2013 so I was familiar with the territory, but that first tour was so rushed that I hadn’t been able to enjoy the scenery. (Actually, I had been outrunning a typhoon the last time I was here—but that’s a story not yet told on this blog.) This time around my intent was to take it slow and explore more of this obscure part of coastal Taiwan 台灣.

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Prayer flags on the edge of the Pacific

Prayer flags at the ends of the earth
Prayer flags along a remote stretch of Taiwan’s Pacific coastline.

Mǎnzhōu 滿州 in southeastern Pingtung 屏東 is home to the most remote and unspoiled stretch of coastal Taiwan 台灣. The highway system that rings the island is broken at only two points, this being one of them. A rugged trail connects the tiny settlement of Nánrén Village 南仁村 to Jiālèshuǐ 佳樂水 by way of Chūfēngbí 出風鼻, a rocky headland that loosely translates to “Windy Nose”. A little north of the village one will find another headland with a similar theme: Yùbí 鬱鼻 (“Melancholic Nose”), which forms the southern extent of Bāyáowān 八瑤灣, or Padriyiur Bay, where 54 shipwrecked Ryūkyūan sailors were massacred in 1871 in an event now known as the Mudan Incident. Here, while exploring the area on a bicycle tour in 2015, I found these prayer flags, or jīngfān 經幡, fluttering in the strong winds coming off the vast Pacific Ocean. This is somewhat unusual in that prayer flags are more of a Tibetan custom than a Taiwanese one—but they certainly add something to the already gorgeous landscape. Is this an informal memorial to all those who perished as a result of what happened here more than a century ago? I have no answers.