Allotta album artwork

Terrakroma - Allotta - Image 1

My latest design for Techgnosis Records draws upon source material shot at the abandoned Chenchang Woodworking Factory 振昌木業 in Shuǐlǐ 水里, Nántóu 南投. This is one of my favourite ruins in all Taiwan 台灣 and I have now been there on three separate occasions. The photos used in this design are from two separate trips as the vintage safety first poster (below) is now missing in action.

Continue reading →

Let’s talk dirty

Let’s talk dirty
A cheeky laundromat not far from Burgos Street in Makati.

I’m a sucker for cheeky signs like this one hanging above a laundromat in Makati just across from the tower that houses the Bitcoin ATM I wrote about last week. “LET’S TALK DIRTY”, it proclaims, unnecessary quotation marks and all. The punchline is that it’s located right behind Burgos Street, one of the most notorious red light districts in Manila, so who knows what they’re actually washing most of the time!

Paco Railway Station

Paco Railway Station, Manila
Across the street from the ruins of Paco Railway Station in Manila.

Paco Railway Station was built in Paco, Manila, in 1915 during the American colonial period. Designed by William E. Parsons, an American architect mainly known for his work in the Philippines, it remained in service until the mid-1990s when it was partly demolished by a developer intent on building a mall next door. The ruins of that project, never completed, can still be found next to the old station, spreading decay like a cancer through this part of the city.

Continue reading →

Soon to be a distant memory?

Soon to be a distant memory
A faded photograph outside a famous beef noodle shop in Zhongli.

I was out for a late night snack at Yǒngchuān Beef Noodle 永川牛肉面, a famous shop located on the ground floor of an abandoned movie theater in Zhōnglì 中壢, when I noticed this faded photograph posted on a board out front. It is customary for politicians and celebrities to visit popular shops and have their photo taken (or sometimes sign walls or menu boards), so I have begun inspecting these boards for familiar faces. Wouldn’t you know it, but that’s Eric Chu 朱立倫, absentee mayor of Xīnběi (New Taipei) 新北 and presumptive KMT presidential candidate, pictured with the boss of the shop. Something about the decrepit state of the photograph brought me great amusement as I sat down for a hot and spicy bowl of dumpling soup.

An honest shop in Taichung

Taichung Honest Shop 誠實商店
Outside the honest shop in Taichung.

Taichung 台中 is home to an unusual social experiment: the Honest Store 誠實商店 in the Fēngshù Community 楓樹社區 (literally “Maple Community”) of Nantun, Taiwan 台灣. According to roundTAIWANround (through which I discovered the place) it was once a general store of the traditional variety that you’ll still find scattered around the countryside and in older neighbourhoods. Such shops have been fading into history for years, unable to compete with the modern chains that have become symbols of Taiwan’s culture of convenience. The shop would have shut down had the owner not experimented with a new model: locally-sourced goods, financial transparency, and no paid staff, relying on the honesty of its patrons to stay in business.

Continue reading →

A Bitcoin ATM user experience in the Philippines

A sign of future times
A wild Bitcoin ATM appears on the streets of Metro Manila!

I haven’t been much of a Bitcoin user despite having learned about it not long after the first wave of early adoption. My problem is that I don’t really have a use for the stuff. I generally don’t purchase anything that I can pay for with Bitcoin and I get tired of having to keep up with all the hacks and security best practices simply so that I don’t lose what little I have. “Be your own bank”, they say—only I don’t really care to be my own bank! I’m fine paying a modest fee for the services provided by conventional banks and have neither the time nor the inclination to get into mining or trading. That being said, I’m still fascinated by the concept of Bitcoin and curious to see what happens next.

Recently, with the price of Bitcoin hitting a record high for the year, I’ve been interested in converting some into dirty fiat money. My problem is that getting actual cash out of the Bitcoin ecosystem requires a fair amount of work in the form of troublesome research, paperwork, and verification—and most of the usual methods involve trusting some online service with my banking info, something I’d rather not do (partly for reasons of security but also because I’m living overseas and it’s a hassle). LocalBitcoins would be a viable option—but there aren’t many people trading in Taiwan 台灣, people seem reluctant to buy when the price swings high, and it takes some effort for schedules to congeal given that I’m living outside of Taipei 台北 these days.

Continue reading →

In the shadows of giants

In the shadows of giants
Standing tall in the forlorn heart of Makati.

I am somewhere else again. Metro Manila, this time. I’m here on yet another “visa run” (though in truth I need no visa), fulfilling my obligations to Taiwan 台灣 to leave the country every 90 days. Previously I have visited Hong Kong 香港, Chiang Mai เชียงใหม่, Okinawa 沖縄, and Osaka 大阪 on such trips, so now it’s time to experience something of the Philippines, a place I don’t know very much about.

I begin somewhere completely out of the ordinary, nestled between some of the tallest buildings in the nation. There’s no room between these buildings so the streets are cast in shadows by early afternoon. Strange, then, to walk around and not have the tropical sun beating down on me.

At any rate, I wanted to send this postcard out while I’m still on the ground. This might be the most uncharacteristic picture of the Philippines I could possibly lead with… but it’s good to start somewhere.

Tianwaitian Theater 天外天劇場

Outside Tianwaitian Theater 天外天劇場
Outside Tianwaitian Theater 天外天劇場.

The historic Tiānwàitiān Theater 天外天劇場 is hidden in a nexus of alleyways in the area on the far side of the central train station in Taichung 台中. According to this history it was built in 1936, back when Taiwan 台灣 was under Japanese colonial rule, and—from a visual inspection of the faded signboard—has obviously undergone at least one name change over the many decades since.

I honestly had no idea what it was when I wandered by sometime earlier this year, though I knew to snap a quick photo at the very least. It has since appeared on my radar as there was a news report suggesting it was in the process of being demolished, though there are some signs of community pushback that may or not yield results. One intrepid member of the Taiwan ruins study group found a way inside and posted some photos.

Usually I have a more thorough write-up about such places but on this occasion simply wanted to add this place to my growing index of historic abandonments around Taiwan. Perhaps someday I’ll have another opportunity to take a closer look—if it’s still there, anyway.

Bad foreigner on the MRT

Bad foreigner
Look at this cheeky monkey mowing down a hanbao on the train like he’s new to Taipei.

If you’ve taken the Taipei Metro (hereafter the MRT) in the last few months you might have seen this cheeky public service announcement posted at various stations. It seems like an obvious effort to be more inclusive of the city’s vanishingly small white minority, though it does seem a little funny that it’s the white man breaking the rules. Take a closer look and you’ll note the couple’s matching wedding bands and what I would assume is a mixed child sitting between them. This begs the question: how has this bad foreigner been around long enough to procreate without learning of the MRT’s cardinal rule not to eat or drink on the trains? I don’t know about you but I’m amused!

Shuili Snake Kiln 水里蛇窯

Welcome to the Shuili Snake Kiln 水里蛇窯
Making pots like a boss!

The Shuili Snake Kiln 水里蛇窯 is a wood-fired pottery kiln on the way to the popular Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 on the outskirts of Shuǐlǐ 水里, Nántóu 南投. The name is derived from the kiln’s serpentine shape, though to my eyes it looks more like a slug than a snake. Founded in 1927 by master potter Lín Jiāngsōng 林江松, it remained a family business for generations before being opened to the public as a “ceramics park” in 1993.

Continue reading →