Golden Birds Paradise 金鳥海族樂園

Ersatz forest at Golden Birds Paradise
The gutted remains of the aquarium at Golden Birds Paradise obscured by an obviously fake forest.

Not long after returning to Taiwan 台灣 last year I received an invitation from the ubiquitous Mr. LoveGod to go road tripping down to Hsinchu 新竹 to check out an theme park. Along the way we stopped off to check out a derelict cablecar station and the restored Héxìng Station 合興車站 before arriving at the gateway to Golden Birds Paradise 金鳥海族樂園. Located in the rolling hills of Hsinchu 新竹 not far from the border Táoyuán 桃園, it was among the most extensive and well-known theme parks of northern Taiwan 台灣 at its peak in the 1990s. Business faltered with the rise of new forms of entertainment in the 2000s and from what I can tell it was completely abandoned nearly a decade ago. Most of the amusement park rides were torn out and probably sold for scrap metal long ago—but many of the original buildings remain, neglected and overgrown.

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Keelung’s all-night Kanziding Fish Market 基隆崁仔頂漁市場

The northern edge of Kanziding Fish Market
On the edge of the fish market in downtown Keelung at around 3am.

Kànzǐdǐng Fish Market 崁仔頂漁市場 is allegedly the longest-running operation of its kind in northern Taiwan 台灣. Back in the the market was located along the banks of the Xùchuān River 旭川河 in Keelung 基隆, formerly a navigable channel running through the downtown core into the harbour. The Japanese built a pier in the late 1920s, making it easy for fishermen to offload their catch next to the market, and convenient access to the railway network encouraged its growth.

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Now playing at BIOS Monthly

Now playing at Fuhe Theater
Now playing at Fuhe Theater.

Recently my work on this blog was featured in an article by Nien Ping Yu 于念平 for the Chinese language web magazine BIOS Monthly. The article, loosely translated as Canadian Cultural Blogger: Even Unremarkable Places Have History (加拿大文化部落客: 再平凡的地方都有歷史), was based on a sprawling conversation we had in person rather than an email questionnaire. Mostly we spoke about themes and practices commonly seen on this blog: discovering history through the exploration of lost and neglected places, revealing intriguing connections through observations of synchronicity, and using photography as a documentarian medium rather than focusing solely on aesthetic appeal.

Several of my original photographs are featured in the article, some of which have already appeared on this blog (for example Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 and Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫) along with others yet to be published (mostly from the infamous Fuhe Grand Theater 福和大戲院 in Yǒnghé 永和). Other adventures referenced in the text include forthcoming material about Dadong Theater 大東戲院 in Zhōnglì 中壢 and the Liuzhangli Muslim Cemetery 六張犁的回教公墓 here in Taipei 台北.

Whitey’s up to no good again

Whitey’s up to no good again
An amusing sign featuring some random white guy trashing the planet.

I was amused to notice this unusually large anti-littering sign in central Taichung 台中 the other day. White men are occasionally portrayed as villains in public service announcements here in Taiwan 台灣—see here and here for two examples from this blog—but seldom with as much absurdity. I mean, just look at how few fucks are given by this business cowboy, lasso in hand as he throws trash everywhere while riding, inexplicably, a balloon version of planet Earth, with cigarettes, wine bottles, tin cans, and other refuse strewn all over the place. Yee-haw! A friend joked that this is basically how she imagines most white men—and indeed, this is basically me, all of the time.

Certain elements of the western expatriate and immigrant communities in Taiwan are sensitive to negative depictions of white people in news and media—and not without reason. Although we enjoy plenty of privilege systemic racism against white people in Taiwan is also a demonstrable fact; consider the Nationality Law 國籍法 for a clear example of this ethnic bias. In short, there are different rules for those with Taiwanese or Chinese ancestry and those without. And, of course, popular media is quick to turn any non-story into national news as long as some hapless white rube is involved.

Ah, but I am setting things up for a bit of a plot twist: it isn’t always about white people. Actually, given that westerners are a distinct minority among foreigners in Taiwan, we would do well to replace “white” with “non-Taiwanese” when discussing these issues. Broadly speaking, westerners typically make more than the average Taiwanese while working fewer hours, but the situation is entirely reversed for the vast majority of other foreign residents—most of them from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand ประเทศไทย, and the Philippines. We hear little from the other side of this privilege gap in English language media for what should be obvious reasons—but we would do well to remember that systemic racism against foreigners in Taiwan is far more severe for non-westerners.

Now what if I told you that this sign faces First Square 第一廣場, a notorious meeting place for Southeast Asians in Taichung 台中? The immense building is filled with daytime discos and karaoke bars catering to the large foreign worker community in this part of the nation. You won’t find similar signs in Taiwanese majority areas—and I am certain that the placement of this sign is not accidental, though I can’t say the same for the choice of clip art.

A spring storm moving into Taichung

A storm sweeps across Taichung
A storm sweeps across Taichung. The rain line is clearly visible.

I was on my way out for lunch yesterday in Taichung 台中 when I stopped to check the radar as I usually do. It’s a good thing I did, for there was a huge spring storm moving up from Changhua 彰化. With rooftop access to a residential high-rise on the north side of the city I had some fun taking these pictures of the oncoming storm.

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Dusky skies over Taipei

On the other side of the wall
Riding along the riverside bikeway in Taipei one dusky evening in July.

This is an old picture from 2013 that I never got around to posting for one reason or another. I captured this dusky scene while taking a spin up to Shèzidǎo 社子島 on what was—at that time—my new bike. I am not entirely sure where this was shot but it’s probably somewhere along Yánpíng Riverside Park 延平河濱公園 in Dàtóng District 大同區, pretty much the same place I captured this photograph on my first visit to Taipei 台北. The distinctive bridge on the horizon is the New Taipei Bridge 新北大橋, built in 2010, and that would be Sānchóng 三重 off to the right.

Keelung Road Guest House 基隆路招待所

Buried beneath the overgrowth on Keelung Road
Buried beneath the overgrowth on Keelung Road.

Not far from Taipei 101 and the heart of Taipei’s central business district there lies an ulcerous anomaly on the supine body of the endless city. It would be impossible to miss this abandonment, for a wild riot of plant life traces its angular outlines, and an unusual assortment of graffiti lines the arcade along Keelung Road 基隆路. I regularly ride by here on my way to various working cafes further afield and naturally couldn’t resist taking a look inside one day. I have not puzzled out the exact name and history of this ruin but now have a rather strong suspicion that it was once a hāodàisuǒ 招待所 or guest house—hence the name.

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Scenes from everyday life in Zhongli

Zhongli Station sign I
On the platform at Zhongli Station.

I resided in Zhōnglì 中壢, Táoyuán 桃園, for two months at the very end of 2015 for reasons outlined in my first dispatch. In short: I wanted to try out living in another city in Taiwan 台灣 and had a few good friends in the area, one of whom is fellow Canadian blogger Josh Ellis. In my time in Zhongli I captured numerous scenes from everyday life in this burgeoning conurbation of half a million. This post is meant to convey a sense of what it was like to live there for a while—just as I previously did for my time in Wenshan District, Taipei 台北. It is not meant to be a comprehensive guide or a review; think of this as a loose collection of snapshots and impressions of a middling Taiwanese city not commonly documented in English.

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1933 Shanghai

Outside an old slaughterhouse in Shanghai
The distinctive facade of 1933 Shanghai.

Gathered here are several photographs from a brief walk around 1933 Shanghai (上海1933老场坊), an unusual slaughterhouse in Hóngkǒu 虹口, part of the former Shanghai International Settlement. Designed by a British architect in an arguably Art Deco style and built with imported cement in 1933, it was recently renovated and transformed into a hub for the creative industries. Seeing as how this is Shànghǎi 上海, several high-quality English language articles have already been published about it, so I will hereby refer you to Atlas Obscura, Shanghai Art Deco, Mas Context, Randomwire, and La Casa Park for more information and informed analysis.

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Urban renewal claims another old neighbourhood in Shanghai

A wizard’s castle in the ruins of Shanghai
A wizard’s castle in the ruins of Shanghai.

Yesterday I was on my way to check out 1933 Shanghai 上海1933老场坊, a restored Art Deco slaughterhouse in Hóngkǒu 虹口, when I stumbled upon a compact neighbourhood in the process of being torn down, part of an ongoing process of urban renewal in Shanghai. Every year more of these old areas are torn down, their residents forcibly evicted, and new high-rises and shopping malls go up in their place. My time in Shànghǎi 上海 is too short to allow for any measure of expertise to grow—so all I have to share here are a few photos and some comments from a quick walk around (and through) the block.

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