Binh Tay Market Under Renovation

Out front at Binh Tay Market in Ho Chi Minh City’s historic Chinatown.

This week I am visiting , , on another visa run from . Six months ago I visited and enjoyed my time there—check out this photo gallery for a comprehensive overview—so I’m hoping to repeat the experience in the emerging megacity further south.

My first walkabout brought me to District 5 in search of Cholon (Vietnamese: Chợ Lớn), HCMC’s historic Chinatown, which was originally a settlement separate from colonial Saigon. Cholon literally means “big market” so I made a point of visiting Binh Tay Market (Vietnamese: Chợ Bình Tây), which is just over the border in District 6. Along the way I noticed many temporary markets setup along the roadway—so it was no great surprise to discover the famous market closed for what I would assume is renovation.

Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂

The derelict public assembly hall in the heart of Ershui.

Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂 is located in , a small town at the very southern edge of , on the border with both (to the south) and (to the east). It is one of dozens of similar assembly halls built all around to accommodate large public gatherings during the . This particular example was built in 1930 and is one of three remaining in . The other two—in and —are both fully restored, designated historic properties, and open to the public, but the Ershui Assembly Hall, the smallest of the three, has been derelict for years. From what I’ve read in this excellent post the landlord and local government have been locked in a long-running legal dispute, complicating any efforts at preservation.

Taiwan’s Only Geometrid Moth

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A close look at Taiwan’s only geometrid moth.

Yesterday I breezed through the small town of in southern to scope out some historic sites on my list. One of these sites, the old Ershui Public Hall 二水公會堂, is located next to a wide expanse of unkempt meadowland, evidently a breeding ground for Taiwan’s only geometrid moth. There were hundreds of brightly-colored, iridescent moths flitting around the overgrown ruins—and many more locked in an embrace on whatever flat surfaces could be found. After coming home last night it didn’t take long to puzzle out the name of this species of moth: Milionia basalis pryeri, a subspecies of Milionia basalis only found in and southwestern , particularly . There appears to be no English common name but in Chinese it is generally known as chéngdàizhīchǐ’é 橙帶枝尺蛾; roughly “orange-banded moth”.

A Curious Character

The rundown facade of the Mingzhi Building in Taichung.

Yesterday while breezing through I snapped this photograph of the Míngzhì Building 朙志樓, a rundown residential complex for teachers at the school of the same name. At the time I was perplexed by the first character—an ancient variant of the standard Míng 明 (“bright”) commonly seen in place names around —and it turns out I’m not the only one! A quick search revealed an entire Taiwanese news segment on the character, in no small part because of the colloquial usage of the character Jiǒng 囧, commonly used to signify embarrassment (for what I hope are obvious reasons), not unlike saying “oops” in English. From what I gather most Taiwanese would see this and think it were some kind of prank!

Apart from the novelty of the unusual character I was also charmed by the use of spiral motifs in the architecture of the building. This obviously dates back to the . Maybe next time I’ll take a closer look…

Linkou Lightning Building 林口閃電大樓

Like a bolt out of the blue: the infamous outline of an abandoned skyscraper in Linkou.

The Linkou Lightning Building 林口閃電大樓 is an infamous ruin not far from the newly-opened Taoyuan Airport MRT line in , recently named the fastest-growing district in . It is also known as the Linkou Strange House 林口怪怪屋 and occasionally appears in Taiwanese media alongside the Longtan Strange House and other examples of the genre. While I wish there were a good story to go along with these photos it sounds as if it is simply a failed construction project where nobody wants to cover the cost of demolition.

Dong’an Theater 東安戲院

Across the street from a derelict theater in East Tainan.

Recently I added yet another theater to in : the derelict Dōng’ān Grand Theater 東安大戲院 in . This theater opened in 1969 and closed its doors not long after the turn of the millennium, another victim of changing consumer habits. I wasn’t able to find a way inside this theater so this post only features a handful of exterior shots and some links I chanced upon after conducting preliminary research.

Department of Decay

The grotty facade of an abandoned department store in downtown Taipei.

Today I went to investigate reports of an building on the edge of Xīméndīng 西門町, a busy commercial district in central . It is fairly well-known due to its central location but I could find no easy means of entry for the very same reasons. From this television news report it sounds as if this was originally the Zhōngwài Department Store Company 中外百貨公司 and later the Yángyáng Department Store 洋洋百貨. While it isn’t surprising to find such ruins around much of it is somewhat unusual to see in such a prosperous area. The building is for rent, as I understand it, and much of the aforementioned report seems concerned with the outrageous price tag for such a decaying monstrosity.

Life Is A Gas

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Gas tanks next to an old tobacco barn in Eastern Taiwan.

Two weeks ago I noticed this stack of natural gas tanks outside the Fènglín Tobacco Barn 鳳林菸樓 in Dàróng First Village 大榮一村, one of several sites identified as Tobacco Barn Cultural Settlements 菸樓文化聚落 in the Eastern Rift, or Huatung Valley 花東縱谷. Having spent some time last year exploring remnants of the tobacco industry in I figured it might be interesting to sample what might be found out east. I’ll have more to share from that mission at a later date—but for now, these tanks shall serve as a placeholder for future elucidations.

Yuanlin Hospital 員林醫院

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Deep afternoon at an infamous abandoned hospital in Yuanlin, Taiwan.

Despite having spent a lot of time in , a mid-sized city in central , , I have only recently begun to explore some of its more famous ruins. Among these is Yuanlin Hospital 員林醫院, formally the Changhua County Yuanlin Hospital 彰化縣立員林醫院, originally built in 1963 and operational until the the turn of the millennium. Nowadays it is one of the more notorious places in central Taiwan, where it is regularly featured in news reports, particularly around Ghost Month 鬼月. Taiwanese media engage in an annual outpouring of overly sensationalized stories about haunted places—and , as liminal spaces of birth and death, often appear in such reports, complicating research into the real story of what went on.

Inside The Decaying Courtyard

The view from within a decaying public housing block in downtown Taipei.

Yesterday I followed a lead to Lánzhōu Public Housing 蘭州國宅, a project in central , . It is similar to Nanjichang Community 南機場社區, a far more well-known housing project in , but this building was constructed almost ten years later in 1973. As with Nanjichang, its fate also remains unclear, as the city is working through complex land ownership issues to figure out how to move residents into more modern housing. I plan to have a full write-up about this place some day so I’ll leave it at that for now—just a glimpse.