Herb Alley 青草巷

Herb Alley 青草巷
The dank confines of Herb Alley.

Herb Alley 青草巷 (pinyin: Qīngcǎo Xiàng) is a minor attraction immediately adjacent to the famous Lóngshān Temple 龍山寺 in Wànhuá District 萬華區, Taipei 台北. Hundreds of years ago, long before western medicine came to Taiwan 台灣, it was common for people to visit the temple, pray to the relevant gods, and receive herbal prescriptions for whatever ailed them. Vendors setup shop outside the temple gates to help fill these prescriptions. Decades ago the prescriptions themselves were outlawed (and rightfully so) but the tradition of selling herbs next to the temple continues, albeit in a more orderly fashion out of actual shops along Xīchāng Street Lane 224 西昌街224巷.

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Changjiang Road Shops 長江路商店

A row of abandoned shops at the foot of Huajiang Bridge
An abandoned row of shops at the entrance to Banqiao. These were once repair shops, hair salons, variety stores, and so on.

Last week I cycled across the Huájiāng Bridge 華江橋 to Bǎnqiáo 板桥 to meet a friend for coffee. At the foot of the bridge I couldn’t help but notice the outline of a long-abandoned building of some kind, the sort of place where you’ll find scooter repair shops and other small businesses along any main road in Taiwan 台灣. Not having found anything close to a formal name for the place I have simply named it for the street it is on, Chángjiāng Road 長江路.

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A spooky statue in Yonghe

Spooky statue in an abandoned apartment in Yonghe
The strange things you find when exploring abandoned places at night.

Found this spooky statue in an abandoned apartment complex in the heart of Yǒnghé 永和 the other night. The rest of the building seemed to have been gutted in a fire but one unit was accessible—so I stepped inside to take a peek and satisfy my curiosity. There really wasn’t much of the place, possibly a professor’s home, but this creepy old bust on the ground floor caught my eye. I wonder who this is a depiction of? And was there any reason for him to have been facing the wall?

The Grand Hotel 圓山大飯店

The Grand Hotel 圓山大飯店
The awe-inspiring Grand Hotel of Taipei… and a tourist doing her best flamingo impression.

Yesterday’s impromptu ride around the riverside bikeway network delivered me to the palatial Grand Hotel 圓山大飯店 (pinyin: Yuánshān Dàfàndiàn), a famous landmark in Taipei 台北. Located on a hilltop overlooking a bend of the Keelung River 基隆河 in Zhōngshān District 中山區, it was established in 1952 at the behest of generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正 to provide the ruling elite with a luxurious place to host and entertain foreign dignitaries. The distinctive building seen in these photos was completed in 1973 and was the tallest building in the Free Area of the Republic of China until 1981.

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Beitou Asia Pacific Resort 北投亞太溫泉生活館

The majestic ruins of an unknown civilization
The majestic ruins of an unknown civilization… or yet another abandoned hot springs hotel in Beitou?

On the last day of my round-the-island bicycle tour of Taiwan 台灣 I undertook a brief excursion to the hot springs area of Běitóu District 北投區. I had expected the previous night to be my last on the road but a series of flat tires kept me from finishing my journey. With time to spare the following day I took a meandering route back to Taipei 台北 and, as luck would have it, also chanced upon one more ruin to explore. Not too far up the road from the majestic Thermal Valley 地熱谷 I noticed the crumbling outlines of a building that I correctly assumed was a derelict hot springs hotel: Asia Pacific Resort 北投亞太溫泉生活館 (pinyin: Yàtài Wēnquán Shēnghuóguǎn).

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Sanchong skyline in wintertime

Sanchong skyline on a murky day in late January
Sanchong skyline on a murky day in late January.

I went out riding along the riverside bikeway in Taipei 台北 this afternoon, crossing from my current abode in Wànhuá District 萬華區 to the old quarters of Dàtóng District 大同區 by way of Yánpíng Riverside Park 延平河濱公園. Along the way I captured this ordinary image of the Sānchóng 三重 skyline across the pallid Tamsui River 淡水河 and beneath the grey skies of midwinter. It is neither beautiful nor outstanding but part of what I do around here is record little slices of everyday life—and the symmetry of the image appeals to me on some level.

This is actually the third such image I’ve posted from the riverside this month; for the others, check out this one across from Yǒnghé 永和 and this one crossing into Bǎnqiáo 板桥.

Techgnosis Vol. 2 album artwork

Techgnosis Vol. 2 - Image 1

Designing the artwork for Techgnosis Vol. 2, the sequel to Techgnosis Vol. 1, was a lot more work than I expected it would be. The original is actually one of my favourite cover designs so I wanted to extend the concept from still images to motion pictures—still using source material captured in one of Taiwan’s many abandoned buildings. Since I have recently been exploring many derelict movies theaters working with abandoned film was a natural choice. These particular film canisters were found in the historic Fúhé Theater 福和大戲院 in Yǒnghé 永和, Taiwan 台灣, the subject of a future post on this blog.

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A creepy sign on Xining South Road in Taipei
A creepy sign on Xining South Road in Taipei.

Today I noticed this mannequin mounted on a sign hanging from a shophouse on Xīníng South Road 西寧南路 here in Taipei 台北. I was instantly reminded of a turn-of-phrase recognizable to almost anyone who hears it: What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here…

Xinming Theater 新明戲院

Exterior shot of Xinming Theater 新明戲院
An abandoned movie theater in the heart of Zhongli’s old market streets.

In the last year or so I have found and explored numerous abandoned movie theaters in Taiwan 台灣. It all started when I stumbled upon Datong Theater 大同戲院 down in Taitung City 台東市 last June. Since then I have learned much more about the Taiwanese cinema industry: how many theaters are likely to be found in a city of a given size, where they are likely to be found, when they were likely to have been abandoned, and so on. Not long after moving to Zhōnglì 中壢 a few months ago I put this growing awareness to the test by cycling around town one morning, finding several theaters new to me within close proximity to one another. One of these, Xīnmíng Theater 新明戲院, is the subject of this post. It is not the most impressive theater I have explored—but I aim to be thorough in blogging about the many abandonments of Taiwan so here it is!

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Over the riverside wilderness

On the edge of Taipei in January 2016
On the edge of the city in January 2016.

Today I cycled over Huájiāng Bridge 華江橋 into Bǎnqiáo 板桥 to get some exercise, see a little more of the city, and celebrate the sudden change in weather. Incessant rain, a deep freeze, and even snow gave way to clear skies and mild winter temperatures here in Taipei 台北 so I figured I may as well seize the opportunity to get some fresh air!

Pictured here is the very edge of Taipei 台北 near where Xīndiàn Creek 新店溪 meets Dàhàn Creek 大漢溪 to form Tamsui River 淡水河. To the right is Huajiang Wild Duck Park 華江雁鴨自然公園. The city skyline on the horizon is Sānchóng 三重, itself located on an island in this same river, and the mountains beyond are those of Yángmíngshān 陽明山.

People say that Taipei 台北 is an unsightly concrete megapolis—and they are mostly right about that—but at least it doesn’t take much effort to escape the tight confines of the city, if only for a scenic view. Just point yourself in the direction of the nearest river or mountain path! (And enjoy the sight of yet another abandoned building on the other side…)