Xinhua Old Street 新化老街

Xinhua Old Street 新化老街 is one of the finest old streets in all Taiwan 台灣. Located in Xīnhuà 新化, Tainan 台南, the street is lined baroque revival and art deco buildings from the Japanese colonial era. Most of the buildings on the western side of the street date back to the 1920s whereas the eastern side features a more modernist style from the late 1930s.

Xinhua Old Street

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An abandoned hotel at Wulai Falls

While on a day trip to Wūlái 烏來 at the very end of 2013 I was delighted to stumble upon one of the most picturesque abandonments I have had the pleasure of exploring in Taiwan 台灣. Mere steps from the southern terminus of the Wulai sightseeing tram 烏來觀光台車 one will find a viewing platform across from Wulai Falls 烏來瀑布, one of the most scenic waterfalls in the greater Taipei 台北 area. What you might not realize — unless you have a sixth sense for all things abandoned — is that the viewing platform doubles as the rooftop of a derelict hotel with a rather stunning view.

An abandoned hotel at Wulai Falls
Wulai Falls from the main floor of an abandoned hotel.

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Left behind in Jinguashi

One of the enduring mysteries of abandoned Taiwan 台灣 is this: why do people leave so much stuff behind when they go? I understand there might not be any descendants or close friends to go through the belongings of the departed — but what about when entire families pick up and move? Sure, leave the junk behind (and there’s lots of that), but what about children’s toys, letters and diaries, old schoolwork, music, book, and movie collections, and photographs? It is almost as if entire families undergo a kind of ritual metamorphosis, pupating within their former domiciles, emerging transformed and casting away the remnants of their former lives, all the miscellaneous detritus and kipple that naturally accumulates in the course of everyday affairs.

Left behind in Jinguashi
A ruined home in Jinguashi, Taiwan.

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Kipple

Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.

No one can win against kipple except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I’ve sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I’ll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It’s a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.

Wushanding Mud Volcano

Wūshāndǐng Mud Volcano 烏山頂泥火山 is a modest geological curiosity in the hilly badlands of Yàncháo 燕巢, Kaohsiung 高雄. It is the largest and most impressive mud volcano field in Taiwan 台灣. I first heard about the place through this excellent article by Richard Saunders, who also published an illuminating article about mud volcanoes in the China Post.

Wushanding mud volcano cone

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Lunar new year lanterns in Tainan

Lunar new year lanterns in Tainan
New year’s lanterns at Pujidian in Tainan.

新年快樂, 恭喜發財, and happy new year from Taiwan’s historic southern capital, Tainan 台南! I captured these lanterns at Pǔjìdiàn 普濟殿 one of the most reliably interesting temples in the city. There’s always something going on there: classical opera, traditional puppet shows, or a big pile of firecrackers going off all at once. Anything rènào 熱鬧 (literally “hot and noisy”; lively conditions meant to please the gods) can be found here.

Apart from the lanterns, many of which seemed to have been painted by schoolchildren, I was delighted to see people doing their best to cook up a Taiwanese new year’s delicacy: pèngtáng 椪糖, or honeycomb toffee. There is a bit of a trick to getting the toffee to rise and an old man was bouncing around from group to group and providing advice and encouragement, obviously delighted to be passing on old ways to a new generation. I would have shot some photos of all of this but I prefer not to intrude upon anyone’s enjoyment of the moment; here’s a video on YouTube instead.

As featured on InterNations: a brief interview about blogging my experiences in Taiwan

Synapticism as featured on InterNations

My blog was recently featured on InterNations, an expat social network and resource. In the interview I outline why I chose Taiwan 台灣, why I started blogging, how life is different, and similar topics of general interest to would-be expats. Continue reading for the full text of the interview…

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Make a cute face

Make a cute face
A cute character on the door of an old house in back alley Changhua City.

I noticed this cute character on the door of an old home in back alley Changhua City 彰化市 while on my way to a cafe today. I didn’t recognize it at first, though I assumed it was fú 福, which means fortune or good luck. With a bit of research I discovered that I was right — this is an old school variant with a new school twist. Decorating your home with red couplets and characters is a Lunar New Year tradition — and the holidays are only a few days away.

Scenes from everyday life in Wenshan, Taipei

I lived in Wénshān District 文山區, Taipei 台北, from October 2013 until April 2014 when I moved south to Tainan 台南. In those six months I captured a great many photographs from in around the area, the finest of which were previously shared on this blog in a post entitled the urban landscape of Wenshan. It was my intention with that post to portray southern Taipei from the vantage point of mountaintops, hillsides, river banks, and pedestrian overpasses, with only a couple of shots from street level. This time around I would like to zoom in and share scenes from everyday life in Wenshan.

Scenes from everyday life in Wenshan, Taipei
Street art in back alley Wenshan.

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If only it were all so simple

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?