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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection
Vintage art next to Zhongli Station

Vintage Taiwan 老式台灣

Posts about vintage Taiwan 台灣 focusing mainly on old streets and historic architecture.

Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂

The derelict assembly hall in Ershui
The derelict public assembly hall in the heart of Ershui.

Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂 is located in Èrshuǐ 二水, a small town at the very southern edge of Changhua 彰化, on the border with both Yúnlín 雲林 (to the south) and Nantou (to the east). It is one of dozens of similar assembly halls built all around Taiwan 台灣 to accommodate large public gatherings during the Japanese colonial era. This particular example was built in 1930 and is one of three remaining in Changhua 彰化. The other two—in Changhua City 彰化市 and Lukang 鹿港—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.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City

Looking northwest from Liyushan 鯉魚山 in Taitung City
The view looking northwest from Carp Mountain, Taitung City, across the alluvial plains toward the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

Taitung City 台東市, the administrative capital of Taitung, was my final destination on a multi-day bicycle tour around southern Taiwan 台灣 in the summer of 2015. Previously I shared words and photos from every day on the road so this post will act as something of an epilogue. Start at the beginning or read the last chapter to get up to speed—or treat this as a singular post about some of what I saw in an extra day of exploration around the most remote major city on the Taiwanese mainland.

Xizhou Chenggong Hostel 溪州成功旅社

Oblique shot of the Xizhou Chenggong Hostel 溪州成功旅社
An oblique shot of the historic Chenggong Hostel in Xizhou, originally built in 1921.

During a recent visit to Xīzhōu 溪州, a small rural township in southern Changhua 彰化, I made a brief stop to check out the historic Chénggōng Hostel 成功旅社. I had no idea what to expect, having learned of its existence while browsing Google Maps in search of points of interest, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found there. It is privately owned and operated but they’ve gone to some lengths to preserve the building as a tourist attraction and community space. The ground floor is home to a shop showcasing local products and a dual-purpose agricultural library and event space. Upstairs is something of a museum, lightly furnished with rickety beds and tatami mats. The floorboards creak and there is a mustiness about the place that makes it feel genuinely old. It wasn’t difficult to imagine what it might have been like half a century ago in the midst of the sugar boom.

Postcards From Changhua City 2 彰化市明信片二號

The entrance to Kaihua Temple, Changhua City
The gates to Kaihua Temple in the heart of Changhua City.

Not long after moving to the capital of Changhua 彰化 in 2014 I published a collection of photographs entitled Postcards from Changhua City. All of the photos in that post were shot in my first few months of residency but I ended up staying for half a year. In that time I gathered more than enough material for a sequel while making my daily rounds. Although long overdue this second collection is now complete so here it is: more photos from my time in Changhua City 彰化市, a historic town in central Taiwan 台灣.

Taiping Old Street 太平老街

Hen 1/2, Taiping Old Street, Douliu
Baroque revival architecture on the streets of Douliu, the capital of Yunlin.

Taiping Old Street 太平老街 is an unusually long stretch of Japanese colonial era shophouses in central Dǒuliù 斗六, the administrative seat of Yúnlín 雲林, Taiwan 台灣. Located not far from the train station, this old street is remarkable for its length (600 meters long), consistent architectural style (almost entirely Baroque Revival), and relatively good state of preservation. Despite this, it is not a huge attraction, which is just as well if you’re not a big fan of mass tourism in Taiwan 台灣.

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街
The heart of Fugang Old Street on a gloomy day.

Fùgāng Old Street 富岡老街 is an obscure anachronism in the western part of Taoyuan, Taiwan 台灣. It extends from a railway station that opened during the Japanese colonial era in 1929 through the heart of this small Hakka town. The coming of the railroad brought prosperity to the area and several ornate shophouses were built around the station in a mishmash of architectural styles common at the time. Nowadays it is just another street in rural Taiwan, albeit one with a little more history than most, possibly because it is too unimportant a place for modernization to have swept away these vestiges of the past.

Vintage Scooter Style in Monga

Monga scooter style
Vintage scooters on a sidewalk in Monga.

I was wandering the streets of Monga 艋舺 not far from Wanhua Station 萬華車站 when I noticed this row of vintage scooters parked along a sidewalk. They reminded me of droids from Star Wars, particularly the one on the far right (and not only because the new film is in theaters soon). It isn’t uncommon to see such old scooters kicking around Taiwan 台灣 but seldom can you find so many in one place. I suppose this must be a used scooter dealership?

Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫

The fan-shaped roundhouse in Changhua City
The unique railway roundhouse in Changhua City, Taiwan.

One of the most unique attractions in Taiwan 台灣 is the historic Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫, originally built in 1922 during Japanese colonial rule and still in operation today. Although information is hard to come by it seems that it might be the only roundhouse still operating in Asia—and certainly one of the oldest still in regular use anywhere in the world. Every other roundhouse I researched for this article has been abandoned, demolished, repurposed, or converted into a museum, and those rare few that are still operational have been mighty hard to date. As such, the Changhua Roundhouse is a dream to visit for a railway enthusiast like myself, particularly since the ambiance hasn’t been ruined by the sort of tacky treatment you’ll often find at Taiwanese tourist attractions. After signing in with the guard at the gate I had free run of the place—and as you can see from some of the following photos, nobody minded me getting dangerously close to moving trains as the mechanics went about their daily routines.

Maple Community Honest Shop 楓樹社區誠實商店

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 Nántún 南屯, 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.

Vintage Style at Hexing Station 合興車站

Vintage clocks at Hexing Station
The old station is now filled with vintage clocks.

Last week I went out with a friend to explore rural Hsinchu 新竹. After checking out a cable car tower in Guānxi 關西 we slipped over the township line to Hengshan to make a brief pitstop at Héxìng Station 合興車站, the only wooden train station on the newly reopened Nèiwān Line 內灣線. Inside the station house we discovered this wall of vintage clocks, obviously somewhat contrived but every bit as photogenic as intended. Although this station (and the rest of the railway line) was built in the 1950s, after the Japanese colonial period, many of these mechanical wind-up clocks bear Japanese names like Gifutokei, Aichi, and, of course, Seiko.