Yesterday I wandered through Malate, a commercial district at the south end of Manila, in search of the ruins of the historic Gaiety Theater. Unfortunately the building was demolished sometime last year—something that the Wikipedia entry didn’t mention until I updated it with my findings. Of course I was also capturing photos along the way, among them this shot of the entrance to Kimura キムラ, a small hostess club obviously catering to a Japanese clientele. Such bars are common anywhere Japanese businessmen travel in Asia and you can read a little more about what goes on inside similar establishments here in Taiwan 台灣 or watch this obscure, dimly-lit video advertisement for the club.
This rusty iron flower blooms on the doorframe of an abandoned building at the edge of an unusually dilapidated community hidden in the streets opposite Jiànguó Holiday Flower Market 建國假日花市 and just behind Shin Yi Market 信義市場 in Dà'ān District 大安區, Taipei 台北. I never would have found the place had Taiwan Reporter not pointed it out to me; it isn’t visible from any major road and one would assume there were nothing more than boring residential high-rises back there. Much to my surprise there’s what appears to be a Qing dynasty era temple in the midst of a labyrinth of crooked laneways and old homes. I hope to write it up in a future post—but in the meantime, trust in rust.
Recently I returned to Cape Santiago 三貂角, the easternmost tip of the island of Taiwan 台灣, once again by way of the Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道. The far eastern shoreline is smothered in broken concrete and derelict industrial facilities, the fading legacy of an aquaculture industry in decline. One such facility is this, the most easterly building on the island, a crumbling ruin previously documented in my explorations of the Pacific edge. I suspect it might have been a pump station for there is a network of pipes running through jagged holes in the floor to the ocean sloshing around in the darkness below. This small room is infested with Ligia exotica, a cosmopolitan isopod known to locals as Hǎizhāngláng 海蟑螂, literally “sea cockroach”. This place has changed since I was last here. A chamber on the rooftop has collapsed into a heap of red bricks and twisted metal. Perhaps a close encounter with debris blown in by Typhoon Malakas was responsible—or maybe it’s the accumulation of elemental forces sweeping across this exposed headland. Whatever the case, it is interesting to witness these changes as my time in this land grows far longer than originally expected.
Yesterday I returned to Yuánlín 員林, the city where I really started blogging about Taiwan 台灣, for a lazy day of exploration and discovery. I was interested in revisited places I thought I knew something about to see how the years have sharpened my ability to observe and document the urban landscape. I’ll have more to post about this trip at a later date—but for now I’d like to add another photograph to my growing collection of abandoned doors. This particular example of the genre was collected just off Wànnián Road 萬年路 (“Ten Thousand Year Road”, a recurring pattern in Taiwanese place names) in a half-abandoned complex of what looks to be late Japanese colonial era or early KMT authoritarian era factory worker dormitories. There is a huge abandoned factory on the opposite side of the main road that might explain things. I wonder what it produced? A cursory search reveals nothing.
Xìnyì District 信義區 is now one of the most expensive and upscale parts of Taiwan 台灣 but it hasn’t always been that way. Decades ago it was an undesirable area on the edge of the city with a significant military-industrial presence, traces of which still remain if you know where to look. The open expanse of parks and parking lots around the intersection of Xìn’ān Street 信安街 and Wúxìng Street 吳興街 immediately to the west of Taipei Medical University 臺北醫學大學 is one such trace.
I found this rusty doorway around the back of an old red brick home somewhere around Zhongshan Station 中山站. Despite being in the middle of Taipei 台北 it is not an area I am familiar with but I am doing my best to remedy this oversight. When I pass through I do my best to wander down new roads and explore alleyways I don’t recognize. Sometimes I capture an intriguing scene like the one you see here. This is a mass-produced door I have many times before—but the exact pattern of decay is unique.
Taichung 台中 is undergoing a massive transformation as vast tracts of rural-industrial sprawl are cleared to make way for new developments around the high-speed rail station 高鐵台中站 and the future Taichung Metro system, particularly in Běitún 北屯, Nántún 南屯, and Wūrì 烏日. Google’s satellite maps are out of sync with the streets, many of which are so new that they appear only as ghostly lines coursing through the former rice paddies. With large parts of the urban periphery slated for wholesale demolition and renewal many grassroots organizations have formed to preserve cultural assets found in these doomed territories—as was the case with the Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓. Today I chanced upon another example: Shuǐduì Jùluò 水碓聚落, a rare 17th century Hakka settlement in Nántún 南屯 with an ambiguous future.
I captured this image while visiting Huángxī Academy 磺溪書院, a Qing dynasty era school and temple in Dàdù 大肚, a rural district in southwestern Taichung 台中 on the border with Changhua 彰化. Built in 1887, it was looted after the war and almost destroyed by a flood before being restored in the 1980s, a story I detail in my full post about this academy. Pictured here is an unusual round gate (huánmén 環門) connecting the two entrance halls (méntīng 門廳) to the inner courtyard (yuànchéng 院埕). From what I’ve read there aren’t many gates like this in Taiwan 台灣, particularly not made out of brick, but I really wouldn’t know. Mostly I appreciate the symmetry of the shot, the apparent antiquity, the promise of something intriguing just around the corner.
Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村 is widely known as the last walled village of Kowloon 九龍. Located not far from the former location of the infamous Kowloon Walled City 九龍城寨, the village traces its history back to the 1352 founding of its modest Tin Hau Temple 天后宮. It was fortified in 1724 to defend against bandits and pirates but has, in modern times, lost the moat, walls, and watchtowers that once protected residents from harm. As the very last of its kind in the urban heart of Hong Kong 香港 it has become a flashpoint for conflict between the Urban Renewal Authority and the many activist groups and citizens passionate about preserving what remains of Kowloon’s cultural heritage.
Slink through the side streets and back alleys of Dàtóng District 大同區 in Taipei 台北 and you’ll invariably encounter traces of baroque architecture in the strangest of places. This garage (chēkù 車庫), for instance, appears to have been built into an old storefront or residence, but obviously hasn’t seen any use in quite some time. It feels like such an ignoble end for what must have once been quite a beautiful building. In case you’re curious to see it yourself you’ll find it on the west side of Ānxī Street 安西街 just south of Liángzhōu Street 涼州街.