During a recent visit to Xizhou 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.
One of the pleasures of bicycle touring in Taiwan is the freedom to change plans on impulse. On my second day of a trip down south in June 2015, having previously cycled across Kaohsiung from Tainan, I opted to hang out and see more of Pingtung City 屏東市. A dire weather forecast calling for bouts of torrential rain had already introduced some uncertainty but I was also curious about this city of 200,000, about which almost nothing is written in English. Finding an interesting place to stay sealed the deal—and so I checked out of a grimy hotel near the train station after breakfast, moved my stuff to the new place, and spent the day exploring the administrative center of Pingtung 屏東, the southernmost division of Taiwan 台灣.
Not far from Taipei 101 and the heart of Taipei’s central business district there lies an ulcerous anomaly on the supine body of the endless city. It would be impossible to miss this abandonment, for a wild riot of plant life traces its angular outlines, and an unusual assortment of graffiti lines the arcade along Keelung Road 基隆路. I regularly ride by here on my way to various working cafes further afield and naturally couldn’t resist taking a look inside one day. I have not puzzled out the exact name and history of this ruin but now have a rather strong suspicion that it was once a hāodàisuǒ 招待所 or guest house—hence the unofficial name I have chosen for this piece.
Last year one of my photos from Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel 中城高原ホテル was picked up by LIFE Books for the publication of The World’s Most Haunted Places. I have yet to complete my own write-up of this fantastical and awe-inspiring ruin in Okinawa 沖縄 but I will certainly get around to it sooner or later. Appearing in a LIFE publication of any kind is also pretty cool even if it isn’t the original magazine, which my mother used to collect and keep around the house while I was growing up. She proudly bought a couple copies when she heard the news and the special hit the supermarket stands back home in Canada.
Keep those lightbulbs from flying away! Spied this in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental while attending a gala dinner for the World Design Impact awards, part of a series of events taking place under the banner of the World Design Capital Taipei 2016. I was invited as part of what you might call the outsider press contingent for reasons that are somewhat obscure to me given my penchant for wandering around hotels somewhat less posh than this one. That being said, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to experience something far outside my usual routine here in Taiwan 台灣, and it was cool to meet a bunch of fellow bloggers and photographers at the event (shout outs to Typing To Taipei, G’day Taiwan, Sean Marc Lee, and Eating In Taipei among others).
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 Zhongshan 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.
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 Beitou 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).
Jiāmǔzǐ Bay 加母子灣 is a beautifully remote and scenic stretch of coastline just north of Taitung City 台東市 in Donghe 東河, Taitung 台東. It is also home to the gutted ruins of an abandoned mínsù 民宿 (a funky bed and breakfast or homestay-style inn) readily visible from just about anywhere along the bay. While cruising along the coastal highway on my first Taiwan bicycle tour in late 2013 I stopped two stops to take a closer look: once beneath the moody remnants of Typhoon Usagi and again on a sunny afternoon the following day.
This image is a revision of a photograph I captured in what was probably an abandoned restaurant not far from Shifen Waterfall 十分瀑布 in Pingxi 平溪. I ventured out that way sometime in May 2013, maybe a week after moving to Taiwan 台灣 the first time around, having hardly stepped outside of Taipei 台北 at that point.
Mere days after arriving in Taipei 台北 for the first time a new friend brought me to Woobar at the W Hotel for the view and a drink. At some point I went for a walk around the pool (back when the staff weren’t so fussy about customers doing that sort of thing) and shot a few photos of the reflections in the glass running up the side of the main body of the hotel. This abstract architectural study resulted from messing around with the tones of the original photograph in the post-processing phase.