Pictured here are two young Mormon missionaries pushing their weird religion on someone stuck at an intersection in Fengyuan 豐原, Taichung 台中. This is not accidental—missionaries actively target people at long lights, endangering themselves and everyone else on the road in the process. Taiwanese people are generally too polite and conflict-averse to tell these delusional clowns where to go—but I’m not, on the odd occasion they dare to make a play for my immortal soul. Sorry, it’s already taken…
Today I was surprised to see a small group of Muslims at the entrance to Ximenting 西門町, a popular entertainment and shopping district in the northern part of Wanhua District 萬華區 in Taipei 台北. The area around exit 6 of Ximen Station is more commonly used for busking, not political demonstrations, and is always busy with pedestrian traffic during the day. It isn’t common to see anything like this in Taiwan 台灣 so I stopped to see what was going on.
The gloomy weather, mountainous topography, and bustling container port make Keelung 基隆 the darkest city in Taiwan 台灣. Nowhere else on the island will you see such open displays of vice and iniquity, nor will you find such a dense concentration of allegedly haunted ruins. Moreover, the urban landscape is a contorted mess of concrete and tile buildings, pedestrian overpasses, underground passages, and covered alleyways. It has the mark of a place where the planners set down a grid and let people do whatever they wanted within each square. Much like Kowloon 九龍, it is a city to be explored at multiple levels—to get the most out of it you have to try every stairway leading up or down, walk down every cramped lane, and step through every open doorway.
About a month ago I returned to this darkest of cities to gather more material for future blogging projects. At the tail end of this expedition I was wandering by the courtyard of an old temple in the heart of downtown when I saw this old homeless man. Usually I am loathe to disturb anyone and make them the subject of a photograph—it feels somehow exploitative to me—but after seeing the camera slung around my neck he gestured in my direction, inviting me to capture the moment.
It is somewhat unusual to see homeless people on the streets of Taiwan. Late at night it isn’t uncommon to see old people collecting trash with makeshift carts but seldom do I ever see anyone sleeping out in the open. There are enough abandoned buildings around that most homeless people can find shelter if they want it. I wonder what his story is and why he chose the streets.