Alien Underworld

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What wonders will be found in this strange place?

I haven’t spent much time in over the years so I somewhat arbitrarily decided to stop there one night in February 2017 while making my way north from . Hotels are cheap and regular train service is about half the cost of high-speed rail so I figured it wasn’t costing me much to take it slow. After enjoying some famous turkey rice in one of the main tourist night markets I wandered around to reacquaint myself with the layout of the place. Not far from the traffic circle east of Chiayi Station I noticed the entrance to an electronic gaming den with an amusing name: ET歡樂世界, literally “Extraterrestrial Happy World”.

25 Kilos of Rice

The doorway to a hostess club in advertising an attendance and referral bonus paid in rice.

Yesterday I wandered through Malate, a commercial district at the south end of , 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 or watch this obscure, dimly-lit video advertisement for the club.

Donggong Theater 東宮戲院

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An abandoned 60 year-old movie theater on a main thoroughfare in Dongshi, Taichung.

Dōnggōng Theater 東宮戲院 is located in Dongshi, a majority township in mountainous central . Dongshi (or Tungshih in the older Wade–Giles Romanization system) is the gateway to the densely forested interior and was a major center of the lumber industry in prior to its decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Disaster struck in 1999 with the devastating 921 Earthquake. Dongshi was among the worst hit; over 300 people lost their lives and hundreds of buildings collapsed—but not this grand old theater.

A Defender of China

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An unusual sign in front of a restaurant in northern Hsinchu City.

On the northern edge of , about halfway between Nánliáo Fishing Port 南寮漁港 and the massive Hsinchu Air Base 新竹空軍基地, you’ll find a small restaurant by the name of Old Lù Beef Noodles 老陸牛肉麵. Such a shop might not catch your eye were it not for a curious turquoise signboard perched on an easel out front. is home to one of the highest densities of in the nation so it comes as no surprise that it would be advertising military village cuisine 眷村美食. What is rather unusual is the hand-painted adaptation of the May 16, 1938, edition of Life Magazine, originally subtitled A Defender of China, appearing here with the messages We are your friend 我們的你們的朋友 and We are fights for freedom 我們是為自由而战 (with that last character a simplified form of 戰). The pot of noodles and chopsticks are a creative addition.

A Derelict Entertainment Complex in Zhongli

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Deciphering the names of twin theaters in an abandoned entertainment complex in Zhongli.

Among the many disused and movie of is a massive entertainment complex home to twin cinemas: Qīnqīn Grand Theater 親親大戲院 and Láilái Grand Theater 來來大戲院. Located immediately across from the former Sogo department store in the heart of downtown, it remains unexplored insofar as I know. Several businesses still operate out of the ground floor of this hulking ruin and they don’t take kindly to strangers mucking about in search of an entrance to the upper levels.

Giant Bird Crossing at Taida

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An amusing sign on campus at National Taiwan University in Taipei.

It was hot as hell this afternoon so I smartly cut through National Taiwan University 國立臺灣大學 in search of some shade while on my way to one of my favourite working cafes in . NTU, better known as Táidà 台大, has a beautiful main campus in the heart of that offers some respite from the busy city streets that surround it. While riding along one of many tree-lined laneways I noticed this absurd sign by the roadside. The text reads dòngwù chuānyuè 動物穿越 (“animal crossing”), jiǎnsù mànxíng 減速慢行 (“slow down”), with nary a word about giant birds, much to my disappointment. I’m not sure if this is a student project or something official but either way—it’s awesome! I wonder now, is this meant to depict the herons commonly seen in parkland around the city?

Whitey’s Up To No Good Again

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An amusing sign featuring some random white guy trashing the planet.

I was amused to notice this unusually large anti-littering sign in central the other day. White men are occasionally portrayed as villains in public service announcements here in —see here and here for two examples from this blog—but seldom with as much absurdity. I mean, just look at how few fucks are given by this business cowboy, lasso in hand as he throws trash everywhere while riding, inexplicably, a balloon version of planet Earth, with cigarettes, wine bottles, tin cans, and other refuse strewn all over the place. Yee-haw! A friend joked that this is basically how she imagines most white men—and indeed, this is basically me, all of the time.

Lost Among The Multitudes

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A lost cat poster on a mailbox in .

I wonder how many cats are lost every day? Certainly this number cannot be insignificant, for it is something almost every cat owner must address at one point or another. I have personally been involved in the search for lost cats on at least five occasions—and have probably made posters of my own at least three times. This particular poster up on the mountain in caught my eye for whatever reason—the unusually bold design, the melancholic appearance of raindrops on the plastic cover, or perhaps the forlorn look of the potentially doomed feline, its indeterminate fate depending on chance and circumstance. And are we not all lost as well? Put up a poster for yourself.

Clean Your Head

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The giant ear is your first clue.

Here’s something you might not have seen before: a professional ear cleaning service in ! When I shot this photo while riding around a couple of months ago I assumed it was a run-of-the-mill ear, nose, and throat doctor with a quirky sign out front. Turns out this is a famous shop by the name of Ěrqiāng Qīnglǐ de Jiā 耳腔清理的家 (loosely: “Ear Canal Cleaning Home”) where you can have your ears cleaned by a “professional ear cleaning master” (zhuānyè tāo’ěr shī 專業掏耳師) for about 500 NT. Apparently Yáo Bīn 姚賓, the octogenarian proprietor, will be happy to show off jars filled with grotesque things he has unearthed over the course of five decades of aural spelunking.

Love Or Punishment

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“Love or punishment: your choice?” How about a bit of both…

I was amused to notice this public service announcement posted in the front window of what I would assume is a community police station in . I wonder what compelled them to write out “love or punishment” in English? The target audience is obviously local. Below the main banner the text reads: jīnqián & shíjiān 金錢 & 時間 (time and money), dōu yīnggāi liú gěi piàoliang nǚyǒu 都應該留給漂亮女友 (all should be left to the beautiful girlfriend). In case it isn’t obvious by now, this is an admonition to not engage in the services of prostitutes, which is technically illegal in (but seldom enforced).