South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City

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

, the administrative capital of , was my final destination on a multi-day bicycle tour around southern 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.

Outside Quan’an Hall 全安堂

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In front of the Taiwan Sun Cake Museum in Taichung.

Quán’ān Hall 全安堂 is a century-old building on Taiwan Boulevard 臺灣大道 not far from the old train station in . Built in 1909 with red brick, reinforced concrete, and a Neo-Baroque style commonly attributed to Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo 辰野金吾 (中文), it was a pharmacy for many decades, and more recently a bakery. A few years ago it was rebranded as the Taiwan Sun Cake Museum 台灣太陽餅博物館, which now operates a gift store on the ground floor and, beneath the exposed wooden beams of the restored rooftop on the second level, a cafe, event space, and interactive museum.

Liancun Tobacco Barn 鎌村菸樓

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Rice fields in front of the Liancun Tobacco Barn in rural .

Liáncūn Tobacco Barn 鎌村菸樓 is a historic building on the rural outskirts of , , and one of the last of its kind. Back in the heyday of the 1950s there were more than 100 tobacco barns in this small agricultural community. Almost all the others have been torn down or fallen into grave disrepair over the years but this one remains in surprisingly good condition, a testament to the upkeep of the owners, who still live inside. I haven’t had any luck sourcing credible historic information about this place—it isn’t an officially designated heritage property nor a tourist attraction—but I’d hazard a guess that it is at least 70 years old. I would have asked the old lady in the courtyard but she didn’t seem all that interested in having a chat—though she warmly granted permission to shoot these photographs when I asked permission.

Beidou Far East Theater 北斗遠東戲院

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A glimpse of the elegant facade of the historic Far East Theater in the heart of Beidou, Changhua.

is home to the historic Far East Theater 遠東戲院 (pinyin: Yuǎndōng), originally built in 1955. Like most vintage in it struggled through the home video era and eventually shut down in the late 1990s. Unlike many other cinemas of its generation it does not appear to have been subdivided into smaller theaters prior to going out of business. It was, however, converted for use as a karaoke bar or gambling den at some point, judging by what I observed during a recent visit. Nowadays the interior is used for nothing more than storage, particularly for a restaurant that has since colonized the area adjacent to the former ticket booth and entrance.

Bafen Catholic Church 八分天主堂

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An old Catholic Church next to the highway in rural Changhua.

In late November of last year I was riding through southern on my way to when I noticed an unusually old building at the side of the highway. With a little research I puzzled out this is the obscure Bāfēn Catholic Church 八分天主堂, a parish dating back to 1906 and located in Méizhōu Village 梅州里 on the western outskirts of . I haven’t found any primary source material establishing its age—but the style of the church reminds me of Zhongshan Hall 中山堂 (originally Ershui Public Hall 二水公會堂) in neighbouring , originally built during the in 1930. At a glance I would guess it was built sometime between 1940 and 1960.

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 , a small rural township in southern , 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.

Wuri Police Station 烏日警察官吏派出所

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A sidelong view of the historic Japanese colonial era police station in Wuri.

Wuri Police Station 烏日警察官吏派出所 is a historic building dating back to the early 1930s. Located in , , it was built in a simple, subdued style with more of a nod toward Rationalism than the localized or Baroque Revival styles commonly seen in commercial and institutional of Shōwa period . After the station was decommissioned in the late 1960s it was used for residential purposes until it was ultimately for unknown reasons. Historic status was announced in 2004 and officially confirmed in 2013 but restoration efforts have been stuck in the planning stage since then. This makes the Wuri Police Station yet another example of a neglected heritage building in Taiwan at risk of natural and manmade disaster.

Postcards From Changhua City 2 彰化市明信片

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

Not long after moving to the capital of 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 , a historic town in central .

Taiping Old Street 太平老街

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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 shophouses in central , the administrative seat of , . 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 .

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街

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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 , . 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.