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”.

The Ruins of the Aduana Building

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Ominous skies over the hollow shell of the Aduana Building just outside the walls of Intramuros in Manila.

The Aduana Building, also known as the Intendencia, is located just outside the walls of Intramuros, the historic center of Spanish colonial . Originally built as a customs house in the 1820s, it has undergone several cycles of destruction and renewal starting in 1863, when the building was almost completely destroyed by the same strong earthquake that leveled much of the old city. Rebuilt in the mid-1870s, it served various government functions—office of the National Archives, first home of the Philippines Senate, and again the Bureau of Customs—before it was ravaged during the initial and final bombing campaigns of World War II. After reconstruction it again served as the offices of different government agencies before it was finally following a devastating fire in 1979. Restoration plans have been floated since the 1990s but as of late 2015, when I wandered by, the Aduana Building remains in ruin.

Fire Rooster Mandala

Wall art celebrating the year of the Fire Rooster in Tainan.

Not long after ushering in the new year in I made an unplanned visit to , where I lived back in 2014, and spent an afternoon wandering around town with fellow blogger and photographer Josh Ellis. We captured a lot that day—including this mandala pasted onto a wall in the alleyway leading to Pǔjìdiàn 普濟殿, a reliably eventful temple known, among other things, for displaying hundreds of lanterns over new year’s. Looking closely you should be able to discern a rooster in the mandala, for it is now the Year of the Fire Rooster 火雞年 according to the Chinese zodiac 屬相. Combining the twelve animals of the zodiac with the Five Elements 五行 (wood 木, fire 火, earth 土, metal 金, and water 水), yields the Sexagenary Cycle 六十干支, deified as the sixty Tài Suì 太歲 gods commonly seen in Taiwanese . If you want to be cheeky about it you could call this the “year of the turkey”, for “fire chicken” or huǒjī 火雞 is the Chinese word for turkey, a linguistic quirk elaborated here.

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.

Departure Time

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The hands advance, time moves forward, and I’ve got a plane to catch.

Five in the afternoon and it’s time to split. I’ve had an interesting time here in —and a good day of work here at Toby’s Estate—but I’ve a plane to catch. Timing my departure is difficult due to the threat of absolute gridlock on the way to the airport. My plane is scheduled to fly just after ten but I rather arrive early than succumb to a last-minute panic. Time and tide wait for no man, nor do commercial flights. (And as chance would have it my flight was delayed by nearly two hours and I didn’t leave the until close to midnight.)

Elementary Islamic Pastiche

An elementary school with unusual architectural influences in Taichung.

Founded in 1999, Yǒngchūn Elementary School 永春國民小學 is an unusual example of Islamic-influenced architecture in , . No rules or conventions must be followed here; all cultures are subject to creative reinterpretation in modern construction projects, but it is far more common for Taiwanese to pillage European, American, or surrounding East Asian sources for ideas. In this case I am sure it is no accident that the Taichung Mosque 台中清真寺 is just up the street—but it is, if I am not mistaken, just a regular school, albeit a fantastical one with princes and princesses!

For more photos and information (in Chinese, of course) nothing could be more appropriate than this blog, but if you’re feeling brave you can also wade through the insanity of the school’s official web site.

Fenyuan Town Hall 芬園庄役場

Fenyuan’s abandoned town hall from Japanese times.

Fenyuan Town Hall 芬園庄役場 is another example of neglected architecture in . Built in 1935, this modest building was the administrative center of the village of , located on the eastern edge of back when it was part of Taichū Prefecture 臺中州. It survived the war and remained in use until 1994 when a newer town hall was built down the street. Art Deco flourishes and the rust-colored emblem over the entrance give Fenyuan’s old town hall a distinctive look. Nowadays it is derelict—but it seems likely that it will be restored and opened to the public some day.

Brutalist Parkade

Just a parking garage.

Cǎoxiédūn Public Parkade 草鞋墩公有立體停車場 is an intimidating structure looming over one of the main commercial shopping streets in , . I was there in search of an abandoned theater but was immediately impressed with the strikingly brutalist design of this multi-storey car park. It is merely a place to park so there’s little more to say, though it would seem that it was recently derelict. Probably the only other tidbit of information worth conveying is that “Caoxiedun” refers to the original name of the town. You can be sure the first settlers never imagined this monument to honest architecture standing in their newly sown fields.

Postcards From Badouzi 八斗子

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Sundown over Badouzi, a peninsula on the eastern periphery of , .

Near the end of my first summer in I visited Bādǒuzi 八斗子, a rocky headland, coastal park, and major fishing port at the far eastern edge of , . I went there on impulse, not knowing what to expect, just to see what was out there. Google Maps and Taiwan’s excellent public transit system make random explorations like this almost effortless: pick a point of interest and follow the directions—the digital equivalent of throwing a dart at a map. This post features a selection of retouched photos from this expedition alongside the sort of explanatory text I wouldn’t have been able to write back in 2013. Fair warning for arachnophobes: this post contains several gratuitous photos of giant spiders and other creepy crawlies!

Tiny Spaces

An old building transformed into a couple of parking spaces near the Hsinchu State Office.

Recently I have gotten somewhat more serious about documenting , the faint traces of structures that once were. I found this particular example on Rén’ài Street 仁愛街 not far from the Hsinchu State Office 新竹州廳 (sometimes called the Hsinchu Municipal Government Hall) in . Google Street View reveals that this tiny space has been used for parking since at least 2009—but at some point someone must have made a life here in the spaces between.