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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Life Is A Gas

Gas tanks in Darong Village
Gas tanks next to an old tobacco barn in Eastern Taiwan.

Two weeks ago I noticed this stack of natural gas tanks outside the Fènglín Tobacco Barn 鳳林菸樓 in Dàróng First Village 大榮一村, one of several sites identified as Tobacco Barn Cultural Settlements 菸樓文化聚落 in the Eastern Rift, or Huatung Valley 花東縱谷. Having spent some time last year exploring remnants of the tobacco industry in Taichung 台中 I figured it might be interesting to sample what might be found out east. I’ll have more to share from that mission at a later date—but for now, these tanks shall serve as a placeholder for future elucidations.

Yuanlin Hospital 員林醫院

Yuanlin Hospital in deep afternoon
Deep afternoon at an infamous abandoned hospital in Yuanlin, Taiwan.

Despite having spent a lot of time in Yuánlín 員林, a mid-sized city in central Changhua 彰化, Taiwan 台灣, I have only recently begun to explore some of its more famous ruins. Among these is Yuanlin Hospital 員林醫院, formally the Changhua County Yuanlin Hospital 彰化縣立員林醫院, originally built in 1963 and operational until the the turn of the millennium. Nowadays it is one of the more notorious abandoned places in central Taiwan, where it is regularly featured in news reports, particularly around Ghost Month 鬼月. Taiwanese media engage in an annual outpouring of overly sensationalized stories about haunted places—and hospitals, as liminal spaces of birth and death, often appear in such reports, complicating research into the real story of what went on.

Inside the Decaying Courtyard

Inside the decaying courtyard
The view from within a decaying public housing block in downtown Taipei.

Yesterday I followed a lead to Lánzhōu Public Housing 蘭州國宅, a KMT authoritarian era project in central Dàtóng District 大同區, Taipei 台北. It is similar to Nanjichang Community 南機場社區, a far more well-known housing project in Wànhuá District 萬華區, but this building was constructed almost ten years later in 1973. As with Nanjichang, its fate also remains unclear, as the city is working through complex land ownership issues to figure out how to move residents into more modern housing. I plan to have a full write-up about this place some day so I’ll leave it at that for now—just a glimpse.

Postcards From Intramuros

The south entrance to Intramuros in Manila
The southern entrance to Intramuros, Manila.

Intramuros (literally “within the walls”) is the former center of Spanish colonial power and the Catholic Church in the Philippines. Located in the heart of old Manila, this fortified district has a long and complicated history stretching back more than four centuries, but little of what remains is original and untouched. Intramuros was heavily damaged during the Japanese invasion in 1941 and almost completely destroyed in the Battle of Manila in 1945. Almost everything seen in my photos was reconstructed beginning in the 1950s and continuing to the present day.

Transformed By Time

Taipower Box
Time and the elements have weathered this transformer box on the streets of Linkou.

Yesterday I went on a short tour of Línkǒu 林口 inspired by the opening of the Taoyuan Airport MRT and the proliferation of YouBike stations to the exurbs of Taipei 台北. After spending some time under the sun I stopped to pick up some water at one of Taiwan’s ubiquitous convenience stores and noticed a weathered padmount transformer out front, pictured here.

South Yuanlin Station 南員林站

An old wooden railway station in back alley Yuanlin
An old wooden railway station in back alley Yuanlin. The sign reads “yield before the main road” (ràng qián yǒu gàndào 讓前有幹道).

South Yuanlin Station 南員林站 is an abandoned Japanese colonial era railway station located not far from the newly reopened Yuanlin Station 員林車站 in the heart of Yuánlín 員林, a mid-sized city in central Changhua 彰化. It opened in 1933 as a small stop on the now-derelict Yuanlin Line 員林線 of the Taiwan Sugar Railways 臺灣糖業鐵路, which formerly ran west for about 9 kilometers across the Changhua Plain 彰化平原 to the Xihu Sugar Factory 溪湖糖廠 in Xihu. Apart from facilitating the transport of sugarcane and other cargo this old wooden station also provided passenger service until it was abolished sometime around 1975.

Alien Underworld

Chiayi alien underworld
What wonders will be found in this strange place?

I haven’t spent much time in Chiayi City 嘉義市 over the years so I somewhat arbitrarily decided to stop there one night in February 2017 while making my way north from Tainan 台南. 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

A Spanish colonial building on the edge of Intramuros
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 Manila. 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 abandoned 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

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

Not long after ushering in the new year in Taipei 台北 I made an unplanned visit to Tainan 台南, 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 temples. 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 entrance to a bar in Malate
The doorway to a hostess club in Manila advertising an attendance and referral bonus paid in rice.

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