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Swamp house in Beimen district

Beimen 北門

Beimen 北門 is located in the northwest corner of Tainan 台南 immediately adjacent to Budai 布袋 in Chiayi 嘉義. It is a strange mix of empty countryside and historic sites, among them Nankunshen temple and the Jingzaijiao tile-paved salt pans.

Swamp house

Swamp house in Beimen district
A swampy courtyard home in Beimen, Tainan.

Today I returned to the desolate emptiness of northwestern Tainan 台南, a place I originally visited on my round-the-island bicycle tour last year. It is an almost completely manmade landscape of salt pans and aquaculture ponds only occasionally punctuated by small fishing villages and surprisingly lavish temples. Given the proximity to Tainan City 台南市, the first major Han Chinese settlement in Taiwan, there is a lot of history out here, though much of it has already faded away.

Case in point: this time around I noticed this partially flooded sānhéyuàn 三合院, a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home, on a small road just outside Beimen 北門. It was completely surrounded on all sides by aquaculture ponds that were similarly abandoned. I suspect that water levels in these ponds require some level of human intervention—for instance, during periods of strong rain or drought. Without anyone around to care for this place it must have been submerged at some point, filling the courtyard with pond scum.

Taiwan bicycle tour: Budai to Tainan

Day seven of my bicycle trip around Taiwan began with deep disappointment and ended in delight. I woke up in my hotel room on the main road leading into Budai 布袋 without a working smartphone. I tried to boot up but it was caught in a loop, resetting itself over and over again. Without a clock in the room I had no idea what time it was but figured there was no rush. There were at least three ferries plying the route to Penghu. Surely one of those ferries would sail in the afternoon.

Budai oyster baskets
Budai is in oyster country, as these overflowing baskets attest.