Yonghe Grand Cinema 永和大戲院 is one of dozens of derelict movie theaters in Greater Taipei. Like hundreds of other theaters all around Taiwan 台灣 this one went out of business in the early years of the new millennium due to changing consumer habits, a topic I have already discussed at length in previous explorations of places like Datong Theater 大同戲院 in Taitung City 台東市 and Xinming Theater 新明戲院 in Zhongli 中壢. Whereas theaters in the rest of the country are often left to the elements, sky-high property values in the Taipei 台北 area strongly incentivize owners to do something with these decaying buildings. In this instance the front of the old theater has been converted for the use of into a 7-Eleven convenience store and an Italian restaurant by the name of Lan De Pasta House 嵐迪義大利麵. I wonder whether patrons of these establishments realize what looms overhead?
Recently my work on this blog was featured in an article by Nien Ping Yu 于念平 for the Chinese language web magazine BIOS Monthly. The article, loosely translated as Canadian Cultural Blogger: Even Unremarkable Places Have History (加拿大文化部落客: 再平凡的地方都有歷史), was based on a sprawling conversation we had in person rather than an email questionnaire. Mostly we spoke about themes and practices commonly seen on this blog: discovering history through the exploration of lost and neglected places, revealing intriguing connections through observations of synchronicity, and using photography as a documentarian medium rather than focusing solely on aesthetic appeal.
Several of my original photographs are featured in the article, some of which have already appeared on this blog (for example Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 and Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫) along with others yet to be published (mostly from the infamous Fuhe Grand Theater 福和大戲院 in Yonghe 永和). Other adventures referenced in the text include forthcoming material about Dadong Theater 大東戲院 in Zhongli 中壢 and the Liuzhangli Muslim Cemetery 六張犁的回教公墓 here in Taipei 台北.
Pictured here is a grungy old pedestrian bridge over the flood wall in Yonghe 永和. This is immediately across Xindian Creek 新店溪 from the bulk of Taipei 台北, where it is more common to see the wall punctuated by regular gates. The sign reads rénxíng lùqiáo 人行陸橋 (pedestrian bridge), jìnzhǐ pānpá 禁止攀爬 (no climbing).
Found this spooky statue in an abandoned apartment complex in the heart of Yonghe 永和 the other night. The rest of the building seemed to have been gutted in a fire but one unit was accessible—so I stepped inside to take a peek and satisfy my curiosity. There really wasn’t much of the place, possibly a professor’s home, but this creepy old bust on the ground floor caught my eye. I wonder who this is a depiction of? And was there any reason for him to have been facing the wall?
Tonight I went for a leisurely bicycle ride to Xindian 新店 and back along the riverside bikeway. Just before crossing back into Taipei 台北 proper I stopped for dinner at a sushi restaurant that I have been meaning to check out at the foot of Zhongzheng Bridge 中正橋 in Yonghe 永和. Not feeling all that decisive I opted for the assorted sushi platter (not an exact translation of zònghé shòusī 綜合壽司 but it will do). Hilariously, when the platter arrived it was fully stacked with a bunch of things I dislike or never order: ika (squid) and crab stick nigiri, some kind of giant prawn nigiri I have never seen before, a salmon roe “ship roll”, a peculiar slab of tamago (egg), and something I have always been interested in trying: uni うに, better known in English as sea urchin (and in Chinese as hǎidǎn 海膽). But that’s not the meat or the eggs of the urchin you see in the photograph—those pasty ochre blobs are the the gonads of the organism.
I have to admit that after a long ride I was looking forward to some familiar comfort food but the sushi chef obviously had a different plan in mind. Alright, so it’s a new year, time for some new experiences, right? Time to mow down some alien blobs and test my gastronomic fortitude! I wolfed it down in one bite and yeah, it had an incredibly weird taste. Not a bad sort of weird, just downright what-the-fuck-was-that weird. And no wonder: uni has a rather unusual composition. Eat enough of that stuff and you’re likely to get high—or maybe horny? Whatever the case, one dose was good to start. I wasn’t an instant fan and I doubt I would order it outright in the future… but if another one of these blobs lands in front of me I suppose I won’t let it go to waste.
I captured this photograph after having a nap in a short-term hotel in Yonghe 永和 on my birthday. I was up far earlier than I wanted to be and overestimated by readiness for the day—but this being Taiwan, I knew I could purchase a nap without much trouble or expense. Sure enough, after checking out a couple of hotels near an old school breakfast shop I often frequent when I’m in the area I found a place with a decent bed that offered three hours for a mere 380 NT (about $15 back home). I wonder if the counter staff were amused that a foreigner would wander in one morning and book a room for its intended purpose, the gift of sleep?
Having just shared a photo from an abandoned Sogo department store in Zhongli 中壢 I can’t resist also posting about the Gogo Mall building I found in Yonghe 永和 about a month ago. I was there in search of an entrance to the abandoned Miramar Theater 美麗華戲院, one of many abandoned theaters in Yonghe, but couldn’t find a way in as all entrances are sealed. Initially I visited at night and assumed it was a derelict building but on my second visit I saw signs of renovation through an open window. Perhaps some effort is being undertaken to redevelop the place.
I was wandering through the crooked alleyways of Yonghe 永和 on my way to brunch earlier this week when I noticed a weathered emblem affixed to an old door. I stopped to take a picture, appreciating how worn both of these things have become in time.
The Chinese character featured in the middle of the sign is chūn 春, or spring, the season. Less obvious are the four characters at the top, fùguì yǒuyú 富貴有餘, an expression that loosely translates to “wealth and abundance” (if Google is to be trusted). While searching for more information I found that the last character is sometimes replaced by “fish”, or yú 魚, a homonym, or left out altogether (as this sound is implied by the design).
Since returning to Taiwan 台灣 I have been staying in Yonghe 永和, one of the most densely populated parts of the island—and by extension, the world. I have been amazed at how much is accomplished in such close quarters, particularly here around the southern terminus of the Zhōngzhèng Bridge 中正橋.
The other day I was out walking in the ever-present rain when I noticed a construction site along Yonghe Road, the main north-south artery running through the district. Out of curiosity I stopped to peer over the barricade into the pit that had been excavated to accommodate the foundation. Something about it seemed not quite right—and after snapping a quick photograph on my cruddy smartphone it would appear that the support beams aren’t completely straight, or perhaps it is a trick of perspective.
At any rate, I like the aesthetics of this quick and dirty capture enough to share it here, adding minutely to my ongoing documentation of everyday life in Taiwan 台灣. As for the title, well, that’s just me being a geek.
Wander along the many alleyways of Yonghe 永和 and you’re guaranteed to encounter one of these mass-produced metal doors affixed with a dragon like the one pictured above. This particular example happened to catch my eye—it is unusually weathered with a big streak of rust below, not unsurprising given the incessant rain and humid climate.