Taiping Old Street 太平老街 is an unusually long stretch of Japanese colonial era shophouses in central Douliu 斗六, the administrative seat of Yunlin 雲林, Taiwan 台灣. 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 Taiwan 台灣.
While living down in Changhua City 彰化市 last winter I made occasional forays up and down the TRA Western Line 西部幹線 to check out several places that aren’t often written about in English. One such place is Douliu 斗六, the administrative seat of Yunlin 雲林, which hardly earns more than a passing mention in the English language blogosphere. It was a worthwhile trip too—apart from the famous Tàipíng Old Street 太平老街 (to be blogged about at a future date) and the surprisingly large and lively Douliu Night Market 斗六夜市 I also chanced upon another hulking ruin to add to my growing collection: the Dòuliùmén Building 斗六門大樓, an archaic name for the area that dates back to the 17th century.
Several months ago I explored yet another abandoned entertainment complex in central Taiwan 台灣, this time in Douliu 斗六, the administrative seat of Yunlin 雲林. Check out the full exploration here; this post contains only the results of post-processing some photographic negatives I found on a moldy mattress in an apartment on one of the higher floors. The results are not so interesting this time around but I still enjoy the process of discovery and the aesthetic of decaying, water-damaged negatives like these.
A couple of months ago I randomly took the train to Douliu 斗六, the capital of Yunlin 雲林, the least developed county on the western plains of Taiwan 台灣. Douliu is regularly the subject of jokes in Taiwan (when people aren’t trashing Taoyuan 桃園, that is) so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there: an old street lined with Japanese colonial buildings, several old Japanese era dormitories and historical landmarks, the quirky Hungry Ghost covered market, the temple of fried chicken, and an abandoned entertainment complex to explore (all things I’ll try to post about at some point). Even more surprising was the size of the Saturday night Renwen Park Night Market 人文公園夜市 located in the southwest corner of town. I have become something of a night market connoisseur since living in central and southern Taiwan and wouldn’t hesitate to declare this night market one of the biggest and best on the island.
Beigang 北港 is a historic town on the riverside border between Yunlin 雲林 and Chiayi 嘉義 in southern Taiwan 台灣. I made a brief, unplanned stopover in Beigang while riding north to Changhua 彰化 in the summer of 2014. I was only vaguely aware of Beigang’s existence, having at some point read something about Cháotiān Temple 朝天宫, one of Taiwan’s most famous Mazu 媽祖 temples, but I had a hunch that there might be more to see—and I was right! If you enjoy visiting traditional towns with a lot of history then Beigang should definitely be on your list.
Xiluo 西螺 (or Siluo, to use an alternate romanization) is a small historic town on the left bank of the Zhoushui River in Yunlin 雲林. It became an important center of trade in central Taiwan 台灣 during the Qing dynasty and continued to prosper under Japanese colonial rule into the early 20th century. Disaster struck in 1935 when the devastating 1935 Hsinchu-Taichung earthquake reduced much of Xiluo to rubble. Imperial Japan, acting under pretensions of bringing modernity to Asia, remade the main commercial street with an unusual blend of local and western architectural influences—mainly Art Deco with traces of modernism. Many of these buildings remain standing today—and can be seen by taking a short stroll down Yánpíng Old Street 延平老街.
Xiluo Bridge 西螺大橋 spans the mighty Zhoushui River, the unofficial boundary between north and south Taiwan 台灣, and connects the counties of Changhua 彰化 and Yunlin 雲林. Construction began in the late 1930s under Japanese colonial rule but was put on hold during the war. In 1952 the bridge was completed by the incoming Kuomintang government with help from the USA. At 1,939 meters in length it was one of the longest bridges in the world when it was finished and formerly appeared on Taiwanese bank notes.
I was attracted to Xiluo Bridge after seeing in pictures and reading a little about its history. I made my first crossing at night while riding my bicycle from Tainan to Changhua. Not long thereafter I returned to Xiluo 西螺 and crossed it by day. It is a beautiful and refreshing ride across the wide alluvial plain and it isn’t so highly trafficked that you cannot stop along the way and admire the view—and the distinctive red steel trusses.
By night the southern terminus of the Xiluo bridge comes alive with the sound of music and the sight of dozens of locals enjoying a night on the riverbank. There are tables, chairs, and other places to sit, several mobile cafes selling drinks and snack, and a stage setup for bands (and probably karaoke as well). I can’t say whether this is a regular occurrence or not but I saw crowds along the riverbank on more than one occasion so I would imagine it’s fairly commonplace.
I have been working very hard these last few weeks—a little too hard, at times. To break the monotony of laying code every day I elected to go for a proper ride yesterday. Since moving to Tainan City 台南市 I haven’t gone on any long rides whatsoever—so I geared up for a day on the road, preparing for almost any eventuality. I had several destinations in mind such as the badlands to the east of the city but struck out to the north on a whim, intending to make it to at least Chiayi City 嘉義市 by sundown.
On the sixth day of my round-the-island bicycle trip I set out across the Chianan plain, a desolate expanse of countryside littered with rice paddies, fish farms, salt pans, the occasional factory or industrial plant, and small, unremarkable settlements. My destination was Budai 布袋, a fishing town in Chiayi 嘉義, where I planned to catch a ferry to Penghu 澎湖, a group of picturesque islands in the Taiwan Strait, the following day.