Postcards From Ershui 二水明信片

Èrshuǐ 二水 is a rural township located in the southeastern corner of Changhua 彰化, bordering Yúnlín 雲林 and Nántóu 南投. Ershui Station 二水車站, constructed in 1935, is the primary point of transfer between the Main Line 縱貫線 of the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) and the Jiji Line 集集線, a tourist railway leading into the interior. Ershui, which literally means “two water”, is named after the Babao Canal 八堡圳, an extensive system of artificial waterways still responsible for irrigating much of the Changhua Plain 彰化平原 three centuries after it was devised. During the Japanese colonial era this small town prospered as a center of woodworking while farmers in the countryside cultivated bananas, grapes, guava, and tobacco, among other crops. Nowadays it is mainly known as a sleepy stopover on the way to parts beyond—but a closer look will reveal several points of interest for anyone curious about Taiwanese history, architecture, and vintage style.

An Abandoned House and Community Garden in Hsinchu

Last weekend I visited Hsinchu City 新竹市 and rented a scooter to visit some of the more distant areas from the central train station. Along the way my attention was drawn to this traditional home on the margins of the north side of town. Hsinchu, like most other cities in Taiwan, is gradually replacing its agricultural frontier with modern subdevelopments, but this home has somehow escaped the wave of demolition that obviously swept through most of the rest of the area. The man in the picture had little to say before returning to his garden. Apparently the abandoned house beyond is a hundred years old—but anything more about its history will remain a mystery for now.

In Search of Salt on the Outskirts of Lukang

Several months ago, after researching and writing a piece about the Qingkunshen Fan-Shaped Saltern 青鯤鯓扇形鹽田 of Tainan 台南, I ventured out to Lukang 鹿港 in search of the Lukang Saltworks 鹿港鹽場, a Japanese colonial era saltern that shut down in the 1960s. Whereas there are several good resources outlining the history of southern Taiwan’s salt industry I found nothing similar for anything north of the Zhuoshui River 濁水溪, the traditional dividing line between north and south Taiwan. Turning to Google Maps I browsed satellite imagery for evidence of salt evaporation ponds (here is a historic photo of one of Lukang’s salt fields to give you an idea of what I was looking for). I soon noticed a street by the name of Yancheng Lane 鹽埕巷, literally “Salt Yard Lane”, as well as several sites with grid-like structures obscured by overgrowth. When the opportunity arose to borrow a scooter in the area I jumped at the chance to put this cartographic sleuthing to the test. Was there any chance I’d find some relic of an industry that vanished half a century ago?

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City to Fangliao

After spending a day riding around Pingtung City I was ready to hit the road again. With no specific destination in mind—only an intention to head in the direction of Héngchūn 恆春, far to the south—I checked out of the vintage homestay I lodged at the previous night, stopped at Eske Place Coffee House for a delicious and healthy vegetarian breakfast, changed into cycling wear, and exited the city to the east. I knew almost nothing about where I was headed or what I might see on the third day of my south Taiwan ride in 2015. I only had one stop planned in advance: a hospital in Cháozhōu 潮州 rumoured to be abandoned. I didn’t know it at the time but I would spend almost the entire day riding through the historic Hakka belt of Pingtung 屏東.

Postcards From Meinong 美濃明信片

I briefly visited Měinóng 美濃 in July of 2014 while cycling around southern Taiwan. I hadn’t done any planning prior to arrival and knew nothing of what I was getting myself into nor what sights I should have made an effort to see. I was navigating almost exclusively by instinct, riding in whatever direction seemed interesting, simply to see what was there. Gathered here are several of my photos from a few uninformed hours in this bucolic rural township in Kaohsiung 高雄.

Stung by a Bee

Recently I have experienced a novel physical sensation: bee sting, or something like it. Last week while riding a scooter through the hazy agricultural fields of Míngjiān 名間 in the western part of Nántóu 南投 I felt a sudden, sharp pain in my exposed leg. I impulsively reached down to brush something aside—possibly the body of an insect—before glancing down to dislodge a small, black object that might have been a stinger.

A Sun Shower in Rural Chiayi

I went out on a road trip through rural Chiayi 嘉義 in May 2014. It was one of those days where you couldn’t be certain what the weather might do next. The mountains to the east were shrouded in thick tangles of dark, roiling clouds, always looking like they might break off and sweep across the western plains at any moment. Thankfully, this was as bad as it got—a light sun shower out on backcountry roads. If you look closely you might even see the faint streak of raindrops as they fall to earth.

Betel Nut Mountain

Areca palm plantations are commonly found in the foothills of western Taiwan. These palms are cultivated for the Areca nut, which is combined with Betel leaf and various other ingredients (usually slaked lime and sometimes chewing tobacco) to produce what is commonly known as “betel nut”, or binlang 檳榔, a stimulant popular among blue-collar workers. This carcinogenic concoction is chewed, producing a distinctive blood red discoloration of the teeth and gums, and typically spit out onto the street.

A Long Ride From Tainan to Changhua

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 台南 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.