A Door in the Forest

Recently I went riding up Jiannan Street 劍南街, a scenic mountain road connecting Zhōngshān District 中山區 and Shìlín District 士林區. Along the way I noticed many bunkers and sentry posts, remnants of a time when this entire mountainside was under military control and strictly off-limits to civilians. One bunker in particular struck me as particularly pleasing, for it was little more than a door in the forest, a dark promise surrounded by a vivid shade of green. For reference, this place is located on the eastern flank of the modest Wenjianshan 文間山, and for more about the area you can consult Chinese language blogs here and here.

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25 Kilos of 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 or watch this obscure, dimly-lit video advertisement for the club.

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In Rust We Trust

This rusty iron flower blooms on the doorframe of an abandoned building at the edge of an unusually dilapidated community hidden in the streets opposite Jianguo Holiday Flower Market 建國假日花市 and just behind Shin Yi Market 信義市場 in Dà'ān District 大安區, Taipei 台北. I never would have found the place had Taiwan Reporter not pointed it out to me; it isn’t visible from any major road and one would assume there were nothing more than boring residential high-rises back there. Much to my surprise there’s what appears to be a Qing dynasty era temple in the midst of a labyrinth of crooked laneways and old homes. I hope to write it up in a future post—but in the meantime, trust in rust.

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Gateway to the East

Recently I returned to Cape Santiago 三貂角, the easternmost tip of the island of Taiwan, once again by way of the Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道. The far eastern shoreline is smothered in broken concrete and derelict industrial facilities, the fading legacy of an aquaculture industry in decline. One such facility is this, the most easterly building on the island, a crumbling ruin previously documented in my explorations of the Pacific edge. I suspect it might have been a pump station for there is a network of pipes running through jagged holes in the floor to the ocean sloshing around in the darkness below. This small room is infested with Ligia exotica, a cosmopolitan isopod known to locals as Haizhanglang 海蟑螂, literally “sea cockroach”. This place has changed since I was last here. A chamber on the rooftop has collapsed into a heap of red bricks and twisted metal. Perhaps a close encounter with debris blown in by Typhoon Malakas was responsible—or maybe it’s the accumulation of elemental forces sweeping across this exposed headland. Whatever the case, it is interesting to witness these changes as my time in this land grows far longer than originally expected.

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Rusted Gate and Wooden Door

Yesterday I returned to Yuánlín 員林, the city where I really started blogging about Taiwan, for a lazy day of exploration and discovery. I was interested in revisited places I thought I knew something about to see how the years have sharpened my ability to observe and document the urban landscape. I’ll have more to post about this trip at a later date—but for now I’d like to add another photograph to my growing collection of abandoned doors. This particular example of the genre was collected just off Wannian Road 萬年路 (“Ten Thousand Year Road”, a recurring pattern in Taiwanese place names) in a half-abandoned complex of what looks to be late Japanese colonial era or early KMT authoritarian era dormitories. Such homes were often used by factory workers—and indeed, there is a huge abandoned factory just across the street. Perhaps they are related?

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Traces of an Army Maintenance Depot

Xìnyì District 信義區 is now one of the most expensive and upscale parts of Taiwan but it hasn’t always been that way. Decades ago it was an undesirable area on the edge of the city with a significant military-industrial presence, traces of which still remain if you know where to look. The open expanse of parks and parking lots around the intersection of Xin’an Street 信安街 and Wuxing Street 吳興街 immediately to the west of Taipei Medical University 臺北醫學大學 is one such trace.

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Decaying Doorframe

I found this rusty doorway around the back of an old red brick home somewhere around Zhongshan Station 中山站. Despite being in the middle of Taipei 台北 it is not an area I am familiar with but I am doing my best to remedy this oversight. When I pass through I do my best to wander down new roads and explore alleyways I don’t recognize. Sometimes I capture an intriguing scene like the one you see here. This is a mass-produced door I have many times before—but the exact pattern of decay is unique.

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Shuidui Settlement 水碓聚落

Taichung 台中 is undergoing a massive transformation as vast tracts of rural-industrial sprawl are cleared to make way for new developments around the high-speed rail station 高鐵台中站 and the future Taichung Metro system, particularly in Běitún 北屯, Nántún 南屯, and Wūrì 烏日. Google’s satellite maps are out of sync with the streets, many of which are so new that they appear only as ghostly lines coursing through the former rice paddies. With large parts of the urban periphery slated for wholesale demolition and renewal many grassroots organizations have formed to preserve cultural assets found in these doomed territories—as was the case with the Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓. Today I chanced upon another example: Shuidui Juluo 水碓聚落, a rare 17th century Hakka settlement in Nántún 南屯 with an ambiguous future.

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Through the Round Portal

I captured this image while visiting Huangxi Academy 磺溪書院, a Qing dynasty era school and temple in Dàdù 大肚, a rural district in southwestern Taichung 台中 on the border with Changhua 彰化. Built in 1887, it was looted after the war and almost destroyed by a flood before being restored in the 1980s, a story I detail in my full post about this academy. Pictured here is an unusual round gate (huanmen 環門) connecting the two entrance halls (menting 門廳) to the inner courtyard (yuancheng 院埕). From what I’ve read there aren’t many gates like this in Taiwan, particularly not made out of brick, but I really wouldn’t know. Mostly I appreciate the symmetry of the shot, the apparent antiquity, the promise of something intriguing just around the corner.

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Nga Tsin Wai: The Last Walled Village of Kowloon

Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村 is widely known as the last walled village of Kowloon 九龍. Located not far from the former location of the infamous Kowloon Walled City 九龍城寨, the village traces its history back to the 1352 founding of its modest Tin Hau Temple 天后宮. It was fortified in 1724 to defend against bandits and pirates but has, in modern times, lost the moat, walls, and watchtowers that once protected residents from harm. As the very last of its kind in the urban heart of Hong Kong 香港 it has become a flashpoint for conflict between the Urban Renewal Authority and the many activist groups and citizens passionate about preserving what remains of Kowloon’s cultural heritage.

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