Jiahe Railway Tunnel 嘉和遮體

Here is yet another roadside curiosity in the deep south of Taiwan: a false tunnel on the coastal plains of Fāngshān 枋山, Pingtung 屏東. It doesn’t cut through any mountainside nor is it built to withstand landslides. It’s just an 1,180 meter tunnel that trains pass through for no discernible reason. I first read about this on Michael Turton’s blog and later saw it on my first round-the-island bicycle tour. More recently, which is to say just a few days ago, I took a spin through the southern loop once again, and spent a little extra time examining this concrete oddity in an attempt to divine its purpose.

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Stop, Look, and Listen

Arrête, Regarde et Ecoute (Stop, Look and Listen) is an art installation located outside of Xinzuoying Station in Zuǒyíng 左營, Kaohsiung 高雄. Designed and conceived by French-born American artist Arman in 2004, it was installed posthumously in 2006 as his last work of public art. The original artist statement explains “this work uses the repetition of railway alarm signal poles to modify the space, giving new meanings to the signals though a joyful and strange accumulation”. More information about this work can be found on the official Arman web site here and here. You might also like to read a bit more about Arman himself over here.

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On the Platform Again

Last night I went down to Tainan 台南 for an old school warehouse party by the railway tracks. Not wanting to bother with the expense and trouble of a hotel I simply stayed up until the trains started running again before making my way back to Changhua City 彰化市. It was nice to reacquaint myself with Taiwan’s great southern metropolis if only for a night.

I previously captured this scene eleven months ago. That time I was checking the place out to see if I really wanted to take the plunge and move south for a while. This time around I am looking back with nostalgia on a place I once lived. Same picture, different photographer.

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Future Sound of Yuanlin

I briefly switched on my new television to see if it was working and a political advertisement heralding the new train station in Yuánlín 員林 flashed before my eyes. The timing—immediately before the last election—was no coincidence. Incumbents all over Taiwan had been rushing their keystone projects to completion, not that it helped them much.

At any rate, something about the lo-fi grittiness of the image I produced with my smartphone really appeals to me on some level. It reminds me of times long ago—but still alive wherever I am, for I remain an avid collector of rare, old music, and regularly dive deep into the archives. Here I am, lost in the concrete jungles of Asia, perhaps the only human being in my vicinity who continues to celebrate these arcane wavelengths. Hopefully I needn’t explain the sly reference I was making in the title!

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Tracing the Sugar Rails of Yuanlin

One day while riding around the west side of Yuánlín 員林 I came across an old railway line that had been converted into a shabby, disused park of some sort, looking oddly inspired by Fushimi Inari Taisha. Later on I did a bit of internet sleuthing and found out that the park follows the path of the old sugar railway that leads south and then west to a sugar factory in nearby Xīhú 溪湖, something that I was not previously aware of. Now I’ll have to go check that out as well!

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The Bamboo Wishes of Jingtong

Jingtong 菁桐 is an old coal mining town in the mountains at the end of the Píngxī 平溪 railway line just east of Taipei 台北. After mining operations ceased decades ago the entire town emptied out in a mass exodus. More recently there has been a resurgence of interest in the area and steps have been taken to attract tourists. Nowadays, when you visit the old station area you’ll find—among other things—countless pieces of bamboo hanging by coloured string from every available point of attachment. Scrawled on these pieces of bamboo are the dreams, prayers, and wishes of the people passing through. They come to Jingtong to ask for good fortune and luck at work and at school, in love and in life.

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Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道

Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道 was built in the 1920s to connect northern Taiwan with the eastern coast by rail. A new tunnel was built in the 1980s and the old tunnel was closed until 2008 when it reopened as a tourist-friendly bikeway. The main point of entry is Fulong 福隆, a beach town in New Taipei City about an hour outside of Taipei 台北 by train. Riding through the old tunnel makes for a great day trip from Taipei 台北—as long as you don’t go on a weekend.

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