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A haunted hotel in Okinawa in LIFE Books


Now Playing at BIOS Monthly

Now playing at Fuhe Theater
Now playing at Fuhe Theater 福和大戲院.

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 Yǒnghé 永和). Other adventures referenced in the text include forthcoming material about Dadong Theater 大東戲院 in Zhōnglì 中壢 and the Liuzhangli Muslim Cemetery 六張犁的回教公墓 here in Taipei 台北.

Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel in a LIFE Books Special

A haunted hotel in Okinawa in LIFE Books
My photo of a haunted hotel in Okinawa in LIFE Books.

Last year one of my photos from Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel 中城高原ホテル was picked up by LIFE Books for the publication of The World’s Most Haunted Places. I have yet to complete my own write-up of this fantastical and awe-inspiring ruin in Okinawa but I will certainly get around to it sooner or later. Appearing in a LIFE publication of any kind is also pretty cool even if it isn’t the original magazine, which my mother used to collect and keep around the house while I was growing up. She proudly bought a couple copies when she heard the news and the special hit the supermarket stands back home in Canada.

A Muslim Demonstration in Ximending

Muslim demonstrators in Taipei
Indonesian migrant workers demonstrating in Ximenting.

Today I was surprised to see a small group of Muslims at the entrance to Xīméntīng 西門町, a popular entertainment and shopping district in the northern part of Wànhuá District 萬華區 in Taipei 台北. The area around exit 6 of Ximen Station is more commonly used for busking, not political demonstrations, and is always busy with pedestrian traffic during the day. It isn’t common to see anything like this in Taiwan 台灣 so I stopped to see what was going on.

Swordfish Hinava

Swordfish hinava
Swordfish hinava at the Tip Top Restaurant in Kudat.

Some time ago I was amused to find that a photograph of mine was featured in the Wikipedia entry for Hinava, a kind of indigenous Sabahan ceviche consisting of fresh fish cured in citrus juice. This particular example features swordfish and was captured at Tip Top Restaurant, named for its close proximity to Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, the northernmost tip of Borneo, the third-largest island in the world, while staying at the nearby eco-resort Tampat do Aman in Kudat. As for the dish? Delicious.

Taiwanese Tabloids and the Bad Foreigner Stereotype

Slightly more than a week ago I returned to Taiwan 台灣 after visiting family in Canada for the summer. Something unusual happened while I was suspended in air: Apple Daily 蘋果日報 ran a rather unflattering story based on photos I uploaded to Flickr from two preliminary expeditions to Jingyin Temple 淨因寺, an abandoned temple in Keelung, just in time for ghost month. After landing I checked my messages in the airport and was shocked to find my inbox flooded with dozens of messages from Taiwanese acquaintances, most of them joking about my newfound infamy. Welcome to Taiwan! At the time I hadn’t the slightest idea how far the story had spread, nor did I realize how much other Taiwanese tabloids had distorted the details to manufacture controversy and incite outrage. Now that my 15 minutes are up, I’d like to reflect on what happened—and where Taiwan’s sensationalist media went wrong.

Jingyin Preview 2

An Unfinished Bridge in Pingxi

A bridge to nowhere in Pingxi
A bridge under construction in Pingxi in early 2013.

This image was a big hit on Reddit and landed in a popular Atlas Obscura collection of bridges to nowhere. To provide a little background, this is not an abandoned or forgotten bridge—it was still under construction when I wandered through Píngxī 平溪, Taiwan 台灣, in early 2013. This bridge is part of the newly opened Jīfú Road 基福公路 segment of Highway 2丙, which connects Keelung with Fulong in Gòngliáo 貢寮 (hence the name of the rode; it is a common practice to name rural roads for their starting and ending points in Taiwan). Apparently this road was 20 years in the making, if this exhaustive report (in Chinese, with lots of photos) is trustworthy. At present, Google Street View still shows the bridge under construction in 2012.

A Brief Interview About This Blog, 2015

Synapticism as featured on InterNations

My blog was recently featured on InterNations, an expat social network and resource. In the interview I outline why I chose Taiwan 台灣, why I started blogging, how life is different, and similar topics of general interest to would-be expats. Continue reading for the full text of the interview (but do keep in mind none of this is an endorsement of InterNations, where I am not even an active member)…

Bitcoin Now Available at Family Mart in Taiwan

Family Mart in the fishing port town of Nanfang’ao.
A Family Mart in the fishing port town of Nanfang’ao.

Today I noticed this article—featuring a photo by yours truly—doing the rounds, reiterating earlier reports of Bitcoin vending machines at Family Mart in Taiwan 台灣. These vending machines make Bitcoin accessible to the masses—but they aren’t ATMs, which are prohibited in Taiwan. This means you can only buy, not sell.

So, what practical use is Bitcoin in Taiwan? Few physical stores accept Bitcoin but I still see some potential here. Taiwan is a very cash-based society—debit and credit cards are seldom used for everyday purchases and typically not accepted by small businesses. As such, I’ve met many Taiwanese who don’t own credit cards and can’t buy anything online except from domestic shops with a cash-on-delivery payment option. Bitcoin, at least, will allow these people access to goods and services that they might not otherwise be able to purchase. Beyond that, most of the interest in Bitcoin in Taiwan is likely speculative in nature. There simply aren’t too many real-world use cases yet.