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Wenshan Riverside Juncture

Wenshan riverside juncture
Where the bikeway splits in the western tip of Wénshān District 文山區.

I snapped this photograph earlier today while riding from Gongguan Station 公館站 to Peace & Love Cafe down in Xīndiàn 新店, a place I used to frequent when I was living in the area about two years ago. Follow the path to Jǐngměi 景美 and you’ll be treated to another dozen kilometers of finely sculpted bikeway—but if you turn right to Xīndiàn 新店 you’ll have to cross an ugly stretch of post-industrial sprawl before rejoining the network at the north end of Xiùlǎngqīngxī Riverside Park 秀朗清溪河濱公園.

Nocturnal Nostalgia

Nocturnal nostalgia
A late night eatery I used to frequent in Wenshan District, Taipei.

Saturday night in Taipei 台北. I take to the streets and leave the haters behind. Hours of riding bring me back here, to 永和家鄉豆漿 (or 世新大學永和豆漿), a doujiang just around the corner from my old place in Wenshan, where I lived through historic times, when sunflowers sprouted in the halls of power. How nice to arrive to a flash of recognition, 好久不見, long time no see, itself one of the few phrases in English likely borrowed from Chinese. So many nights at the doujiang, always to return, another cycle, another spin around the city, around the sun.

Neon Red Cinema

Neon cinema
A red neon glow beaming out into the night.

Never show up at Korner 牆角, the best underground club in Taiwan 台灣, before midnight, or you may end up standing around for a while with nothing to do before the doors open. That’s exactly what happened to me last night—but at least I made good use of my time by stalking upstairs to check out the Broadway Cineplex 百老匯影城, mostly to see if I could gain rooftop access. That didn’t happen—but much to my surprise I discovered a massive neon sign at the top of the stairway on the inside of the curved glass exterior of the building. I had nothing more than my crusty old smartphone in hand but I made the most of it, finding an angle from down below to capture the mordant red glow beaming out into the night.

Scenes From Everyday Life in Wenshan District

Street art in a Wenshan back alley
Street art in back alley Wenshan.

I lived in Wénshān District 文山區, Taipei 台北, from October 2013 until April 2014 when I moved south to Tainan 台南. In those six months I captured a great many photographs from in around the area, the finest of which were previously shared on this blog in a post about the urban landscape of Wenshan. It was my intention with that post to portray southern Taipei from the vantage point of mountaintops, hillsides, river banks, and pedestrian overpasses, with only a couple of shots from street level. This time around I would like to zoom in and share scenes from everyday life in Wenshan.

Postcards From Wenshan District 文山區明信片

A bend in Jingmei River
A bend in Jingmei River near my old place. I used to take this bikeway to head downtown.

Last year, near the end of 2013, I had the good fortune to move to Wénshān District 文山區, the southernmost part of Taipei 台北. In late September I was nearing the end of my first round-the-island bicycle tour and put a call out on Facebook asking if anyone knew of a place I could stay for a month or so. That call was answered—and I ended up staying with a couple of cool European guys for six months before heading south to Tainan 台南 in April 2014.

PULL/PUSH 拉推

Pull/Push
An old set of doors in back alley Jingmei.

Flashback to one year ago: I went exploring the alleyways of Wénshān District 文山區 with an eye for grit, grime, texture, and decay. I found this set of doors along a crooked hillside laneway somewhere off of Xīnhài Road Section 7 辛亥路七段, a street named after a revolution in neighbouring China.

Taiwan’s Lord Of The Ring

Lord of the rings
Isaac Hou practicing in the riverside park in Jingmei.

Back when I was living near Jǐngměi 景美 I used to ride into Gongguan by way of the riverside park on a regular basis. Often I would see a man practicing some kind of acrobatics involving a giant hoop—something I had never seen before, and I know plenty of people in the circus arts who use all kinds of equipment. I would sometimes stop, dumbstruck, and watch him spin around this empty basketball court with mesmerizing grace. I wondered, at that time, who he was and what that wheel was all about, but wasn’t about to stop and ask. He looked quite busy!

A Rusty Old Mailbox in Jingmei

Mailbox on the mountainside next to Jingmei
A mailbox on the mountainside in Jingmei, Taipei.

I’ve always been a fan of gritty textures, peeling paint, rusting metal, and the like. Taiwan 台灣 is a kind of twisted paradise in this regard—there’s so much rundown stuff to explore and capture on film. Case in point: what we have here is an old mailbox emblazoned with the Chinese word for the same: xìnxiāng 信箱. You may notice, however, that the text reads right-to-left, the more traditional way. It isn’t at all uncommon to walk down a street and see layouts that go in either direction—but you can bet that anything written right-to-left is old (or seeking to evoke a sense of age). I’ve asked many Taiwanese people how they know which direction to read text in and have only heard, at best, vague answers—you’ll just know.

Interspecies Communication

A gorilla at the Taipei Zoo
A gorilla at the Taipei Zoo.

Last summer I went to the Taipei Zoo in Wénshān District 文山區, unsure of what to expect. I am not a big fan of most zoos, especially those that emphasize entertainment over education. This being Taiwan 台灣, the zoo is more of an amusement park than a place of conservation, but I’m not about to lose any sleep over it. Even an exploitative zoo can instill within its visitors a sense of kinship with the lifeforms we share this planet with. At least children get to see animals up close—instead of having them relegated to television shows and picture books.