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Yǒnghé 永和 is a densely populated urban center located just across the river from Taipei 台北. At various times in the last several decades it has held the record for one of the most densely populated places on the planet! Yonghe is famous for its soy milk, hence the name of many Taiwanese breakfast shops around the country: Yonghe Doujiang 永和豆漿. It is also home to Lehua Night Market 樂華夜市, one of the best in the Taipei area.

Yonghe Theater 永和大戲院

An old cinema in Yonghe partly converted into a 7-Eleven convenience store.

Yonghe Theater 永和大戲院 is one of dozens of derelict movie theaters in Greater Taipei. Like hundreds of other theaters all around Taiwan 台灣 this one went out of business in the early years of the new millennium due to changing consumer habits, a topic already discussed at length in previous explorations of places like Datong Theater 大同戲院 in Taitung City 台東市 and Xinming Theater 新明戲院 in Zhōnglì 中壢. Whereas theaters in the rest of the country are often left to the elements, sky-high property values in the Taipei 台北 area strongly incentivize owners to do something with these decaying buildings. In this instance the front of the old theater was been converted for the use of into a 7-Eleven convenience store and an Italian restaurant by the name of Lan De Pasta House 嵐迪義大利麵. I wonder whether patrons of these establishments realize what looms overhead?

Now Playing at BIOS Monthly

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.

A Spooky Statue in Yonghe

The strange things you find when exploring abandoned places at night.

Found this spooky statue in an abandoned apartment complex in the heart of Yǒnghé 永和 the other night. The rest of the building seemed to have been gutted in a fire but one unit was accessible—so I stepped inside to take a peek and satisfy my curiosity. There really wasn’t much of the place, possibly a professor’s home, but this creepy old bust on the ground floor caught my eye. I wonder who this is a depiction of? And was there any reason for him to have been facing the wall?

Trying Uni for the First Time

Salmon roe and uni sushi in Yonghe.

Tonight I went for a leisurely bicycle ride to Xīndiàn 新店 and back along the riverside bikeway. Just before crossing back into Taipei 台北 proper I stopped for dinner at a sushi restaurant that I have been meaning to check out at the foot of Zhongzheng Bridge 中正橋 in Yǒnghé 永和. Not feeling all that decisive I opted for the assorted sushi platter (not an exact translation of zònghé shòusī 綜合壽司 but it will do). Hilariously, when the platter arrived it was fully stacked with a bunch of things I dislike or never order: ika (squid) and crab stick nigiri, some kind of giant prawn nigiri I have never seen before, a salmon roe “ship roll”, a peculiar slab of tamago (egg), and something I have always been interested in trying: uni うに, better known in English as sea urchin (and in Chinese as hǎidǎn 海膽). But that’s not the meat or the eggs of the urchin you see in the photograph—those pasty ochre blobs are the the gonads of the organism.

Dreaming Over the Rooftops

The rooftops of Yonghe from a hotel somewhere along Zhulin Road.

I captured this photograph after having a nap in a short-term hotel in Yǒnghé 永和 on my birthday. I was up far earlier than I wanted to be and overestimated by readiness for the day—but this being Taiwan, I knew I could purchase a nap without much trouble or expense. Sure enough, after checking out a couple of hotels near an old school breakfast shop I often frequent when I’m in the area I found a place with a decent bed that offered three hours for a mere 380 NT (about $15 back home). I wonder if the counter staff were amused that a foreigner would wander in one morning and book a room for its intended purpose, the gift of sleep?

A Glimpse of Gogo Mall

Gogo Mall from a distance.

Having just shared a photo from an abandoned Sogo department store in Zhōnglì 中壢 I can’t resist also posting about the Gogo Mall building I found in Yǒnghé 永和 about a month ago. I was there in search of an entrance to the abandoned Miramar Theater 美麗華戲院, one of many abandoned theaters in Yonghe, but all entrances were sealed. Initially I visited at night and assumed it was a derelict building but on my second visit I saw signs of renovation through an open window. Perhaps some effort is being undertaken to redevelop the place.

Out of Season

The character for spring hanging on an old door in back alley Yonghe.

I was wandering through the crooked alleyways of Yǒnghé 永和 on my way to brunch earlier this week when I noticed a weathered emblem affixed to an old door. I stopped to take a picture, appreciating how worn both of these things have become in time.

The Chinese character featured in the middle of the sign is chūn 春, or spring, the season. Less obvious are the four characters at the top, fùguì yǒuyú 富貴有餘, an expression that loosely translates to “wealth and abundance” (if Google is to be trusted). While searching for more information I found that the last character is sometimes replaced by “fish”, or yú 魚, a homonym, or left out altogether (as this sound is implied by the design).

Foundation Unavailable

Peering into a construction site in Yonghe. This foundation doesn’t look straight to me.

Since returning to Taiwan 台灣 I have been staying in Yǒnghé 永和, one of the most densely populated parts of the island—and by extension, the world. I have been amazed at how much is accomplished in such close quarters, particularly here around the southern terminus of the Zhōngzhèng Bridge 中正橋.

Rust Dragon

A rusting dragon curled around the center of a door in Yonghe.

Wander along the many alleyways of Yǒnghé 永和 and you’re guaranteed to encounter one of these mass-produced metal doors affixed with a dragon like the one pictured above. This particular example happened to catch my eye—it is unusually weathered with a big streak of rust below, not unsurprising given the incessant rain and humid climate.