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Swamp House

Today I returned to the desolate emptiness of northwestern Tainan 台南, a place I originally visited on my round-the-island bicycle tour last year. It is an almost completely manmade landscape of salt pans and aquaculture ponds only occasionally punctuated by small fishing villages and surprisingly lavish temples. Given the proximity to Tainan City 台南市, the first major Han Chinese settlement in Taiwan, there is a lot of history out here, though much of it has already faded away.

Case in point: this time around I noticed this partially flooded sānhéyuàn 三合院, a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home, on a small road just outside Běimén 北門. It was completely surrounded on all sides by aquaculture ponds that were similarly abandoned. I suspect that water levels in these ponds require some level of human intervention—for instance, during periods of strong rain or drought. Without anyone around to care for this place it must have been submerged at some point, filling the courtyard with pond scum.

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