Xinpu Xinxing Theater 新埔新興戲院

Down at ground level inside Xinxing Theater

Recently I visited Xinpu 新埔, a small Hakka town in the hills of Hsinchu 新竹, Taiwan, alongside fellow photographer and blogger Josh Ellis. I was curious to confirm reports of a historic theater along the former Entertainment Street 娛樂街 but the location in my notes was occupied by a construction site. Forging on, we continued down the road and were soon rewarded by the sight of something that I wasn’t expecting: Xinxing Theater 新興戲院. In hindsight it wouldn’t be an “entertainment street” without more than one cinema, would it?

Taichung Shark Cemetery 台中鯊魚墳場

A shark cemetery in Taichung

Taichung Shark Cemetery 台中鯊魚墳場 (pinyin: Shayu Fenchang) is an unlikely roadside attraction near Donghai University 東海大學 in Xitun 西屯, Taichung 台中. There is no great mystery here—a nearby restaurant and banquet hall by the name of Tong Hai Fish Village 東海漁村 dumped a bunch of junk in this farmer’s field sometime prior to 2009 and since then it has become a popular place for young Taiwanese to visit and take photos. Just have a look at the unofficial Facebook page or the relevant Instagram hashtag and location feeds for plenty of examples.

Yonghe Theater 永和大戲院

Inside an abandoned theater in Yonghe

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 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 Zhongli 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?

Chaozhou Jiukuaicuo Catholic Church 潮州九塊厝天主堂

Inside the abandoned church in Jiukuaicuo

While I was out riding in southern Taiwan last year I chanced upon an abandoned church by the roadside in a small village outside of Chaozhou 潮州, Pingtung 屏東. I only spent about ten minutes there and didn’t shoot many photos but have since realized that the story to tell is interesting enough to devote a full post to it. The formal name of this place is Jiukuaicuo Catholic Church 九塊厝天主堂, though this is commonly prefixed with Chaozhou to distinguish it from the many other villages with the same name in Taiwan. Details are scant but I should be able to provide a broad overview of how this church came to be here—and why it was left to the elements.

Jiahe New Village 嘉禾新村

In the heart of Jiahe New Village 嘉禾新村

Jiahe New Village 嘉禾新村 is one of more than 800 military dependents’ villages (Chinese: juancun 眷村) built in Taiwan in the late 1940s and 1950s to provide provisional housing for KMT soldiers and their families fleeing from the Chinese Civil War. Around two million people crossed the Taiwan Strait from China from 1945 to 1949, bolstering an existing population of approximately seven million. More than 600,000 of these Chinese immigrants ended up in military villages like this one in Zhongzheng District 中正區, Taipei 台北, which was forcibly abandoned only a couple of years ago as part of a wave of urban renewal projects sweeping the nation.

Qingkunshen Fan-Shaped Saltern 青鯤鯓扇形鹽田

Beneath an electric blue sky

The southwestern coastal region of Taiwan is salt country. From Budai 布袋 in Chiayi 嘉義 down through Beimen 北門, Jiangjun 將軍, and Qigu 七股 in Tainan 台南, an incredible expanse of manmade salt evaporation ponds sprawl across a completely flat and almost featureless landscape, much of it reclaimed from the briny lagoons that line the coast. Salt has been produced here for more than three centuries by channeling seawater into artificial enclosures and letting the strong tropical sun do the rest. Taiwan’s accession to the WTO in 2002 doomed the industry and all remaining salterns (or salt fields, if you like) were decommissioned that same year. This led to the abandonment of the unique Qingkunshen Fan-Shaped Saltern 青鯤鯓扇形鹽田, now a surreal reminder of the history of salt production in southern Taiwan.

Golden Birds Paradise 金鳥海族樂園

The view from within the abandoned aquarium

Not long after returning to Taiwan in 2015 I received an invitation from a friend to go road tripping down to Hsinchu 新竹 to check out an abandoned theme park. Along the way we stopped off to check out a derelict cablecar station and the restored Hexing Station 合興車站 before arriving at the gateway to Golden Birds Paradise 金鳥海族樂園. Located in the rolling hills of Hsinchu 新竹 not far from the border Taoyuan 桃園, it was among the most extensive and well-known theme parks of northern Taiwan at its peak in the 1990s. Business faltered with the rise of new forms of entertainment in the 2000s and from what I can tell it was completely abandoned nearly a decade ago. Most of the amusement park rides were torn out and probably sold for scrap metal long ago—but many of the original buildings remain, neglected and overgrown.

Keelung Road Guest House 基隆路招待所

Beautiful light coming through the windows

Not far from Taipei 101 and the heart of Taipei’s central business district one will find an ulcerous anomaly on the supine body of the sprawling city. It would be impossible to miss this ruin, for a wild riot of plant life traces its angular outlines, and an unusual assortment of graffiti gilds the arcade along Keelung Road 基隆路. I regularly ride by here on my way to various working cafes further afield and naturally couldn’t resist taking a look inside one day. I have not puzzled out the formal name of this abandonment but strongly suspect it was an official guest house related to the armed forces, particularly as it was located adjacent to the former Forty-Four West Village 四四西村, a military dependents’ settlement.

Huaguo Theater 華國戲院

Exterior View of Huaguo Theater in 2017

Huaguo Theater 華國戲院 is one of hundreds of abandoned theaters scattered around Taiwan. Located in Puli 埔里, a town of approximately 80,000 in the heart of Nantou 南投, this particular theater was likely built in the late 1950s. From what I’ve read in this post by Wang Henglu 王亨祿, this theater was operated by a couple with the family name Zhou 周 and specialized in showing Western films on a single screen before its inevitable demise.

Songshan Railway Dormitories 松山台鐵宿舍

Japanese colonial style residence in Songshan

Songshan District 松山區 has long been a major hub for the railway industry in Taiwan. It is home to the Taipei Railway Workshop, a sprawling maintenance depot and rail yard presently undergoing renovations into a full-scale museum. The Western Trunk Line 縱貫線 also runs through the district, although it is completely underground now, following the path of Civic Boulevard 市民大道 for much of its length. I went poking around the area sometime in 2016 and stumbled upon a block of dilapidated homes wedged into a small parcel of land at the tail end of the railway workshop. It turns out these are former railway worker dormitories (sushe 宿舍) dating back to the Japanese colonial era.