Taiping Old Street 太平老街

Hen 1/2, Taiping Old Street, Douliu

Taiping Old Street 太平老街 is an unusually long stretch of Japanese colonial era shophouses in central Douliu 斗六, the administrative seat of Yunlin 雲林, Taiwan. Located not far from the train station, this old street is remarkable for its length (600 meters long), consistent architectural style (almost entirely local variations on Baroque Revival), and relatively good state of preservation. Despite this, it is not a huge attraction, which is just as well if you’re not a big fan of mass tourism in Taiwan.

A Funky Fish Shack in Jinguashi 金瓜石白帶魚米粉湯

The funky fish soup shop in Jinguashi

Jinguashi 金瓜石 is a historic mining town on the far side of Jiufen from Taipei 台北. Unlike Jiufen—which has become insanely popular and rather overdeveloped in recent years—Jinguashi maintains a small town charm that belies an unusual concentration of historic sights, rewarding hikes, and offbeat attractions. One great example is the funky restaurant perched on the hillside to the right of Cyuanji Temple 勸濟堂 (pinyin: Quanjitang), easily identified by the huge gold statue of Guan Gong 關公 perched on the rooftop. The restaurant, as I have learned, is simply named for their signature dish: baidaiyu mifentang 白帶魚米粉湯, a kind of fish and rice noodle soup.

Da’an UFO House 大安飛碟屋

Da’an UFO Home

Taiwan has an unusual fixation on UFO houses. Browse around the web and you’ll invariably encounter references to the famous UFO resort in Sanzhi, demolished long ago in 2009. Keep digging and you might read about a second UFO resort in Wanli 萬里, still extant and the subject of a future post. But there’s more—and you don’t even have to leave Taipei 台北 city limits to find another example of this peculiar architectural fetish.

Fengzhong Theater 豐中戲院

Outside Fengzhong Theater 豐中戲院

Fengzhong Theater 豐中戲院 is one of many abandoned theaters in downtown Taichung 台中. Located a stone’s throw away from Taichung Station, this theater was originally the Taiwan Opera Theater 台灣歌劇戲院, a performance venue founded at the very end of Japanese colonial rule in 1944. According to this source the name was changed to Fengzhong Theater when it was converted for use as a cinema in 1953. It was in continuous operation until 2004 when it was closed and finally abandoned.

The Rhythm of Infinite Life

The rhythm of infinite life

Salvaged steel cables and the rhythm of infinite life.

The elevators leading up to the Taipei 101 observatory are the world’s fastest, propelling passengers at more than 60 km/h from the 5th to the 89th floor. The precision-engineered steel cables used to hoist those high-speed lifts are subject to incredible strain and, as a result, are regularly decommissioned. Rather than sell them for scrap, these discarded cables were given to Taiwanese artist Kang Muxiang 康木祥, who began shaping them into a series of provocative and unconventional sculptures.

The first of these works of public art is Infinite Life, “a steel embryo reborn from the towering structure from which it came”, to quote the official Taipei 101 web site. The artist notes that the cables “carried 6.6 million visitors during their six years of operation, so there seemed to be millions of lives wound up in them…”…

The Grand Hotel 圓山大飯店

Reflections of the Grand Hotel 圓山大飯店

Yesterday’s impromptu ride around the riverside bikeway network delivered me to the palatial Grand Hotel 圓山大飯店 (pinyin: Yuanshan Dafandian), a famous landmark in Taipei 台北. Located on a hilltop overlooking a bend of the Keelung River 基隆河 in Zhongshan District 中山區, it was established in 1952 at the behest of generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正 to provide the ruling elite with a luxurious place to host and entertain foreign dignitaries. The distinctive building seen in these photos was completed in 1973 and was the tallest building in the Free Area of the Republic of China until 1981.

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 is an obscure anachronism in the western part of Taoyuan 桃園, Taiwan. It extends from a railway station that opened during the Japanese colonial era in 1929 through the heart of this small Hakka town. The coming of the railroad brought prosperity to the area and several ornate shophouses were built around the station in a mishmash of architectural styles common at the time. Nowadays it is just another street in rural Taiwan, albeit one with a little more history than most, possibly because it is too unimportant a place for modernization to have swept away these vestiges of the past.

Zhongyuan Theater 中源大戲院

Hand-painted movie posters in Zhongli

Zhongyuan Theater 中源大戲院 is a second-run theater located in the heart of Zhongyuan Night Market 中原夜市 in Zhongli 中壢, Taiwan. Zhongyuan Theater is ideally located next to the university of the same name amidst a huge population of budget-conscious students—which may explain why it remains in business unlike hundreds of other old theaters that have fallen into ruin in recent years, victims of changing consumer habits and strong competition from more modern multiplexes. Zhongyuan is also one of the very last theaters in the nation where you will find hand-painted movie posters hanging outside, a nostalgic practice more widely associated with Chin Men Theater 全美戲院 down in Tainan 台南.

A Quick Trip to Jiufen and Keelung

Shuqi Road, the famous stairway in Jiufen

Last weekend I enjoyed a couple of days outside of Taipei 台北 in the northeastern part of Taiwan. I went there with friends, ostensibly to show them around Jinguashi 金瓜石 and Jiufen 九份, a famous mining town and major tourist attraction in the mountains of Ruifang 瑞芳, and ended up staying in Keelung 基隆 for the night on a whim. Having recently purchased a new phone I bombarded Instagram with numerous pictures and plenty of commentary as the trip progressed. This quick and dirty post is a collection of some of my better smartphone snapshots as well as an experiment in blogging with broader brushstrokes. Perhaps you will get a sense of how I travel: spontaneously, intuitively, and with a keen eye for details.

Zhongli Caishen Building 中壢財神大樓

Zhongli Station at night

In my first dispatch from Zhongli 中壢 I shared a photograph of the Caishen Building 財神大樓, a rundown entertainment complex next to the train station that I meant to explore at some point. Not long after posting that I got around to checking it out—and much to my surprise, despite the incredibly rundown exterior most of the building is still occupied by hotels, daytime dance clubs, mobile phone booths, and other businesses serving the many Southeast Asian migrant workers of Taoyuan 桃園. There is, however, one part of the building that seemed obviously abandoned from street level; the skeletal outline of some kind of UFO-like structure on the rooftop demanded further investigation.