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.

Taichung First Credit Union 台中第一信用合作社

The abandoned Taichung First Credit Union 台中第一信用合

Taichung First Credit Union 台中第一信用合作社 is a post-war bank located in Central Taichung. According to this blog it was abandoned in 2001. Last week I went to go take a quick look while surveying the many historic buildings in the area. There were construction workers setting up in front and there were no other points of entry so I did not gain access. Even so, from a quick look inside the place appears to have been cleared out—and they might even be preparing to renovate the building for one reason or another.

Taichung Times Square 時代大廣場

The sign for Times Square 時代大廣場

Times Square on a sunny day in February. It is not abandoned any more.

This might be the only photograph of Times Square 時代大廣場 in Taichung 台中 I will post on this blog. Despite numerous reports of abandonment for the better part of a decade (for instance here, here, here, here, and here) it appears to have been undergone some renewal in the last year or so. Previously there were a few tenants still holding on at the margins but nowadays there are many more. It would seem as if this aging relic has been occupied by Southeast Asians, likely Filipinos given the presence of a community church on the third floor (with many people sitting around outside of it when I visited today). The underground levels are still abandoned but there wasn’t much of interest to see down there.

At any rate, I have followed leads in Taiwan and found places that were demolished or inaccessible, but I don’t recall ever following a lead as strong…

Herb Alley 青草巷

Herb Alley 青草巷

Herb Alley 青草巷 (pinyin: Qingcao Xiang) is a minor attraction immediately adjacent to the famous Longshan Temple 龍山寺 in Monga 艋舺, the old part of Wanhua District 萬華區, Taipei 台北. Hundreds of years ago, long before western medicine came to Taiwan, it was common for people to visit the temple, pray to the relevant gods, and receive herbal prescriptions for whatever ailed them. Vendors setup shop outside the temple gates to help fill these prescriptions. Decades ago the prescriptions themselves were outlawed (and rightfully so) but the tradition of selling herbs next to the temple continues, albeit in a more orderly fashion out of actual shops along Xichang Street Lane 224 西昌街224巷.

Changjiang Road Shops 長江路商店

A row of abandoned shops at the foot of Huajiang Bridge

Last week I cycled across the Huajiang Bridge 華江橋 to Banqiao 板橋 to meet a friend for coffee. At the foot of the bridge I couldn’t help but notice the outline of a long-abandoned building of some kind, the sort of place where you’ll find scooter repair shops and other small businesses along any main road in Taiwan. Not having found anything close to a formal name for the place I have simply named it for the street it is on, Changjiang Road 長江路.

Zhongli Xinming Theater 中壢新明戲院

A closer look at Xinming Theater 新明戲院

In the last year or so I have found and explored numerous abandoned movie theaters in Taiwan. It all started when I stumbled upon Datong Theater 大同戲院 down in Taitung City 台東市 last June. Since then I have learned much more about the Taiwanese cinema industry: how many theaters are likely to be found in a city of a given size, where they are likely to be found, when they were likely to have been abandoned, and so on. Not long after moving to Zhongli 中壢 a few months ago I put this growing awareness to the test by cycling around town one morning, finding several theaters new to me, all within close proximity to one another. One of these, Xinming Theater 新明戲院, is the subject of this post. Public records indicate the business was registered around 1980 and lapsed in 1997, though it almost certainly closed sometime before then.

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.

Qianyue Building 千越大樓

Exterior shot of the Qianyue Building 千越大樓

The Qianyue Building 千越大樓 is one of the most recognizable ruins in central Taiwan. Located only a short distance from Taichung Station 台中車站, it is impossible to miss if you bother to look up at some point while walking deeper into the city. This mixed-use commercial and residential high-rise was originally built in the 1970s and, thanks to its location at the very heart of the famous Taichung Electronics Street 台中電子街商圈, reached its apex during the consumer electronics boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Postcards From Nanfang’ao 南方澳明信片

Returning to Nanfangao harbour

Nanfang’ao 南方澳 is a major fishing port in Su’ao 蘇澳, Yilan 宜蘭, on the east coast of Taiwan. It is located just south of the end of the Lanyang Plain 蘭陽平原 where a rocky headland juts out into the ocean to form a natural harbour. It opened in 1923 after development by the Japanese colonial authorities and is now considered one of the top fishing ports in the nation, often ranking in third place by measures unknown to me, and is particularly known for its record-breaking mackerel catch. Part of why the port is so productive has to do with the nutrient-rich Kuroshio Current 黑潮 (literally “Black Stream”), which lies just offshore.

Maple Community Honest Shop 楓樹社區誠實商店

Taichung Honest Shop 誠實商店

Taichung 台中 is home to an unusual social experiment: the Honest Store 誠實商店 in the Fengshu Community 楓樹社區 (literally “Maple Community”) of Nantun 南屯, Taiwan. According to roundTAIWANround (through which I discovered the place) it was once a general store of the traditional variety that you’ll still find scattered around the countryside and in older neighbourhoods. Such shops have been fading into history for years, unable to compete with the modern chains that have become symbols of Taiwan’s culture of convenience. The shop would have shut down had the owner not experimented with a new model: locally-sourced goods, financial transparency, and no paid staff, relying on the honesty of its patrons to stay in business.