Last spring I visited the Kansai Region of Japan 日本 for a whirlwind five day tour of Wakayama 和歌山, Kyoto 京都, Nara, and Osaka 大阪. Along the way I stopped at Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社, one of the most popular and photogenic attractions in Kyoto. I seldom engage in conventional tourism but couldn’t resist the sight of thousands of torii leading up the mountainside. Here are a few photos from my time there.
While on a day trip to Wulai 烏來 at the very end of 2013 I was delighted to stumble upon one of the most picturesque abandonments I have had the pleasure of exploring in Taiwan. Mere steps from the southern terminus of the Wulai Sightseeing Tram 烏來觀光台車 one will find a viewing platform across from Wulai Falls 烏來瀑布, one of the most scenic waterfalls in the greater Taipei 台北 area. What you might not realize—unless you have a sixth sense for all things abandoned—is that the viewing platform doubles as the rooftop of a derelict hotel with a rather stunning view.
Collected here are a series of dreamlike photos from a road trip into the misty mountains of Lugu 鹿谷 in Nantou 南投, central Taiwan. I undertook this trip with a friend in July 2014. Our goal was the Lotus Forest 忘憂森林 (pinyin: Wangyou Senlin), also known as the Misty Forest 迷霧森林, a high mountain bog formed in the aftermath of the catastrophic 921 earthquake when a landslide altered drainage patterns, forming a small lake and drowning part of the existing forest. At an elevation somewhere close to 2,000 meters, the Lotus Forest is often shrouded in thick fog, imbuing it with an eerie mystique that attracts Taiwanese people from all over the island.
I spent a night at Niushan Huting 牛山呼庭 in Hualien 花蓮 a few months ago for an electronic music festival, Organik 2014. After having been up all night (and playing what was probably my lousiest DJ set in Taiwan) I wandered down to the shoreline, still hearing the distant echo of music over the pounding surf and the sound of pebbles rolling back into the sea after every crashing wave. It was not long after sunrise and a most serene quality of light filled the air, illuminating the rocky, windswept coastline with a majestic ambiance. I wet my feet, letting the ocean wash over me, and did my best to capture the magic of this primal scene.
Yinhedong 銀河洞 (literally “Milky Way Cave”) is an extraordinary cliffside temple next to a gorgeous waterfall in the mountains just outside of Taipei 台北. Originally founded in 1914 and extensively renovated in 1958, the temple recently celebrated its centennial, as proclaimed by the red banner draped out front during my first visit in February 2014. In a story that sounds entirely apocryphal, the cave was reputedly a hideout for Chen Qiuju 陳秋菊, a Shenkeng 深坑 resident who famously led a rebellion in the earliest years of the Japanese colonial era.
One of my stranger day trips in Malaysia was to the mystic island of Pulau Besar in the state of Melaka, better known as Malacca to most English-speaking people. Situated in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, the small island of Pulau Besar is steeped in myth and legend. It is also widely considered to be haunted—which partly explains why most of the island is abandoned.
I discovered Kampung Numbak using Wikimapia, a mash up of Google Maps and Wikipedia, while staying at 1Borneo, a megamall on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. After finding it online I decided to pay Numbak a visit. There was something very strange about the juxtaposition of Borneo’s biggest mall and this impoverished village of 5,000 a stone’s throw away.