Grace Hill 麗庭莊園

Grace Hill in the Songshan Airport Flight Path

Grace Hill 麗庭莊園 (pinyin: Liting Zhuangyuan) is a former wedding venue situated in an industrial park in Neihu District 內湖區, Taipei 台北. It opened in 2005 under the management of the Zhangxing Wedding Company 長興婚禮事業有限公司, an outfit keen to disrupt the local market with a larger, more extravagant space for weddings and other events. The business struggled at first but became more widely known after it was featured in television series, music videos, and the news. In 2007 the space was leased to Dears Brain 迪詩, a Japanese wedding company hoping to enter the Taiwanese luxury wedding market. The original owners took a step back, ceding control of day-to-day operations to Japanese management, and the business continued to grow over the next several years.

Zhongli Dadong Theater 中壢大東戲院

Inside a projection room at Dadong Theater

Zhongli 中壢 is home to a surprising number of disused and abandoned cinemas, relics of a lost age of theater in this conurbation of half a million sprawling across the central Taoyuan Plateau 桃園台地. Decades ago there were nearly two dozen standalone movie theaters in town—but only Zhongyuan Theater 中源大戲院, one of two in Taiwan still displaying hand-painted movie posters, clings to life as of 2018. Most of the others have been renovated beyond recognition or demolished, but several more are derelict, hard-worn subjects of entropy. Among these relics there are none more alluring than the imposing Dadong Theater 大東戲院 (literally the “Great Eastern Theater”), former anchor of Zhongli’s long-vanished Cinema Street 戲院街.

Southern Taiwan Ride 2015: Tainan to Pingtung City

A pink sanheyuan in Alian District

Bicycle touring is one of the best ways to experience Taiwan. I don’t have an opportunity to go touring as much as I’d like but managed to find some time last year, in June of 2015, to embark upon a multi-day bicycle trip around southern Taiwan. My intention was to cover some of the same territory that I had rushed through on my first bicycle trip down south in 2013. I ended up racing a typhoon from Kenting to Taitung City 台東市 that year—so the chance to explore the backroads of Pingtung 屏東 at a more relaxed pace really appealed to me. I started my journey in Tainan 台南, my favourite city in Taiwan, and cycled through Kaohsiung 高雄 to Pingtung City 屏東市, putting about 70 kilometers behind me. Gathered here are some photos from the first day of this trip, continued here.

Red Lanterns Glowing in the Night

Fengyuan’s Nangang Fude Temple 南崗福德祠

After dark at Nangang Fude Temple 南崗福德祠 on the outskirts of Fengyuan 豐原.

Coming down from the hills of Shigang 石岡 late one evening I noticed an ordinary shrine to Tudigong 土地公, the land god, by the roadside on the outskirts of Fengyuan 豐原. There are literally thousands of similar temples scattered all over the nation but the reflection of all those red lanterns on the curved glass of the car parked out front caught my eye. I wonder what its story might be. Every temple has one—though it isn’t always easy to divine.

Now with the benefit of internet access and some time on my hands I’ve been able to puzzle out a few details. This is Nangang Fude Temple 南崗福德祠, notable for having been damaged, like so many other buildings in this part of Taiwan, by the devastating 921 Earthquake 九二一地震. Unsurprisingly, the local community rallied to rebuild the temple a few years…

Kanziding Fish Market 崁仔頂漁市場

Fresh fish at Kanziding Fish Market

Kanziding Fish Market 崁仔頂漁市場 is supposedly the longest-running operation of its kind in northern Taiwan. Back in the Japanese colonial era the market was located along the banks of the Xuchuan River 旭川河 in Keelung 基隆, formerly a navigable channel running through the downtown core into the harbour. The name of the market is derived from a Taiwanese Hokkien term for the stone stairs that once lined the riverbank; Kanziding literally means “top of the stairs”. The Japanese built a pier in the late 1920s, making it easy for fishermen to offload their catch next to the market, and convenient access to the railway network encouraged its growth.

Postcards From Zhongli 中壢明信片

Zhongli Station from the sky

I resided in Zhongli 中壢, Taoyuan 桃園, for two months at the very end of 2015 for reasons outlined in my first dispatch. In short: I wanted to try out living in another city in Taiwan and had a few good friends in the area, one of whom is fellow Canadian blogger Josh Ellis. In my time in Zhongli I captured numerous scenes from everyday life in this burgeoning conurbation of half a million. This post is meant to convey a sense of what it was like to live there for a while—just as I previously did for my time in Wenshan District, Taipei 台北. It is not meant to be a comprehensive guide or a review; think of this as a loose collection of snapshots and impressions of a mid-sized Taiwanese city not commonly documented in English.

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.

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.

Archaic Squid Soup

Cengji Squid Soup in Sanhe Night Market

I was wandering through Sanhe Night Market 三和夜市 on the first day of the new year when this small shop caught my eye. The formal name of the place is Cengji Huazhigeng 曾記花枝羹 and, as the last three characters would suggest, they specialize in squid thick soup, a popular Taiwanese snack. The highly stylized characters on the signboard look something like seal script 篆書 to my inexpert eyes—with the last character, “geng 羹”, swapped for the more traditional “焿”. Don’t ask me to make sense of that first character, mind you—it is enough to know that “hua 花” means flower.