Zhulin Chen Old House 竹林陳家古厝

An abandoned farmhouse in Shalu

Last February I went on a productive day trip around Taichung 台中 without any particular destination in mind. After visiting an abandoned anti-airborne fortification on Dadushan and the eerie Wansheng Zizhu Monastery I breezed through Shalu 沙鹿 on the way to Wuqi Old Street 梧棲老街. While making a pitstop at a 7-Eleven on the side of the highway I noticed what looked like an old Qing dynasty building building obscured by some foliage and went to take a quick peek. Traditional courtyard homes, or sanheyuan 三合院, are an ubiquitous feature of rural Taiwan and yet another thing I regularly document wherever I go—and this one is unusually striking with its red brick archway.

Shuidui Settlement 水碓聚落

Still here after all these years

Taichung 台中 is undergoing a massive transformation as vast tracts of rural-industrial sprawl are cleared to make way for new developments around the high-speed rail station 高鐵台中站 and the future Taichung Metro system, particularly in Beitun 北屯, Nantun 南屯, and Wuri 烏日. Google’s satellite maps are out of sync with the streets, many of which are so new that they appear only as ghostly lines coursing through the former rice paddies. With large parts of the urban periphery slated for wholesale demolition and renewal many grassroots organizations have formed to preserve cultural assets found in these doomed territories—as was the case with the Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓. Today I chanced upon another example: Shuidui Juluo 水碓聚落, a rare 17th century Hakka settlement in Nantun with an ambiguous future.

Dawu Theater 大武戲院

Inside an abandoned movie theater in Dawu

I stumbled upon the remains of Dawu Theater 大武戲院 while on a bicycle tour of southern Taiwan in 2015. Located in the small town of Dawu 大武, it was one of approximately 36 theaters operating in Taitung 台東 in the cinematic heyday of the 1960s and 70s, all of which are now abandoned or destroyed. This particular theater was in business from 1968 to 1983 and allegedly accommodated as many as 1,200 patrons, earning it the title of nanbatian 南霸天, or “southern tyrant”, for how it dominated the industry in the southernmost part of the county. Hardly anything remains after three decades of exposure that would identify Dawu Theater apart from a small sign in the antechamber.

Southern Taiwan Ride 2015: Dawu to Taitung City

Looking south from Taimali along the coastal highway in Taitung

My last big day of riding around southern Taiwan in June 2015 began in Dawu 大武, Taitung 台東, with only about 55 kilometers to go before arriving in Taitung City 台東市. I had been out in the sun far too much the previous day and was feeling rather sluggish and a bit sick so I didn’t end up taking any side trips into the mountains as I made my way north. Even so, the scenery was fantastic, and while I won’t have as much to write about this particular day of my trip, I have plenty of beautiful photographs to share.

Southern Taiwan Ride 2015: Manzhou to Dawu

On the road again in Manzhou Township

My fifth day of riding around southern Taiwan in June 2015 delivered me to the most remote parts of the island’s 1,139 kilometer-long coastline. On the previous day I rode from Fangliao 枋寮, on the southwestern coast, around Hengchun 恆春 and into the foothills of the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 to reach Manzhou 滿州, one of the last places to find lodging before forging on to Taitung 台東. I had already taken this route while riding all around Taiwan in 2013 so I was familiar with the territory, but that first tour was so rushed that I hadn’t been able to enjoy the scenery. (Actually, I had been outrunning a typhoon the last time I was here—but that’s a story not yet told on this blog.) This time around my intent was to take it slow and explore more of this obscure part of coastal Taiwan.

Southern Taiwan Ride 2015: Fangliao to Manzhou

Pebble beach vista in Fangshan

Last summer I embarked upon a weeklong bicycle tour in the deep south of Taiwan. I began in Tainan 台南, cycled through Kaohsiung 高雄 to Pingtung City 屏東市, spent a day hanging out, and then continued on to Fangliao 枋寮, where the coastal plain narrows to a thin wedge between the mountains and the sea. There is only one road leading south from here—which meant I covered a lot of ground I had already seen while riding all around Taiwan in 2013. I didn’t mind repeating that beautiful stretch of coastline and, actually, I was looking forward to checking out some places I had breezed by on that first big tour, particularly in Fangshan 枋山 and Hengchun 恆春.

Southern Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City to Fangliao

Crossing the Linbian River at sunset

After spending a day riding around Pingtung City I was ready to hit the road again. With no specific destination in mind—only an intention to head in the direction of Hengchun 恆春, far to the south—I checked out of the vintage homestay I lodged at the previous night, stopped at Eske Place Coffee House for a delicious and healthy vegetarian breakfast, changed into cycling wear, and exited the city to the east. I knew almost nothing about where I was headed or what I might see on the third day of my southern Taiwan ride in 2015. I only had one stop planned in advance: a hospital in Chaozhou 潮州 rumoured to be abandoned. I didn’t know it at the time but I would spend almost the entire day riding through the historic Hakka belt of Pingtung 屏東.

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.

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.

On The Edge of Agongdian Reservoir 阿公店水庫

Agongdian Reservoir 阿公店水庫

Agongdian Reservoir 阿公店水庫 (occasionally romanized in the old Wade–Giles style as Akungtien; literally “Grandpa’s Shop”) is located amid the low hills of central Kaohsiung 高雄 in southern Taiwan. Construction began in the Japanese colonial era but was not completed until 1953, largely because of the high amount of silt in the waterways flowing into it. Even now considerable effort must be undertaken to dredge the reservoir every season.