My fifth day of riding the Huadong Valley in 2018 began in Guanshan 關山 and ended in Taitung City 台東市, approximately 45 kilometers further south. Although there were several uphill segments this was one of the least demanding rides of the entire trip, partly because I had a good night’s rest, but also due to some cloud cover moderating the influence of the tropical sun. After rising I cycled over to Little Star Breakfast shop 小星星早餐店 to try their fluffy handmade danbing 蛋餅 (a crepe-like egg roll with various fillings). Feeling recharged, I set out to catalog more of eastern Taiwan’s historical relics and natural wonders.
Jianxin Theater 建新大戲院 is located in Yuanshulin 員樹林, a suburban area on the western outskirts of Daxi 大溪 in Taoyuan 桃園, Taiwan. Business records indicate an inception date of 1977, but not much is known about this theater apart from that. The last recorded transaction in 2000 sets an upper bound on when it was operating, but likely went out of business in the early 1990s, when most of the rest of Taiwan’s cinema industry collapsed. It now enjoys a second life as a parking garage for the nearby factories and residences.
Day four of riding through the Huadong Valley of eastern Taiwan in 2018 began in Yuli 玉里, the midpoint of this bicycle trip from Hualien City 花蓮市 to Taitung City 台東市. From the weather report I knew I’d have another challenging ride ahead—yet again the mercury was due to exceed 35 degrees. Luckily I was in no great rush, as I had allocated an entire week for a trip that experienced riders could easily manage in two days. I made good use of that extra time, making numerous stops and detours to document some of the many historic and cultural sites along the way, many of them quite obscure. I ended the day in Guanshan 關山, slightly more than 40 kilometers down the valley.
Shigang Dam 石岡水壩 is a barrage dam on the lower reaches of the Dajia River 大甲溪 in Shigang 石岡, Taichung 台中, Taiwan. It was constructed between 1974 and 1977, not long after the completion of the Techi Dam 德基水壩, a far more ambitious hydroelectric project further upstream. Intended mainly for flood control and irrigation purposes, it was heavily damaged in the devastating 921 Earthquake of 1999 and later repaired. Despite its diminished capacity, Shigang Dam continues to serve an important function in regional water distribution across Taichung.
Yuli Shinto Shrine 玉里神社 is a Japanese colonial era historic site in Yuli 玉里, the largest town in the middle of the Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 of eastern Taiwan. Formally known as Yuli Shrine 玉里社 (Tamasato-sha in the original Japanese), it was constructed in 1928, the third year of the Showa era. The vast majority of Taiwan’s several hundred Shinto shrines were destroyed in the decades following the Japanese withdrawal—but enough of this shrine remained to justify its official designation as a cultural asset in 2008. Since then some effort has been undertaken to restore the site, which occupies a hilltop at the western edge of town, and it now ranks among the most well-preserved in the remote eastern part of the country.
Beigou Forbidden City 北溝故宮 is an obscure historic site hidden in the hills of Wufeng 霧峰, Taichung 台中. From 1949 to 1965 it was the provisional base of operations for the team of archivists, curators, scholars, and technicians overseeing the subset of the Palace Museum collection sent for safekeeping to Taiwan by the Kuomintang (KMT) in the later stages of the Chinese Civil War. Nowadays this collection is managed and displayed by the National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院 (or simply Gugong 故宮 for short), situated in Taipei 台北, and almost nothing remains of the facilities in Wufeng. The one exception is an underground vault constructed in 1953.
Jinxing Theater 金星大戲院 is located in the small town of Zhiben 知本 on the southern outskirts of Taitung City 台東市, Taitung 台東, in southeastern Taiwan. Zhiben is home to the Katipul group 卡地布部落 of the Puyuma people 卑南族, one of Taiwan’s recognized Indigenous groups, but this theater was constructed in 1967 to cater to the many KMT veterans who settled here after the completion of the Central Cross-Island Highway 中部橫貫公路. Named after Venus (literally “Golden Star” in Chinese), it went out of business shortly after it was sold to a lumber company in 1980 and has been abandoned ever since.
Bang Sue Railway Cemetery is located deep within a vast tract of land on the northwest side of Bangkok owned by the State Railway of Thailand. This land is home to Phahonyothin freight yard, the largest in Thailand, as well as numerous maintenance depots, engine shops, and other railway facilities. It is also the future site of Bang Sue Grand Station, set to be the largest railway station in Southeast Asia when construction is completed in the coming years. For decades the train cemetery hidden within these grounds has been known to urban explorers, so I decided to swing by and take a look while visiting in 2019.
Yuanlin 員林 is a modest settlement of approximately 125,000 residents located on the Changhua Plain 彰化平原 in eastern Changhua 彰化, Taiwan. It was formerly the most populous urban township in the nation, but Yuanlin was upgraded to a county-controlled city in 2015, second only to the administrative capital, Changhua City 彰化市. Considerable work has been done in recent years to improve the urban environment of Yuanlin, and it feels like one of the few places between Taichung 台中 and Tainan 台南 that isn’t falling into disrepair and emptying out. That being said, urban decay remains widespread in Yuanlin, and there are many interesting ruins worth exploring before they disappear. For students of city planning and development this compact city also has quite a lot to offer—and in this post I aim to introduce some of its more intriguing features, mainly drawing upon photographs from 2013 to 2015, when I was spending significant amounts of time in the area.
Cide Temple 慈德宮 (also romanized as Tzude Temple) is an unusual manifestation of Taiwanese folk religion situated on a hillside overlooking the historic town of Caotun 草屯 in northwestern Nantou 南投, Taiwan. Constructed in 1984, it was inspired by the recurring dreams of a local fruit farmer, Zhang Wenqi 張文杞, and funded by generous donations from the community. The main hall of the temple takes the form of a bottle gourd (hulu 葫蘆) laying on its side, and the entrance is covered by a conical bamboo farmer’s hat (douli 斗笠). These features give the temple its peculiar shape, but they were not chosen at random; the design is inspired by ancient Chinese mythology, albeit with an idiosyncratic twist.