People’s Park in the Sky

People’s Park In The Sky is a peculiar attraction located about 60 kilometers south of Manila in Tagaytay, a popular leisure destination in the province of Cavite in the Philippines. Perched on top of Mount Sungay at an elevation of 709 meters, the highest point on the northern rim of the immense Taal Caldera, it was originally planned to be a palace suitable for state visits during the kleptocratic reign of Ferdinand Marcos. Construction began in 1979 with a drastic leveling of the mountaintop, which previously reached 759 meters, but ground to a halt with increasing civic unrest and the cancellation of Ronald Reagan’s state visit in 1983. Following the People Power Revolution of 1986 the unfinished mansion was transformed into a public park and monument to the greed, corruption, and excess of the Marcos era.

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Postcards From Badouzi 八斗子明信片

Near the end of my first summer in Taiwan I visited Badouzi 八斗子, a rocky headland, coastal park, and major fishing port at the far eastern edge of Zhōngzhèng District 中正區, Keelung 基隆. I went there on impulse, not knowing what to expect, just to see what was out there. Google Maps and Taiwan’s excellent public transit system make random explorations like this almost effortless: pick a point of interest and follow the directions—the digital equivalent of throwing a dart at a map. This post features a selection of retouched photos from this expedition alongside the sort of explanatory text I wouldn’t have been able to write back in 2013. Fair warning for arachnophobes: this post contains several gratuitous photos of giant spiders and other creepy crawlies!

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Quan’an Hall 全安堂

Quan’an Hall 全安堂 is a century-old building on Taiwan Boulevard 臺灣大道 not far from the old train station in Taichung 台中. Built in 1909 with red brick, reinforced concrete, and a Neo-Baroque style commonly attributed to Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo 辰野金吾 (中文), it was a pharmacy for many decades, and more recently a bakery. A few years ago it was rebranded as the Taiwan Sun Cake Museum 台灣太陽餅博物館, which now operates a gift store on the ground floor and, beneath the exposed wooden beams of the restored rooftop on the second level, a cafe, event space, and interactive museum.

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Kanziding Fish Market 崁仔頂漁市場

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.

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Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫

One of the most extraordinary attractions in Taiwan is the historic Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫, originally built in 1922 during Japanese colonial rule and still in operation today. Although information is hard to come by it seems that it might be the only roundhouse still operating in Asia—and certainly one of the oldest still in regular use anywhere in the world. Every other roundhouse I researched for this article has been abandoned, demolished, repurposed, or converted into a museum, and those rare few that are still operational have been mighty hard to date. As such, the Changhua Roundhouse is a dream to visit for a railway enthusiast like myself, particularly since the ambiance hasn’t been ruined by the sort of tacky treatment you’ll often find at Taiwanese tourist attractions. After signing in with the guard at the gate I had free run of the place—and as you can see from some of the following photos, nobody minded me getting dangerously close to moving trains as the mechanics went about their daily routines.

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Shuili Snake Kiln 水里蛇窯

The Shuili Snake Kiln 水里蛇窯 is a wood-fired pottery kiln on the way to the popular Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 on the outskirts of Shuǐlǐ 水里, Nántóu 南投. The name is derived from the kiln’s serpentine shape, though to my eyes it looks more like a slug than a snake. Founded in 1927 by master potter Lin Jiangsong 林江松, it remained a family business for generations before being opened to the public as a “ceramics park” in 1993.

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Zuoying Lotus Pond 左營蓮池潭

Lotus Pond 蓮池潭 is a manmade lake in Zuǒyíng 左營, Kaohsiung 高雄, widely known for its quirky assortment of pagodas, pavilions, and temples. Earlier this year I made a short stop at Lotus Pond on the way to the old walled city of Zuoying a little further south. I like exploring temples in Taiwan but was mildly concerned Lotus Pond would be a bit too touristy for my liking. Turns out I had nothing to worry about; my brief tour of the southwest side of the lake was memorable and fun.

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Totoro Bus Stop in Taichung

Taiwan loves Totoro, the iconic star of Miyazaki’s animated classic My Neighbor Totoro. Known locally to Chinese speakers as Duoduolong 多多龍 (or 豆豆龍) and—my favourite—Longmao 龍貓 (literally “dragon cat”), Totoro recently appeared on the streets of Taichung 台中 alongside Chibi and Chu Totoro, numerous makkuro kurosuke (soot sprites) and No-Face (who appeared in Spirited Away). These life-sized, fan-made sculptures have drawn so much interest that the site even appears on Google Maps as Dali Totoro Bus Stop 大里龍貓公車站.

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Anping Tree House 安平樹屋

Anping Tree House 安平樹屋 is one of the main attractions in Ānpíng 安平, the old colonial quarter of Tainan 台南, and yet another example of disaster tourism in Taiwan. I only got around to going over the lunar new year break despite having lived in Tainan for several months last year. I suppose the fact that it is an actual tourist attraction kept me from checking it out before, but I’m glad I went. Since a few of the photos turned out well enough to share I figure I may as well add it to my growing catalog of abandoned places in Taiwan.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社

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 Ōsaka 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 京都. 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.

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