During a recent visit to Xizhou 溪州, a small rural township in southern Changhua 彰化, I made a brief stop to check out the historic Chenggong Hostel 成功旅社. I had no idea what to expect, having learned of its existence while browsing Google Maps in search of points of interest, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found there. It is privately owned and operated but they’ve gone to great lengths to preserve the building, transforming it into a tourist attraction and community space. The ground floor is home to a shop showcasing local products and a dual-purpose agricultural library and event space. Upstairs is something of a museum, lightly furnished with rickety beds and tatami mats. The floorboards creak and there is a mustiness about the place that makes it feel genuinely old. It wasn’t difficult to imagine what it might have been like half a century ago in the midst of the sugar boom.
Yesterday I made a brief stop in Wuri 烏日 to located and document the Japanese colonial era stationmaster residence. A metal fence has been erected outside the residence so I went for a walk around the perimeter to look for another point of entry. Along the way I passed several derelict and abandoned homes of a more recent vintage. These homes were constructed in a more provisional style common to the KMT authoritarian era and were probably built to house railway workers or military veterans and their dependents—but that’s just a guess. Whatever the case, I was momentarily transfixed by the vivid shade of blue on the trimmings of one of these modest homes and lined up a shot of the overstuffed mailbox worth sharing. You may also notice duplicate address plates which reminds me—I’d love to know when various versions of those plates entered into use in different districts.
Today I breezed through southern Taichung 台中 on my way to the high-speed rail station and parts beyond. Along the way I made a brief stop in Wuri 烏日 to follow up on a lead I uncovered while researching my much longer feature about the historic Japanese colonial era Wuri Police Station. Apart from the police station there are two other officially designated historic sites in the district (with nearby Jukuiju Mansion almost certain to become the fourth in the near future). One of these is the former Stationmaster Residence 站長宿舍 next to Wuri Station 烏日車站, pictured here. Despite its status as a heritage property the city has done nothing to restore it and little to maintain the old residence. About all they’ve done in recent years is put up metal fencing sturdy enough to prevent the intrusion of mildly curious explorers such as myself.
In the absence of a more thorough history that’s about all I have to say about this find. For a few more photos of this old ruin have a look at this blog from 2013. Finally, for those of you uncertain who or what a stationmaster is, Wikipedia has you covered.
On the northern edge of Hsinchu City 新竹市, about halfway between Nanliao Fishing Port 南寮漁港 and the massive Hsinchu Air Base 新竹空軍基地, you’ll find a small restaurant by the name of Old Lu Beef Noodles 老陸牛肉麵. Such a shop might not catch your eye were it not for a curious turquoise signboard perched on an easel out front. Hsinchu 新竹 is home to one of the highest densities of military dependents’ villages in the nation (including one right next door) so it comes as no surprise that it would be advertising military village cuisine 眷村美食. What is rather unusual is the hand-painted adaptation of the May 16, 1938, edition of Life Magazine, originally subtitled A Defender of China, appearing here with the messages
We are your friend 我們的你們的朋友 and
We are fights for freedom 我們是為自由而战 (with that last character a simplified form of 戰). The pot of noodles and chopsticks are a creative addition.
Gathered here are around forty of my better photographs from a five day stay in Hanoi, Vietnam, in November 2016. All of these images were captured while idly wandering around the famous Old Quarter and its environs. I was not particularly adventurous on this trip but I still managed to find plenty to feast my eyes upon—and the food and coffee certainly lived up to expectations! I also found it interesting to apply some of my growing knowledge of East Asian culture gleaned from these years of living in Taiwan. Each photo is annotated with onward links to more information should anything pique your interest.
This week I visited the small town of Xizhou 溪州 in southern Changhua 彰化 to locate the eponymous Xizhou Theater 溪州戲院. I found no way into the theater but made a serendipitous discovery while walking around the block in search of another access point. Across the street I noticed the utilitarian outline of the former Xizhou Telecom Bureau 溪州原電信局, a modest building that once housed a combined post office and service counter for the state phone company, then known as the Directorate General of Telecommunications (DGT) 交通部電信總局. The sign above the entrance simply reads Dianxinju 電信局, or “telecommunications bureau”, which is all anyone needed to know in those days. Taiwan’s telecom monopoly was broken up in 1996 with the privatization of what became known as Chunghwa Telecom 中華電信. In the absence of any sort of historic information about this obscure abandoned office I’d guess it was built sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Taichung 台中 is changing fast. The historic downtown area, formerly one of the worst examples of inner city blight in the nation, is presently undergoing a massive urban renewal effort. Some decaying and disused commercial buildings have been restored, many more await their fate, and others have been demolished before I’ve even had a chance to document their interiors. Zhongsen Theater 中森戲院 belongs to this last category: it came down after I shot a preliminary set of photos but before I had a chance to sneak inside. You have to move fast to capture these small histories in their unmaking.
Donghe Theater 東和戲院 is an obscure ruin in the small historic town of Shuangxi 雙溪 in the mountains of eastern New Taipei 新北. Despite its diminutive size and remote location the town has a history going back to the Qing dynasty era. During the mining boom of the early 20th century Shuangxi became prosperous enough to warrant the establishment of an outpost of cinema. When the town’s fortunes declined so did this theater—but nowadays anyone is welcome to wander in and take a look at what remains here at the confluence of Mudan Creek 牡丹溪 and the eponymous Shuang River 雙溪.
Some people are into urban exploration for the optics—they love visiting the most visually-impressive places and taking cool photos—but I’m just as interested in documenting history and solving puzzles. Animated by curiosity, I have become proficient in navigating the Chinese language web in search of leads. Not all of these turn out to be something interesting but I enjoy those rare days where I set out into the countryside and see how many candidate sites I can knock off my list. This is what originally brought me to the gates of the humble Xizhou Theater 溪州戲院 in the small town of Xizhou 溪州, Changhua 彰化.
Wuri Police Station 烏日警察官吏派出所 is a historic Japanese colonial era building dating back to the early 1930s. Located in Wuri 烏日, Taichung 台中, it was built in a simple, subdued style with more of a nod toward Rationalism than the localized Art Deco or Baroque Revival styles commonly seen in commercial and institutional architecture of Showa period Taiwan. After the station was decommissioned in the late 1960s it was used for residential purposes until it was ultimately abandoned for unknown reasons. Historic status was announced in 2004 and officially confirmed in 2013 but restoration efforts were stuck in the planning stages until 2020.