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.
Recently I returned to Cape Santiago 三貂角, the easternmost tip of the island of Taiwan, once again by way of the Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道. The far eastern shoreline is smothered in broken concrete and derelict industrial facilities, the fading legacy of an aquaculture industry in decline. One such facility is this, the most easterly building on the island, a crumbling ruin previously documented in my explorations of the Pacific edge. I suspect it might have been a pump station for there is a network of pipes running through jagged holes in the floor to the ocean sloshing around in the darkness below. This small room is infested with Ligia exotica, a cosmopolitan isopod known to locals as Haizhanglang 海蟑螂, literally “sea cockroach”. This place has changed since I was last here. A chamber on the rooftop has collapsed into a heap of red bricks and twisted metal. Perhaps a close encounter with debris blown in by Typhoon Malakas was responsible—or maybe it’s the accumulation of elemental forces sweeping across this exposed headland. Whatever the case, it is interesting to witness these changes as my time in this land grows far longer than originally expected.
Last October, while living in Zhongli, I ventured out into the countryside for a random bicycle ride on Halloween. Like most of my rides I didn’t have a route planned or anything, only a general intention of checking out the obscure Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 about 15 kilometers west of the city. Along the way I followed my intuition (with a little help from Google Maps) and captured photographs of anything interesting and unusual I came across. Featured here are more than two dozens pictures from this ride through parts of Zhongli 中壢, Xinwu 新屋, Yangmei 楊梅, and Pingzhen 平鎮 in western Taoyuan 桃園.
One of the more interesting temples I stepped inside on a recent visit to the Old Quarter of Hanoi is the recently renovated Đinh Đông Thanh 亭東城 (loosely: “East City Pavilion”). Having explored many temples in Taiwan over the years I was familiar with some of what I found there—but much of it was completely foreign to me. Looking up information after the fact hasn’t been educational; there are no English language resources about this temple and I haven’t got the same knack for finding information in Vietnamese as I have with Chinese language resources about Taiwan. So, if you’ll pardon my lack of local expertise, I’m going to share a few photos from this obscure temple and attempt to puzzle through some of what caught my eye.
Last weekend I visited Hsinchu City 新竹市 and rented a scooter to visit some of the more distant areas from the central train station. Along the way my attention was drawn to this traditional home on the margins of the north side of town. Hsinchu, like most other cities in Taiwan, is gradually replacing its agricultural frontier with modern subdevelopments, but this home has somehow escaped the wave of demolition that obviously swept through most of the rest of the area. The man in the picture had little to say before returning to his garden. Apparently the abandoned house beyond is a hundred years old—but anything more about its history will remain a mystery for now.
Dadu Plateau 大肚台地 (also known as Dadu Mountain 大肚山) is a geographic feature of great strategic importance to the defense of central Taiwan. It overlooks the Qingshui Coastal Plain 清水平原 and occupies high ground on the far edge of the Taichung Basin 台中盆地, home to the majority of the population of Taichung 台中, the third most populous metropolitan area in the nation. The entire length of the plateau is peppered with military facilities from the massive Ching Chuan Kang Air Base 空軍清泉崗基地 in the north to Chenggong Ridge 成功嶺 down south. In between one will find a number of abandoned or disused bunkers, gun towers, and blockhouses. This post focuses on seven anti-airborne fortifications located in the central part of the plateau starting with the #7 Anti-Airborne Fort 七號反空降堡, my introduction to this cluster of ruins.
Not much remains of the former Taichu Aerodrome 臺中飛行場, a Japanese colonial era airbase originally built in 1911 on the northwestern periphery of central Taichung 台中. The airbase saw a lot of action in World War II and several kamikaze units were stationed there in the final months of the war. After the arrival of the KMT it was used as a hub for aviation research and development before entering into civilian use in the 1970s as Shuinan Airport 水湳機場. In 2004 operations were transferred to the nearby Taichung Airport 台中航空站 and, over the following decade, the former Japanese airbase was completely demolished as part of an ongoing city-wide urban renewal plan. The only building spared was a lone gun tower built in 1940, formally designated a historic site in 2006, and officially known as the Former Japanese Army Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 原日軍臺中飛行場機槍堡.
Jishan Gatehouse 積善樓 (Mandarin pinyin: Jishanlou; sometimes Chishan or Chijhan) is a minor historic building not far from Taiyuan Station 太原車站 in Beitun 北屯, Taichung 台中. Originally this site was occupied by the residences of the Lai 賴 family, immigrants from Zhangzhou, China, who made their home here in 1897. Decades later they funded the construction of this unusual gatehouse on the recommendation of a fengshui 風水 master; the name of the building literally translates to “accumulate goodness”. The design and some of the materials are Chinese but the structure also shows western influences and craftsmanship as filtered through Japan 日本. Five banyan trees surrounding the gate are the only other legacy of the homes that once existed here. Nowadays the area is a city park.
This guide features a list of cheap, direct flights from Taiwan for planning visa runs and inexpensive vacations. Most non-Taiwanese simply fly across the Strait to Hong Kong 香港 to file paperwork but I prefer spending a few days wherever I go to make up for the needless hassle and bureaucracy of international air travel. I have put a lot of work into compiling and updating various lists of potentially low-cost routes to destinations in East and Southeast Asia so I figure I may as well share my findings here.