Founded by Finnish settlers in the late 19th century, Finn Slough is a tiny fishing community located along the marshy banks of the mighty Fraser River in southern Richmond, British Columbia. In the early 20th century the settlers moved the village to its current location, a slough (swamp, pronounced “slew”) at the base of the No. 4 Road on Lulu Island east of Steveston. Most—if not all—of the buildings in Finn Slough were constructed prior to 1950, lack modern plumbing, and rely on wood-burning stoves for heating.
I spent a night at Niushan Huting 牛山呼庭 in Hualien 花蓮 a few months ago for an electronic music festival, Organik 2014. After having been up all night (and playing what was probably my lousiest DJ set in Taiwan) I wandered down to the shoreline, still hearing the distant echo of music over the pounding surf and the sound of pebbles rolling back into the sea after every crashing wave. It was not long after sunrise and a most serene quality of light filled the air, illuminating the rocky, windswept coastline with a majestic ambiance. I wet my feet, letting the ocean wash over me, and did my best to capture the magic of this primal scene.
These photographs were captured on a short two day, three night visit to Singapore in February 2013. I was unable to do more than scratch the surface of this intriguing island city-state on such a brief trip, but I did manage to take a few interesting shots while I was there. Most of my time was spent in Singapore’s historic Chinatown, known in Chinese as Niucheshui 牛車水 (literally “ox-cart water”), but I also ventured into Little India and the Downtown Core.
Last night I went to Dapu Village in Zhunan 竹南, the northernmost township in Miaoli 苗栗, for a concert and movie screening commemorating the treacherous demolition of four homes last year. The event took place on the former site of Chang Pharmacy, whose owner, Chang Sen-wen 張森文, was later found dead in a drainage ditch in an apparent suicide. This occurred not long after the government razed his home and business to the ground with all his possessions still inside. In a cruel twist of fate the Chang family was served a bill for demolition equalling the financial compensation offered by the government—leaving them with absolutely nothing. Eminent domain may serve the public interest in special circumstances—but this was outright robbery by the state.
The Dapu incident1, in brief: Miaoli 苗栗 magistrate Liu Zhenghong 劉政鴻 (pictured above, at left) ordered the expropriation of 156 hectares of land in Dapu Village in 2009, ostensibly to build a new campus of the Hsinchu Science and Industrial Park 新竹科學工業園區. Only 28 hectares were to be used for the park itself—the rest of that land was intended for residential use. In other words, the government seized land from 9452 households primarily to construct hugely profitable residences next to their shiny new industrial development, an obvious case of profiteering referred to as zone expropriation. Put simply: people’s lives were torn apart to line the pockets of a bunch of greedy politicians and their construction industry cronies, all under the banner of “progress”.
The injustice visited upon the four holdouts spurned protests, violent confrontations with the police, and a massive outpouring of public sympathy all across Taiwan. While the protests were not enough to stop the government in Dapu (nor save Mr. Chang) they helped to plant the seeds of the Sunflower student movement that blossomed in March 2014 with the nearly monthlong occupation of the Legislative Yuan. In this respect the slogan “Today Dapu, tomorrow the government”「今天拆大埔，明天拆政府」 was remarkably prescient.
The mural in the photograph (above) was painted by Taiwanese artist Liu Tsung-jung 劉宗榮 on the bare wall where the Chang pharmacy used to stand. The figure on the left is Liu Zhenghong 劉政鴻, widely reviled as one of the most corrupt Taiwanese government officials and the arch-villain in the Dapu drama, with a shoe on his head—a reference to when future Sunflower student movement spokesperson Chen Wei-ting 陳為廷 struck Liu with a tossed shoe as he attempted to attend a memorial service for Mr. Chang. On the right you can see the extraordinarily unpopular President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 in his PRC finery, decked out with a fancy beaded headdress3 typically worn by gods and emperors in Chinese culture. The blood-red star overhead is the emblem of the ruling Kuomintang political party of which both are a part.
I am neither academic nor journalist so I can’t say too much more (better leave that to the real experts)… but I will say this: I am glad that the Taiwanese people haven risen up against injustice in Dapu and in other places around the nation… and I feel very privileged to have witnessed some of these actions during my time here.
- To catch up on the backstory I highly recommend a series of posts on Ketty Chen’s blog: here, here, here (immediately after the July 18th demolition), and here (the tragic, heart-wrenching outcome). ↩
- I sourced this number from a completely tone-deaf article in the China Post. ↩
- Possibly known a mianliu 冕旒. I say “possibly” because I’m no expert in this sort of thing. ↩
I was off the main road in Gushan Village 姑山里 in Dashu 大樹, a hilly rural district in Kaohsiung 高雄, when I noticed a row of old buildings next to a small temple. Stopping to investigate, I unslung my camera and snapped a few shots, not quite realizing what I was looking at. My mind was elsewhere—a consequence of two hard days of riding in the tropical summer sun. I was, at the time, heading south to the railway line after making it to Qishan the night before and touring through Meinong 美濃 earlier in the day. Only later, when I went to develop the photos, did I notice the faint traces of the Japanese rising sun flag in the top right corner of the building pictured above. At one point these stone flags must have been painted bright red, a reflection of Japanese imperial interests in Taiwan.
After saying farewell to Tainan 台南, where I have been living in for the past three months, I set out by bicycle for Meinong 美濃 today, but only made it as far as neighbouring Qishan 旗山. The long stretch of lonely backcountry roads from Guanmiao 關廟 to Qishan 旗山 offered no respite from the relentless sun—and without any place to fuel up I ran out of water high up in the hills, a major no-no in this 35 degree heat. When I finally made it into town I was in no state to be going anywhere—and so here I am, sick with heatstroke in a cheap hotel, but not without at least a small spark of adventure coursing through my veins. I rested for most of the evening so I could go out and grab a bite to eat and see at least a little of this historic town before (hopefully) moving on tomorrow.
My three months in Tainan 台南 are up. I have had a productive time here in Taiwan’s historic old capital. It feels like there hasn’t been very much for me to do apart from hunker down and get some work done in various cafes around the city. I met a few cool people, went to a handful of parties, but otherwise kept to myself for the most part. I am not usually so antisocial but I knew my time here would be short—and I had important things to do. I wasn’t here for sightseeing, though I did manage to see a fair amount of the city and the surrounding area. I moved to Tainan to experience a different side of Taiwan while getting things done.
I was amused to see some of my own urban exploration photos splashed across my news feed tonight. Apple Daily 蘋果日報 picked up a story originally published in Metro, a free newspaper from the U.K., as Harrowing images of 12 abandoned theme parks around the world.
The waste flues of Ruifang 瑞芳 are an extraordinary sight. The ruins of these massive, crumbling conduits run for miles up the mountainside from the Shuinandong Smelter 水湳洞精鍊廠 and the rest of the abandoned mining complex below. Originally built during the KMT authoritarian era to transport noxious fumes and waste gases away from the refinery—and nearby settlements like Jinguashi 金瓜石—these flues are reputedly the longest in the world.
What follows is a short list of serviceable working cafes in and around downtown Tainan 台南. What do I mean by a “working cafe”? I mean a cafe where students, freelancers, and remote workers will find the things they need to dig in for an extended period of time and get some work done. My criteria for a good working cafe: decent coffee, the availability of snacks or light meals, comfortable seating, wireless connectivity, unobtrusive music, reasonable prices, long opening hours, welcoming staff, and an ambiance conducive to creative work, especially programming. Of course, it helps if a cafe looks nice too!