Postcards From Singapore

Taking a Stroll Through Chinatown in Singapore

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.

The Seeds of Unrest

A tribute to Dapu

Part of a mural by Taiwanese artist Liu Tsungjung 劉宗榮 in Dapu village.

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…

Gushan Village Old Homes 姑山里老屋

A Japanese-era building in rural Dashu district, Kaohsiung

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.

The Golden Tiger General of Qishan

Tiger god brings home the bacon

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.

A Farewell to Tainan

Serenading the sunset in Tainan

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.

Changren Waste Flues 長仁廢煙道

Remnants of a lost kingdom

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.

Tainan Working Cafes

Easy cafe in Tainan

Note: this post still receives a fair amount of traffic but it is very out of date. It was only current back in 2014, when it was published. Keep that in mind when reading these recommendations!

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!

A Long Ride From Tainan to Changhua

Heading off the main highway in rural Tainan

I have been working very hard these last few weeks—a little too hard, at times. To break the monotony of laying code every day I elected to go for a proper ride yesterday. Since moving to Tainan 台南 I haven’t gone on any long rides whatsoever—so I geared up for a day on the road, preparing for almost any eventuality. I had several destinations in mind such as the badlands to the east of the city but struck out to the north on a whim, intending to make it to at least Chiayi City 嘉義市 by sundown.

Harbour City 海灣新城

The living ruins of Harbour City

Harbour City 海灣新城 is an imposing ruin sprawling along the coastline not far from Cape Fugui 富貴角 at the northernmost tip of Taiwan. I first noticed it on my round-the-island bicycle tour last year but did not stop to explore, having already spent much of my daylight riding time poking around the UFO houses of Wanli 萬里.

More recently I set out on a two-day urban exploration road trip with a friend from the Netherlands. Late in the afternoon on the first day we were thrown out of an abandoned amusement park in nearby Jinshan 金山. Not having anything better to do with the remaining hour or so of daylight, I suggested we make our way up the coast to Shimen 石門 to investigate the ruin I had seen the previous year.