Dahua Theater 大華戲院 is an early post-war movie theater in the grim northern port town of Keelung City 基隆市, Taiwan. It was in business as early as 1949 and officially registered by 1952. Beyond that, little trace of it can be found online. Until recently I assumed this theater had been demolished, just like every other vintage standalone in downtown Keelung, one of the most densely-packed urban environments in the nation. Acting on a tip that a signboard was still in place I went to scope it out one afternoon in 2018—and was completely surprised to find the theater still standing, albeit in an extremely dilapidated condition.
Tuberculosis remains the deadliest communicable disease in Taiwan, claiming approximately 600 lives per year, but great strides have been made in reducing its toll throughout the 20th century. Nearly 5% of the population were afflicted by the disease in the late 1940s—and with an annual mortality rate of 3 in 1,000, it was also among the leading causes of death of any kind in post-war Taiwan. The disease was especially prevalent among the Taiwanese Indigenous people of the remote mountainous interior, who simply couldn’t afford to see a doctor or purchase medicine (even if there were a clinic anywhere nearby).
Christian missionary organizations went to great lengths to expand access to medical services in the late 1950s, founding numerous clinics and sanatoriums in Indigenous territory all across Taiwan. In 1957 this particular tuberculosis sanatorium was constructed next to a secluded lake on the outskirts of Puli 埔里, Nantou 南投, to provide free treatment and relief for people of the mountains. The next several decades saw great advances in healthcare in Taiwan and the sanatorium closed in 1980, its purpose fulfilled. It reopened as a Presbyterian retreat center and campground in the late 1980s and was ultimately abandoned to the elements sometime in recent years.
In the summer of 2017 I embarked upon a series of road trips around central and southern Taiwan. I began in Taichung 台中 and ended up riding as far south as Kaohsiung 高雄 over the course of several months. It was not one continuous journey; I would head south, ride for several days, stash the scooter at a train station, and return to my residence in Taipei 台北 before doing it all over again. There wasn’t a lot of planning involved, nor were these trips entirely random. Usually I had some idea of what to see and where to go, but there were also many serendipitous discoveries along the way. Ultimately I gathered material for more than 50 posts, many of which have already been published. This introductory post gathers an assortment of photos from the first segment of the trip from Taichung to Nantou 南投, with particular emphasis on the districts of Taiping 太平, Puli 埔里, and Shuili 水里.
Zhongli 中壢 is home to a surprising number of disused and abandoned cinemas, relics of a lost age of theater in this conurbation of half a million sprawling across the central Taoyuan Plateau 桃園台地. Decades ago there were nearly two dozen standalone movie theaters in town—but only Zhongyuan Theater 中源大戲院, one of two in Taiwan still displaying hand-painted movie posters, clings to life as of 2018. Most of the others have been renovated beyond recognition or demolished, but several more are derelict, hard-worn subjects of entropy. Among these relics there are none more alluring than the imposing Dadong Theater 大東戲院 (literally the “Great Eastern Theater”), former anchor of Zhongli’s long-vanished Cinema Street 戲院街.
Cholon is a historic Chinatown west of old Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I visited the area on three occasions in 2017, intent on wandering around and capturing some pictures from the streets. Previously I published an extensive report on the Chinese temples of Cholon, including some detail about the history and demographics of the area, so I won’t repeat myself in this post. Instead, I’ll let the photos do the talking this time around…
On several recent trips to Ho Chi Minh City I spent some time wandering around Cholon, a vast and historic Chinatown located about five kilometers west of the downtown core of colonial Saigon. Originally settled in the late 17th century by ethnic Chinese settlers, the Hoa People 華人, it was known by its Cantonese name, Tai-Ngon 堤岸 (literally “Embankment”, but it is also roughly homophonous with “Saigon”). Later the Vietnamese dubbed it Cholon (“Big Market”) after the forerunner of the modern-day Binh Tay Market. The Hoa people were once the majority in Cholon but many fled persecution in the aftermath of Fall/Liberation of Saigon in 1975, and again during the Sino-Vietnamese War. Nowadays the Hoa people only account for approximately 5% of the population of Ho Chi Minh City (less than half the proportion of ethnic Chinese living in Toronto, my hometown) but their imprint on the streets of Cholon is readily apparent, particularly in the form of the many distinctive temples and guildhalls of the district.
Wuzhou Theater 五洲戲院 is the last remnant of cinema in Chishang 池上, Taitung 台東, a picturesque town located in the fertile Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 of Taiwan. Built in 1965 in the midst of the Taiwan Economic Miracle, it remained in business until 1982. After the final screening the theater was neglected for decades, falling into disrepair but remaining more or less intact until recently. More recently Chishang emerged as a tourist destination, spurning a local community development association to invest in revitalizing the theater in 2013.
Puli 埔里 was my home base for several days of road tripping and adventure around Nantou 南投 in October 2015. Recently I decided to publish my findings and impressions from this trip despite not knowing much about what I was seeing at that time. Most of the other posts in this series document trips from one place to another but in this post I’m focusing on some of what I found within city limits, starting with some history to put everything in context.
My second day on the road in Nantou County in October 2015 was completely unplanned. I left Puli 埔里 and headed deeper into the mountains simply to see what was there, not having done any advance research. From a glance at the map I had a rough idea where I’d be going—deeper into traditional Indigenous lands to the east of Puli Basin 埔里盆地. Ultimately I ended up visiting several settlements and two reservoirs in a few hours of riding around what is now known as the township of Ren’ai 仁愛.
In October 2015 I set out from Taichung 台中 to attend a music festival in Nantou 南投, the landlocked county in the mountainous interior of Taiwan. Since I don’t often have an opportunity to ride a scooter I allocated some extra time for onward exploration and ended up visiting many interesting and wonderful places, many of them quite obscure. What follows is the first part of a mostly visual record of this road trip around the geographic center of Taiwan…