Hsin Kang Theater 新港戲院

Hsin Kang Theater Exterior View

Hsin Kang Theater 新港戲院 is located in the small town of Xingang 新港, Chiayi 嘉義, not far from the famous Fengtian Temple 奉天宮. Multiple sources agree it went out of business in 1988—a victim of shifting consumer preferences and demographic changes in small town Taiwan—but the actual age of the building is somewhat uncertain. This academic reference suggests it was founded in 1929, in the midst of the Japanese colonial era, but the theater was almost certainly renovated or completely rebuilt in the post-war period.

Tainan Xinjianguo Theater 台南新建國戲院

Oblique View of Xinjianguo Theater

One of the last of the many vintage theaters of Tainan 台南 seems to have finally closed its doors. Founded in 1964, the notorious Xinjianguo Theater 新建國戲院 was originally named for its location on Jianguo Road 建國路, which was later renamed Minquan Road 民權路. It is not uncommon for old theaters in Taiwan to resort to showing pornography in the twilight of their decline but this particular theater appears to have specialized in more carnal forms of entertainment for much of its history. Perhaps this is why this theater remained in business until very recently—long after most of the nation’s hundreds of other standalone theaters shut down in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Lize Theater 利澤戲院

Lize Theater From the Streets

The obscure Lize Theater 利澤戲院 is located in the village of Lizejian 利澤簡 in Wujie 五結, a rural township just east of Luodong 羅東 in Yilan 宜蘭, Taiwan. Built in 1964, it once served as a cinema and playhouse, hosting a variety of films and live theater performances for the local populace before slipping into decline in the 1980s, a little earlier than most other theaters I’ve visited around the nation. Afterwards the theater was converted for use as a clothing factory but this also went out of business. Nowadays the building is more disused than abandoned, as descendants of the original owner are still making use of the structure for storage and other purposes. In a stroke of good luck I happened to visit while the door was open—and after communicating my interest in the history of old theaters in Taiwan I was invited in for a brief chat and look around. Each theater has its own story to tell—but in this case I was particularly interested in learning why a theater was built in such a small and seemingly unimportant village.

Wanshou Road Residential Ruins 萬壽路廢棄社區

An abandoned residential tower on Wanshou Road

Taiwan is riddled with failed construction projects, monuments to avarice, incompetence, and bureaucracy. Building defects, mismanagement, and land ownership disputes are common causes, but legal battles, limited funding for costly demolitions, and a lack of political often ensure such projects remain a blight on the urban landscape of the nation. One such project can be found along Wanshou Road 萬壽路 at the western margins of the Taipei Basin 台北盆地 not far from Huilong Station 迴龍站, terminus of the orange line of the Taipei MRT in Xinzhuang, New Taipei 新北. Technically this abandonment is located within Guishan 龜山, for the district boundary sweeps down from the hills and loops around a mostly industrial area sprawling along a small valley leading the rest of the way to the flatlands of the basin. Given that this road is one of the main arteries connecting Taoyuan 桃園 with Taipei 台北 these twin 17-storey towers, typically identified as the Wanshou Road Residential Ruins 萬壽路廢棄社區, are regularly the subject of inquiries on PTT and other parts of the Taiwanese internet.

Binh Tay Market

Out front at Binh Tay Market in Ho Chi Minh City

This week I am visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on another side trip from Taiwan. Six months ago I visited Hanoi and enjoyed my time there—check out this photo gallery for a comprehensive overview—so I’m hoping to repeat the experience in the emerging megacity further south.

My first walkabout brought me to District 5 in search of Cholon, HCMC’s historic Chinatown, which was originally a settlement separate from colonial Saigon. Cholon literally means “Big Market” so I made a point of visiting Binh Tay Market (Vietnamese: Chợ Binh Tây), which is just over the border in District 6. Along the way I noticed many temporary structures along the roadway so it was no great surprise to discover the famous market closed for what I would assume is renovation.

Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂

Out front at the Ershui Assembly Hall

Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂 is located in Ershui 二水, a small town at the very southern edge of Changhua 彰化, on the border with both Yunlin 雲林 (to the south) and Nantou 南投 (to the east). It is one of approximately 70 assembly halls built all around Taiwan to accommodate large public gatherings during the Japanese colonial era. This particular example was built in 1930 and is one of three remaining in Changhua. The other two—in Changhua City 彰化市 and Lukang 鹿港—are both fully restored heritage properties open to the public, but the smaller Ershui Assembly Hall has been derelict for years, a consequence of a long-running legal dispute between the landlord and local government complicating preservation efforts.

Linkou Lightning Building 林口閃電大樓

The infamous lightning building of Linkou

The Linkou Lightning Building 林口閃電大樓 is an infamous ruin not far from the newly-opened Taoyuan Airport MRT line in Linkou 林口, recently named the fastest-growing district in New Taipei 新北. It is also known as the Linkou Strange House 林口怪怪屋 and occasionally appears in Taiwanese media alongside the Longtan Strange House and other examples of the genre. While I wish there were a good story to go along with these photos it sounds as if it is simply a failed construction project where nobody wants to cover the cost of demolition.

Dong’an Theater 東安戲院

An oblong look at Dong’an Theater

Recently I added yet another theater to my growing catalogue of old school cinemas in Taiwan: the derelict Dong’an Grand Theater 東安大戲院 in East Tainan. This theater opened in 1969 and closed its doors not long after the turn of the millennium, another victim of changing consumer habits. I wasn’t able to find a way inside this theater so this post only features a handful of exterior shots and some links I chanced upon after conducting preliminary research.

Zhongwai Department Store 中外百貨

Irregular facade

Today I went to investigate reports of an abandoned building on the edge of Ximending 西門町, a busy commercial district in central Taipei 台北. It is fairly well-known due to its central location but I could find no easy means of entry for the very same reasons. From this television news report it sounds as if this was originally the Zhongwai Department Store Company 中外百貨公司 and later the Yangyang Department Store 洋洋百貨. While it isn’t surprising to find such ruins around much of Taiwan it is somewhat unusual to see in such a prosperous area. The building is for rent, as I understand it, and much of the aforementioned report seems concerned with the outrageous price tag for such a decaying monstrosity.

Life Is a Gas

Gas tanks in Darong Village

Gas tanks next to an old tobacco barn in Eastern Taiwan.

Two weeks ago I noticed this stack of natural gas tanks outside the Fenglin Tobacco Barn 鳳林菸樓 in Darong First Village 大榮一村, one of several sites identified as Tobacco Barn Cultural Settlements 菸樓文化聚落 in the Huadong Valley 花東縱谷. Having spent some time last year exploring remnants of the tobacco industry in Taichung 台中 I figured it might be interesting to sample what might be found out east. I’ll have more to share from that mission at a later date—but for now, these tanks shall serve as a placeholder for future elucidations.…