Last week I moved from Taipei to Zhongli, a mid-sized city of approximately half a million1 about 45 minutes down the Western Line 西部幹線 in the heart of Taoyuan. I have been all around the island but haven’t explored much of what you might call the “middle north”, the strongly Hakka-influenced area stretching from the rugged borders of New Taipei south to Taichung that includes Taoyuan, Hsinchu 新竹, and Miaoli. Perhaps by staying here awhile I will find opportunities to explore more of this part of Taiwan and fill in some blank spots on my personal map.
These travelogues are tales of movement and change. Don't expect standard travel blog content in this section; I almost never include directions or addresses. I tend to write more obliquely, while also digging deeper into local history and culture, chasing tangents and falling down rabbits holes. I am also fairly loose with my definition of "travel", for life itself is a journey, and a travelogue is simply a record of experiences now shared.
Impressions of Historic Guelph
Last week I spent a morning in Guelph, Ontario, after cycling all the way there from Hamilton the previous day. Not knowing what there was to see, I biked around downtown, keeping an eye out for historic features of the urban landscape.
Exploring the Badlands of Southern Taiwan
The badlands of Taiwan are one of the nation’s most captivating and unusual landscapes. While there are several scattered around the country the most extensive badlands can be found along the hilly borderlands of Tainan and Kaohsiung. Known locally to Taiwanese as “moon worlds” (yueshijie 月世界), these landscapes are composed of weathered mudstone outcrops that erode too quickly for plants to grow.
Zuoying Lotus Pond 左營蓮池潭
Lotus Pond 蓮池潭 is a manmade lake in Zuoying, Kaohsiung, widely known for its quirky assortment of pagodas, pavilions, and temples. Earlier this year I made a short stop at Lotus Pond on the way to the old walled city of Zuoying a little further south. I like exploring temples in Taiwan but was mildly concerned Lotus Pond would be a bit too touristy for my liking. Turns out I had nothing to worry about; my brief tour of the southwest side of the lake was memorable and fun.
Twin Night Markets in Kaohsiung
I was drawn to the twin night markets of Kaisyuan Night Market (凱旋觀光夜市) and Jinzuan Night Market (金鑽觀光夜市) in Kaohsiung based on their reputation as the largest in Taiwan. Supposedly they are both approximately 30,000 square meters in size and feature 500 to 1,000 stalls—but these figures may represent the sum of both night markets. At any rate, I was a little surprised to discover how poorly attended they were on a Sunday night, particularly as I had just arrived from a brief tour of the busy Ruifeng Night Market (瑞豐夜市) in Zuoying.
Mazu Mania in Changhua City 媽祖繞境
My last night in Changhua City was surprisingly eventful thanks to a fortunate accident of timing. Earlier in the day I had noticed an unusual uptick in the amount of activity on the streets while cycling around. Banquet tents had been setup on major thoroughfares, police were standing at major intersections, scooters flying yellow banners were buzzing around like angry hornets, and the air was filled with a palpable sense of expectation and excitement. After an early supper next to a coffee shop I often work at I approached to one of the staff (who speaks passable English) and asked, “What’s going on?” Their answer, “It’s the…” Trailing off, hands aflutter, obviously searching for the right word—and then: “Mazu!”
Postcards From Kowloon 九龍明信片
Kowloon was my first experience of Asia back in 2012. Anytime I return to Hong Kong I stay there for at least a couple of nights. It helps that many of the most affordable hotels are located in Kowloon—but I also like how gritty, rundown, and real it is, particularly when compared to the naked display of wealth and privilege seen on the other side of Victoria Harbour on Hong Kong Island itself.
Last weekend I crossed the strait for a brief visa run and, after finding an excellent deal on a hotel on Agoda, once again found myself lost in the immensity of Kowloon. Naturally I spent a good part of my trip wandering around the city documenting my impressions. Collected here are several of my photos from this trip…
Douliu Night Market 斗六夜市
A couple of months ago I randomly took the train to Douliu, the capital of Yunlin, the most rural county on the western plains of Taiwan. Douliu is regularly the subject of jokes so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there: an old street lined with Japanese colonial buildings, the quirky “Hungry Ghost” covered market, and an abandoned entertainment complex to explore. Even more surprising was the size of the Saturday night Renwen Park Night Market 人文公園夜市 located southwest of the downtown core. I have become something of a night market connoisseur since living in central and southern Taiwan and wouldn’t hesitate to declare this night market one of the biggest and best on the island.
Nishinari and The Way Things Ought To Be
Nishinari is widely reputed to be the most run-down, crime-ridden, and dangerous part of Osaka—and about as close to a slum as you are likely to find anywhere in Japan. This may explain the preponderance of cheap backpacker accommodation in Shinimamiya, the area just south of Shinsekai 新世界 (literally “New World”), where I stayed for a single night last May before returning to Taiwan. Although I only had a few hours to work with I couldn’t resist wandering around Nishinari to see just how bad it was. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the Downtown Eastside, the festering carbuncle of Vancouver, which I had wandered through on many occasions.
Scenes From Everyday Life in Wenshan District
I lived in Wenshan, Taipei, from October 2013 until April 2014 when I moved south to Tainan. In those six months I captured a great many photographs from in around the area, the finest of which were previously shared on this blog in a post about the urban landscape of Wenshan. It was my intention with that post to portray southern Taipei from the vantage point of mountaintops, hillsides, river banks, and pedestrian overpasses, with only a couple of shots from street level. This time around I would like to zoom in and share scenes from everyday life in Wenshan.