Not long after moving to Wénshān District 文山區 in Taipei 台北 I went out riding to explore the neighbourhood. At some point I found myself on the opposite side of Jingmei River from where I was living at the time. Nestled into a bend in the river, this small nub of land was home to several factories, office buildings, and hotels that looked like they probably charged by the hour. There were almost no homes whatsoever—which seemed rather strange for that part of the city—but as I cycled along a Bǎoqiáo Road 寶橋路 laneway I noticed a traditional home hidden in the foliage to one side and stopped to investigate.
The first thing I noticed was the mosquitos. This old home was absolutely swarming with them. And no wonder—the entire place was about a meter below the surface of the road in a sunken depression that obviously collected a great deal of rainwater. At first it was just a few mosquitos pestering me but after a few photos there were literally dozens landing on me every time I stopped to snap a photo. It was a living hell. If it weren’t for my insatiable curiosity I would have been gone in a second.
I escaped to one of the side rooms and continued my preliminary investigation. There really wasn’t much left. The rooftop had caved in and covered every room with rotting debris. Plants grew out of a growing layer of humus, further obscuring whatever artifacts might have been left behind. Finding my footing was an interesting challenge at times—it wasn’t always obvious whether I was stepping onto something solid or not.
With one side of the old home explored I turned my attention to the other. Here I found an addition built onto the old home as well as a second building separated by a small gap. This second building was probably newer than the first as it featured more poured concrete and less wood. It also had a second floor—which afforded me an interesting view of the gaps in the roofing of the older home.
Having lost a half pint of blood I retraced my steps and climbed the short stairway back to the road where I had left my bicycle. Having acquainted myself with the mysteries that lay beyond the overgrowth I went on my way—but not before taking a moment to ponder the construction project next door. Evidently the land had been purchased for redevelopment. I imagined that the old home I had just explored likely had a similar fate in its not-so-distance future. Things move fast in the big city—and there’s no time left for history here on the wrong side of the river.