Another Saturday, another excursion, this time to Yunlin to look at some old Art Deco buildings dating from the Japanese period, guided by my friend the history buff Drew. We also took my 14 year old son along, so we'd have someone to abuse when we got tired of picking on each other. As always, click on any pic to visit its Flickr page to see it in a different size. Click on read more to see more...
Breakfast was still being served when we arrived in Hsiluo, a sleepy town on the plain between Changhua and Tainan.
For some reason many of the buildings in the downtown that date from the 1920s and 1930s have managed to survive.
The city has put in some parking areas walkways to give the area a special feel.
Some of the buildings still have romanized Japanese on the facades.
We also stopped by the Matsu temple, one of the island's most important ones. Drew told me it used to be on the big Matsu pilgrammage. It dates from 1717.
Things hoary with age.
A plaque donated by Chen Shui-bian, mayor of Taipei.
Figures by the altar.
I've seen these at several temples, carved lion figures under the table in front of the altar, but I have no idea what it means.
Square watermelons, in case the round ones roll off your scooter.
Some of the older facades are quite interesting, especially the intricate window frames.
Our favorite building was this one, with a clock. Note how it has four different facades on the second and third floors.
A closeup of the clock. Note the two very cool art deco holes there, as well as the shape of the window, like a cathedral's, a common window shape on the older buildings. Drew explained to my son how the Japanese had borrowed this signal of "modernity" from the US and that it offered a vision of the future to the locals who experienced, something that everyone could participate in and be proud of. When you look at this inventiveness in small town Taiwan, and then at the hideously ugly buildings put up under the KMT in the 50s and 60s, it is easy to see why the Taiwanese were so disappointed with the new colonial regime in that period.
A name in Japanese.
A dog haunts the old street.
This careful fellow was weeding. With tweezers.
It took me three tries to get a good shot of his skill, and he obliged with a smile each time.
Drew spotted this old print shop storefront, with the old phone number still visible above the shop's name.
Our next stop was the old train station in Huwei, now a community center hosting the Yunlin Puppet Theatre Festival Tourist Celebration Government Money Thingy.
Inside there were zillions of puppets on display.
The performers look like an audience....
Inside the train station is a display dedicated to puppetry.
Here is shown how a puppet is carved from a block of wood.
Across from the train station is an old Japanese police, fire, and administration building, with an observation tower on top that was the tallest structure in the area in its day. It is one of the few remaining in Taiwan.
This magician, breath thick with betel nut, stopped to explain that he was performing today.
We strolled through the crowded downtown looking for something to eat, and watching the locals interact.
Goat's head, anyone?
Children riveted to the spot by the terrifying advent of foreigners.
We also hiked over to the old sugar refinery, but the guard there told us that despite its decrepit appearance, it was still in use, and wouldn't let us in.
A procession was in progress, so we jumped in.
Relaxing for moment.
Pilgrims in baseball caps.
Blue Shoes there wouldn't let me take her picture, though the other lady cooperated quite enthusiastically.
We left Huwei and decided to go back to Hsiluo to cross the river on the famous Hsiluo Great Bridge, a Japanese-era construction originally intended for trains. UPDATE: Nope. It was built in 1953. UPDATE II: Nope. See comments below.
Plenty of countryside to cross.
With people hard at work.
Near a gas station we passed another oddity, perhaps from the Japanese period, Oxford-on-the-plains.
This one also boasted a clock with porcelain tiles inlaid at intervals on the facade.
Winter melons on their way to market.
Look carefully at the top of the facade, with its flying hawk, resting hawk, pineapple, and assorted other ornamentations. Modernity in the southern Taiwan plains in the 1920s and 30s.
The bridge doesn't look like much, but it is well worth a diversion if you are in the area.
It goes on forever.
Affording stunning views of the river below.
I stopped to grab a shot of it from the other end.
And then it was home through tree-lined roads........
...past the lonely farmhouses...
...past the fathers reading with their daughters....