Taiwan: Bypassed Towns

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Taiwan’s landscape is snaked with hundreds of interlinking highways that make traversing and travelling the tropical island very different to what the journeys some ten, twenty years ago used to be. The slick highways (高速公路, Gāosù gōnglù) overarch and tower over many of the once bustling valley towns and roadside villages that cluster around the heady traffic and it’s commerce, towns that as a result, have withered quietly. Journeying towards Miaoli town in Taiwan, we take the old roads, verges still trimmed, clipped, maintained for a ghost population of cars. We meet only heavy industrial trucks, rusted and creaking off the highway towards industrial plants, steel mills, dark, empty restaurants and indifferent beetle nut vendors.

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It’s after driving on these deserted mid-week roads for several hours that we pull in to rest at a small village, too small and empty and overshadowed by what is a monolithic structure, darkened by the presence of construction power beyond individual control. It’s quiet, and an old, gum-mouthed man watches out from a weathered face at our foreign intrusion into this silent, abandoned rest-stop; the overpass, high above, is silent also. We don’t stay long, and after a short walk along the struggling, polluted river that runs through the town, we also leave.

It’s a strange and unnerving result of progress.

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Taiwan: Surreal Structures

Sometimes I really have to stop and just stare here. Even though this huge structure is looming overhead in an incredible mass of solid concrete, I feel like it’s too surreal to be true. It’s hard to grasp that this isn’t the set of some sci-fi movie, and that this enormous overpass for the MRT has been built over these streets of Nanshijiao. It obscures the sky, and the rush of noise from the overhead trains is barely noticeable through the resounding echo of traffic below. It’s incredible.

I have a similar feeling just moments later, when we step into an elevator in the block of flats, just on the opposite side of this road, and I realise that the MRT line has not only been blocking the sky, but just how high the surrounding flats go. If I’m honest, I’m also feeling slightly uneasy as we keep going up, and I’m more than happy to get off at the 19th floor. But not before I pass a friend the camera and ask her to take a quick picture of the elevator buttons – I’m just happy just to get out…

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