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Monday, October 18, 2010

Lazy Sundays in Fengyuan

My wife and daughter attended a show for children this afternoon, and I, being one who doesn't understand any of the local languages very well, decided to sit this one out. Not wanting to let a beautiful sunny Sunday go to waste, however, I drove Pamela and Amber to the show's venue, found a parking space for the car, then killed the time waiting for the performance to end by walking the streets of downtown Fengyuan (Hōgen/Toyohara) 豊原, my Taiwanese home-away-from-home, at least until the end of this year. By then, Fengyuan will no longer be a defined city with a population of 165,000, and the seat of T'aichung County 台中県, but a mere administrative unit of a Greater T'aichung 大台中. Cue the 写真:

The central part of Fengyuan looks much any other downtown area of any mid-sized Taiwanese city. Most of the major chains/franchises (restaurants, clothing stores, pharmacies, tea stands etc.) are represented there. Though not very large, the central business district is packed on weekends. Fengyuan's position as a transportation hub for T'aichung County brings in the folks from the surrounding townships and villages, with the result being a tall barbarian like myself is the recipient of a lot of bug-eyed, open-mouthed reactions from the day-tripping hayseeds.

The attractions of downtown Fengyuan are few, but they do bring in the hordes. There is the local Matsu (Maso) 媽祖 temple, and the adjacent Miaotung 廟東 market street, lined with food stands:

For shopping, the Pacific Department Store acts as a magnet, while the few tourists the city lures in usually pick up a box of "Snow Flower Cakes" to bring back home:

(Back in January of this year, I made a short video of a walk from the Matsu Temple, through Miaotung and to the rear entrance of the department store, before looping back to the temple:)

Here and there, some old wooden buildings dating from the Japanese era can be seen. This one near the train station looks like its days are numbered, however:

Though teenagers rule the streets of downtown Fengyuan on Sunday afternoons, adult needs are also met. The narrow street in the photo on the left is lined with brothels, a fact which becomes more obvious in the evenings when the pink neon is turned on:

As I mentioned earlier, Fengyuan serves as the transportation center for the county. Virtually all express trains running along the Western Line 西部幹線 stop at the train station 豊原駅:

From where I parked our car, it was possible to cross over the train tracks via a pedestrian bridge lined with "love padlocks". According to the Wikipedia entry on the subject:

"In Fengyuan, Taiwan, young people affix padlocks engraved with wishes (often of love or success) to an overpass at the city's train station. These locks are known as 'wish locks'; a common practice is for lovers to affix two padlocks close to each other or padlocked together ('heart locks'). Local legend holds that the magnetic field generated by trains passing underneath will cause energy to accumulate in the locks and fulfill the wishes." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_padlocks#Fengyuan.2C_Taiwan)

Back in June of 2009, the Taipei Times had an article on the phenomenon (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2009/06/08/2003445646). This is what all the fuss is about:

In addition to trains, Fengyuan is served by two bus stations, one operated by the Fengyuan Bus Company, and the other by U-Bus. The No. 1 中山高速道路 and No. 4 国道4号 freeways connect the city with the rest of the western half of the island, making Fengyuan a very convenient travel base (especially if you have your own car). Public transportation within the city, however, is a different kettle of fish:

Like any Taiwanese burg, there are the odd signs that catch one's eye, like this gangster duck chomping on a cigar (good luck using that as a restaurant mascot in the USA!):

And, of course, there are plenty of examples of Japanese being used to bring in business, showing how, more than sixty years after the end of the colonial era, the Japanese influence remains as strong as ever in Taiwan, and a welcome counterweight to the attempts by the ruling Kuomintang 中国国民党 to push this island ever closer to being incorporated into a Greater China 中華圏. I've posted numerous examples on this blog (yawn), but here are a couple more (zzz):


Speaking of the KMT, I parked the car across the street from their local HQ:

Eventually, the call came from the wife, informing me that the show was over. My walk ended at the culture center, where the obligatory bad taste in public art was shielding its eyes from the late afternoon sun. I arrived there just in time to take a picture of Amber with the performers:


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