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The Backstreets of Beigang

The last time I visited Beigang was new years day, and I spent the majority of my time photographing the hordes of visitors to the temple in the middle of town. This time it was the Qingming Festival, otherwise known as Tomb Sweeping Day, and I was determined to keep to the backstreets and see what life was like away from the tourist-oriented old street.

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Beigang Old Street (Zhongshan Road) runs all the way from the tourist bridge to Chao-tian temple. This street is lined with with vendors and shops selling traditional sweets and snacks. During this visit I spend my time in the streets to either side of this main street.

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The small alleys under the bridge were littered with bicycles.

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One door was open. The room was packed with wheels, tyres, boxes and bags of stuff. This was either a hoarder or a recycler, but I couldn’t tell.

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The incense burner that was hanging in the middle of the room caught my eye. In retrospect it’s probably a fire hazard given all the stuff below.

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Back on the street bags of garlic were on sale. This is a common sight as Beigang and Yunlin are big garlic farming areas. Here a bag of garlic is $90 (around $3US/£2).

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During the Towb Sweeping festival people in the area also use garlic as an offering to gods and dead relatives by placing it outside their houses.

While mainly sticking to the backstreets I did have to cross over the main street as I zigzagged my way along. There’s an interesting contrast in Beigang, especially during a holiday. The old street is bustling with people, and vendors are out calling at potential customers.

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Here a garlic vendor sells bags of garlic from her electric scooter. Dressed like some kind of super hero, to protect her from the harsh Taiwanese sun, she wasn’t afraid to call out at passersby to bring their attention to her produce.

The backstreets, on the other hand, are quiet and empty, almost sleepy. Shop-cats lounge about and the pace is slowed to a crawl.

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This shop owner was standing outside her shop. Behind her are stacks of spirit money and incense burners. Confusingly there is also a poster for turkey dumplings, maybe a sideline.

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This gentleman was cleaning his wooden breakfast cart. I asked him if he pulls it by scooter or bicycle. He said he takes it out by hand. He mentioned that I might think it backward, given modernisation. I responded I though it “traditional” and not “backward”.

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There are some beautiful colours and interesting buildings in these bacskreets. I could spend all afternoon walking around them.

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This last image isn’t from the Beigang backstreets, but close by in Yunlin county. All around this area people had planted flowers on buildings like this. It made a huge difference to how welcoming the area felt. Next time I visit I’ll spend some more time there.

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About the author dave

I’m a web developer and photographer from the UK living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I shoot with a Canon 650D and a Ricoh GR.

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