Location: Zhutian, Pingtung County, Taiwan
Zhutian, 竹田, literally ‘bamboo field’ is a small town just over the border from Kaohsiung in Pingtung County.
Zhutian is famous for its almost 100 year old train station. The actual station was modernised in 2013 and now uses an overhead railway system, but the old station building still exists, which was the reason for my visit. When I arrived, though, I found that the old station building was in the process of being renovated, and wouldn’t be open until mid-April 2015. A bit of a disappointment, but Zhutian is a beautiful little village, so I spent a few hours photographing the surrounding area.
Zhutian is about an hour’s scooter ride from Kaohsiung City. It’s really easy to find – you basically follow underneath Highway 88 all the way there. Just look up and make sure the highway is still there and you won’t get lost.
The route goes right through an industrial area that is a common route for trucks coming to and from the recycling plants, so it’s not the nicest route, but it’s quick. Just take a 口罩 (mask) with you for the ride.
It was already quite late in the afternoon when I arrived. I really had left it too late before leaving, but didn’t want to cancel the trip so thought I’d use it as a test run. Golden hour was just starting, so I had limited time to take photos, but some beautiful light to take them under.
The area is surrounded by betal nut tree plantations. Betal nuts are big business in Taiwan and the trees are all over the place. Here’s a Youtube video that explains the business and culture of betal nuts in Taiwan.
The village next to train station is quite small. There’s a kind of main street with a police station and some grocery shops, then lots of little side streets and alley ways to walk down. It’s well worth taking the time to look down these small alleys because there are lots of examples of traditional Taiwanese houses to be found.
Zhutian seems very traditional, and while the train station is a tourist destination, the surrounding village remains authentic.
I noticed a big tent was set up outside the temple in the center of the town, so I asked two guys who were standing in the street in front of their houses.
They were rendering lard in a big pan to help prepare food for celebrations that night and the next day. It was the birthday of Tu Di Gong (土地公神), the Earth God. Tu Di Gong is a big deal in Taiwan, he looks after the town, so if you visit a new place you should find a temple and pay your respects.
I asked for a street portrait of one of the guys before moving on.
This pig didn’t seem too happy about the celebrations.
Light was fading so I circled back to were I had parked my scooter, checking out some of the side streets on the way.
A makeshift spirit money burner/shrine by the side of the street.
A seating area next to the shrine on the main street.
When the renovation of the train station is complete I’ll head back out to Zhutian and spend a whole day there. There’s lots to see in the surrounding towns, too, so a few hours isn’t enough to do the area justice.