Location: Jin Di Ice Rink (金地溜冰場), Yancheng District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
The thing I like most about street photography and urban exploration is that you often discover parts of the city that would normally go unnoticed. Pockets of history, or contained worlds, that you would otherwise never see, which is what I got with Jindi Ice Rink.
I first saw the building when trying to find a shortcut through to Gushan District. The retro hand painted sign and the massive black windows stood out, so I made a mental note of the location and recorded it to Google Maps later. My map is full of stars of random places that I plan to visit.
I headed back on a Monday afternoon, just after lunch, parked around the corner and walked back. I hadn’t realised how close it was to Love River.
The surrounding area is really nice, a workman was taking a break in his truck next to the river.
The first floor is all second hand household electronics, with blue trucks (發財車 Fācái chē) coming and going.
The sign for the ice rink was in surprisingly good condition. Probably because it’s set in from the street, and angled downwards, so safe from the elements. The other signs haven’t faired so well, but mostly because they have been altered and/or vandalised.
Apart from one shop selling teapots, the front of the ice rink is now all unused shopfronts. As you walk in the walkway splits in two, one path at either side of the escalators that lead up to the upper floors where I assume the ice rink was.
The escalators were completely barred off, and there was no way to get up to the next floor. I could hear water dripping down which conjured an image of the ice up there melting away, even though the place has been closed for decades.
At the back of the building there was parking for scooters, and a few people were around doing recycling. I asked if anyone knew when the place had closed, but couldn’t seem to get a clear answer.
I met one guy who was recycling, he wanted to show me the retro stereo that he had, and told me some of the history of the place – that it used to be popular in the 60s (I’m pretty sure Minguo calendar, which would be the 1970s) and that American soldiers would hang out there. Though I can’t find any information about the place on the internet.
There was a small building in the back courtyard area that was covering an entrance into what I think used to be an underground mall. The only way in was through a hole in some of the wooden panels that had been put up, but I didn’t fancy climbing into somewhere that I wouldn’t be able to get out of in a hurry. At the top of the stairs there was a lone rollerblade, I stretched my arm through the hole and tried to take a steady shot down the stairway.
I took a quick look inside the main building to see if there was a way to get into the basement from there, but there were two guys sitting in the stairwell who told me it was not open. I could smell a heavy scent of rice wine, so I didn’t press any further.
The surrounding streets really didn’t feel like Taiwan, it felt almost closer to something you’d see in Hong Kong. There weren’t many people about, either.
Before I left I had a quick look around the front of the building and the guys were busy getting a game of mahjong in.
I had a weird empty feeling when I left and got back into the rest of the city where it was busy and bustling. Somewhere that used to be the centre of attention and is probably the source of happy memories for a lot of people is now almost cut off from the city by an invisible force field. If it wasn’t for the few floors of apartments above the ice rink I imagine the building would have been torn down years ago. It can’t have long left before it’s gone.