Hidden Gems of Taiwan Tourism I
Discover the intriguing and alluring world of Wanhua, a district in Taiwan that has been steeped in erotic culture for over a century. This off-the-beaten-path destination offers a fascinating glimpse into the sensual side of Taiwanese history, inviting you to explore its captivating past and uncover the stories that have shaped its present. Lose yourself in the seductive atmosphere and embrace the tantalizing essence of Wanhua, a hidden gem that promises an unforgettable experience for the curious traveler.
My Journey Begins
Unlike the exploration of the vagrants in Bangka Park, this time we will look at this place from a different perspective — sensuality. The journey, if viewed during daylight, would reveal another side of Taiwan’s social landscape, which will be described in another article. The following tour will take you on a captivating 2-hour stroll.
Wanhua’s Legendary — Baudou Villiage
According to the stories of old Taipei residents, the most famous place in Wanhua used to be its brothels, which were concentrated in Pao Dou Li. Nowadays, people mainly visit the vibrant Huaxi Street Night Market, but in the past, this area was a bustling hub for the sex trade. My last visit here was at 5 pm, while this time I arrived at 6 pm, when the night market was already in full swing. But that’s not the main focus here. It’s interesting to see how the same place transforms at different times of the day, with more people standing guard at the street corners, acting as guides to lead visitors to the heart of the action.
Near Xisong Elementary School, there are many long, narrow alleys that one must navigate to reach their destination. Without a guide, it’s impossible to find your way inside. These alleys are so narrow that if Mayor Ko’s policy of not managing alleys narrower than 8 meters was implemented, the whole area would be affected.
Our guide explained that in the past, job seekers living in this area would not dare to write their address on their resume. A well-educated friend of the guide, who graduated from a prestigious high school and studied finance in college, had trouble finding a job until he changed his address to a relative’s house. So while this place was famous, it had a notorious reputation.
Wanhua is not just about the sex industry, but many ordinary residents had to endure living in such an environment. The salaries of the workers here were incredibly high. At a time when public servants only earned around 6,000 NT a month, those working in the sex industry in this area could earn up to 200,000 NT. It’s no wonder that so many people flocked here to spend their money, creating a massive flow of cash through the area.
Unfortunately, after the abolition of prostitution, a famous brothel alley in Wanhua was partially demolished by greedy developers during the Kaohsiung gas explosion incident, which shocked the local government (though I am not sure if they were genuinely shocked or not). This historic area, once famous for its illicit activities, has now transformed into a popular tourist destination with its lively night market, offering a fascinating glimpse into the past.
A Hundred Years of Wanhua
A renowned site known for its festival which causes the local industries to close for three days. This temple is believed to be incredibly powerful, as evidenced by the end of the SARS outbreak in Taiwan within a week of President Chen and Mayor Ma visiting the temple. Our guide mentioned that the red-light industry in this area operates all year round, even during holidays, except for these three days of the temple festival.
A Fascinating Journey through Time
In Wanhua District, it’s not just the thriving red-light industry that catches the eye. The surrounding area boasts a plethora of hospitals, funeral supply shops, and various other businesses related to life and death, such as paper offerings, funeral clothing, and food for the deceased. Being a bustling port area for over a century, Wanhua has attracted diverse industries catering to the needs of a growing population. As eloquently described by a local guide, Wanhua was once like the mouth of a person, drawing in the essence of life; the red-light district alleys were like the intestines, while today’s Wanhua is like the anus, still full of movement but predominantly an exit point. For many, this makes Wanhua an unglamorous area. However, as the guide wisely said, a person cannot only take in and never let out; the same applies to a city.
Lastly, we arrived at Sanshui Street, where we returned to our starting point and enjoyed traditional pastries at a local bakery. This bakery, visited by Mayor Ko, offers delicious, affordable treats ranging from 10 to 50 TWD, making it accessible to the elderly residents in the area.
The uniqueness of Wanhua has attracted numerous mayors and cultural ministers, including ministers Lung and Mayor Ko. Of course, the most famous of all is Mayor Chen, whose iron-fist policies led to the decline of the area’s most famous industry and the renaming of the once-called Baudou Villiage to Qingshan Villiage, effectively erasing its name from historical documents.
In the past, many scholars and artists frequented the Qingshan area. Memories of these illustrious figures, such as Lien Chan’s grandfather, can only be preserved through the stories passed down, as much of the old architecture has been demolished. This fascinating journey through Wanhua is a testament to the area’s rich history and ever-evolving landscape, offering a unique insight into the vibrant tapestry of life and culture in this intriguing district.
A Reflection on My Wanhua Trip
Before we bid farewell, as we walked down the road, we passed by the same dimly lit alley we had seen earlier. What used to be a gloomy corner inhabited by a few stray cats and ladies of the night, had now transformed into a vibrant gathering spot, with a flurry of lively activity adding a touch of color and life. Along this road, numerous banks stood as a testament to the area’s former glory and its stark contrast to the present desolation.
Wanhua is an incredibly intriguing place where different sights can be witnessed at various times, each representing a unique blend of cultures from different eras. What remains constant, however, is the presence of people who call this place home. These individuals are continuously in search of the next aspect of their culture to represent themselves, be it trade ports, red-light districts, or tourism. So, what’s next? Perhaps, that’s the treasure we, the people of today, are meant to discover together.
If the enchanting beauty of this place has piqued your curiosity, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more captivating geographical information to help you design your dream trip.
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So, embark on this journey with me and let’s unravel the wonders that Taiwan has to offer together!