Taliao, Kaohsiung County, Taiwan

Here are some pictures taken on an afternoon stroll around the small southern Taiwan town of Taliao. Prosaic, uninteresting, ugly, relentlessly working class and dull, Taliao could be almost any small town on the plain south of Taichung.

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The mountains tower over Taliao....
The crowded streets of Taliao. Just because it is small, doesn't mean that vehicle and population densities are low.
A pleasant cul-de-sac. In contrast to the dirt and noise outside, it is quiet and clean. 
Numerous little alleys knit the side roads together. Traditional-style housing on the right.
It is easy to see how urbanized this "rural" small town really is. The utter lack of planning has resulted in cramped, ugly, living conditions, with cars parked everywhere. The lack of sidewalks forces foot traffic, scooters, bicycles, and cars to use the same space.  As the woman in front attests, helmet laws are ignored in small towns. 
Every town has a fascinating old temple. 
A local buffet restaurant readies for the evening traffic. 
A Chinese medicine store. Don't be fooled by the wooden cabinets; that's part of the decor to give it an authentic ancient feel. This one is quite new.
Identical apartment blocks, tiled for maximum hideousness, tower over the neighborhood. 
A "military village." When the Nationalists left the mainland, hundreds of thousands of troops came with them. The government settled them on land seized from wealthy landowners to create military villages all over the island. Every small town has one. The purpose was to provide housing for the army, and create blocs of die-hard ruling party supporters in local areas. Since the army was composed largely of illiterate peasants, the result was that these soldiers were largely left out of the economic miracle, and forced into permanent living on government handouts, sinecures, petty crime, and gangsterism. No demographic group has been more harshly shafted by the KMT regime than the old soldiers, and no group has been more enthusiastically supportive of the former ruling party.
Hundreds of tiny homes for the soldiers were shoehorned onto the land. 
Many old soldiers remain, elderly and poor. Some who have made money have returned to China, but China has changed so vastly, and they often come back to Taiwan complaining that their relatives are greedy for money and don't care about them. 
Outside, on the one main street of Taliao, noise and color define the world. 
Yes, every small town has one. 
Small towns are replete with neighborhoods like this. Note the barred windows. You can't leave your house unlocked here. 
Taliao is strong out for several kilometers along the main road. Once you leave the developments on either side, you're back in the rice fields and factories that constitute the classic Taiwan scene.
There's no transition zone between town and field; the two abut each other.
Many locals supplement their income with gardens. 
As children play in the park, some jackass next door decides that the air in Taiwan is not polluted enough.
A development. Neighborhoods like this are clean and quiet.
Another development. Without a front yard or sidewalks, all activities, from perambulating the kids to conducting funerals, takes place in the street. Note the utter lack of garbage on the street, in contrast to the world outside. Taiwanese cheerfully litter, but not in their own spaces.
Urban gardens. Taiwanese are fanatic gardeners. 
A family of stray dogs enjoys some quality time together. 
A shop displays the local conception of fashion.
Evening activities...
Humans everywhere find junk irresistable.
As evening approaches, the traffic does not abate.
A common shop, found in every town, making aluminum bars for windows and doors to keep out thieves.
A betel nut seller and customer have a chat. 
Collecting recyclables for a little extra income. 
A family operates a small business selling steamed buns on the street.
No road is so small that it can't take herds of buses. 
Fruit and vegetable sellers line the road to the evening market.
The evening market is the most crowded place in Taliao. 
A fruit vendor in the evening market.
A drinks vendor, who knows me, mixes me a freebie while we chat. 
Taiwan's incredible ability to simply vomit up people is shown in this picture. Even a market in a small town is packed almost beyond belief. 
A clothing emporium. 
A steakhouse. 
The interior of the steakhouse, just the right note of kitsch. One almost expects the steak to be served on velvet paintings....
Taliao lights up. At night Taiwan's cities, even the small town, are lit with restless energy. 
A cram school. This one teaches Chinese, math, and other subjects. Not all cram schools offer English classes.
Let's hope these guys are never used.
Hapo Computer English School, a typical English cram school.
A local drinks chain serves an early evening customer. 
With no real greenspace, the schools serve as community parks in the evening. 
Jordan's English School, a common and reputable local chain. 
A small drinks stand. 
Finding something good to eat at the local convenience store.
This shot was taken on a normal day. "Small" does not mean "clean." Taliao is almost always like this. This shot was taken from roughly the same spot on a rare clear day after several days of rain.

Hope you enjoyed our tour!

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