Lingering mist, clinging on mountain peaks mingles with the rising smog to haze the lazy autumn sun. Chinese karaoke music from the 50s and 60s ricochets forlornly up the valley piercing hearts and ears. It’s being blasted from a number of dilapidated buildings that scar the landscape of the valley below like coal on a miner’s lungs. Laundry flutters from every opening of every building; and faded blue and green metal, rusted and tangled like rattan, hangs pointlessly from concrete monstrosities of unknown vintage designed by builders not architects on the just don’t fall down too quickly principle.

Everything is in decay bar the jungle. It waits but it need not be patient. It creeps up walls, sends roots through concrete floors, plants dust that grows to dirt where grass takes hold, even on roof tops. Down the valley through the haze lies a shipping harbor. Its beauty, a shimmering jewel, where monolithic rocks rise out of the limpid azure sea pushed up through the earth’s crust from the subduction of the Philippine Sea plate beneath the Eurasian Continent — mulata’s beauty sullied by the kiss of heroin. Jiufen.

I spent the day in Jiufen yesterday. Were you there too?

No. I was actually just reminded of it by this painting by a Prof. Shieh that I saw at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. I went to watch the Chinese watching the Changing of the Guard. It was pretty interesting, packed and somewhat ironic. Prof Shieh is a retired art teacher from National Taiwan Technical University. He was there and I talked to him for quite a while. It was one of those only in Taiwan experiences. Jiufen is a beautiful place.

Yea, I Iike Jiufen, and used to go there and stay in B&Bs occasionally. But my inspiration has changed from beauty on the mountain in the mist, to damn this place is crowded. When I go now, I try to avoid the cramped and crowded busy hours between about noon and 5 or 6pm.