Taipei: When the Jungle Reclaims the City

For a cultural enthusiast with a yearning for decrepit buildings and vine encrusted walls, Taipei is a paradise.

It’s easy to forget that this rapidly growing metropolis used to be a wild, jungle ruled basin.  Shiny new apartment buildings soar up into blue skies, on either side the older structures heave a sigh of relief as they lean for support, weathered and weary from years of battering.  This patchwork of old and new quilted together yields the conglomeration called Taipei.

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The common city dweller can easily dip underground, board a sparkling clean metro, and pop up at a destination without ever knowing what the city really holds.  A meander through its maze of alleys and tunnels, however, will yield a much different Taipei.

Older districts of the city have maintained the most culture, and are hence the best for aimless wanderings.  The years of building and rebuilding are reflected by the morphed alleys, zigzagging and tapering at will.

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Senior residents of this city have found the perfect balancing act: maintaining a pristine location in the heart of a major city, without ever altering their home or lifestyle.  Unfortunately, an unchanged home, bludgeoned by ceaseless typhoons and earthquakes, can fall victim to dilapidation.  The residents disappear, but the crumpled houses remain, ruined and untouched.  While they lie abandoned the jungle creeps in, taking back what it once had.  Vines climb up the walls, flora spring from the cracks, and rust eats away at the bars.

In addition to small plants and grass, trees also prosper from this unexpected freedom.  Banyan trees, famous for their aerial vines, are a telltale sign of age.  Their vines grow down and become roots, supporting the tree as it grows.  Eventually, the original trunk of the tree becomes indiscernible from the vines as they widen and crawl further.

If deemed worthy, the residences will eventually be restored and repurposed by the city.  While they wait for resurrection however, these forgotten structures are perfect for curious explorers.  Their empty shells provide a hazy window into the past; the lives of ghosts visible between tilted walls.