Men in slides shuffle down the alley in a food market. They carry their lunch and seem confident, as if this is their territory.


Among street photographers in Taipei, Wanhua has the reputation of being a rough area.

While the rest of Taipei is usually so save that people leave their laptops unguarded in cafés and bikes unlocked in the streets, I have been warned about “gangsters” in Wanhua. The district gained questionable fame during Taiwan’s first Covid outbreak in spring 2021 (a year after the pandemic started globally, mind you!). Back then, a cluster emerged around guests of a “hostess teahouse.” As prostitution is generally outlawed in Taiwan, these places are rumored to be the places to go for special services. Of course, this didn’t make tracking easier…

Yet, having spent much time in Kreuzkölln in Berlin, I like the slight tension in the district – not for its danger (I might be too culturally inept to sense it), but for its aliveness. People in Wanhua are generally more chilled and less rushed then elsewhere, but feel more attentive and curious at the same time. It is a bit louder and more colorful. The area around Taipei’s famous Longshan Temple is one of two major gathering points for homeless people – and becomes a lively arena where many older men play Xiangqi (象棋, Chinese Chess).

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