Sunday, December 26, 2010

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Banqiao 板橋區, Taipei

12/26/2010 Taiwan Explorer

Banciao 板橋, is the biggest district in Taiwan by population. Because of it's relatively small size and 554.000 inhabitants (2010) it's one of the most densely populated districts in the world. It used to be a city on its own, but since December 2010 it is the biggest and main district of New Taipei City 新北市, which is basically a conglomerate of many cities and suburbs surrounding Taipei. Before Banciao was the seat of Taipei County. All these administrative changes aside, Banciao is still somewhat of a city for me and I say that, because I lived there and visited all parts.

It may not be a beautiful one by all means, but it has a certain charm. People are very friendly and the food is very tasty. Most parts of Banciao are occupied by the lower class, normal workers and small businessmen. Many parts are run down, but there are also many islands of very rich neighborhoods, where new high rise buildings are emerging out of nowhere. The closer Banciao is to Taipei City, the cleaner are the neighborhoods, the bigger are the apartment buildings, the richer are the people. The southern and western parts are not as clean and well developed.

Banciao is pretty safe, even though it's not as fancy as Taipei City. Therefore it's become very popular for people to move out of Taipei and settle here. There are 4 MRT stations in Banciao, from north to south Jiangzicui, Xinpu, Banciao, Fuzhong and Far Eastern Hospital. The biggest one is Banciao station, that's also located in the heart of the city's new center. You also have the normal railway station there as well as the high speed railway station, which make it one of the most important stations in Northern Taiwan.

The modern name Banciao 板橋 (pinyin Bǎnqiáo) originates from the much older version 枋橋 (Fāngqiáo), that was called Pangkio in the Taiwanese language in the 18th century (Mandarin was spoken on Taiwan in the 20th century), which simply meant "Wooden Bridge". Japanese then changed the first character 枋 to 板 and called the city Itabashi. Today there's a ward in Tokyo with the same name 板橋区 or Itabashi-ku. After 1945 the new characters were kept and pronounced according to Mandarin and the original 枋橋 (Pangkio) became 板橋 Banciao.

If you visit Banciao today, don't expect too much in terms of history. There is however one historic gem from the Qing dynasty, namely the privately owned Lin Family Garden and Mansion, which is probably the best preserved historic garden and residence in Taiwan. There are also many temples in Banciao as well as night markets with yummy food. Most other parts are residential, because most people work and go out in Taipei instead.

See my photos of the city and it's various parts. Click on the links for more of my posts:

1 Banciao City Center

New high rise banks, office buildings and condominiums top Banciao's center.

The New Taipei City Government building is 140m tall and has 34 floors.

Another high rise building in the area. I'm not familiar with the name.

Traffic is big here. It's very close to the Banciao station.

The view on another side of Banciao.

2 Taipei Sky Dome

The five 145.5m tall towers of the residential Taipei Sky Dome.

The Taipei Sky Dome is close to the Xinpu MRT, but you need like 20min of walk.

3 Jiangzicui

Jiangzicui is the most modern and northern part of Banciao, bordering on Taipei city.

4 Xinpu

Xinpu is an old area with many new buildings. I used to live here and I liked it.

5 Fuzhong

Fuzhong is an older area of Banciao and has a certain charm.

I haven't yet visited the Lin Family Residence, but I took 1 photo through a hole in the wall.

6 Near Far Eastern Hospital

The Far Eastern Hospital is a huge hospital in the area, located in the south of Banciao.

[My XINBEI page][My TAIPEI page][All photos by MKL, 2010]