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Brian Hioe is a freelance translator, a writer on social movements and youth culture in Asia, and founding editor at New Bloom Magazine. Whatever they may tell you about any other city, Taipei is the real city that never sleeps. The city government may also find it convenient to maroon the homeless in what has been historically the poorest part of the city, away from the eyes of tourists and the more affluent public.
Bangka is the origin of Taipei, where the city started; it was once the site of a port. What had once been the center eventually became its periphery. I originally came to this part of town with plans to open an art space — plans which exploded spectacularly. So far I know that there are offices for several obscure labor unions, a barbershop, some offices, and a love hotel.
The love hotel brings in many strange characters at night, some of them highly intoxicated. Some of my neighbors give me gangster vibe, and some are involved in the sex industry. Police have come to my building in numbers a few times, with the type of loudspeaker they use for protests, looking for someone. She seemed to have sort of forgotten that I was her neighbor. I think she must be a professional tout, and just forgot where she was and automatically blurted this out after seeing me, a man.
During the summer, on weekend nights, sometimes I would see eighty or ninety men standing in those alleyways. Major raids occurred in March and April of last year as well.
The school once had 10, students. Now there are scarcely Half a dozen or more sex workers are generally hanging around on the street when I leave my building. Most seem to be from southeast Asia, while some are Chinese. Local sex work organizers tell me that the sex workers in Bangka tend to be on the older side.