A few days before vacation started, I did a story on Pattaya, a Thai kathoey, or “ladyboy” troupe, that is currently performing in Jiancheng Circle (建成圓環, jiànchéng yuánhuán, also known as Taipei Circle, 台北圓環) near Taipei Main Station. In my opinion, the most interesting thing about the story is not the ladyboy angle (though the performers were pretty cool), but the fact that Pattaya is the first group to perform at Jiancheng Circle as part of the former landmark’s efforts to re-market itself.
Jiancheng Circle was once one of Taipei’s most popular night markets. On my way there, my taxi driver told me that his family used to go there on holidays when he was little, and a visit was considered a big treat. But business began to decline in the 1990s, thanks in large part to two fires; an unsuccessful remodeling project by the Taipei City Government in 2003 hastened Jiancheng’s demise (basically, they turned it into a giant glass cylinder with a food court). Jiancheng closed in 2006 and only reopened last year. Business has been slow, so the management group that now operates the building decided to turn its main restaurant into a dinner theater. They hope to bring in other performers from around the world, including singers from Russia.
I’m not sure if the “new” Jiancheng Circle will be successful, but I hope it is because of its importance to Taipei’s social history (and because it was depressing to see that glass cylinder sitting there empty… the thing cost NT$200 million to build). For more about Pattaya and their show at Jiancheng (which runs until the end of this month), please read my article.