Not far from Taipei 101 and the heart of Taipei’s central business district there lies an ulcerous anomaly on the supine body of the endless city. It would be impossible to miss this abandonment, for a wild riot of plant life traces its angular outlines, and an unusual assortment of graffiti lines the arcade along Keelung Road 基隆路. I regularly ride by here on my way to various working cafes further afield and naturally couldn’t resist taking a look inside one day. I have not puzzled out the exact name and history of this ruin but now have a rather strong suspicion that it was once a hāodàisuǒ 招待所 or guest house—hence the unofficial name I have chosen for this piece.
Take refuge from the busy streets and you’ll find yourself secreted away to a world left to the predations of the subtropical jungle. Almost every surface is overrun with roots and vines. Even in the midday heat the courtyard, shaded by palms, is refreshingly cool—but also home to an annoying variety of insect pests. Still unsure of what I had found on my first visit, I proceeded to the entrance around front.
Immediately inside one is greeted with the appearance of a hotel. Vibrant red carpets line the floors and a wide staircase spirals up the front of the building. A lone sign on the wall reads zhìmàoguì 置帽櫃, a place to hang your hat.
One of the more curious features of this ruin are the seals on almost every window in the building, all of which are dated to March 9th, 2006. This neatly establishes exactly when this place was abandoned—but why? What turn of events prompted the former residents to depart?
Although I don’t know for sure it seems quite likely that this building served as a guest house or hotel. This notion is supported by the presence of several plastic signs for the toilet and such (not something you’d find in a private home), a dumbwaiter leading up from the ground floor kitchen, and spacious areas on the first and second floors that could have been used for dining and entertaining visitors. Upstairs one will find about five or six bedrooms as well as an office with a big desk, now a decaying pile of wood laying at odd angles on the floor.
This particular ruin evades explication but there is, at least, a general sense of what may have transpired within this space. If nothing else, the aesthetics of a decade’s rewilding have a certain appeal, and the view of Taipei 101 from the rooftop sets it apart from most other ruins. As far as I know only the nearby Stanton Club affords nearly as nice a view—but that is a story for another time…