One of the last of the many vintage theaters of Tainan 台南 seems to have finally closed its doors. Founded in 1964, the notorious Xīnjiànguó Theater 新建國戲院 was originally named for its location on Jianguo Road 建國路, which is now Mínquán Road 民權路. It is not uncommon for old theaters in Taiwan 台灣 to resort to showing pornography in the twilight of their decline but this particular theater appears to have specialized in more carnal forms of entertainment for much of its history. Perhaps this is why this theater remained in business until very recently—long after most of the nation’s hundreds of other standalone theaters shut down in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
I haven’t spent much time in Chiayi City 嘉義市 over the years so I somewhat arbitrarily decided to stop there one night in February 2017 while making my way north from Tainan 台南. Hotels are cheap and regular train service is about half the cost of high-speed rail so I figured it wasn’t costing me much to take it slow. After enjoying some famous turkey rice in one of the main tourist night markets I wandered around to reacquaint myself with the layout of the place. Not far from the traffic circle east of Chiayi Station I noticed the entrance to an electronic gaming den with an amusing name: ET歡樂世界, literally “Extraterrestrial Happy World”.
Among the many disused and abandoned movie theaters of Zhōnglì 中壢 is a massive entertainment complex home to twin cinemas: Qīnqīn Grand Theater 親親大戲院 and Láilái Grand Theater 來來大戲院. Located immediately across from the former Sogo department store in the heart of downtown, it remains unexplored insofar as I know. Several businesses still operate out of the ground floor of this hulking ruin and they don’t take kindly to strangers mucking about in search of an entrance to the upper levels.
Zhōngyīng Recreational Building 中英育樂大樓 is one of many distinctive and iconic ruins in the urban blight surrounding Taichung Station 臺中車站 in central Taichung 台中. It was once a bustling commercial center but it fell into disrepair in the 1990s around the time that a series of fires left a total of seven people dead. With its fortunes in steep decline the building became a haven for the homeless—which is why the upper levels and basement have been sealed off.
Space Roller is an abandoned rollerskating rink not far from the Arcade Bus Station on the northeastern outskirts of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I dropped in to check it out in January 2016 after reading about it online, possibly here, and was impressed with the scale of the place. It is big, taking up the better part of a city block, with several unfinished add-ons extending into the urban wilderness on either side. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of credible information about Space Roller in English so this post will consist primarily of photos of what I found in about half an hour of skulking around in the shadows.
Today I climbed to the top of the Qiānyuè Building 千越大樓, an infamous ruin within sight of the central train station in Taichung 台中. I was up there to get a view of the mountains to the east—and perhaps a glimpse of the oncoming storm—but the horizon was a blur. Instead I turned my lens to a pool of rainwater, capturing a reflection of the “UFO” on top of the building. This was actually a rotating karaoke bar before it almost burned down years ago. I wonder how it’ll fare in when Typhoon Nepartak arrives later tonight?
I found an old video game machine discarded in the back alleys of Hsinchu City 新竹市 the other day. I was walking by a street-side fruit stand when I noticed the stark outlines of an older building in a small laneway to one side. Stopping to explore, I found a storeroom for the fruit stand—and behind that, another abandonment, this time dating back to Qing dynasty times by the look of the distinctive bricks on the wall. I wonder what possessed anyone to dump this lone machine in such a place? Now just imagine plugging it in and seeing all the lights switch on again—it’s almost like the plot of some strange, fantastical film where the protagonist is then sucked into a secret world of the imagination.
The Qiānyuè Building 千越大樓 is one of the most recognizable ruins in central Taiwan 台灣. Located only a short distance from Taichung Station 台中車站, it is impossible to miss if you bother to look up at some point while walking deeper into the city. This mixed-use commercial and residential high-rise was originally built in the 1970s and, thanks to its location at the very heart of the famous Taichung Electronics Street 台中電子街商圈, reached its apex during the consumer electronics boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
While living down in Changhua City 彰化市 last winter I made occasional forays up and down the TRA Western Line 西部幹線 to check out several places that aren’t often written about in English. One such place is Dǒuliù 斗六, the administrative seat of Yúnlín 雲林, which hardly earns more than a passing mention in the English language blogosphere. It was a worthwhile trip too—apart from the famous Tàipíng Old Street 太平老街 (to be blogged about at a future date) and the surprisingly large and lively Douliu Night Market 斗六夜市 I also chanced upon another hulking ruin to add to my growing collection: the Dòuliùmén Building 斗六門大樓, an archaic name for the area that dates back to the 17th century.
Keelung, like many cities in Taiwan 台灣, is a dark and sickly wonderland for urban exploration. You can hardly turn around without sighting yet another hulking ruin calling out to be entered. Most of these buildings are so decrepit that little remains to indicate what its purpose once was—a direct consequence of Keelung’s incessant rain and gloom. The process of decay works at a feverish pace in this grim port city, rapidly eroding evidence of human occupation in any abandonment exposed to the elements.