Taiwan 台灣 is riddled with failed construction projects, monuments to avarice, incompetence, and bureaucracy. Building defects, mismanagement, and land ownership disputes are common causes, but legal battles, limited funding for costly demolitions, and a lack of political often ensure such projects remain a blight on the urban landscape of the nation. One such project can be found along Wànshòu Road 萬壽路 at the western margins of the Taipei Basin 台北盆地 not far from Huilong Station 迴龍站, terminus of the orange line of the Taipei MRT in Xinzhuang, Xinbei (New Taipei) 新北. Technically this abandonment is located within Guishan 龜山, for the district boundary sweeps down from the hills and loops around a mostly industrial area sprawling along a small valley leading the rest of the way to the flatlands of the basin. Given that this road is one of the main arteries connecting Taoyuan 桃園 with Taipei 台北 these twin 17-storey towers, typically identified as the Wanshou Road Residential Ruins 萬壽路廢棄社區, are regularly the subject of inquiries on PTT and other parts of the Taiwanese internet.
This week I am visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on another visa run from Taiwan 台灣. Six months ago I visited Hanoi and enjoyed my time there—check out this photo gallery for a comprehensive overview—so I’m hoping to repeat the experience in the emerging megacity further south.
My first walkabout brought me to District 5 in search of Cholon (Vietnamese: Chợ Lớn), HCMC’s historic Chinatown, which was originally a settlement separate from colonial Saigon. Cholon literally means “big market” so I made a point of visiting Binh Tay Market (Vietnamese: Chợ Bình Tây), which is just over the border in District 6. Along the way I noticed many temporary markets setup along the roadway—so it was no great surprise to discover the famous market closed for what I would assume is renovation.
Yesterday while breezing through Taichung 台中 I snapped this photograph of the Míngzhì Building 朙志樓, a rundown residential complex for teachers at the school of the same name. At the time I was perplexed by the first character—an ancient variant of the standard Míng 明 (“bright”) commonly seen in place names around Taiwan 台灣—and it turns out I’m not the only one! A quick search revealed an entire Taiwanese news segment on the character, in no small part because of the colloquial usage of the character Jiǒng 囧, commonly used to signify embarrassment (for what I hope are obvious reasons), not unlike saying “oops” in English. From what I gather most Taiwanese would see this and think it were some kind of prank!
Apart from the novelty of the unusual character I was also charmed by the use of spiral motifs in the architecture of the building. This obviously dates back to the KMT authoritarian era. Maybe next time I’ll take a closer look…
The Linkou Lightning Building 林口閃電大樓 is an infamous ruin not far from the newly-opened Taoyuan Airport MRT line in Linkou 林口, recently named the fastest-growing district in Xinbei (New Taipei) 新北. It is also known as the Linkou Strange House 林口怪怪屋 and occasionally appears in Taiwanese media alongside the Longtan Strange House and other examples of the genre. While I wish there were a good story to go along with these photos it sounds as if it is simply a failed construction project where nobody wants to cover the cost of demolition.
Recently I added yet another theater to my growing catalogue of old school cinemas in Taiwan 台灣: the derelict Dōng’ān Grand Theater 東安大戲院 in East Tainan 台南市東區. This theater opened in 1969 and closed its doors not long after the turn of the millennium, another victim of changing consumer habits. I wasn’t able to find a way inside this theater so this post only features a handful of exterior shots and some links I chanced upon after conducting preliminary research.
Today I went to investigate reports of an abandoned building on the edge of Xīméndīng 西門町, a busy commercial district in central Taipei 台北. It is fairly well-known due to its central location but I could find no easy means of entry for the very same reasons. From this television news report it sounds as if this was originally the Zhōngwài Department Store Company 中外百貨公司 and later the Yángyáng Department Store 洋洋百貨. While it isn’t surprising to find such ruins around much of Taiwan 台灣 it is somewhat unusual to see in such a prosperous area. The building is for rent, as I understand it, and much of the aforementioned report seems concerned with the outrageous price tag for such a decaying monstrosity.
South Yuanlin Station 南員林站 is an abandoned Japanese colonial era railway station located not far from the newly reopened Yuanlin Station 員林車站 in the heart of Yuanlin 員林, a mid-sized city in central Changhua 彰化. It opened in 1933 as a small stop on the now-derelict Yuanlin Line 員林線 of the Taiwan Sugar Railways 臺灣糖業鐵路, which formerly ran west for about 9 kilometers across the Changhua Plain 彰化平原 to the Xihu Sugar Factory 溪湖糖廠 in Xihu 溪湖. Apart from facilitating the transport of sugarcane and other cargo this old wooden station also provided passenger service until it was abolished sometime around 1975.
Liáncūn Tobacco Barn 鎌村菸樓 is a historic building on the rural outskirts of Fengyuan 豐原, Taichung 台中, and one of the last of its kind. Back in the tobacco industry heyday of the 1950s there were more than 100 tobacco barns in this small agricultural community. Almost all the others have been torn down or fallen into grave disrepair over the years but this one remains in surprisingly good condition, a testament to the upkeep of the owners, who still live inside. I haven’t had any luck sourcing credible historic information about this place—it isn’t an officially designated heritage property nor a tourist attraction—but I’d hazard a guess that it is at least 70 years old. I would have asked the old lady in the courtyard but she didn’t seem all that interested in having a chat—though she warmly granted permission to shoot these photographs when I asked permission.
Beidou 北斗 is home to the historic Far East Theater 遠東戲院 (pinyin: Yuǎndōng), originally built in 1955. Like most vintage theaters in Taiwan 台灣 it struggled through the home video era and eventually shut down in the late 1990s. Unlike many other cinemas of its generation it does not appear to have been subdivided into smaller theaters prior to going out of business. It was, however, converted for use as a karaoke bar or gambling den at some point, judging by what I observed during a recent visit. Nowadays the interior is used for nothing more than storage, particularly for a restaurant that has since colonized the area adjacent to the former ticket booth and entrance.
In late November of last year I was riding through southern Changhua 彰化 on my way to Beidou 北斗 when I noticed an unusually old building at the side of the highway. With a little research I puzzled out this is the obscure Bāfēn Catholic Church 八分天主堂, a parish dating back to 1906 and located in Méizhōu Village 梅州里 on the western outskirts of Tianzhong 田中. I haven’t found any primary source material establishing its age—but the style of the church reminds me of Zhongshan Hall 中山堂 (originally Ershui Public Hall 二水公會堂) in neighbouring Ershui 二水, originally built during the Japanese colonial era in 1930. At a glance I would guess it was built sometime between 1940 and 1960.