At the end of a bicycle trip to Taitung City 台東市 in the spring of 2015 I went wandering near the old train station, which had been transformed into the Taitung Railway Art Village 台東鐵道藝術村 in 2004. I had a hunch I might find some hulking derelict near the old station front, perhaps an entertainment complex or shopping center in terminal decline, for the new Taitung Station is located far outside the downtown core.
Sure enough, within minutes I noticed the telltale signs of decay on a large commercial building several streets over from the art village. This turned out to be the Fuyou Building 富有大樓, a genuine mosquito museum 蚊子館 built in the early 1990s under shady circumstances. It was later abandoned and has since become an eyesore and public health menace as well as a political hot potato for local officials.
Finding a way in is a piece of cake; hardly any effort has been undertaken to limit access to this festering ruin. Several businesses still operate out of ground floor storefronts and the stairways were unblocked. Nobody seems to care who comes and goes but it couldn’t hurt to exhibit some caution.
My first stop was down in the basement, one of the most repulsive places I’ve explored in Taiwan. Most of it is flooded with scummy, garbage-laden water, and audibly leaking pipes can be discerned deep in the oppressive gloom at the far side of the chamber. Mosquitos and other insects have taken advantage of conditions to breed magnificent swarms while giant rats and cockroaches roam with impunity.
Next I ascended the building to the rooftop to better gain an understanding of its scale. The first stairwell I tried was filled with oppressively hot and stagnant air. The windows were sealed, probably to prevent flooding from the typhoons that regularly strike this coastline. Up on top I entered one of several elevator rooms, not finding much more than a bird carcass, its banded leg providing a clue to its place of origin, and an old black and white manga.
Daylight was fading fast by the time I made it to the top of the Fuyou Building. Here I captured city skylines in all directions, reveling in the excellent views of the mountains flanking the entrance to the East Rift Valley 花東縱谷 and the Pacific Ocean. Not much remained on the rooftop to suggest a human presence; it had no doubt been cleansed of artifacts by past typhoons.
Descending several levels I encountered the top floor of a derelict department store, golden sunlight spilling out of a window to illuminate a set of broken escalators that went down at least another four floors. Nothing remained of whatever business had occupied these levels years before—everything that could have been salvaged had been removed. There was only bare jackhammered concrete, broad tiled outlines of former walkways, closed metal shutters, filthy windows, and those improbable escalators.
Deeper into the building I found more evidence of activity. Local people have made use of the space to store junk or simply dump garbage. There was a lot of it crammed into dark and dusty market stalls much like those in the mosquito-infested basement, none of it particularly photogenic.
Slipping back into the outside world a group of schoolchildren saw me exit the building. They burst out into laughter at the absurdity of the sight, a foreigner in dusty clothes documenting the process of decay in their hometown.