An abandoned department store in the golden light

Fuyou Building 富有大樓

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.

Outside the Fuyou Building, a derelict shopping complex in Taitung City.
A long view of the fruit market on the corner.
Looking up the back side of the building near the basement entrance.
An imposing view of the building from the market area down on street level.

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.

Descending into the repulsive swamp in the basement.

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.

A mosquito-infested hell.
Disgusting old market stalls.
Flooded in the darkness.

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.

First look inside the Fuyou Building. Most of the upper levels have been cleaned out.
A different kind of skyline.

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.

The view from one of the elevator rooms on top of the building.
Dead bird with a leg band.
Abandoned manga.
Analog sunset through a dirty window.

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.

Taitung City from the Fuyou Building rooftop. This is looking north toward the entrance of the East Rift Valley.
Water coolers on top of the Fuyou Building.
Tiled arches on the north side of the Fuyou Building.
South side view from the Fuyou Building.
Vacated room.
Organic invasion.
Taitung City through a dirty window.

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.

The top level of the abandoned department store in the Fuyou Building.
Fuyou Building in the golden light of afternoon.
No need for caution tape here; this escalator is obviously out of service.
Escalators don’t break, they just become stairs.

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.

Sunset from the ruined Fuyou Building, Taitung City.

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.

If you’re curious about what else I found in Taitung City 台東市 that same day check out my post about Datong Theater 大同戲院 and the rest of what I found around town.

South Taiwan Ride 2015 南台灣自行車旅行

This series chronicles a multi-day bicycle trip around the deep south of Taiwan, specifically from Tainan 台南 to Taitung 台東 in June 2015. Along the way I visited many places in Kaohsiung 高雄 and especially Pingtung 屏東. A lot of what I saw and experienced hasn't been written about in English very much so I've taken some extra time to provide background information to better contextualize what's in the many photographs in this series. Altogether this is a complete trip journal clocking in at around 20,000 words from start to finish!

  1. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Tainan to Pingtung City
  2. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City
  3. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City to Fangliao
  4. Chaozhou Liu House 潮州劉厝
  5. Chaozhou Jiukuaicuo Catholic Church 潮州九塊厝天主堂
  6. Xinpi Machine Gun Fort 新埤反空降機槍碉堡
  7. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Fangliao to Manzhou
  8. Fangliao Factory 枋寮工廠
  9. Jiahe Railway Tunnel 嘉和遮體
  10. Tsai Ing-wen Old House 蔡英文古厝
  11. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Manzhou to Dawu
  12. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Dawu to Taitung City
  13. Dawu Theater 大武戲院
  14. South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City
  15. Taitung Chinese Association 台東中華會館
  16. Taitung Datong Theater 台東大同戲院
  17. Fuyou Building 富有大樓

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