Renoir Resort Club 雷諾瓦俱樂部 is a surprising find in Guānzilǐng 關子嶺, the most famous and well-developed hot springs town in Báihé 白河, Tainan 台南. I went to stay there one night in the spring of 2014 to have a look—but I didn’t expect to find an abandoned club next door to where I was staying. I should have known—this is Taiwan 台灣, an urban exploration utopia. There are abandoned buildings absolutely everywhere. Sometimes you will get lucky and discover someplace cool without even trying.
Naturally there isn’t any information about this place on the internet—not even in Chinese, insofar as I can tell. The story, as I understand it, is that the club was built to be the centerpiece of a luxury resort filled with private villas. The resort is still around—though it is showing its age—but the club closed down long ago after the manager embezzled funds and ran off with the money.
Why was the resort named after Renoir, the famous French painter? I would guess that fancy Western things lend the place an air of prestige. As for the “resort club”, that’s the best translation I was able to pull up.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered the lobby of the Renoir Resort Club. The place didn’t even appear abandoned at first. There was a scooter parked inside and it looked like someone maintained the grounds—but it was most certainly falling apart and the entire place stunk to high heaven. I could see water damage in the lobby and, turning the corner, noticed that termites had eaten through a doorframe.
Back in the lobby I decided to descend into the basement, stepping over a chain strung across the stairway. There was a sign in Chinese presumably warning of danger but I didn’t stop to translate.
As I neared the end of the curved stairs I checked for standing water in the basement. Many years ago I blundered into about three feet of crystal clear water at the bottom of a stairway. Since then I usually check, especially when investigating buildings where I have already seen evidence of water damage.
I was paying so much attention to the floor of the basement that I completely missed something much more interesting: dozens of bats hanging from the ceiling! Actually, it wasn’t until a bat nearly flew into my face that I realized what I had stumbled upon. I took a step back and watched as several bats swooped down and began circling the room, chirping and shrieking.
I had a look at the floor and realized what the source of the foul smell must have been: all those bat droppings. Apart from being gross I somewhat doubt breathing the fumes is good for your health.
In a few minutes all of the bats had left the main chamber for a room off to one side. I went to go explore further but was held up by an old file cabinet that had been overturned in the hallway. It was covered with spider webs but I moved it aside anyway. Time to go take a closer look at where the bats went, or so I thought.
About halfway down the curved hallway I had to stop and turn back. The stench was overpowering and it didn’t seem like there was any ventilation whatsoever. I had to make a judgement call and decided that I had better head back upstairs to get some air. Well, at least I got to see some bats.
I checked some of the glass doors on my way out but they were all locked. It didn’t look like there was anything interesting in those rooms anyhow—just a lot of boxes and some old machinery.
It wasn’t entirely obvious what the rooms on the upper floors were for. Some held little evidence of their former function. Others might have been karaoke rooms. I was told there were also spa facilities on location—which makes sense given that this is a hot springs area—but I saw no evidence of bathtubs or anything else I would expect to find.
I noticed stalagmites forming on the rusting hulks of some fluorescent lighting fixtures that had fallen out of the ceiling. This is only the second time I have seen such a thing—have a look at my write-up about the Yongye Road Hotel for more about this curious phenomenon.
It might not be entirely obvious from the photos but almost all of the desks I saw were covered with paw prints. Stray cats had evidently taken up residence in the club at various times—though I couldn’t fathom why there were prints on the sides of the desks as well.
There were some good views of the surrounding mountains from the rooftop. It may not look like it but this place is fairly remote. You have to climb up some very steep mountain roads to get to Guanziling.
The other side of the club from the main road is very distinctive. I don’t know what to call this architectural style but it’s certainly not something I have seen very much of in Taiwan 台灣. The preponderance of concrete is nothing unusual, but the whole place has an artsy eighties vibe to it. I wonder if it was ever much of a happening place? This entire complex would have once been swarming with newly rich people—back in the boom times before the Asian financial crisis.
The remains of Christmas decorations were scattered around the restaurant and the bar on the main floor. The club must have closed down in the new year. Usually I can data abandonments by finding a calendar somewhere. Not this time.
The building contained few artifacts. I would imagine the place has been picked clean by residents of the resort. Even so, there were a few things left behind that really made me wonder. Have a look at that garish blue leather couch, for instance. I am somewhat surprised no one secreted that away to their posh villa.
I went out the way I came in, passing by the small turtle and fish pond outside the building. There were bananas floating in the water and a bunch left to one side. I suppose the resort caretaker has been feeding the animals—but do fish and turtles eat bananas? I had a look and there were plenty of rotting bananas floating in the pond. Evidently not.
So there you have it—an abandoned club in a mountainside hot springs town in southern Taiwan, previously undocumented. It wasn’t the sort of exploration that moved me, not like the Yinhe Road Homestead or Encore Garden, but it was still interesting. Especially the bats!