There are plenty of crummy old apartment blocks in Taiwan, many of them abandoned and left to the elements. I seldom take more than a cursory look any more since they’re so easy to find—just ride or walk around and look for open or broken windows. Most of the time there isn’t much to look at inside and anything valuable or interesting has almost always been removed. Even so, I stopped for a moment to investigate this particular building in Sū'ào 蘇澳, a township in Yílán 宜蘭, and was mildly surprised with what I found.
At first I wasn’t entirely sure the place was abandoned. I have a saying for this: “Is it abandoned or just crappy?” You can’t always tell around here. Not that Taiwan isn’t a beautiful country—because it is—but some people tolerate living in buildings so dilapidated that it isn’t immediately obvious whether a place is truly abandoned or not.
I went up a set of stairs and found closed doors and a lot of junk laying around. My guess is that someone has been using this space for storage—but I still hadn’t entirely discounted the possibility that people still lived here.
By the time I reached the third floor I knew this place was done for. Actually, I was feeling a bit uneasy walking from room to room. Something was not quite right. And then it hit me—the floors weren’t entirely level. The entire building was leaning to one side!
Why might the entire building lean to one side? My guess is some combination of earthquakes and land subsidence. Yílán 宜蘭 is very seismically active—so much so that there are few tall buildings built here. This may explain why the building was abandoned. Who wants to live in an earthquake-damaged apartment block?
Well, someone might. I found one room that had obviously been occupied by a squatter, perhaps a migrant fisherman. There were playing cards all around and empty beer bottles. It didn’t look like anyone had been back in a while though.
Descending the second staircase was a harrowing experience. It looked like the railing had snapped off when the building twisted on its foundation. Water was pooling against the wall throughout the stairwell, visually confirming what I had already felt with my sense of proprioception.
There wasn’t too much else to see in this particular abandonment. Everything has been cleared out and the damage was not too extreme. That being said, it was an interesting experience to step lightly through a building that has presumably been damaged by earthquakes.