The Leaning Tower of Su’ao 蘇澳斜塔

An apartment block in Suao
An apartment block in Su’ao. What might we find inside?

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.

Entering an apartment block in Suao
The gloomy entrance would suggest nobody lives here any more.

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.

A cruddy old door
A cruddy old door. At this point I still entertained the possibility that these might be living residences.

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.

Something is not quite right about this
Something is not quite right about this.

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!

The leaning tower of Suao from the rooftop
The angle of the building is a little more obvious from the rooftop.
The next building over doesn’t look so great either
The next building over doesn’t look so great either.

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?

Squatter’s room in an apartment block in Suao
A squatter with a fondness for playing cards.

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.

Twisted staircase in the leaning tower of Suao
Twisted staircase in the leaning tower of Su’ao.
Water pooling against a wall in the leaning tower
Water pooling against a wall in the leaning tower.

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.

An old mattress in the leaning tower of Suao
An old, decrepit mattress.
Odd angles in the leaning tower of Suao
Everything is at an odd angle in this building.
A weak attempt at barring access to the leaning tower of Suao
Some effort has been undertaken to prevent people from entering.

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.