Taiwan 台灣 is riddled with failed construction projects, monuments to avarice, incompetence, and bureaucracy. Building defects, mismanagement, and land ownership disputes are common causes, but legal battles, limited funding for costly demolitions, and a lack of political often ensure such projects remain a blight on the urban landscape of the nation. One such project can be found along Wànshòu Road 萬壽路 at the western margins of the Taipei Basin 台北盆地 not far from Huilong Station 迴龍站, terminus of the orange line of the Taipei MRT in Xinzhuang, Xinbei. Technically this abandonment is located within Guishan, for the district boundary sweeps down from the hills and loops around a mostly industrial area sprawling along a small valley leading the rest of the way to the flatlands of the basin. Given that this road is one of the main arteries connecting Taoyuan with Taipei 台北 these twin 17-storey towers, typically identified as the Wanshou Road Residential Ruins 萬壽路廢棄社區, are regularly the subject of inquiries on PTT and other parts of the Taiwanese internet.
Before I dig in to what little I have found about these ruins I’d like to make a small note about the location. Wanshou Road sweeps through the rugged hills along the southern slope of the Linkou Plateau 林口台地, closely following a section of the original Qing dynasty era railway built in 1891 at the behest of forward-thinking governor Liú Míngchuán 劉銘傳. The Japanese invaded only a few years later and, after surveying their new acquisition, opted to reroute the Main Line 縱貫線 along the Dàhàn River 大漢溪 to the south, avoiding the steep grades of the more direct route through the hills to ease the burden of the steam locomotives still in use in those days.
Now let’s move ahead by a century. These residential towers were allegedly built in 1993 but construction came to a standstill after the developers failed to secure an operating license. It sounds crazy to me but apparently the process is “build first, apply for a permit later”, and in this case the application was rejected after it was revealed that the developers had built these towers on government-owned land. The rest of the story is hazy but I suppose the development company folded under mounting debts and the inability to legally sell any of the units they had built, leaving the fate of these buildings in the hands of a local government disinterested in footing the bill for demolition. More than two decades later I haven’t found any news reports suggesting anything will be done about these towering eyesores.
I haven’t much to say about my walk around the property itself. Gaining access to the area immediately around the towers is a piece of cake but the upper floors are protected by what appears to be an active security system. Several of the ground floor units show evidence of habitation, though it doesn’t appear as if anyone has been squatting here for quite some time. There is some evidence the ground floor units may have been used as a KTV at one point—why else would there be a “VIP room”, I wonder? But the interior spaces readily open to exploration are almost all empty rooms coated in dust and filled with the odd piece of trash. If you’re keen on climbing to the top I would imagine it’s doable—but I was only breezing through, bound for more historic ruins just down the road.
Given the Taiwanese propensity for ghost stories it isn’t surprising that these buildings have become a destination for supernatural thrill-seekers and urban explorers alike. I actually found out about this place through this set of photos and video walkthrough posted by 夜遊台灣 (incidentally the same group referenced in this post about how my work was misrepresented by Taiwanese media). I also uncovered this batch of photos and a report from 鬼故事夜遊團 while researching this post. From what I’ve read the stretch of roadway around these abandoned towers is frequently the scene of car accidents—and wouldn’t you know it, but I actually witnessed a minor collision while investigating the old railway bridge a little up the hill. A mysterious ruin along a stretch of highway notorious for fatal accidents? The ghost story practically writes itself! But I find it far more interesting to imagine a European steam engine chugging up this same incline a hundred years ago…
Anyhow, this ruin has little in the way of historic or aesthetic value and it is by no means unexplored. It is for these reasons that I haven’t gone to great lengths to obscure the location. These days I am more conscious of how the information presented here on my blog is used by others—but this place is already widely known and isn’t really worth preserving. Keep an eye out for security and the watchful eyes of nearby street vendors if you happen to pay it a visit. And if you’re also keen on local history there’s a bridge dating back to the Qing dynasty a little up the road—but you’ll have to find a way down to the river bed to appreciate the stone arch beneath the modern roadway, or just wait for a future post.