Not long after returning to Taiwan in 2015 I received an invitation from a friend to go road tripping down to Hsinchu 新竹 to check out an abandoned theme park. Along the way we stopped off to check out a derelict cablecar station and the restored Hexing Station 合興車站 before arriving at the gateway to Golden Birds Paradise 金鳥海族樂園. Located in the rolling hills of Hsinchu 新竹 not far from the border Taoyuan, it was among the most extensive and well-known theme parks of northern Taiwan at its peak in the 1990s. Business faltered with the rise of new forms of entertainment in the 2000s and from what I can tell it was completely abandoned nearly a decade ago. Most of the amusement park rides were torn out and probably sold for scrap metal long ago—but many of the original buildings remain, neglected and overgrown.
Taiwan is an unusually rich place for anyone interested in mapping out urban and industrial histories through the exploration of abandoned, disused, and neglected places. Gathered here are full reports and field notes from some of my many adventures around the country.
Keelung Road Guest House 基隆路招待所
Not far from Taipei 101 and the heart of Taipei’s central business district one will find an ulcerous anomaly on the supine body of the sprawling city. It would be impossible to miss this ruin, for a wild riot of plant life traces its angular outlines, and an unusual assortment of graffiti gilds the arcade along Keelung Road. I regularly ride by here on my way to various working cafes further afield and naturally couldn’t resist taking a look inside one day. I have not puzzled out the formal name of this abandonment but strongly suspect it was an official guest house related to the armed forces, particularly as it was located adjacent to the former #44 West Village (四四西村), a military dependents’ settlement.
Huaguo Theater 華國戲院
Huaguo Theater (華國戲院) is one of hundreds of abandoned theaters scattered around Taiwan. Located in Puli, a town of approximately 80,000 in the heart of Nantou, this particular theater was likely built in the late 1950s. From what I’ve read in an article by Wang Henglu (王亨祿), this theater was operated by a couple with the family name Zhou (周) and specialized in showing Western films on a single screen before its inevitable demise.
Songshan Railway Dormitories 松山台鐵宿舍
Songshan has long been a major hub for the railway industry in Taiwan. It is home to the Taipei Railway Workshop, a sprawling maintenance depot and rail yard presently undergoing renovations into a full-scale museum. The Western Trunk Line (縱貫線) also runs through the district, although it is completely underground now, following the path of Civic Boulevard (市民大道) for much of its length. I went poking around the area sometime in 2016 and stumbled upon a block of dilapidated homes wedged into a small parcel of land at the tail end of the railway workshop. It turns out these are former railway worker dormitories (宿舍) dating back to the Japanese colonial era.
Jiangling New Village 江陵新村
Jiangling New Village (江陵新村) was one of more than 800 military dependents’ village in Taiwan before its ultimate destruction in mid-2015. It was formerly located not far from the confluence of Jingmei River (景美溪) and Xindian River (新店溪) just outside Taipei city limits in the northern part of Xindian. Immediately to the south is an active military base of some kind—and the historic Jingmei Prison can be found on the opposite side of the nearest major intersection.
Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓
Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓 is a historic Japanese colonial era building located in Beitun, Taichung. It is an “Osaka-style” tobacco barn (named after Osaka Castle) much like these more famous examples from Meinong. Nobody seems to know for sure when it was built, though this article claims it is a century old. Without better information I would say the 1930s are a safe bet—that’s when industrial-scale tobacco cultivation was spreading all over central and south Taiwan—but it might be older than that.
Fengzhong Theater 豐中戲院
Fengzhong Theater 豐中戲院 is one of many abandoned theaters in downtown Taichung. Located a stone’s throw away from Taichung Station, this theater was originally the Taiwan Opera Theater 台灣歌劇戲院, a performance venue founded at the very end of Japanese colonial rule in 1944. According to this source the name was changed to Fengzhong Theater when it was converted for use as a cinema in 1953. It was in continuous operation until 2004 when it was closed and finally abandoned.
Ruchuan Village 入船里
Ruchuan Village 入船里 is a small community in Keelung, a historic port town of approximately 373,000 scattered among the rugged hills of northeastern Taiwan. Keelung’s growth over the last century has been constrained by a lack of flat land on which to build—with much of that concentrated at the foot of the harbour that now constitutes the downtown core. With few other options for expansion the city has sprawled upward along the hillsides and deep into the many valleys leading up from the port.
Changjiang Road Shops 長江路商店
Last week I cycled across the Huajiang Bridge 華江橋 to Banqiao to meet a friend for coffee. At the foot of the bridge I couldn’t help but notice the outline of a long-abandoned building of some kind, the sort of place where you’ll find scooter repair shops and other small businesses along any main road in Taiwan. Not having found anything close to a formal name for the place I have simply named it for the street it is on, Changjiang Road 長江路.
Beitou Asia Pacific Resort 北投亞太溫泉生活館
On the last day of my round-the-island bicycle tour of Taiwan I undertook a brief excursion to the hot springs area of Beitou. I had expected the previous night to be my last on the road but a series of flat tires kept me from finishing my journey. With time to spare the following day I took a meandering route back to Taipei and, as luck would have it, also chanced upon one more ruin to explore. Not too far up the road from the majestic Thermal Valley (地熱谷) I noticed the crumbling outlines of a building that I correctly assumed was a derelict hot springs hotel: Asia Pacific Resort (北投亞太溫泉生活館).