An abandoned department store in the golden light

Fuyou Building 富有大樓

At the end of a bicycle trip to Taitung City 台東市 in the spring of 2015 I went wandering near the old train station, which had been transformed into the Taitung Railway Art Village 台東鐵道藝術村 in 2004. I had a hunch I might find some hulking derelict near former station front, perhaps an entertainment complex or shopping center in terminal decline, for the new Taitung Station is located far outside the downtown core. Sure enough, within minutes I noticed the telltale signs of decay on a large commercial building several streets over from the art village. This turned out to be the Fùyǒu Building 富有大樓, a genuine mosquito museum 蚊子館 built in the early 1990s under shady circumstances. It was later abandoned and has since become an eyesore and public health menace as well as a political hot potato for local officials.

Outside the Fuyou Building 富有大樓
Outside the Fuyou Building, a derelict shopping complex in Taitung City.
Exterior shot of the Fuyou Building 富有大樓
A long view of the fruit market on the corner.
Up the side of the Fuyou Building 富有大樓
Looking up the back side of the building near the basement entrance.
Central block of the Fuyou Building 富有大樓
An imposing view of the building from the market area down on street level.
A repulsive swamp
Descending into the repulsive swamp in the basement.
Mosquito-infested hell in the Fuyou Building
A mosquito-infested hell.
Disgusting basement at the Fuyou Building
Disgusting old market stalls.
Flooded in the darkness
Flooded in the darkness.

Finding a way in is a piece of cake; hardly any effort has been undertaken to limit access to this festering ruin. Several businesses still operate out of ground floor storefronts and the stairways were unblocked. Nobody seems to care who comes and goes but it couldn’t hurt to exhibit some caution. My first stop was down in the basement, one of the most repulsive places I’ve explored in Taiwan. Most of it is flooded with scummy, garbage-laden water, and audibly leaking pipes can be discerned deep in the oppressive gloom at the far side of the chamber. Mosquitos and other insects have taken advantage of conditions to breed magnificent swarms while giant rats and cockroaches roam with impunity.

First look inside the Fuyou Building 富有大樓
First look inside the Fuyou Building. Most of the upper levels have been cleaned out.
A different kind of skyline
A different kind of skyline.

Next I ascended the building to the rooftop to better gain an understanding of its scale. The first stairwell I tried was filled with oppressively hot and stagnant air. The windows were sealed, probably to prevent flooding from the typhoons that regularly strike this coastline. Up on top I entered one of several elevator rooms, not finding much more than a bird carcass, its banded leg providing a clue to its place of origin, and an old black and white manga.

Elevator machinery at the Fuyou Building
The view from one of the elevator rooms on top of the building.
Dead bird in the Fuyou Building
Dead bird with a leg band.
Abandoned manga in the Fuyou Building
Abandoned manga.
Analog sunset from the Fuyou Building
Analog sunset through a dirty window.

Daylight was fading fast by the time I made it to the top of the Fuyou Building. Here I captured city skylines in all directions, reveling in the excellent views of the mountains flanking the entrance to the Huādōng Valley 花東縱谷 and the Pacific Ocean. Not much remained on the rooftop to suggest a human presence; it had no doubt been cleansed of artifacts by past typhoons.

Taitung City from the top of the Fuyou Building
Taitung City from the Fuyou Building rooftop. This is looking north toward the entrance of the East Rift Valley.
Water coolers on top of the Fuyou Building
Water coolers on top of the Fuyou Building.
Tiled arches on the north side of the Fuyou Building
Tiled arches on the north side of the Fuyou Building.
South side view from the Fuyou Building
South side view from the Fuyou Building.
An empty room in the Fuyou Building
Vacated room.
Organic invasion
Organic invasion.
Textures of decay in Taitung City
Taitung City through a dirty window.

Descending several levels I encountered the top floor of a derelict department store, golden sunlight spilling out of a window to illuminate a set of broken escalators that went down at least another four floors. Nothing remained of whatever business had occupied these levels years before—everything that could have been salvaged had been removed. There was only bare jackhammered concrete, broad tiled outlines of former walkways, closed metal shutters, filthy windows, and those improbable escalators.

An abandoned department store in the golden light
The top level of the abandoned department store in the Fuyou Building.
An abandoned department store stripped to bare concrete
Fuyou Building in the golden light of afternoon.
No need for caution tape
No need for caution tape here; this escalator is obviously out of service.
Escalators don’t break, they just become stairs
Escalators don’t break, they just become stairs.

Deeper into the building I found more evidence of activity. Local people have made use of the space to store junk or simply dump garbage. There was a lot of it crammed into dark and dusty market stalls much like those in the mosquito-infested basement, none of it particularly photogenic.

Sunset from the ruins of Taitung City
Sunset from the ruined Fuyou Building, Taitung City.

Slipping back into the outside world a group of schoolchildren saw me exit the building. They burst out into laughter at the absurdity of the sight, a foreigner in dusty clothes documenting the process of decay in their hometown. Finally, if you’re curious about Taitung City check out my post about Dàtóng Theater 大同戲院 and the rest of what I found around town that day.

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