During a recent visit to Xizhou 溪州, a small rural township in southern Changhua 彰化, I made a brief stop to check out the historic Chenggong Hostel 成功旅社. I had no idea what to expect, having learned of its existence while browsing Google Maps in search of points of interest, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found there. It is privately owned and operated but they’ve gone to great lengths to preserve the building, transforming it into a tourist attraction and community space. The ground floor is home to a shop showcasing local products and a dual-purpose agricultural library and event space. Upstairs is something of a museum, lightly furnished with rickety beds and tatami mats. The floorboards creak and there is a mustiness about the place that makes it feel genuinely old. It wasn’t difficult to imagine what it might have been like half a century ago in the midst of the sugar boom.
One of the pleasures of bicycle touring in Taiwan is the freedom to change plans on impulse. On my second day of a trip down south in June 2015, having previously cycled across Kaohsiung from Tainan, I opted to hang out and see more of Pingtung City 屏東市. A dire weather forecast calling for bouts of torrential rain had already introduced some uncertainty, but I was also curious about this city of 200,000, about which almost nothing is written in English. Finding an interesting place to stay sealed the deal—and so I checked out of a grimy hotel near the train station after breakfast, moved my stuff to the new place, and spent the day exploring the administrative center of Pingtung 屏東, the southernmost division of Taiwan.
Not far from Taipei 101 and the heart of Taipei’s central business district there lies an ulcerous anomaly on the supine body of the endless city. It would be impossible to miss this abandonment, for a wild riot of plant life traces its angular outlines, and an unusual assortment of graffiti gilds the arcade along Keelung Road 基隆路. 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 ruin but now have a rather strong suspicion that it was once an official guest house (haodaisuo 招待所).
Yesterday’s impromptu ride around the riverside bikeway network delivered me to the palatial Grand Hotel 圓山大飯店 (pinyin: Yuanshan Dafandian), a famous landmark in Taipei 台北. Located on a hilltop overlooking a bend of the Keelung River 基隆河 in Zhongshan District 中山區, it was established in 1952 at the behest of generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正 to provide the ruling elite with a luxurious place to host and entertain foreign dignitaries. The distinctive building seen in these photos was completed in 1973 and was the tallest building in the Free Area of the Republic of China until 1981.
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 District 北投區. 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 台北 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 (pinyin: Yatai Wenquan Shenghuoguan).
Jiamuzi Bay 加母子灣 is a beautifully remote and scenic stretch of coastline just north of Taitung City 台東市 in Donghe 東河, Taitung 台東. It is also home to the gutted ruins of an abandoned minsu 民宿 (a funky bed and breakfast or homestay-style inn) readily visible from just about anywhere along the bay. While cruising along the coastal highway on my first Taiwan bicycle tour in late 2013 I stopped two stops to take a closer look: once beneath the moody remnants of Typhoon Usagi and again on a sunny afternoon the following day.
I have been living next to the magnificent ruins of the Qiaoyou Building 喬友大廈 in Changhua City 彰化市 for the last several months. Not a day goes by where I’m not walking or riding by this hulking derelict, looking up and wondering about what I might find inside. I had some general idea, of course, as I already recognized the building for what it was: one of many shopping and entertainment complexes built in central Taiwan during the economic boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of these former showpiece properties have been abandoned in the decades since, usually due to some combination of mismanagement, declining fortunes, and fire damage.
While on a day trip to Wulai 烏來 at the very end of 2013 I was delighted to stumble upon one of the most picturesque abandonments I have had the pleasure of exploring in Taiwan. Mere steps from the southern terminus of the Wulai Sightseeing Tram 烏來觀光台車 one will find a viewing platform across from Wulai Falls 烏來瀑布, one of the most scenic waterfalls in the greater Taipei 台北 area. What you might not realize—unless you have a sixth sense for all things abandoned—is that the viewing platform doubles as the rooftop of a derelict hotel with a rather stunning view.
I was out riding a scooter from Changhua 彰化 the hot springs resort town of Guanziling in rural Tainan 台南 when I noticed a rundown, seemingly abandoned building by the roadside in the mountains of Zhongpu, Chiayi 嘉義. Stopping to investigate, I discovered a minsu 民宿 (essentially a bed and breakfast) in the early stages of decay. Initially I had no luck finding out any information about this place but more recently I uncovered its formal name: Dongzijiao Vanilla Garden Minsu 凍仔腳香草園民宿. Dongzijiao, apparently famous for its betel nut crop, is the name of the nearest village.
One of my stranger day trips in Malaysia was to the mystic island of Pulau Besar in the state of Melaka, better known as Malacca to most English-speaking people. Situated in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, the small island of Pulau Besar is steeped in myth and legend. It is also widely considered to be haunted—which partly explains why most of the island is abandoned.