In my first dispatch from Zhōnglì 中壢 I shared a photograph of the Cáishén Building 財神大樓, a rundown entertainment complex next to the train station that I meant to explore at some point. Not long after posting that I got around to checking it out—and much to my surprise, despite the incredibly rundown exterior most of the building is still occupied by hotels, daytime dance clubs, mobile phone booths, and other businesses serving the many Southeast Asian migrant workers of Táoyuán 桃園. There is, however, one part of the building that seemed obviously abandoned from street level; the skeletal outline of some kind of UFO-like structure on the rooftop demanded further investigation.
Turns out the ruins on top were once a revolving restaurant with a 360 degree view of the city! Well, the view is still there, but there’s no restaurant up here anymore, or much of anything else really. Clamber down the stairs at the base of the structure and you’ll find a lobby with a broken elevator, obviously the entrance that guests would have passed through on their way to the rooftop. The entire place was abandoned after a huge fire, something that should be evident from the scorch marks visible in several of these photographs. Curiously the place looks an awful lot like the KTV on top of the Qianyue Building 千越大樓 in Taichung 台中, recently profiled on this very blog.
A few days later I returned at night, took a shortcut to the rooftop that I only discovered after climbing the entire length of the fire escape, and engaged in something I almost never bother with: low-light photography! I haven’t owned a tripod in several years but found one in another abandoned building a few months back and figured I should probably get some use out of it at some point. Maybe this is a strange admission but I am not much of a technical photographer. Most of my approach is about location and narrative—placing myself in unusual circumstances and telling stories about what I experience. Taking long exposure photos at night? Not a usual part of my repertoire, but here goes nothing…
Here I believe the photographs speak for themselves—though it might not be obvious at first that there’s a train departing the station in the penultimate photo. Zhōnglì 中壢 looks rather sharp at night, doesn’t it? The Caishen Building is right next to both the train and bus stations so this rooftop is a fantastic place for people watching, among other things. I’m not going to tell you how to get up there though—that’s part of the fun of urban exploration! All I can say is that if you pay close attention you’ll certainly find the way up.
Oh, and a bit of a side note to round things out: people often ask me how the hell I figure out the names of the places I explore without knowing much Chinese. The truth is that Chinese acts a bit like a key that will unlock an entire world of knowledge—if you’re crafty about it. In this case I simply searched for “Zhongli Station” and “revolving restaurant” (both in Chinese with quotation marks) and soon found a thread on PTT and this forum post. Generally speaking, if you can find the right keywords in Chinese then you can find out about almost anything in Taiwan. Happy hunting!