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Solo jaunts.

 

So after Chinese New Year there was yet another public holiday in Taiwan, and you know what that means? More exploring! This here is a compilation of different sites all well known to the exploring network, all very famous but compared to the general benchmark not enough to warrant standalone reports again. As I mentioned before, sometimes it's about scratching the itch just to get it off your mind rather than the drop-everything hit-the-road urge you get for some places.

 

台灣民俗村/Taiwan Folk Village

Taiwan Folk Village was a mock-traditional park east of Huatan, near Zhanghua in the Bagua Mountain Scenic Area. Opened in 1993 it was a hugely successful site, a showcase of Taiwan traditional temples and aboriginal architecture (straw huts, temples and so forth) although if you ask me it all felt tacky with little historic value. That's the trouble with Taiwan; compared to Europe precious little remains of genuine, traditional architecture of dynasty's gone past. Not only that, I cannot understand what desire people have to turn such places into theme parks complete with swimming pools and rides rather than showcase the history. I digress. 

 

As with so many places in Taiwan, the 921 Earthquake meant a sharp drop in visitor numbers, pushing the operating company into the red, culminating in closure come 2012.

 

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It's in the backwaters of Taiwan with no public transport, so I had to begrudgingly take a taxi to get there. Unfortunately the taxi driver was oblivious to my intentions and dropped me off at the main gate, in full view of security. I get out, and there they are sat outside the cabin staring at me and wondering what I want to do. I don't want to ruin my chances and arouse suspicion, so I walked away as they watched. Awkward. I walk up the road and look for a way in, but there's a huge drop from the road down to the boundary fence. Getting in was a mission to say the least, having to find a safe spot to drop down and then find a suitable point to actually enter the site! I finally found one after considerable effort, then had to beat through thick bushes to get onto the roof of the main walls. A challenge, but I have an itch to scratch so I don't have a choice.

 

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Although I've lived in Taiwan for 2+ years, for those unfamiliar with Asian architecture the attention to detail in temples is beautiful; each aspect is unique. Unfortunately the interior was stripped and somewhat decayed with zero interest.

 

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The site is not fully abandoned, however. There are plenty of buddhist shrines and the mock-village buildings are still maintained by on-site staff. I saw a handful of scooters parked up around the site, and was certain there was someone lurking in places least expected so I had to be very careful.

 

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The biggest problem however was a dozen or so stray dogs who ran around in packs. Any sight of a foreigner liked myself triggered a chorus of barking, not out of hostility but perhaps curiosity and simply being an unexpected presence. Unfortunately this meant I had to move fast from building to building to avoid getting attention from security or caretakers.

 

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I tried to access the best part of the site, the beautiful mock-village quarters in the middle of the site, however to protect the shrines and interior these were completely locked up.

 

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At the northernmost part of the site was a large temple, which I managed to get inside however the interior was completely empty and lacking in interest. I was absolutely certain there was a caretaker lurking inside too, so only 2 shots.

 

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I went in search of the carousel and theme park attractions to the west of the site, however since the previous reports these have all been demolished. No loss, but that meant it was time to leave, so I headed back out and bade farewell. A derp for sure, but not a complete waste of time.

 

Stay tuned for the rest. Love as always,

 

TBM x

Edited by True_British_Metal

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萬里飛碟屋/Wanli UFO Village

Taiwan's most famous derelict site, by far. The biggest derp to have made it into a book showcasing the very best of urban exploration worldwide; it beggars belief. Perhaps it is the novelty value or the rarity; derelict mid-century Futuro and Venturo houses mostly abandoned on a beachfront an hour away from Taipei. Designed but not commissioned by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, they were pre-fabricated plastic houses originally designed as ski chalets that could easily be transported around.

 

It was an abysmal day, with heavy heavy rain falling across the island. What was once a beachside paradise in its prime time, surfers and holidaygoers all lying on the beach enjoying their time off is now a fading snapshot of a dream long passed. Today although some structures are still occupied, the vast majority are not, and have been thrashed by mother nature and of course vandals. The beach is covered in rubbish and debris. Not a place you'd like to live in.

 

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The UFO pods certainly live up to their name, with airplane doors which open outwards and offer views of all sides. Inside actually seems pleasant in principle, fairly spacious and offering lots of natural light despite small bedrooms and a tiny central kitchen and dining area which resembles a bar more than a kitchen.

 

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The venturos resemble a more normal dwelling, like a pod. Following the same principle as their futuro counterparts with 360 views all round and plenty of natural light. Privacy goes out of the window however when all the glass is see-through and the dwelling is at ground level unlike the futuros which are raised. The surviving venturos are now mostly ruined, probably destroyed by years of disuse and extreme weather patterns.

 

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Whilst it's certainly a unique and rare site, it's not really that spectacular, and I spent little more than 20-30 minutes walking round before heading off to the next derp. Though those that remain occupied will stay, I can realistically only see these unique dwellings facing the wrecking ball like their counterparts were a few years ago.

 

Thanks again for reading. Love TBM x

Edited by True_British_Metal
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水湳洞精鍊廠/Shuinandong Smelter

This is an iconic derelict site in Taiwan, a former gold smelting factory that looks out towards the ocean of northern Taiwan. Shuinandong is one of three sites that boomed when gold was discovered in the underlying strata, but all economic booms fizz out; as the seams were progressively exhausted in the 1950s, the mining sharply declined and left the villages to rack and ruin. Once the gold rush ran dry, the copper market grew but yet again crashed as the cost of extraction became too high; thus the site was completely closed in 1987.

 

The smelter was the largest in Asia when it was built under the Japanese occupation in the 1930s, built to treat the high grade copper and gold ores that were extracted. Its structure was built on a sharp hillside over several tiers, earning it the name "13 levels", although to be exact there are 18 storeys.

 

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Its sheer size has to be seen to be believed. These are not my photos, but time was short so I didn't get a proper external.

 

As built.

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A lot of other explorers focus on the (I suspect) more recently closed warehouse at the bottom of the site, and indeed I nearly did but there were too many people lurking and I wanted to see the main attraction as time was short. I didn't miss much. There were rumours of security now patrolling the site owing to the number of trespassers, but it was a free for all for me. Over the gate and in, easy. First stop was the power building.

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It's a huge space with 2 floors, but as with the rest of the site it's little more than a shell. The only equipment that remains are the porcelain bushings on the walls.

 

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I made my way up towards the top of the site in the pouring rain, a treacherous route through thick shrub, overgrown paths which hid from the eye sheer drops, loose soil underfoot and even the route you took before. Lara Croft style.

 

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A really interesting feature of the smelter is the flue system, which earns it the title of the highest chimneys in the world even if they go along the ground rather than point vertically. Look very closely to the right and you can see them. These were built to carry the deadly exhaust fumes away from the settlements into uninhabited areas. Unfortunately even if today you can get close on the hiking trails the environmental consequences are disatrous, with the flues still contaminated with toxic heavy metals. Little has been done to seal them off.

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As you can see, it's very much an empty shell with much of the place inaccessible, but up close you can really appreciate its sheer size and majestic design.

 

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By this time it was time for me to leave and make my way back down. I lost my route completely, so it was left to me to scramble and slide down slippery slopes grabbing onto whatever I can find, before ending up back at the power building. Drenched and covered in mud, at least I'm out safe now.

So there we have it, a beacon of Taiwan's industrial past. Like those mines and structures in Wales it will most likely not be restored and instead kept as a decaying beacon that continues to tower proudly over the surrounding area.

Thanks as always for reading. Love TBM x

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