Step away from the mainstream and explore a side of Taiwan that few get to experience. From the bleak echoing chambers of a former prison, to crumbling haunted mansions rapidly being reclaimed by nature, these are the lingering remains of the many waves of history that have shaped the country.
Wander through a park filled with hundreds of unwanted statues of a former leader, the myriad of poses at once comedic and unnerving. Discover crumbling amusement parks, a temple brought to its knees by an earthquake, and a lonely village of empty UFO shaped houses. Explore abandoned military structures on a deserted volcanic island surrounded by a milky sea. Locations once thrumming with activity now stand empty and silent – the sublime beauty of the abandoned. Mixed in are locations bursting with life; imagine teahouse lined alleys of historic old towns, artists villages, and night markets. From the neon lights of Taipei to the rugged beauty of Toroko National Park, this journey truly is a photographer’s dream.
Welcome to Taiwan! You will be met upon at Taiwan Taoyuan Airport and transferred to your hotel.
The rest of the day is yours to explore Taiwan’s exciting capital city. Perhaps visit the iconic Taipei 101 tower, once the tallest in the world and where you can take in the sweeping views from the 89th floor observation deck.
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After breakfast today, depart to visit the bustling Gongguan area of the city. Here you will visit the Treasure Hill Artist Village, a former community of retired soldiers which in its peak in the 1960’s-1970’s, comprised of around 200 households. This community was illegally built on a hilly slope, but as time passed, many residents moved out and it faded away. The Taipei City Government eventually declared it a historical site and opened it up for artists, both local and international, to stay in and it has turned the village into a hotspot for design and art with many wacky and wonderful art pieces to be found as you wander the streets, and many of the artists residences available to be visited. The village acts almost like an open-air art gallery, and the old-fashioned houses and winding streets just add to its charm.
Close by is the National Taiwan University, an impressive attraction with it’s coconut tree boulevard, parks, museums, and the beautiful Drunken Moon Lake. You will explore this area by foot.
Continue to the Beitou area, famous for its hot springs and lush greenery. As hot springs are believed to heal and relieve pain, there were originally many hospitals and old buildings here that are now abandoned. You will visit some of these, including a hospital that is believed to be haunted.
This evening, visit a local night market, where you can follow your taste buds as you try local delicacies from the many food vendors, and have fun being part of the local lifestyle. You will return to your hotel and have the remainder of the evening at leisure.
After enjoying breakfast this morning, depart for the Northern Coast area, which will give you a very different view of the capital city. You will start with a visit to the abandoned remains of the Agenna Shipyard in Keelung, a site that was originally used to store coal, and later rented by Agenna Ship Company in 1966, to build yachts and sailboats. Abandoned since 1987, the jagged remains of the shipyards are interesting to explore.
Next, you will head for the Rueifang area, to visit Jiufen Village, a charming and quaint town packed with history. In the 1890’s, the town became a site of the gold rush, and the narrow alleyways lined with teahouses give a glimpse of the past glory of the town. You will also visit Jinguashi, an exceptionally beautiful coastal mining town, surrounded by mountains and ocean.
During World War II, a prisoner of war camp for captive allied soldiers was located here. Now it is home to one of the largest copper and gold mines in the world. You will see the beautiful 13-Layer Ruins, which were originally a mining dressing plant for copper and gold during the Japanese period. The nickname 13-Layer comes from its appearance, and these days it lies abandoned, with nature gradually reclaiming it and absorbing it into the mountain. At night, the ruins are lit up.
Continue to Jinshan, whose name means ‘Golden Mountain’ where you will visit the UFO houses, a site of interest for the interesting, frisbee shaped, circular dwellings that a lot of people believe look like UFO’s. These colourful abodes are now abandoned and are a favourite for photographers because of their strange and eerie atmosphere. You will finish at Huangang (Huang Harbour) which is becoming increasingly abandoned, with many houses and even an ice-making factory left completely without residents.
You will return to your hotel and have the evening at leisure. (B)
After breakfast, you will depart for Chiang Kai Shek Status Park. Chiang was the last president of Taiwan and was said to be the last ‘dictator’ of his era. After a political party change, decisive views over whether statues of him should be taken down have resulted in many of them being moved here, to the park surrounding his mausoleum. Over 200 statues sit here, of Chiang in various poses including smiling, reading, accompanied by children and on horseback, making it quite a peculiar and an interesting place to visit.
You will continue to Buddha World in Hsinchu County. Originally an amusement park, it was closed due to environmental protection and was taken over by a Buddhist nun who has turned it into a Buddhist practice site. An abandoned amusement park castle makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the sites new purpose.
You will continue to visit the Yutengping Bridge Ruins, the remains of a bridge that used to span over 200 metres over a river. Built during the Japanese period, the bricks were ‘glued’ using sticky rice, a traditional local way to build houses and bridges. Ruined in 1935 during an earthquake in 1935, now only the pier is left to see. You will take a ride on a miniature train that has been set up to take you to see the ruins from a different angle.
If time permits before darkness falls, you might be able to visit the Da Yang Oil Depot in Dadu. This was one of seven oil depots built in Taiwan during the Vietnam War by the Americans, and the only one that still remains after the US army left. The local people raise funds to keep this one standing as a historic record, and they have built a park around it.
You will finish at Taichung City where you will check into your hotel and freshen up prior to a group dinner at a local restaurant. (B,D)
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Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before departing to explore some lonely and almost forgotten places in middle Taiwan. First you will visit Chien Yueh Building in Taichung city, which is about 200 metres from Taichung Station and right in the hustle and bustle of the city. After it was damaged by a large fire it was abandoned, and locals believe it to be haunted. Graffiti artists have since decorated it with street art.
Next, you will visit Kuiju, a beautiful and eerie abandoned Ninnan-style mansion also known as Minxiong Ghost House. This three-story dwelling was once the family home of the famous poet Chen and his family, and several theories abound as to why the house was deserted, including one that it was being haunted by the ghost of a maid who threw herself down a well in shame after having an affair with the master of the house. The remains of the house are quite stunning, baroque pillars now wrapped in trees branches and vines, and whole sections of the exterior being close to being reclaimed by nature.
Continue to an abandoned amusement park, Stone Amusement and a well-known attraction of the area until an earthquake in 1999 devastated the area. It has been developed by a new owner, but many of the original amusement park rides have been left as curiosities. (B,D)
After breakfast, wave goodbye to Taichung and move on to the south of the country where you will start by visiting an abandoned textile factory called Qiaofang. Continue on to Clam Barrack, a clam farm and dormitory built in the 1960’s for retired soldiers who came from China with Chiang Kai Shek. However, developments of an industrial park lead to the soldiers moving out of this area, abandoning the barracks and leaving them an interesting site to explore.
Travel southward to Chiayi to visit the Hsin Hsin Cement Factory. This factory sits empty and unused, on land that has now been turned into a forest recreation area. Explore the giant spaces inside the factory, silent and still.
As you continue southward, you will notice that a more traditional Taiwanese life can be seen.
Your next stop will be visiting a working soy sauce factory, to learn about the process of making this staple of the Taiwanese diet, and it’s uses. Taiwan has its own version of this condiment – Taiwanese thick soy sauce, which as the name suggests, is thicker but also sweeter than standard soy sauce.
You will continue to Chiayi City, where you will check into your hotel, and later have dinner with your group. (B,D)
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Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel before driving to Chiayi Old Jail. Originally built in 1919, this empty prison is now a city historical site. As you walk through the prisons deserted rooms, empty halls and bleak cells, you will learn about the experience of the former inmates, an eerie picture of prison life. For this visit, you will be on an official guided tour as visitors are not permitted to wander around the premises alone.
Continue to the first capital city of Taiwan, Tainan. Start with a visit to Shuiyun Police Station, which has been abandoned for over 30 years since a new station was established. The wooden building, made of durable cypress and cement, has been standing for nearly 100 years and is charming in its decay. From there, you will go to FeiYan Village, which was a former Japanese army military base. At its peak, it contained around 70 households, but the urban renewal projects in the area meant the village emptied. Continuing on, it is time to explore Xishu old street, part of a community that has been around for over 300 years. Once forgotten, it has had a new life thanks to the local governments work with local artists.
You will then travel to Anping where your first stop will be the Anping Tree House, a former warehouse that has now been almost completely covered by living banyan branches and roots. With its surfaces almost completely swallowed by the trees, the structure now feels like something out of fairy tale – a building truly reclaimed by nature to be a ‘tree house’. Next, visit Anping Old Street, with its many street food vendors.
Check into your Tainan hotel and have dinner with your group. (B,D)
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This morning, drive to Kaohsiung, the biggest city in Southern Taiwan. Here you will visit the An Le Lou (An Le Building), a beautiful abandoned building that was once one of the most luxurious places in the city for nightlife. The Japanese Government turned it into a club for Japanese soldiers in 1933, and then in 1959 it was turned into a hotel. However eventually it was closed and abandoned, and its grand staircases and classical pillars and corridors have taken on a new type of beauty, with their decay and deterioration.
Continue to Eastern Taiwan to the city of Taitung (approx. 3.5 hours) with a route that will give you breath-taking views of the Pacific Ocean. You will visit a distinctive white house by the seaside park that has a nickname of ‘Taitung Howl’s Moving Castle’. It was built by a retired soldier in 1966 while he was still serving in the army, and he built it entirely by himself, from the wooden structures to the brick walls and all with using unwanted materials. He lived there alone until he died in 2017. From the outside, it looks to be a 4-story house but if you were to go inside, you would see it is actually six levels.
Travel to Dulan Sugar Factory. No longer abandoned, this factory space which was empty since being bombed in WWII it was repurposed in the 90’s to become a space for Indigenous artists and is a collection of their workspaces along with café’s and gift shops.
Next is YueMei Station, a small and lonely train station that was established in 1922. As there were so few travellers using this station, it turned into a self-servicing station, and by 2013, there were no trains stopping there altogether.
You will continue to your hotel to check in and have a group dinner. (B,D)
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Today you will visit the abandoned WuZhou Theatre in Taitung. This theatre was built in 1965 and was able to seat around 400 people, with another 50 allowed to stand. At its peak, it was an extremely popular place but as the sugar industry in the area declined, more and more people moved from the town, leaving behind mainly farmers who do not often visit theatres. In 2013, the local people used their own money to revitalise the theatre, adding murals and other artistry and giving it a temporary new lease on life but a typhoon eventually caused more damage, making it impossible to be a working cinema.
Continue by driving along the East Coast to Hualien County (approx. 2.5 hours) and you will visit Seven Seven Highland, which was a garrison control area. The total length is around 1,000 metres and a 10-minute walk will take you to the top where you can look over the Pacific Ocean and see an abandoned artillery camp and dormitory.
Continue on to a true natural highlight of your trip, the impressive Taroko National Park, home to the only marble gorge in the world. You will hike the Baiyang Waterfall Trail (approx. 2 hours) which winds along the cliffs and through a series of eight tunnels carved into the rock of the gorge. When you look out of the tunnels from the inside, you will be blessed with the stunning greenery of the surrounding mountains framed by the rock. In between the tunnels are amazing vantage points of the river below and the National Park. Just one of the tunnels is lit so as not to disturb the living creatures within the tunnels, but you may choose to take a flashlight. You will end up at Shui-lian-dong (Water Curtain) where a waterfall flows from the tunnel roof, a beautiful sight.
Your accommodation for the night is situated on an isolated plateau in the Taroko National Park, with dramatic mountain surroundings. Time will feel like it has slowed down in this beautiful environment, with its background music of birdsong, and the backdrop of towering green mountains and blue sky. This accommodation is owned by members of the local Taroko tribe and the semi-detached log cabins are full of Indigenous influence, with hand-made weaving and canvas paintings crafted by the community, and a slightly retro design which is reminiscent of the traditional Tang Dynasty. (B,D)
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Enjoy breakfast at your hotel. For early risers, there are hiking trails around your accommodation that are great for an early morning walk. You will then depart for CheChang in Nantou, where you will visit ZhenChang Wood Factory, abandoned since the 1980’s when the Taiwanese sensed logging’s harm to the nature and forests, and laws were made to restrict logging. To see trees now growing and thriving within the abandoned factory is a wonderful irony.
Continue to Jiji to visit Wu Chang temple, which crashed during an earthquake in 1999. A truly interesting sight, much of the structure remains intact, just crumpled and leaning. The locals built a new Wu Chang Temple in 2013 but have kept this bowed monument in the state that it was when it crashed.
You will then drive to Taichung City where you will visit the eye-catching Rainbow Village. Built by former soldiers who retreated to Taiwan, the former president Chiang Kai Shek, one talented retired veteran began painting the houses one by one, with vibrant patterns and murals, leading to a village bursting with colour that has now become a famous attraction.
Next, you will head northward to Liukeng Slope Cableway and Wuji Cableway in Jinguasha area. Originally built to deliver gold and coal from the mines, these were closed in 1987 when the company shut, and is now buried in woodland.
Continue to Taipei and check into your hotel. Later enjoy dinner with your group. (B,D)
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Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before checking out. You will then head for Yilan County, the ‘rice barn’ of Taiwan (approx. 1 hour). In this beautiful landscape, the water is clean and there is abundant rain, making Yilan the perfect place to grow plants, tea, fruit, and rice. Today, you will head for Wushi Harbour and take a boat to Turtle Island. Turtle Island is about 10km away from Toucheng in Yilan, and it is also the only active volcano in Taipei, although it’s last eruption was 1888. The island got its name because it looks like a turtle from a distance, and it is distinctive for the ‘milky sea’ that surrounds the island, a combination of the hot spring salt water and sea water mixing together. There were originally residents living on this island, make their living by fishing but in the 1970’s, the Taiwan government moved them to turn the island into an artillery shooting area. Later the military ceased using the island and it now lies empty, with the structures left to decay. The island itself is lush and green, and a great place for photography and exploration.
You will then have a late lunch together as a group, and then there will be time to visit the tea farm or go for a short nature hike. If you have an evening flight out of Taipei, you will then travel to the airport, or back to your Taipei hotel. (B,L)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 4 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.