Discovering hidden sceneries of Formosa.



       Along the estuary of Tamsui river nestles the remains of a monstrous structure resembling a modern-day fortress. Its tarnished & corroded iron gates fenced off its mystic aura and deadly silence from the entrance of any living, breathing creature. This luxurious vacation resort had once been the rendezvous for the haut monde, the synonym for exquisite taste, and the Garden of Eden neighboring the bustling urban jungle of downtown Taipei. More specifically, it was the reification for the astonishing growth in Taiwan’s economic development in the late 20th century. Yet after numerous scandals & financial distresses, fate had brought the resort to its current sullen state: an alienated space within the metropolis long forgotten by the momentum of the 21 century.

   The history of resorts & clubs dates back to late 18th century England. The clangs of metal in industrial factories roared through the skies, sounding the rise of the bourgeoisie and the downfall of aristocracy. A shift in the social structure urged the former upper class, the ones so nostalgic with the golden days of royalty and the gathering of similar social classes, to mutually fund for a membership-exclusive venue for social networking & leisure activities, often inclusive of recreational rooms, libraries, art salons, tea rooms, and dining halls; and thus “club culture” was introduced into the world, and began to spread in the Western world.

   Scoping back to Taiwan, despite the formation of poet societies and art salons during the Japanese Colonial era (1895-1945), it will not be until the US Aided era (1950-1967) that the club culture entered Taiwan along with the American troops. Up until then, the Taiwanese had never experienced anything quite like the exquisite luxury of western-styled clubs. Subsequently, golf clubs, gym clubs and many other social-orientated clubs began surfacing the Taiwanese society.

        In the 1970s, corporate-owned vacation clubs were available for public access, and with the loosening of travel restrictions and lifting of martial law, the Taiwanese began to value the “vacation lifestyle” more than ever, no matter domestic or foreign. In 1998, the turnover for Taiwan’s tourism industry had risen to 71.8 billion NTD, and western-styled clubs and vacation centers had become a necessity in the daily lives of the bourgeoisie.

   Under the prerequisites of urbanization and the commercialization of architectural construction, the implementation of clubs had become a major selling point for real estate developers. Compound residential buildings with club-oriented areas and tourist hotels began to appear in rural areas. In the late 90s, the parent council of the [redacted] High School purchased a leased land right across the school that had originally been the campus playground, and in the name of “relieving financial pressure” for the school, the Mediterranean Mansions and the five-starred Mediterranean Vacation resort was built.  

        Covering over a whopping 3.2 acres, the Mediterranean Vacation Resort was then the most luxurious vacation resort nation-wide: located right on the banks of Tamsui River and was equipped with both indoor & outdoor swimming pools, spa centers, buffet halls and ballrooms that could accommodate hundreds of visitors. The guest list included school authorities, mansion residents, upper-class elites and A-list celebrities. A lifetime membership would cost you half a million NTD (17,000 USD), and a monthly cleaning fee and minimum charge of 5000 NTD (170 USD) will also be needed additionally.  It its heydays, there were more than 1500 members registered, earning them millions per month.

        Yet nothing lasts forever, as the golden days passed by in a blink of an eye, the resort filed for bankruptcy in 2002 due to malmanagement. Although the parent council still earns the right to the land’s ownership, their debt grew to almost 200 million NTD. Under no financial support, the resort had laid idle for over 20 years. Grand spiral staircases, dazzling ballrooms and majestic swimming pools pose an ironic stance against their own aging and rotten state. All that remains is an empty shell of its former glory; inhabited by shadows of the bygone days, with no-one left to witness the spectacle beyond the resort’s dusted and shattered french windows.