I’m not about to profess that I have balls of steel or any some such, but I’d like to think that in most situations I can hold my own.
Throw in a nine-story unfinished mausoleum in the middle of nowhere, filled with death, eeriness and the inescapable expanse of isolation however, and I start to crumble.
This is the story of the abandoned mausoleum of southern Toufen.
Despite having ridden around the area on a few occasions, the mausoleum had escaped notice until one day I was crossing the Dongxing Rd bridge in south Toufen when it just hit me:
Given that it stuck out like a sore thumb against the dividing mountain range between Toufen and Miaoli City, I wondered why I’d never seen it before.
After I got over that, I then began to wonder exactly what I was looking at. Scratching my head as to why the sleepy town of Toufen would need such an overbearing structure etched into its mountainside I figured it might be some sort of elaborate prison. I mean what else was huge and coloured slate-grey?
The girlfriend of course brushed away my silly western ideas and informed me that what I was probably looking at was some sort of unfinished mausoleum.
“What… for dead people?! But that thing is fucking huge!”
My curiosity awakened there was nothing for it, we were going to devote the rest of the day to figuring out exactly what we were looking at.
We spent the rest of the day trying to get up the hill the mausoleum was perched at but to no avail. As the sun began to set we eventually gave up, although during the course of the afternoon we did run into some vintage looking houses set up next to a mental asylum (as if the area couldn’t get any creepier).
The next day we resumed navigating southern Toufen’s backstreets and as we continued to get ever so closer, the mauseoleum looked only more monolithically gargantuan:
As close as the sidestreets would get us to the mausoleum though, it remained just out of reach with seemingly no entrance to get us up there.
Asking anyone we ran into as to firstly what the building was and secondly how to get up there, nobody was of much help. People didn’t seem to know what it was or how to get up there.
One lady did finally manage to fill us in on a bit of the history surrounding the building though, confirming it was a mausoleum.
Apparently it was the project of some businessman that had been started many years ago. Due to a combination of running out of funds and protests from nearby gated communities however the project had stalled, leaving behind a large empty shell for a good number of years now.
Unfortunately though she had no idea how to get up there and after getting our hopes up we were basically back at square one.
After numerous turnbacks and dead ends, we finally spotted an unmarked dusty looking dirt road littered with pebbles and debris that both of us felt sure we hadn’t tried yet.
After only a short while into the trail things were looking good:
And about another ten minutes later of wheeling our bikes over the rough terrain we were there. Staring up at the nine-story building even up close I still had no idea of what to make of it:
It was just… huge.
Here you can see the entrance of the building,
which I’ve tried to scale for you by plonking by bicycle infront of it:
As you can see the front entrance was shuttered close so it initially looked like deeper exploration into the mausoleum was impossible. Walking around the side of the building however, revealed a side entrance that was thankfully wide open:
Not looking all that inviting, I couldn’t convince my girlfriend to join me for an initial expedition into the heart of the unknown.
Armed with nothing more than my trusty cameraphone… I took a deep breath and ventured in alone (note the sudden drop in wind as I cross the threshhold):
There was no way in hell I was going to venture down into the unlit basement of the building… so the only viable option was to harden the fuck up and see what the remaining eight floors held in store for us.
After considerably coaxing of the girlfriend (like fuck I was going up there alone via dark and dank staircases), I finally managed to convince her to accompany me.
Not out of any misguided belief that she’d be of any use up there… but more along the lines of should anything happen, two of us would increase the chance of the story of what exactly happened making it out of there – alive.
Here’s how that went down:
Coming back down we got spooked by a voice calling out (which happened right when we were in a dark staircase).
Thoughts of my own personal safety be damned, my first reaction was to secure the bikes (which we’d just left as they were out front). And pretty much rushing down the rest of the stairs (careful to avoid the dead pidgeon we’d run into on the way up), we exited the mausoleum to find one oldish looking gentlemen shouting at us.
Turns out (not surprisingly) we weren’t supposed to be up there exploring.
After the initial dress down though his mood lightened up though and he filled us in a bit more as to the history of the building.
Pretty much confirming what the lady had told us earlier, the man told us construction had begun roughly a decade ago and it was only recently that ownership of the mausoleum had changed. New ownership meant new funds and construction had slowly resumed, despite protests from the neighbouring communities.
He did give us a name for the mausoleum project too but I seem to have lost the bit of paper I jotted it down on. Searching on the internet didn’t reveal anything further either.
All in all the mausoleum of southern Toufen was definitely one of the more stranger experiences I’ve had here in Taiwan. Entirely self-inflicted of course, at least the expedition quenched my curiosity.
Heading back down the mountain we chose a different route, which took us past some jungle’ish scenery and those graves we’d seen from the top of the mausoleum.
After our nine-story death building adventure, the outdoor graves felt positively homely.