Taiwan’s Abandoned: The Thirteen Levels

It’s impossible to keep abandoned places a secret when the structure itself is akin to an archaic fortress, sits precariously on a mountain face that overlooks the ocean, and also happens to be in close proximity to a number of major tourist attractions. I came across it almost like everyone else did; by accident, while on the way to other destinations, and because it really is that glaringly obvious.

So I won’t bore previous explorers with too much detail, but for the visiting folks who don’t know better, there once existed a massive metal refinery and smelter in Jinguashi (金瓜石), a region that was exploited for its mineral riches and became a major mining hub under Japanese colonial rule. The Shuinandong Smelter (水湳洞精鍊廠) was built in 1933 but after Japan’s surrender, the state-run Taiwan Metal Mining Company took over. Around 1973 though, the gold and copper in these hills eventually ran out, and the Company went out of business. Along with Jinguashi’s mining industry, the smelter, now affectionately coined The Remains of the Thirteen Levels (十三層遺址), also ceased to exist. Why it was given this name though, no-one knows for sure. Because there is apparently 18 levels.

Whether the progressing structures following the face of the mountain was just too expensive to destruct, or plans for repurposing fell through, the entire complex was simply left to ruins. There’s now a somewhat dystopian beauty to it all, and despite attempts to gate it off, exploring The Thirteen Levels seems to be a growing trend.

In broad daylight, my partners in crime and I crept through a hole in the fence, thanks to a previously curious someone who had made good use of a wire cutter. In spite of its popularity, Thirteen Levels is huge and glorious… leaving room for three curious intruders to lurch around dark places and discover more than what first meets the eye…



An eerie message that reads “I’m always here”. Right outside, local artist Mr OGay makes his mark.


Thanks to fellow explorer Guang-Hui Chuan for this shot.



Copper-contaminated water turns the river golden. Photo by Guang-Hui Chuan.


Visit  my fellow partners in crime websites for more photos and their own story:


The Rootless

A Friendly Word of Advice to Subsequent Explorers

Exploring the Thirteen Levels is indeed alot of fun, and some of you after reading my post may want to go see it for yourself. By all means try, but please be mindful of your safety! Many areas of this ruin is in fact quite dangerous – you’ve seen the collapsed roof, broken glass shards everywhere, vats of poison and fallen rusty iron poles etc, not to mention pitch-black stairwells and weakened, uneven floors. I only recommend that you enter if you’re confident, wearing the right gear and exercising extra precaution. Intrusion has been so common that authorities are getting serious with prohibiting access. I’ve been told there is now a new gate intact and security guards standing watch. I don’t blame them…exploring abandoned places is dangerous and you’re doing it at your own risk, so please be careful!