What does it take to make an urbex site special?
First of all, it should be challenging enough to keep you interested. Usually the bigger the site the better. Weird architecture, or water features are always a bonus, and if it is somehow culture related, then that’s even better. Is it possible to find sites like that these days? You bet your ass!
Burbex is a big fan of abandoned shopping malls, and The Ethnic Minorities Mall is no exception. Burbex has passed by this place a million times, but unlike The Great Mall of China and Guosen Mall, the Ethnic Minorities Mall does not really have an outstanding exterior, but you should never judge an urbex by its cover.
This Mall is actually right next to one of the stranger theme parks in Beijing called The Ethnic Minorities Theme Park featuring all 56 of China’s ethnic minortities doing their ethnic activities like hearding goats (that’s not a joke) and dancing in their own respective areas. The Mall was probably intended for greater things, but was never completed.
After a stealthy entrance, Burbex was confronted with an enormous glass covered atrium, which was fast filling up with the drizzling rain. The place was huge and some zigzag staircases led to the roof area, while incomplete staircase invited the causal urbexer to their doom.
From the rooftop area, Burbex had a good view of the Ethnic Minority Park, the large structure below is from the Uighur Minority who are found in Xinjiang Automonous Region, or intimidating passersby into buying enormous date cakes on street corners.
From inside the mall, Burbex spied on the pedestrians taking shelter from the rain. The old man below stood in the same position staring into space for at least ten minutes. Like the Mall itself, he wasn’t completely there.
Posters on the walls boasted that the centre cost one billion yuan to build…
… and that it was going to house KTV and Pawn Shops. Maybe the project would’ve been more succesful if it had concentrated on the other kind of “pawn”.
The massive floor space made Burbex a little dizzy, and he had to watch his step for the canals full of algae green water that snake through the place, razor sharp rusting rebar lurking beneath the surface.
By the way, if you are a mall rat or you want to check out some great abandoned malls like The Olympic Mascot Mall or The Great Mall of China just send Burbex an email at email@example.com and he’ll be happy to show you around.
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“How would I feel if this place was demolished?”
This is the question that an urbexer frequently will frequently ask themselves.
If you asked me about the Space Museum, which is currently being disassembled brick by brick, or The Nationalist Hotel, which has been half demolished, half gentrified, I would say that I am pretty sad to lose these familiar friends. The question does depend on what is going to take its place.
Sunshine Park is one of my favourite sites in Beijing, mostly because it is so quiet. I was worried when I saw the diggers move in, but then they replaced it with the only possible thing that I could accept… a dinosaur park!
Most of the original site still remains, but slap-bang next to it is a dinosaur centre, which is shaped like a huge dinosaur egg. From the roof of the old site, you can see the robotic dinosaurs roaring and scaring children. It is also only a hop, skip, jump from Ikea. Dinosaurs, Ikea, and urbex, sounds like a great day out.
Inside the original structure, things are much as they were before. The underground parking area is still flooded and deathly quiet. A few strands of weak blue light stream in through the openings in the roof and light up the water below.
The water is only a couple of feet deep and as soon as I find a good pair of wellington boots, I’ll wade in and take some water shots. Incidentally, fellow urbexer Misha Mushu and I released some baby turtles into the water last year. Provided the rusty water didn’t finish them off, they are probably thriving on the bugs in the water.
Unusually, this place has a lot more graffiti than you see in other places in Beijing. The now easy rear access now that the back wall has been knocked down, gives this place an almost gallery-like feel. Instead of curators there are ornery magpies giving their critiques.
If ever you are in the neighbourhood and fancy a peak at this place, followed by a plate of Swedish meatballs in Ikea, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can set up a time to meet up. Just turn right when you see the T-Rex.
To check out the whole set, go to flickr, and be sure to subscribe to get more great Burbex pictures.
How many times have I been to Capital Steel, and how many times have I found new areas to explore. This latest trip was a bonanza of new finds.
Along with entering the lofts where coal was moved along on mile-long conveyor belts, co-explorer Vom and I went further into the plant than ever, coming clear out of the other side where the cooling towers are located.
Along the way we found the laboratory where we found everything pretty much as the scientists had left it on the last day. So many bottles, flasks and crazy machines.
Unfortunately, Vom got a touch of heat stroke, and threw up (hence the nickname), but are adventures have seen the whole plant covered now.
In the cool and shady labs, mosquitoes buzzed in circles while we investigates rooms ransacked by looters.
Plus there was enough lab equipment and machines left over to make even Walter White happy.
Most of the chemicals have either dried up or grown out of their bottles and onto the work surfaces.
The other part of the factory that was new to us, was the conveyor lofts which stretch across the complex.
These are covered in a thick layer of coal dust. In the operator’s room there still remains an old bag of sugar and a plastic spoon.
Oil sticks to all the surfaces, and then catkins stick to the oil, so everything has a tarred and feathered look.
But from atop the machines there is some beautiful symmetry to be found.
Capital Steel Laboratory – we salute you – Burbex is giving you a solid Grade A, but with the heatstroke comes an important reminder to take candy and water with you when you go urbexing.
Of course, if any time you want to come urbexing with me, just leave a message on email@example.com and we can arrange a time, make sure you bring a sick bag though.
Be sure to check out the other great Capital Steel pages:-
On the smoggy outskirts of Beijing, far beyond where the subway line finally ends, and the dust dunes roll over the border into Hebei Province, right there on the border, that is where you will find the Great Mall of China.
Construction started five/six years ago when the small border town Yanjiao was slated to become the next border boom town. This led to a run on house building and general craziness in the area.
Years later, these dreams never came true, and the town, like the Great Mall of China, is deserted.
Getting into the mall is quite simple: find the tunnel under the nearby hospital…
go through it in the dark…
emerge and find the pipe under the bullet train railway…
go through the tunnel…
walk down the causeway and you are in.
While there is security, and by the sound of it heavy work going on, the place is virtually empty, and the two guys on the roof didn’t even pay any attention to me.
There is a vast underground complex of tunnels full of dust and supplies, but no workers to be seen.
Welding lights can be seen in the very distance at the end of the tunnels, and there is the occasional crash of metal on metal, but still no sign of people.
There are various tunnels that weave under the complex, and probably under the hospital too.
The blind bear stands on the road marking the way out. Be careful, there is a man who sells guard dogs nearby.
Located in the green leafy area of Olympic Park in northwest Beijing, this beautiful ghost village was originally built to house the athletes and some of the staff for the Olympic Games back in 2008.
Unfortunately, half way through the construction, enough athletes said that the air quality in central Beijing was so poor, that they would stay outside the city. As a result, this place has been left to rot.
Twice I have fallen through the poorly constructed concrete floors into the flooded basements beneath. This is just such a perfect slice of eeriness urbexers should make this site a priority.
There are a couple of security guards on the main gate, but people always manage to hop over the fence at the back for a quick peek. Be careful entering the houses though.
Every villa seems to have its own style and ambience. Each has its own fireplace. This one looks like the one in Beetlejuice.
The clubhouse has quite a large swimming pool topped with a dome. The day I went a kitten could be heard mewing loudly, probably stuck in one of the pipes somewhere.
The streets are long overgrown and weeds and small trees break through the cheap concrete. All that is missing is a tumbleweed.
Here is the naked lady of the park, with the Olympic Park in the background. She looks a bit lonely, maybe you should pay her a visit.
This is an eerie place to visit, so make sure you go on a sunny day. Seeing that there is so much to see here, and also because it is a semi-Olympic site, it gets a firm B+ from Burbex.
If you want to come and join me for this or any other site, please just send me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange a time to meet up.
This is really an unusual site for Beijing as it is in Central Beijing, and is close to the ever-popular Ikea. Called Sunshine Park, it used to have a a large carnival tent in the park which has long since rotted and fallen down.
Most of the site apart from the multi-storey carpark has become overgrown. The carpark itself goes down one floor underground, where it has filled up with rain water.
There are some incredible effects when the sunlight comes streaming through the holes at around midday. A word of warning however…
The site is relatively safe as long as you don’t fall off the sides of the carpark. Be careful of the junkie who lives in a tent beneath the ramp of the basement floor.
He came out of his tent clothed only in his dirty undies, and then started to bounce and scream like a monkey. After that he charged at me.
I ran like crazy, climbed an embankment and legged it through the bushes and wilderness. I could still hear him yelling behind me.
Below is a student’s story about first love, bad girls, and kisses.
This is the main auditorium where unusually for a Chinese site, there is a lot of graffiti. Plenty of space for more though. Bring a can.
Sunshine Park used to be where I went for a bit of quiet when I got the Beijing Blues. It s right next to Ikea too, so you can explore then get meatballs right after.
For these reasons Sunshine Park gets a very respectable grade B+ from Burbex. By the way, if you loved this site, check out these other unfinished masterpieces Solana Hotel and Guosen Mall. Plus if you ever want to come along, just contact me on email@example.com.