Everyone knows that when it comes to urban exploration, Burbex is a junkie, not one of those junkies that climbs on top of high rooftops and cranes for that electric meth buzz, more like an opium junkie that searches for a quiet corner to curl up in and hide from the world whilst chasing the dragon.
Burbex has trouble with living in North East China, the pace of life and the noise is just too much sometimes, and when he found this abandoned Steel Works on the edge of the city, he knew he had found his new opium den.
A myriad of spires pierce the gray sky from within the complex. Whereas others might follow such spires in search of cathedrals where they bow down and prostrate themselves before God, Burbex follows the spires in search of quietude, and this place does not disappoint.
The complex itself is unusual in a number of ways, diagonal bridges and vertical chimnies dissect the landscape, but between the dissected spaces lay little reminders of the traditional, little humanities that show this place was once inhabited by tens of thousands of workers.
Dormitories overlap with massive furnaces, kindergartens and basketball courts with the huge smelting domes. In this place there is no divide between the industial and the human, it is a defunct automaton from another age.
Yet like the promise of opiates, which are at the same time comforting and threatening, there also is a strong sense of danger in the complex, the souls of long passed workers, shaking and banging the corrugated steel walls in warning ESCAPE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.
The Tower at the entrance to the smelting blocks stands dark and defiant, a monolith to a defunct religion. Burbex carefully climbed to the top to survey the whole site, each rusted stair a step of pilragmmage to the still faithful.
Coming to the end of his urbex opium high, Burbex felt comfortable in his own skin again and ready to face the world, such as it is, with a steely face and an iron constitution.
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You may remember in the last post Burbex was nursing a midlife crisis. What better way is there to find a new identity than exploring the frozen bowels of abandoned Changchun bathhouse? Unlike mushroom trips at The PLA Hospital or spending time with the disembodied residents at The Catholic School, Burbex wasn’t sure if he was going to reemerge this time.
The Changchun Bathhouse had seen thousands of weddings over the past two decades, but not unlike Mrs. Haversham’s wedding in Great Expectations, the wedding scenes have been left to rot, and the groom is nowhere to be seen.
Burbex had not been invited to the wedding party though. Despite the grandiose decor and luxurious rooms, he was heading straight for the basement, where the upper crust of Changchun society used to bath away their filthy richness.
Penetrating the lower levels of the bathhouse, everything was caked in darkness, only glimmers and glints from the spectacular chandeliers stood out in the dark, slowly swaying from unfelt gusts of spirit movement.
A word of warning before he entered the subterranean world. “Leave your clothes here and don’t forget to lock up your valuables.” The gaping mouths of the rotten lockers suggested, “We’re not responsible for anything you lose tonight… especially not your life!”
Burbex followed a streaking trail of red light beyond the changing room. Already in the icy depths of the bathhouse, he could feel the metamorphosis about to begin. Electricity crackled around him, drawing him to the fire pit.
A great spark of light, and the fire took it corporeal form. When the fire was brightest, only then could the spectres who became viscous in the thick darkness which hides in hidden corridors and secret corners be called upon.
Burbex uttered the soundless vowels of their tongue, and with promises of blood, he drew forth a spectre which bathed in the light of the fire. It tapped its feet and drummed it’s fingers, working up the gusto for a dance.
The barely visible spectre emerged fully and danced his long forgotten dance:
Follow the balls of fire to the mirror,
where our two worlds are riven,
there within the mirrored cage,
unto you a new life shall be given
The heavenly orbs appeared as promised and lit the way for Burbex to follow. Six mirrors to other worlds before him stood, dark tendrils emanated from five, but one glowed a lustful red, drawing Burbex towards it, to touch it, and move through it.
Burbex stepped through into the mirror room where a thousand reflected identities had been stored. Burbex snatched at the first new identity, which grew furnace hot and glowed proudly within his chest.
What identity Burbex grabbed out of that place or whether he’ll make it out of that mirrored cell, we’ll never know, but if you are ever looking to rediscover yourself, send him an email at email@example.com and maybe he can take you to the other side too.
Putting these elements altogether in one site and discovering it unexpectedly in Changchun is going to make Burbex a very happy camper.
North East China is better known as the rust-belt of China, rusting factories and failed malls, but Burbex knows a few oases of green in his Chinese birthplace Changchun, namely the forest surrounding Jingyue Reservoir.
The reservoir is massive and attracts tonnes of tourists, each coughing up thirty yuan to enter the National Forest Park. Burbex hadn’t been there for more than ten years, but he still remembered the hole in the fence where entry was free of charge.
Once in the park, Burbex made a beeline to the edge of the lake, and searched for the tumbledown fairytale huts hidden in the forest where he’d sunbathed butt naked a decade before.
Unfortunately the huts and his memories had been absorbed into the forest floor, so he went looking for new secrets. After hiking about twenty kilometres around the reservoir with it’s million and one twists and turns. Burbex found what he didn’t even know he was looking for, an abandoned ski slope, ski lift, and ski lodge hidden in the forest.
At the base of the ski slope, stood the old building where broken ski mobiles, and ski equipment had been left forgotten. It also served as a storage area for some of the equipment from the new ski slope right next door to it.
A sign indicated that the ski-mobiles cost 200RMB for a 15 minute ride. Burbex didn’t think these broken down ski cats were going to be kicking up snow again any time soon.
Hundreds of pairs of skis lined the walls from the Russian ski competition which had been held there the previous year, but the condition of these skis were going downhill fast.
Everything in the building at the bottom of the slope was either breaking, about to break, or broken. Burbex has a mortal fear of breaking bones, and so made a hasty retreat.
Getting outside again, Burbex started to tramp up the extremely soggy ski slope, his already soaked trainers sinking into the soaked grass.
He even climbed a few pylons for a better view. When an iron rung snapped off under his foot, Burbex thought it better to get back to the soggy ground.
Each of the seats hung from the ski lift like overripe rusting fruit. Strangely, each was covered in a thick layer of grease, which Burbex suspected protected them from the harsh North Eastern winter.
Eventually tramping right to the top of the slope, Burbex found the Austrian-made Doppelmayr mechanism for the ski lift. Burbex tried to climb in through the bottom of the mechanism, but he fell and ended up covered in more grease than an Austrian sausage.
Still, Burbex was rewarded by a fantastic view of the reservoir from the top of the ski slope. The next step though, was to find the upper ski lodge.
Looking like a set out of a James Bond movie, the ski lodge was hidden in the thickest part of theforest. It’s deep red paint was flaking and peeling, but the design of the building was very appealing.
Red and white staircases curved round the building to the upper floors. Burbex was determined to get into this building, but it was locked down tight.
There were no open windows, no unlocked doors. Even when Burbex climbed on the roof, he found ever entry point locked down hard. Burbex doesn’t like giving up though.
Using a banner he’d found in the forest which read DON’T SMOKE IN THE WOODS, Burbex fashioned a rope, tied it to a rock and threw it up onto a balcony. Straining and pulling, Burbex pulled himself to the top, but then…
…disaster. The railing on the balcony broke, and Burbex was left treading on air, like Wylie Coyote in those Loony Toons cartoons where he hasn’t realised he’s fallen off a cliff.
At this point, his muscles aching and feeling defeated, Burbex called it a day and marched off home through the forest, vowing he would be back to defeat the beast. You can check out that diasterous tale in the video below:
By the way, if you want to come along with Burbex on a trip, be sure to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are thinking about coming to Jingyue Park, be sure to bring rain boots and and a beekeeps mask.
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