Burbex is not a big fan of fancy equipment. Anyone who has been out with him on trips before knows that he much prefers his battered and scratched iPhone 6 rather than his Sony RX100 m3, but the joy of the iPhone is it takes great pictures and videos and it just slides into your pocket.
The only drawback of the iPhone is that it doesn’t have inbuilt stabilisation like a more expensive DSLR might have. When Burbex first started his YouTube channel Burbex – Beijing Urban Exploration, he was very aware that many of the videos were much too shaky. You can see that in his first ever video below:
After a recommendation from Antoine, one of the stars of Burbex Gang on YouTube, Burbex invested in the Zhiyun Smooth C gimbal, and the effects were immediately noticeable. Whether running or jumping, the Smooth C stabilised the iPhone so that the images looked a million times more professional. You can see how it performs in the Pokemon Go! video below:
The gimbal works with all smart phones, and can even handle the iPhone 6+. It works on three axes, and has a tracking mode which locks on to your subject however much you move about, or joystick mode, where you can move your phone smoothly yourself. For Burbex, the battery life is most important.
While the instruction manual states the batteries only last 3-4 hours, Burbex found they last anywhere up to 10 hours on one full charge. The gimbal itself is light-weight, but made of durable metal. Burbex is rough with his kit, and the gimbal has taken some hard knocks with no trouble.
Burbex doesn’t often make recommendations about technology, but the Zhiyun Smooth C has made a world of difference his videos, and it comes at a very affordable price too. Plus, if you are looking to make videos with your camera, you could consider the Zhiyun Smooth Q, which can even support a DLSR.
Now that Burbex is feeling more stable, you can expect some great Burbex videos in the near future. Don’t forget to subscribe to Burbex – Beijing Urban Exploration on YouTube, and be sure to leave all your great comments and questions.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe he can take you to the other side too.
Lucky scavengers will take in some of Beijing’s most unique spots, as you pit their wits against two of Burbex’s most challenging locations. Scavengers need to bring a fully charged smart phone, and suit up in durable clothes that cover the legs.
Scavengers will meet at Anheqiao Station at the end of subway line 4 at 10:30am, where they will be met by Burbex and given their instructions.
The Scavenger Hunt will begin on Saturday, May 6 at 11am and will last 2 to 3 hours.
Only 8 spots are available, at $35 per ticket. More spaces may open up if there is a lot of demand.
NOTE FOR ATTENDEES
Attendees need to be reasonably fit; able to climb a small fence and run around.
Attendees should wear dark clothes—hoodies are ideal. Clothes should not have too many straps or loose cords.
Attendees need to bring a smart phone with 3G/4G. A camera is also recommended, but nothing too heavy.
Check out the full lineup of amazing adventures taking place all around the world on Obscura Day, our annual celebration of discovery!
Use the #obscuraday hashtag on your favorite social media platforms to show us how you’re celebrating. We’ll be featuring your posts on our own platforms all day, and you could even win some Atlas Obscura prizes.
Alright, Burbex is going to let you have it. One of his favourite best-kept secrets. He’s going to tell you about the PLA Hospital. It is not the first time that Burbex has found abandoned hospitals. In the Tianjin Chest Hospital, Burbex was constantly being chased by his shadow, and his echo kept whispering replies. You never get lonely in an old hospital. But this secret place was different.
This story, like many others, starts out in a pub. Supping the craft beer at The Great Leap Brewery, Burbex heard the words “huge abandoned castle” float through the smoky air towards him. Burbex’s ears dragged him to where a drunken Scotsman was slumped at the bar.
“Can I buy you a beer?” Burbex asked. “That you can, pal!” The Scotsman replied. Two beers later, the Scotsman leaned forward in a conspiratal whisper, “It’s out there in the woods, hic! A huge fuckin’ castle, in the woods. It’s haunted they say. I ne’er found the place, but maybe you’ll have more luck.”
The Scotsman gave Burbex a rough idea of where the castle was located before falling asleep sitting straight up. Burbex wrote: ABANDONED CASTLE WOODS on the back of his hand, just in case he forgot it in the morning.
Burbex spiralled around in the grey dusty forest. It was biting cold, and his usual strategy of walking around in circles until he found what he was looking for, wasn’t really working. Sometimes you must lose yourself to find what you’re looking for.
This was certainly a strange forest. The pine trees were spaced too far apart, and the echoes of a man bellowing Italian opera echoed between the trunks. Whichever way Burbex went, the opera followed him. He was just on the verge of giving up the search for the castle, when he caught a glimpse of grey brick.
Hidden in the forest was the castle. The Scotsman had exaggerated its size, but with turrets and a huge gate, it had to be the place. Burbex slid under the gate, and then contorted himself through a broken window pane.
Inside, corridors snaked into the distance, and a cold chill travelled down Burbex’s spine. Burbex made his way to the top of the building. This was his usual strategy, get to the top and then come down. That way if he was chased by dogs, guards, or Beijing ghosts, he could still take photos on the way down.
Burbex took the stairs up to a room which he would come back to again and again – The Nightingale Room. Florence looked down from a huge portrait on the wall. She looked over empty beds and resuscitation equipment.
Since that first time Burbex found The Nightingale Room, Florence has been taken down, and the room emptied, but the fine architecture of the room remains.
In cupboards, Burbex found imitation pistols, and boxes of empty chlorazopan ampules, a schizophrenia drug.
Burbex has been back here many times and brought other urbexers along too, and there is always something new to discover. On a night expedition, Burbex ate “the fruits of the forest” and could see a million tiny fairies sleeping in dewdrops at the tips of leaves on the trees. They whispered a secret to Burbex.
Burbex ran though the corridors, through The Nightingale Room and up onto the flat roof. He tore thick electrical cable from the wall and abseiled into a hidden courtyard. Burbex had found the luxury wing of the hospital.
Inside were rooms with four-poster beds, the rotting floorboards sucking them downwards. Other rooms had art rehabilitation equipment, and in the dining room, paintings of French cheese and wine blackened with mildew. Burbex ran for the roof.
The black forest hummed silently, but then the silence was broken by the opera singer hidden somewhere in the forest. In the darkness, the song was not so threatening. Burbex sat and grinned enjoying his heightened sense of perception.
Burbex does not give up his secrets easily. The ghosts at Chaoyang 81, he kept a secret for a long time, at least until the movie came out and the house was renovated. The undead inhabitants of The Nationalist Hotel were familiar with Burbex, but then they were evicted and the neighbourhood gentrified.
Burbex doesn’t have many secrets left, but if you want to find out a few places, be sure to send a message to email@example.com. Be sure to bring mushrooms enough for everyone though.
By the way, have you checked out the new video page yet? It has links to all Burbex’s latest videos both in Beijing and around the world. Plus, don’t forget to follow Burbex on all your favourite social media sites:
What does it mean to feel nostalgic about an abandoned place?
It has been almost two years since Burbex posted one of his first explorations, Floating Dragon Lake Amusement Park. As one of his favorites sites, he feels a kind of nostalgia about the place. Burbex never visited the place when it was open, but a few Chinese friends have mentioned they loved it when they were children.
Nostalgia is all about the past though and Burbex is keen to move into new and exciting projects. Burbex is now proud to present the new Burbex Youtube Channel, whose first episode features a return to Floating Dragon Lake Amusement Park climbing up the park’s iconic Ferris Wheel. You can open the video above.
Burbex first explores the super spooky ghost house, the aquarium, the duck boat yards, the planetarium, and then finally moves through to climb one of the arms of the sixty-four metre tall Ferris Wheel. Fans who have been visiting the website for a while will know that Burbex is not so great with heights.
For die hard fans of the website, don’t worry, Burbex is still going to be out there sneaking into places and stealing shots of the best urbex sites that Beijing has to offer. In the meantime, be sure to hit subscribe at the following link so that you can keep up to date with all the newest videos:
Burbex wants to thank everyone for the fantastic support over the last two years, and he hopes that with your further help and encouragement, Burbex can keep on making strides in urban exploration. Be sure to check out the original report below, and Burbex can’t wait to see your comments and suggestions.
As the sun started to sink into the smoggy horizon, Jude and Burbex finally edged towards their final destination. The turrets and steeples of the gigantic hotel stabbed at the evening sky, beckoning the explorers. One thing was for sure, after the spooky American Beauty and super kitcsh Transvestite Theme Park, the hotel surely had something in great in store.
To get into the grounds of the hotel itself, Jude and Burbex had to cross though a soggy marshland upon which enormous villas seemed to be sinking into the earth. Lakes and water features has long since overflowed and the cellars and basements were entirely flooded with fetid marsh water.
Lusty frogs croaked at the dusky sky, snapping dragonflies and mosquitoes out of the thick air. From the outside many of these villas glowed with terracotta tones lit up by the sinking sun, but close up the paint was peeling and the plaster crumbling from the walls.
Marsh water and humidity had soaked the plaster and pushed the tiles off the fine front entrances, and sneaky trees grew up between the cracks further bringing the houses down.
The crumbling staircase led into probably the largest structure in the area, a huge waterside mansion soaking its feet in the marshes.
Down in the basement were facilities for spas and swimming pools, but now the only residents taking advantage were the toads and newts.
The unfinished hot tub hidden in the deepest level of the basement reminded Burbex of the mud monster in the classic Japanese animation Spirited Away.
Jude and Burbex did not run into any monsters in need of a good wash down this early in the evening. Perhaps they would emerge later in the night.
Moving up on to the ground floor the intrepid duo found some pots, lots and lots of pots. Not salt pots, not Pepper Potts (Iron Man’s girlfriend) but loads of huge terracotta pots. Burbex was stumped as to what they were used for.
The pots blocked doorways and staircases, meaning that Burbex had to climb up the outside of the house to get to the second floor.
From the balcony, Burbex could see the sun gradually setting into the Hebei swamp.
From here the hotel looked so close Burbex could almost touch it. Legging it through the marsh, Nike Air Max full of stinky pond water squelching with each stride, Burbex finally made it to the hotel.
The two massive wings of the hotel and the grounds around them were completely empty and unkempt.
The two wings of the hotel surrounded a massive ice rink which had definitely seen better days. The main part of the hotel showed a few signs of life, so Burbex nipped in for a quick cup of tea.
Inside the hotel was luxurious to say the least. In the completely empty main lobby, realtors stood around leisurely trying to sell the American Dream to the guests. They were obviously having trouble making sales.
In the front court of the hotel, luxury cars were parked, trunks full of golf equipment for the nearby golf courses.
Strangely Burbex felt optimistic about the future of Jinjing New Town. Massive ghost town like this may be empty now, but Burbex is sure that with great attractions like The Transvestite Theme Park and spa facilities for the undead residents, this town is going to take off soon.
If you would like to visit this site or any of the other great sites like The Solana Hotel, or watery paradises like The Great Mall of China, be sure to get in touch with Burbex at firstname.lastname@example.org and set up a time to meet. Just be sure to bring your monster shampoo.
Burbex loves to read your comments and suggestions, so leave a message at the bottom of the page, or follow Burbex on Facebook and Twitter.
Does it conjure up images of Wild West one horse towns, tumble weeds rolling through the dusty streets, the doors swinging on the nearby saloon, the pianola playing haunting tunes under ghostly fingertips?
Now, take that image and throw it away. China is now the world leader in ghost towns, and they are nothing like anything you can imagine. Maverick urbexer Jude pestered Burbex to go on a roadtrip to the dusty suburbs of Tianjin to check out a new city called Jingjin New Town.
You may remember that Burbex is no stranger to Tianjin having explored the ghostly Tianjin Chest Hospital earlier in the year. This was a completely different kind of project altogether though. As Burbex and Jude left the uncommonly blue skies of Beijing and went across the border into Hebei, the smog got thicker and thicker.
From the end of the Tianjin subway line, a minibus arrived just in time to take us the fifty kilometres to Jingjin New Town. Neither Burbex nor Jude knew what they were looking for, but as they travelled further the already toxic smog closed in further almost blocking the view altogether.
Finally, poking through the smog clouds the peaks of some of the faux-ancient buildings could be seen. Enormous constructions were everywhere stretching as far as the eye could see (which wasn’t actually that far in the smog). Burbex and co. jumped off at one of the many entrances, and went into a packed internet bar for refreshments.
No wonder the complex was empty, Burbex thought as he looked at the packed net bar (note the girl picking her nose up front). This was probably the premier entertainment venue in the whole city.
The first part of the complex that the duo investigated were the tower blocks, which while in a quite lovely neighbourhood, were for the most part completely empty. A local resident said that it was common for families to buy apartments here so they could gain urban household registration for their children, meaning they have certain advantages in examinations. At the same time they could still retain their rural registrations which has other benefits.
Sneaking up the roof of these near-empty buildings was a cinch. Out of the smog mirage, beyond the luxury villas and faux-americana villas, there seemed to be a palace calling to the explorers.
The apartment blocks were divided from the villas by a scuzzy filth infested ditch which the explorers chose to circumnavigate. Taking the long way round the urbexers finally found their way into a parallel universe. Americana never looked so good. Burbex was just waiting for Freddy Kruger to appear and tear this dream to shreds.
Somewhat like the The Olympic Homko Ghost Town in Beijing, the houses are beautifully designed and are obviously intended for commuters, since most of them have adjoining garages and outdoor parking.
The houses are all very similar and just go on for ever and ever as the map below suggests. This was just one small section of a suburban area that stretches as far as the eye can see.
Of course, Freddy Kruger was not required to know that this place was not some beautiful dream. Many of the buildings are completely empty and falling down.
The ones beside the river are in slightly better condition, but this is only because they have been squatted by the country bumpkin contingent of security guards, migrant workers, and janitors who run the place.
The security guards seemed very concerned when they saw the duo taking photos and ushered them away. When asked how many of these places were occupied the security guard replied about ninety percent. This was obviously bullshit as not a soul could be seen on this winter day.
Pushing further into suburbia the villas grew larger and more glorious until they suddenly transform into full-on mansions basking by marshy lakes. The irony of these mansions is that they are even more dilapidated than the smaller ones.
Built on marsh lands, the mansions are prone to flooding, and most of the ones observed were impassable on the ground and basement floors. This simply meant that Burbex and Jude had a fair amount of climbing to do to get into the upper floors.
But once onto the rooftops and the view of the sun slowly setting through the smog over the rest of the mansions was well-worth the visit. Burbex and Jude thought that they had already seen the best of what Jingjin New Town had to offer, but there was still a great deal left for them to discover.
Sometimes you get the feeling that the only urbex sites in Beijing are huge industrial sites like Jiaohua and Capital Steel, or projects that have been abandoned halfway and left to rot like Guoson Mall and Sunshine Park. Sometimes what the Beijing urbexer needs is a little bit of nostalgia to add to the diet of rebar and concrete. That’s where Beijing Film Academy steps in.
In Beijing one of the characters that the urbexer is always looking for is 拆 which means to cut down or demolish. This character is often painted on buildings slated for demolition. The buildings may remain for years without anything happening. You can see the character painted on both sides of the back lot gate in the picture below.
Once over the wall and safely in the lot, there is the feeling of a one-horse cowboy movie, you’re always expecting a Chinese John Wayne to stride through the Chinese-style gate and challenge some dupe to a shootout at midday.
The only heroes here are the dogs who will follow you everywhere around the site. They are a strange breed of mutt specially designed to make as much noise as possible, while at the same time attracting nobody’s attention.
Hidden in the back lots are props of warriors and buddhas left over from older productions. There is a strong sense of China’s histories overlapping and blending on the lots which is probably not that far from reality.
Some areas of the lot are burned down or have fallen into serious disrepair. Alleyways lead from more modern hutong scenes into ancient China.
China’s own Last Chance Saloon contains tonnes of props and relics from the height of the movie age.
Climbing up to the roof of the studio, you can get a great overview of the entire site. Be very careful though, the concrete balcony is crumbling and it is three floors down.
You don’t really realise the scale of the site until you get up on top. The main studio is all locked up. That calls for another midnight trip.
The site combines Western and Eastern styles, probably as was seen in Shanghai in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Huge lot doors are overgrown with tumbleweeds and thick Beijing dust chokes the air.
In a hidden garden Laughing Buddha overlooks an army of plaster soldiers and demi-gods.
There are myriad doors and gates to get lost in, and the whole place has a strong sense of the film Labyrinth with its grey bricks and twisting turns.
With all this in mind, Beijing Film Academy is a perfect slice of nostalgia from a mixture of Chinese eras that never existed. It confuses the senses, and as the sun sets you are left feeling even more confused.
For these reason Burbex awards Beijing Film Academy with a B+ grade. If you would like to come along and see the site for yourself, please get in touch at email@example.com.
A bit further afield for this Burbex, Dalian is a coastal city in the North East of China. Hidden at the end of the one of the most popular beaches in the city, is this hidden gem, the ultimate in Urbex chic, that’s right, it’s an abandoned waterpark. Not only that, but it has a huge faux-mansion beside it.
There’s more than one way to kill a cat, an electric cable through the gut is pretty novel though.
To escape, you must pass a festering sewage outlet. It smells much worse than it looks.
Don’t forget that if you ever want to come to Beijing and see one of these great locations, just drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment in the box below. Don’t forget to bring your goggles and swimsuit!
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:-