Category Archives: beijing

Kitsch Zoo – The Great Wall Hotel – Grade B

Are you havin’ a giraffe?

Urban exploration – better known as urbex – is highly seasonal. In the spring, Burbex receives dozens of emails from all over world from French students to Texan photographers wanting to see abandoned Disneyesque castles on the outskirts of Beijing and hidden radar bases deep in the Northeast.

Hungry hungry hippos

Winter though? That’s the dead season, when urbexers hang up their dark hoodies and flashlights, and go into hibernation.

Bridge frozen in time

The same doesn’t apply for Burbex, who doesn’t cut back as the mercury drops, but finds smaller expeditions, closer to essential amenities like central heating and hot coffee. Mini expeditions to locations like the kitschy gardens behind The Great Wall Hotel are an ideal way to while away a couple of urbex hours, enjoying the surreal abandoned restaurant, where nameless statues of Chinese fairies carry plates of peaches, as well as apparently the occasional cash donation.

Dragons swim in concrete

It is easy to forget, but the Great Wall Hotel is something of an oddity. When it was built 34 years ago, it was one of the very first luxury hotels in the capital, and even with the newer Bvlgari and Westin hotels nearby, the Great Wall Hotel somehow holds its ground.

Panda gets high on his own supply

Its rooms are a little shabby compared to when the hotel was renovated by Italian designers in 2006, covering every conceivable surface in mirrors, but it still holds considerable nostalgia value.

Go through the main restaurant area, past the spit-polished brass antelopes and tigers prowling among the businessmen and out into the gardens behind the hotel.

A great place for reflection

Jump into the arid lake bed, blue paint peeling off the sides, and go off in search of the kitschy animals hidden in the undergrowth. A hippo with a pearl in its mouth, a shaky-looking giraffe, a panda high on bamboo leaf.

Under the bridge amongst the fake mountains and rocky outcrops, two stunning dragons flow through the concrete. Follow the paths to the very back where the garden copies The Great Wall itself, an outpost overgrown with blackened ivy now acts as a massive pigeon coop. Circling back to the main water feature, the old octagonal beer pagoda can be found, its glass sides cracked and roof sagging with age.

The not-so-great wall

The garden behind The Great Wall Hotel is a reminder. In Beijing seasons may come and go, the city may develop at breathtaking speed, but even in the darkness of winter, there will always be a few corners of the city where time stands still.

A Right Royal Mess – The Royal Hotel – Grade B+

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Station 51 – Beijing – Grade B-

“What? He got deported.” The glass of Black Silk from Legend aimed at my mouth gets lost along the way. “Well, you know they take security pretty seriously down there you know. They don’t want Johnny Foreigner poking around.” The stout half-soused Scotsman points a finger. “Make sure you stay away from (garbled speech)!” He shifts on his stool. “I gotta piss.” As he stumbles away I grab the Sharpie from my pocket and write on the back of my hand.

I wake up head pounding. Black Silk lives up to its name on the way down, but it’s like sandpaper on the brain the next day. I roll over and notice I’ve made a note on my hand. STATION 51. I crumble out of bed and open my laptop. After an hour of ragged research on Baidu, I find a 1980s map of the Beijing subway. Something doesn’t look right, Pingguoyuan, the current terminal stop for line one, has two extra stations beyond it, stations 51 and 52.

After lining up the old map with current maps, I find two stations up in the hills on either side of a small mountain. The only clue as to their location is the canal leading up the mountainside. My hangover makes a sudden departure. I dress quickly and run for the door.

Two hours later, I’m halfway up a mountain exploring the structure of a massive canal lock. It’s beautiful in its ugliness. From the top, I can see a patch of wasteground – a likely spot for an abandoned subway station. Climbing down I go onto a dusty track where a sign warns foreigners to turn away. I’m in too deep now. I step onto the wasteland, and there, like familiar friends in an unfamiliar place, are three subway entrances.

Granted, they’re not all shiny and new, but they’re radiating 1970s Communism. Two of them are bricked up, but the third has a rusting blue door. There’s something down there and I want to get in. I pull as hard as I can on the door handle, but it doesn’t budge. Where’s a crowbar when I need one? I look down to my left, a dead dog stares at me blankly from wilted grass. This isn’t going to work. I’ll have to come back another day. What about Station 52?

I go deeper into no man’s land and suddenly come across train tracks going through a tiny village, dried maize piled up on doorsteps. Stray dogs run up and down the street barking. I follow the tracks. There it is! You can’t not notice it. It’s a huge tunnel at the base of a mountain. The other thing you can’t help but notice is the massive military complex surrounding the opening of the tunnel – Red Army trains and carriages on the tracks. The word “deportation” forms in a thought bubble above my head. By the time it has popped, my legs have carried me back to the safety of Legend. “You still here?” The Scotsman sounds surprised. “I wasn’t expecting to see you again.”

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the latest episode of Burbex on YouTube, where Brin explores an abandoned at school and discovers some newspapers from 1976 whose history has been erased over the last forty years.

2008 Beijing Olympic Village – Grade A+

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Burbex.org 3rd Birthday – A Look Back at The First Ever Post

Globehunters

This blog post was originally posted on June 30th, 2014.  Be sure to check out these other great blog posts –  Return to Capital Steel and Capital Steel Laboratory,

Capital Steel Works – Beijing – Grade A-  

Beijing Steel Works is a rare beast in the Urbex world. The site is in an almost vacuum state where it feels like all the workers just put down their tools one day and left. The machines have been left as if one turn someone will turn on the plant again.

Beijing Steel Works - Grade A -

The site is huge with more rust and corrupted cranes, pulleys, and conveyor belts that you could see in a week. The crane-like structures that you can see in the pictures apparently shifted unrefined steel to conveyor belts which stretch across the complex.

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The site is massive in scale and is punctuated by enormous machines, with pipes and cooling units galore. The urbex explorer must be very careful here as the overhead structures creak in the wind and bits regularly fall off.

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These metal dragons seemed to be used to scoop out the unrefined steel and shift it up onto the conveyor belts. They have big blunt teeth, and ugly faces.

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Train tracks also criss-cross the plant, there are plenty of abandoned trains, carriages, and miniature train stations to be found. Jump over the outer wall, avoid the security guards, follow the train tracks and in whichever direction you travel, you’ll find some Urbex treasures.

IMAG0109_1

This is a huge site, so be sure to take your time. Once you visit this place once, you’ll be addicted. If you ever want to pay a visit, just contact me on burbex@outlook.com, and I’ll show you around. Also be sure to check out Burbex – Brin’s Urban Exploration on YouTube for great new videos every week.

 

 

 

HIDDEN IN THE HILLS – PLA HOSPITAL – GRADE A

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No. 10 FALLING DOWN STREET – BEIJING – GRADE C+

“sometimes to find your way, you have to lose yourself.”

This might as well be one of Burbex’s mottos. Most people who have come out with him before have noticed that Burbex has a pretty stellar sense of direction, weaving his way through the ruins of Capital Steel or Beijing Chemical Works, he always seems to be able to sniff out an elicit entrance or a sneaky exit.

Three Towers

It is true that Burbex does get lost sometimes. That is not completely true though, it is more like “getting turned around”. This was especially true at Longyan International Park, spiralling around in the labyrinthine darkness unable to surface. That in fact gave Burbex nightmares for a while. There are times however when a simple trip to the top turns into a puzzle.

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Located in one of the more affluent neighbourhoods in Beijing, Lido is where all the foreigners can usually be found buying their imported grub and drinking at Irish bars. Looming over the neighbourhood are three twin sisters – Lido No. 10 Apartments. These expensive looking sisters were abandoned during construction and begged Burbex for a little attention.

Tropical Trough

The sisters are located next to the building site for a new subway station. Once the subway station opens, these apartments are going to skyrocket in value, which may be why the developers temporarily abandoned construction waiting for the prices to increase even further. Burbex wondered if the sisters would fall apart before the subway station opened. Burbex climbed through the abandoned workers area to get in passing a very tropical latrine.

Hot Water Girls

Sneaking through the front doors of the middle building, Burbex followed the scattered building materials covered with the usual thick layer of grease attracting the dust.

Yellow Lobby

Once down in the parking garage, Burbex got seriously confused. Exits led to dead-ends filled with weird pipes…

Crimson Pipes

… and homemade stepladders.

Ladders

An abandoned three-wheel truck stood rusting next to the exit surrounded by a veritable sea of rubbish.

Red Truck

After many false starts, Burbex eventually found his way into the darkened central staircase and began the broiling ascent to the top.

Penthouse View

Stopping to explore every fifth floor, Burbex found that each has one enormous penthouse apartment and half a dozen smaller ones. Despite the smog that covered the city that day, the views were still quite impressive.

Missing Connection

Stripped wire littered the floor in many places where scavengers have been through scavving copper. This is a sure sign the building had been abandoned Burbex thought.

Don't Look at the Rules, just Look at the Results

Reaching the 20th storey, a quickly scrawled message read in Chinese: “don’t look at the process, just look at the results.”  This must have been the motto of the migrant workers who built the place Burbex thought as he trod in an ancient turd.

Lidu View

One the shit was scrapped off his foot, Burbex finally made it to the roof. Two oval-shaped structures serve up the view on a plate.

Burbex was getting hungry and munched on a Nature Valley Granola Bar – the essential urbexing snack. Be careful though, all that fibre will make you do a big poop.

Liangma Qiao

Three stout air ventilation ducts sprouted out of the uppermost summit of the roof. Throwing rusty bolts down the chutes, Burbex listened for their hitting the bottom, which took a good ten seconds.

Three Flumes

Peering over the edge, Burbex could see the adjoining office building with an empty swimming pool on the roof. The small pond next to it stood out verdant green on the grey smog background.

Greenpool

More ventilation chutes were capped with metal chef hats.

Chef's Hat

Turning to leave, Burbex noticed a cement hand print on the wall. Was it waving goodbye or telling him not to come back again.

Cement Hands

Back in  the weird basement again, an uncanny green light permeated the darkness leaving Burbex feeling a little uneasy. With that feeling he made a bolt for the exit ramp.

Green Room

Lido No. 10 is one of those strange sites that is just a hair’s breadth away from completion, but completely empty. Some of the penthouse suits at the top look phenomenal, but with the scattering of turds and used toilet paper, it could be anywhere. Burbex emerged from the underground labyrinth with a new sense of direction.

Getting the Green Light

For these reasons and more, Lido No. 10 gets a more than respectable GRADE C+. So if you feel like you are lost, feel free to get in touch with Burbex and you can wander aimlessly in the dark in great locations like Sunshine Park or everyone’s favourite dark studio at Beijing Film Academy. Who knows, maybe you’ll finally see the light!

Front View

By the way, if you liked this post, please leave your comments at the bottom of the page and click the LIKE button. Be sure to join the Facebook Page and you can contact Burbex via email at burbex@outlook.com.

 

OLYMPIC MASCOT MALL – BEIJING – GRADE B+

It has been eight years since the Olympics were held here in Beijing. The Beijing Olympics was the first international event that catapulted China into the world’s attention. At the time there were signs of the Olympics everywhere, but since 2008 these symbols have all but disappeared.

Glassless

The few signs that were left behind have rotted away like The Olympic Homko Ghost Town are a sore reminder to most Beijingers that the Olympics was only a short-lived glory for the city and the country. It was with great pleasure then that Burbex found not only a mall abandoned during construction, but also the the abandoned Olympic mascots rotting in the long dry grass.

Beibei's Swan Dive

For those of you not familiar with the Beijing Olympic mascots, there were five of them called Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, and Yingying, and Nini. Their names all stuck together “Beijing Huanying Ni” means “Beijing Welcomes You.” Above you can see Beibei doing a swan dive into the yellow Bejing soil.

Huanhuan's Shame

Jingjing, who was black and white and looked like a panda was noticeably absent,  but Huanhuan, who is red and has hair like the Olympic flame, was found hiding her shame behind a bush.

No Pictures Please

Yingying in yellow was trying a bit of cycling on a very unreliable looking bike, no wonder she crashed into the thorny bushes – poor ying ying. For an animated Olympic mascot she does have a nice rump like you can see below…

Yingying's Bicycle Bootie

The last of the mascots Burbex found was the reclusive Nini, who in his post-Olympic shame tried to hide his green face from the camera. But wait… what’s this? Could it be that there is one more mascot to add to the five?

Nini's Disgrace

Of course, who could possible forget the Paralympic mascot Niuniu the Cow, which literally means “Little Cow”. Burbex was not quite sure what the connection between para-Olympians and juvenile bovines was, but in Chinese “niu” can also mean “awesome” as in the popular Chinese phrase “niubi” which literally means “cow’s cunt” or “fucking cool!” Does this means the Paralympics was “fucking cool? or a load of bull?

福牛乐乐

As you can see in the background, it was not the mascots that first drew Burbex to this yellow grass paradise, but rather the incomplete shopping mall, split in two and hidden behind a very fancy French restaurant.

Hidden in the Dry Grass

The mall itself is located close to the embassy district around Liangma Qiao (that’s Shining Horse Bridge in English – lots of animals in this report). The waste land around the mall is covered in weeds and dry grass that cover up all kinds of abandoned structures, but it was the mall that Burbex was interested in early one morning.

Ray of Light

Taking advantage of the morning sunlight, Burbex descended into the swampy cellar, where sunbeams were breaking their way through holes in the concrete to light up the subterranean world. The ground is soft underfoot and reminds you that large areas of Beijing used to be marshland.

Enclave

Beams of sunlight lit up various enclaves like this half circle…

Square Enclave

and this studly rectangle.

Rebar Garden

Burbex had to be very careful winding his way through the garden of rebar and cut off pipes with razor sharp edges. In fact climbing one set of stairs, an evil piece of rebar tore its way through the sleeve of Burbex’s favourite hoodie.

Stairs

On the ground floor, staircases abounded and glassless window frames let in the morning light.

Three by One

Morning Light

Burbex could also see the luxury housing over the fence next door to the mall.

Red Roof

He also suspected that the chalked grafitti on many of the columns was from the local children practicing their English compositions, “so that, in order to, so as to, in order that”. Burbex’s heart flushed to think that these young urbexers could write such good English.

In Order To

One kid even seemed to be writing a cement-based novel…

Full of Activity

The top floor boasted some great views of the swanky Marriott hotel in nearby Liangma Qiao as well as proving that Beijing does occasionally have blue skies.

Glassless

Other windows just provided a great sense of symmetry over the whole site.

Five by One

The real highlight of the mall, however, was the rooftop view looking out to the complex of high rises which seems to be taking forever to complete, probably another project going slow for lack of funds.

Overbearing Angels

Again the view towards the Marriott Hotel was irresistible.

Marriot Billboard

In closing, Burbex found that The Olympic Mascot Mall had a little bit of everything: a skanky cellar where lots of workers had pooed; cool window frames; a great rooftop; and of course a bunch of abandoned mascots. Not bad for an early morning’s work.

Six Houses

For all these reasons and more, Burbex awards The Olympic Mascot Mall with a firm B-. If you are a fan of other abandoned projects, be sure to check out The Guosen Mall with some of the best nighttime views of the city and also The Great Mall of China, which is probably never going to get finished.

Dots of Lght

If you want to come out with Burbex some time, just send an email to burbex@outlook.com, and he’ll be glad to take you on a double trip to The Olympic Mascot Mall and also The Solana Hotel which is just ten minutes walk away, and remember Beijing Huanying Ni!