Tag Archives: urban exploration

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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2008 Beijing Olympic Village – Grade A+

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Dragon’s Peak Lodge – Hong Kong – A+

Burbex has lived in China since 2004, but even he is not immune to the wiles of the Public Security Bureau, who have this week sent him to Hong Kong to update his new visa. You might have guessed Burbex is not a big shopper and certainly isn’t going to push through the mainland tourists to buy cans of milk powder. But if you want to get away from the people mountain people sea, there is a place you can go where it is always quiet.

Up hidden amongst the winding paths that dissect The Peak, set on three levels you can find the decaying pre-war mansion Dragon’s Peak Lodge, or as its better known, “The Most Haunted House in Hong Kong”. Although it has some of the choicest real estate in Hong Kong, it has fallen foul to the the usual triple whammy of corruption, bad fengshui, and ghosts.

Apparently the original owner of the house which was built before World War 2 went bankrupt, and the subsequent owner died in the house. Later it is reputed that the Japanese occupied the property and several Catholic nuns were decapitated in the grounds. The gruesome reputation of the property made sure that it lay derelict for decades.

No. 32 Lugard Road last changed hands in 2004 for HK$76 million, but renovations have been constantly thwarted by construction crews who are convinced that the building is haunted, and in which they have heard an unseen child’s cries. The closest that Burbex got to any living creature nearby was an enormous porcupine that raised its quills and secreted some kind of pungent piss into the surrounding air.

The premises is set over three different levels, the main four-story house with ample attic space on the highest level, the staff quarters where a tower of 1980s washing machines still stands features in the middle level, and smaller art studios can be found on the bottom level. The house itself also faces out onto a massive garden, which in turn commands an incredible view of the bay on a clear day.

If you’d like to find out more about Burbex, why not check out Burbex on YouTube? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_nFYkcLFjn3IcyQTLy04Ig?sub_confirmation=1

Man of Steel – 2nd Island Steel Works – Grade A+

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Japanese Playboy Mansion – Suicide Forest – Grade A+

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FEELING GASSY – TIANBAO GAS WORKS – GRADE B-

If China was a human body and all the cities were organs, we could imagine that Beijing up at the top would be the brain, Shanghai would be the heart, which would probably make Kunming the reproductive organs. Where does Tieling in Liaoning fit into this metaphor?

It doesn’t! The dusty cancerous spleen was removed long ago, and it sits in a sealed jar of formaldehyde where it can be studied closely.

You know that Burbex is always on the look out for missing organs though, like when he found hearts and brains at the abandoned Catholic School. Tieling is a strange place, home to Zhao Benshan, one of China’s most famous comedians.

Additionally, it also has the worst economy of any city in the North East China rustbelt, and one of the highest divorce rates in the whole country. With those things in mind, Burbex was sure he was going to find some great abandoned buildings. Tieling did not disappoint.

The old Tianbao Gas Works has been locked up for decades. The walls outside are graffitied with accusations of corruption and government waste. Two armless manikins stand guard at the gates, their asbestos bones rattling in the dusty wind. This site is massive. Building after building of factory space.

Old office buildings have had their walls beaten and stripped of copper wires and anything of value, and the windows have been shattered by the pounding North East wind.

Everything is coated in the distinctive layer of North East dust,  a combination of industrial pollution and dust which piles in every year from as far away as the Gobi Desert and Mongolia.

There are some signs of comfort within the thrashed form of the gas works. Why not take a seat in this comfortable blue sofa. Don’t get too comfortable though, as the dust may swallow you whole.

It’s hard to believe that little more than two decades ago, Chinese government workers were still using these five inch floppy discs. It’s unlikely anyone born after 1999 even knows what these are.

Oddly, for all its pollution and sense of foreboding doom, the site is surprisingly verdant. Ivy which has evolved to feed off the soil pollution clings tight to the buildings.

Random city dwellers without any land of their own, sneak into the complex and plant their guerilla gardens, and later consume the mutated sunflower seeds and pumpkins.

All in all, Tian Bao Gas Works is one of the bleakest sites Burbex has ever visited, but it is a keen reminder of how life will try to hold on in even the most messed up of places, which is why it is being awarded a B- grade.

By the way, if you liked this post, why not subscribe to Burbex – Brin’s Urban Exploration on YouTube and check out the other great videos about Tieling, like this haunted hotel…

Or this abandoned Muslim Graveyard…

 

NIGHTMARES – BRIGHT HORSE MALL – GRADE B+

I’m always looking around for new places to explore, but I never find them. How do you find these places anyway?

Constantly on the road scouting for new places to explore, Burbex is looking for a few key indicators that a building is empty. Once an urbexer knows a few of these indicators, the whole city lights up like a fairground. Bright Horse Furniture Mall is no exception. In this post, we’ll look at a few indicators.

The strongest indicator of abandonment is when construction seems to have come to a standstill. Guosen Mall hasn’t progressed since 2008, but Burbex has been keeping an eye on Bright Horse Mall for the last two years. Even though there was a recent delivery of new escalators, there hasn’t been any progress.

Burbex crept into the complex via the ramp at the rear of the building, which descends three levels into a flooded underground parking lots. Dark water has seeped in from beneath the cement floor, yet another strong sign of abandonment. Burbex kept expecting a drowned witch to rise up with her arms outstretched.

Disappointed at the lack of undead witches, Burbex climbed the internal fire escapes and cam out in the central atrium of the shopping mall. Escalators and elevators are everywhere, and even Burbex’s whispering footsteps echoed loudly in the huge space.

Another clue that a building is abandoned is the blue sheets that cover all machinery, keeping the piercing Beijing dust away from their internal mechanisms. The recently delivered escalators lurk like blue ghosts in the sprawling darkness.

Burbex eventually made his way up onto the rooftops, where the ambient light seeped through the vents and walkways, casting a purplish glow over the massive area. Purple stains like spilled iodine covered the rooftop, disinfecting the crumbling building’s wounded pride.

The half cylindrical dome that protects the mall from the elements glows a gentle blue, reflecting the light pollution. Outside the traffic sounds of the fourth ringroad echo all about, a keen reminder of both how close and far away civilisation still abounds.

The logo for the building reads 爱家商业大厦 or Love Home Trade Building. Burbex actually felt pretty estranged from his own family standing on a building in the near darkness trying to capture glimpses of emptiness. That specific feeling is always the strongest indicator a building is empty.

With the strong sense of abandonment and melancholia permeating Bright Horse Mall, Burbex awards the building with a solid B+. If ever you want to come along and discover your own hidden melancholia in the heart of a forgotten building, get in touch at burbex@outlook.com.

Also be sure to check out the new Burbex Beijing Urban Exploration channel on YouTube – all the same great locations as the blog but in full moving glory.

 

FEELING MORE STABLE – ZHIYUN SMOOTH C – GRADE A+

When you’re having a mid-life crisis,

What you need is a bit of stability.

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.

Sony DSCRX100M3 Advanced Digital Compact Premium Camera (Wi-Fi, NFC, 180 Degrees Tiltable LCD Screen) – Black

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.

the best smart phone gimbal on the market

Andoer® Zhiyun Z1-Smooth-C 3-Axis Handheld Brushless Gimbal Smartphone Stabilizer for 5.7cm~8.5cm Width for iPhone5 / 5s/ 6 /6 Plus for Galaxy Note

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.

Zhiyun Crane-M with Dshot Tripod Professional 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer for Smartphones Card Cameras Compact Cameras Action Cameras Some Mirrorless Cameras

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.

 

BLOOD BATH – CHANGCHUN BATH HOUSE – GRADE B+

What better way to renew the soul,

than bathe the form in blood

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.

May I have the last dance?

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.

Costumes and decor from a long dead party

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.

Blood stains on the carpets

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 chandelier slowly rots suspended

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!”

Long abandoned lockers rot in the dark

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 light trail penetrates the dark

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.

A spirit fire lights up

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.

A spectre dances macabre around the unnatural flames

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

Goodness gracious – great balls of fire!

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.

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the bloodiest of them all?

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.

Burbex steps into the chamber

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 burbex@outlook.com and maybe he can take you to the other side too.

By the way, if you love haunted places, be sure to check out The Qianmen Haunted Hotel and The House That Never Dies. Also check out The Dead Hotel Series on the all-new Burbex – Beijing Urban Exploration YouTube channel.