Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Here’s What It's Like To Fly Into China's Biggest Ghost City

Here's an excerpt from Darmon Richter's epic tour of a Chinese ghost city:

Built for over a million people, the city of Ordos was designed to be the crowning glory of Inner Mongolia. Doomed to incompletion, this futuristic metropolis now rises empty out of the deserts of northern China. Only 2% of its buildings were ever filled; the rest has largely been left to decay, abandoned mid-construction, earning Ordos the title of China's Ghost City.

The more I read about Ordos, the more I wanted to know what lay beyond these hastily fitted doors and windows; to actually see inside, and under the skin of a city that never came to be.

Last year I travelled to Inner Mongolia for myself, to get a closer look at the bizarre ghost metropolis. I teamed up with Gareth from Young Pioneer Tours – a man just about crazy enough to share my fascination for this otherworldly ghost metropolis.

Here's what it was like arriving there and setting eyes on it for the first time.

Arrival in Ordos

The city of Ordos is served by the newly-built Eerduosi Airport. From the moment we got off our plane, it was apparent that someone, sometime, had made grand plans for this city.

The futuristically sculpted terminal building is decked out with fountains and hanging baskets, chic coffee shops and sub-lit escalators glowing in shades of green and blue.

While the population of Ordos is now just 10% Mongolian to 90% Chinese, nevertheless the airport was resplendent with proud icons of a Mongolian heritage; effigies of horses and minstrels gaze down across the central concourse, while the departure hall features a vast mural, a ring of painted scenes depicting the life of Genghis Khan.

For all this opulence though, the airport was close to empty.

We took the second of two daily flights from Beijing to Eerduosi; departing from the smaller, former military airfield in the suburbs of the capital. It brought us to Inner Mongolia after dark, and we hopped onto the transfer coach headed towards Ordos city centre.

We were on this luxurious coach for around half an hour, enthroned in soft reclining seats replete with cup holders, leg rests and a movie channel ... all the while, half-seen hulks of concrete and metal sped past our windows, distant, shadowy shapes appearing and disappearing out of the gloom.

I felt hemmed in on all sides by invisible construction sites. It was hard to make out much of our surroundings, given the bright interior lighting on the coach. On the final stretch into Ordos however, we passed by the shell of a stadium-to-be; the vast, skeletal seating areas rose up in a ring around a central playing field, lit by industrial spotlights and the regular, telltale flares of several hundred welding guns.

Never in my life have I seen anything so closely resembling the second Death Star.

1 comment:

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