(original story courtesy of Gareth’s blog)
Last year at a DPRK pre-meeting, me and of the customers, Darmon Richter, got to chatting about our things to do in Beijing, which led us onto Mao’s secret underground city (which alas you can’t go to), and eventually to our mutual love of communist kitsch, and ghost cities with our ideal scenario being a sexy mixture of the both!
He’s actually a great writer that traverses the globe, looking at this shit all the time, that is when he’s not chilling out in his adopted home of Bulgaria. His “Bohemian Blog” is well worth checking out (particular kudos for his article on secret communist flying saucer in Bulgaria).
So when he signed up for our Rason Tour, we decided to have a little post trip jolly, and maybe check out some China stuff.
Our initial problem was what to look at? China has a very recent, very communist past infused with a more recent input of cash that is pretty much unparalleled in history. Now whilst not exactly great for the locals, this has not only left some genuine lefty nostalgia, but also some modern white elephants of mass unfinished projects left due to corruption, over-ambition, or who knows.
Altogether this left the two of us with some truly tough choices on where we would visit, so I would like to start with the honourable mentions, the academy nominees, that in the end just failed to make the grade.
So this one only I actually did not manage to get to. It is a very unfinished theme park situated on the outskirts of Beijing. Essentially an over-ambitious project that ran out of money. It’s pretty cool for a day trip, and can be reached by bus, or private car pretty easily.
Mao’s hometown as you can imagine is the world’s epicentre for Mao idolatry, being filled not only with where he was born, but many a “Mao was ere” sign. The capitalists have also arrived, with Mao souvenirs being somewhat abundant. Easy enough by flight from Beijing, but not exactly close, and resembling more a museum than anything else.
A very genuine village in the south of China, that still live their lives to a fixed stringent Maoist ideology, all working and eating in communally run areas, as well as running their own hospitals and schools, all the while surrounded by revolutionary style posters. I would have actually loved to have gone here (and plan to one day), but again it’s not exactly close, but the main problem is that as an actual working operational village, and a socialist one at that, people are not exactly up for being stared at as if they were in a fish bowl. A transit visiting place at best.
And the oscar goes to…….
Ordos, and KangBaShi!!!!!!!!!!!! Not heard of them? Well not surprising (unless you caught the brief article about them a few years ago). Ordos and KangBaShi are situated in Inner-Mongolia, one of the the autonomous regions of China as opposed to a province (although in practice little different), in honour of the Mongols, who alas now make up little over %11 of the population. With the unique status meaning all road signs, city names, and to a degree education being bilingual in both Chinese, and Mongolian. Inner-Mongolia itself is having what can only be described as an economic sonic-boom, with its reserves of coal and natural gas spurring it to number 4 in China by GDP, ahead even of Beijing.
Now this is where Ordos and KangBaShi come in. Money very quickly, too quickly, in a rural area. Think of a yellow version of the Beverly Hill Billies and you will start to get this one. Basically Ordos was a resources boom town come city, people were moving in, they started to expand into a city, before someone decided that they needed much more houses, and quickly, not only that, but because the new city was not conveniently located next a reservoir a satellite city to Ordos should be built next to it, and they would call this new development KangBaShi, and it would be Mongolian Themed (well they do make up %10 of people), and it would house 1 million people!!!!!! What could possibly go wrong? Well no one exactly knows the answer to this, clearly some of it was economically linked, whilst some of it was definitely piss poor planning, there has even been talk, would you believe of corruption! All the while whilst Ordos, the parent city has not even been finished!
The end result being the slightly over half finished newish city of Ordos, and KangBaShi, cappacity 1,000,000, population 30,000.
I was looking forward to this one…..