Urban Exploring in China
I nestled in bed under the sheets watching “Xingshi” known to people who speak English as “The Walking Dead.” Relapsing with mono took most of my energy, but not all of it. I used this time to relax and scope out the construction area next door to Zoe’s. At the moment I sleep when people are at school or work and I roam around at night time soaking up the tranquility of silence. This night I did so from the rooftop of a 30-story, skyscraper currently under construction and off-limits to the public. How did I get in to the site? I spent a few hours scoping out the perimeter of the 10-foot, barbed wire fence with razor wire spiraling across the top. Black speakers and light fixtures lined the wall like soldiers preparing for attack. At first I feared security armed the wall with motion sensors. Not the kind that light up from movement and body temperature while moving, but that sound an alarm.
I casually climbed on top of a pile of stone tiles peaking over the barricaded wall. Lights shined from three different posts. Two near the elevators and one near the front gate where I saw multiple security guards walking back and forth past the crane. Gripping a flat, metal bar used to align the razor wire I propped both feet on the brick fence. I carefully placed my legs between the razor wire and steadily climbed over it crouching down on top of the 6-inch wide, brick, wall.
I waited for a sign. Any sign, that security realized a breach took place, but a few minutes passed and nothing happened. I sat on the wall, feet dangling on the other side, I practically made it inside. My depth perception and focus took a while to adjust due to the lack of lighting. When I looked down I realized the wall perched too high from the ground below. Even if I crimped the top of the fence with both hands and dangled there the drop might break my ankle. If not, the loud thud from slamming both feet into the concrete might draw unwanted attention from the guards. I didn’t feel like playing hide and seek so I hopped back over the razor wire and walked down the stone piles using them like steps to a stairwell.
The left corner of the wall adjacent to apartments directly behind the construction site bode well for entry. I stepped slowly, my shoes striding across the slate tiles until finally reaching the corner. A retaining wall rose a few feet off the ground. I pulled myself up and plopped my ass on the double-glass roof that budded up against the top of the brick wall where the barbed wire ended. It looked like a promising entry. No barbed wire, and a clear view of the crane. What stopped me from taking the plunge? Again the ground on the other side appeared recessed so it looked like a 7-foot drop. My concern involved finding a way out this time. All of this seemed to be a waste of time, but I learned three guards monitored the front gate and one secured each basement of the two skyscrapers. The motion sensors on the wall just sat there like trophies. They did not work and the scare tactic did not work on me.
I decided to call it a night and continue my urban exploring in China escapade tomorrow.
“Cockadoodledoooooooooo” screeched loud through the city of Xindu. The sound barely muffled through the thin glass windows on the 18th floor of my bedroom. I tried sleeping through it, but it sounded similar to the screeching noise of chalk against a blackboard. I awoke, feeling lethargic and unmotivated to do much of anything. The site stood a football field away so I decided to stake it out during the daytime hours. I walked to the far left hand corner of the site. The tall, brick fence made a tee with a black, Victorian gate. Both of which connected to a white pillar whose intricate design made it easy for climbing to the top. I made up my mind and decided to come back in the early hours of the morning.
1 AM rolled around and I began to fidget around in my bed, antsy to climb the crane and do more urban exploring in China. The amount of abandoned buildings and construction sites in this country is a dreamland for urban explorers. Rolling out of bed, I threw on my jeans, a few long sleeve shirts, my GoPro chest mount and Carhartt jacket. I grabbed some paracord, cut into two pieces, each 10-feet in length, and my headlamp. I strolled out the door and walked in the shadows of darkness to avoid the cameras inside the complex.
The Victorian gate stood a few yards away and my heart began to beat faster and faster as the adrenaline rushed through my body. My fingers crimped onto the white pillar grabbing each protruding section every few feet. I planted one foot in the corner and one near the Victorian gate for a wide base. I reached the top and just needed to climb over the wire until all of a sudden I hear, “rrrrrrrrruffff, rufff, ruff, rufffffffffffff” coming from the skyscraper behind me. The barks echoed louder and louder and to avoid getting spotted I jumped off the wall back into the complex.
Maybe this was it? Maybe breaching the brick fence was not possible? Steam came out of my ears and frustration brewed. I decided to sit down on the stone piles overlooking the construction site to cool off and pondered a new approach. What about the far right corner of the site? Hmmm…why not?
I crept through the brush and trees between the brick fence and 28-story skyscrapers in the apartment complex. I stood in complete darkness, no lights, no cameras, no people, nothing. I grabbed brick after brick from the ground and piled them on top of one another placing them against the corner of the brick fence. The barbed wire and razor wire stopped about a foot and a half from the corner of the wall making it an adequate entry to the site. I turned my infrared headlamp on and stepped up onto the bricks; my hands barely reaching over the wall. I pinned my one foot in the corner and crimped both hands on the other side walking myself up onto the ledge of the fence. I wedged myself between the barbed wire and motion sensors and waited for any sign of security to pop up. After a few minutes I walked along the ledge until reaching the scaffolding pipe that shot up for 30 stories. I swung around like a monkey until propping both feet on the floor of the building. This skyscraper stood 4-stories, but interconnected with the taller one. I tiptoed through the ground floor, hiding from security and avoided stepping on any lose pieces of re-bar. I climbed the first few flights of stairs without my headlamp because I did not want to attract any attention from the guards or workers. After gingerly walking up to the third story I turned on my headlamp and peaked around the corner looking into the vacant rooms. Trowels, bricks, wheel barrows and re-bar spread out across the floor of each room I entered. The other ones remained empty, 4-walls of concrete, with a small window looking out over the city below. I reached the rooftop of the smallest skyscraper after about five stories. From up here I looked down upon the other construction sites in the vicinity where night work took place. Small light fixtures hung from the cranes while the workers installed re-bar and poured concrete flooring. The rest of the city sat still. Everyone asleep in a peaceful slumber and the only people out in a dazed trance walking the streets. I soaked in the tranquility for a minute and looked out at all the architecture illuminating the dark sky before my eyes. Street lights, building logos, car headlights, and construction equipment all lit up the hazy, dark night. Me, well I just stood there for a moment feeling little, like a small piece of the beautiful world before me. But from up here I felt on top of the world. The greatest part of urban exploring in China or any place for that matter is the ability to see epic views without the abundance of people.
After taking a moment to appreciate the world around me I continued my trek up the next 20+ flights of stairs. I cautiously peaked around each corner as I plodded up the never-ending stairwell. Poking my head in on a few floors I realized the layout remained the same throughout the whole skyscraper so I didn’t bother wasting my time. Five minutes passed and I set foot on the rooftop, which overlooked the whole city of Xindu. I walked back and forth looking at the re-bar designs and my eyes shifted towards the city below. A plethora of buildings looked like specks from this high up in the sky. Everything felt so peaceful and beautiful I just wanted to fall asleep up there and enjoy the sunrise in a few hours, but I knew this would be problematic for getting out of the construction yard.
So I scurried down the steps until hitting the 5th story where I walked across the connecting rooftops to the other stairwell. I turned off my headlamp and slowly tiptoed down each step as to not make a peep of noise. One of the stands stood only 20 feet from my location and I did not want to alarm security. After reaching the ground floor I made a run for the scaffolding pipe. Swinging my legs and arms around I felt like a pendulum as I neared closer to the top ledge of the brick fence. I pulled my body up onto the ledge and carefully walked across to the corner where I first entered making sure not to fall into the razor wire.
I bent my knees and jumped absorbing all the shock in my knees. I took off my headlamp, put away my GoPro and strolled back to the apartment like I went out for a quick smoke.
I did not get a chance to scale the crane because the guards all sit near the front gate right near it. However, I did enjoy some great urban exploring and look forward to more urban exploring in China as I travel to Kunming next week.
Crane Climbin’ Day II
I broke into the site again today at around 7 PM and made it to the fifth story to snag some pictures from the rooftop. Daylight faded away, but I used this opportunity to stake out the crane more efficiently since I really want to climb it. I walked up a few flights of stairs and headed towards the far side of the skyscraper that overlooked the front security gate. I looked down and appeared to be 50 feet from the ground. I tried gaining access to the crane from the skyscraper, but the scaffolding pipe is covered in a green, waterproof, tarp to protect the concrete when it’s curing. My best chance of accessing the crane is crawling out onto the anchors and hoisting myself up inside the crane where the ladder is located. I tried doing this, but my body is too weak at the moment. I need more rest and more balls to attempt this maneuver. Stayed tuned for updates!
Crane Climbin’ Day III & Day IV
So I infiltrated the site once again and finally got the balls to climb this crane. I climbed up to about the 28th story when I realized the construction crew still worked on the roof and two floors below, which caused a problem for me. I could not climb to the very top since the light on the roof shined in my direction, but down climbing the ladder after the long climb up might be dangerous. My arms and legs felt exhausted and mono didn’t help the situation. A plank linked the crane to the 28th floor. I tiptoed across it holding on to the scaffolding pipe lining the perimeter of the skyscraper and made my way on to the 28th floor. The crew blocked the stairwell so I down climbed the outside of the scaffolding pipe three stories by sliding down the piping like a fireman and then hid in the shadows as I walked down the stairs and jumped back over the brick fence, hopping over the razor wire and making the night a success!
Urban Exploring in China and Crane Climbing
Urban Exploring in China: Day V
Ok, so I ventured back to the construction site again to reach the top of the crane. I estimate it to be between 100 – 115 meters up in the air. This was one of the tallest points in the city of Xindu. The lights shining throughout the city made me feel at peace despite all the fear and tingling in my fingers and toes from being up so high in the sky. I accessed the top part of the crane and just sat up there for about 15 minutes looking down on the city below. What a view! This made my trip in China worth while despite being sick for most of the first month with mono.