We change lines, and as always it’s a long walk. Every distance seems very big in Beijing, and getting from the platform of Line 2, to the Line 13 is a short hike it itself, featuring a couple long flat plains, and a few climbs, with a downhill section at the end as you finally reach the platform. At least everything is marked pretty well to help commuters in their orienteering.
Line 13 is mostly, just like in Paris, an overground line. The boring adverts which follow the trains on other lines give way to good views of Northern areas of Beijing. The city is strangely clean today, and I wander who’s in town this time, because I can see the blueness of the sky. We roll past endless rows of 30 story buildings, huddled together, all the same, a bit like those homes outside of European cities, but here each one is almost a sky-scraper. Nearer to the overground line, a few huts made up of wood and a few odd slabs of concrete make up mini shanty towns, framed with ditches full of rubbish . We roll past a university, and many more blocks of flats, some grey, some black and grey, some grey and white.
We change lines again, this time for a pink one, forgotten at the top of the tube map. The train is empty enough for us to easily find seats. This line too is a outdoor ride, and it seems like the air outside is getting even cleaner as we roll North. The stops on this line are very far from one another, and this trip to an abandoned theme park is going to take for ever. Outside, forests of tall buildings are in the process of being built, extending the urban area of Beijing. However the urban jungle is a little more spread out here with football pitches and small fields giving the concrete a break, before a new housing project comes along. We reach the end of the line, another place with dusty road works where we find the number 870 bus. It’s another very long ride, through what seems to be a different city which has been eaten up by Beijing. Then we see it on our right, a renaissance inspired vile-looking rampart making the entrance to the theme park.
We walk around the large ramparts and realise they’re not just walls, they’re actually very deep and have large rooms inside. We walk in, and adjust our eyes to the darkness. It looks like the building was unfinished. They built the shell and then forgot about the interior. The walls inside have never been painted, they’re just covered with chinese writing, chalked all over the walls, and right now more than ever I wish I could read more than just 15 basic characters. We step outside again and find a flight of stair on the side on the building going to the top floor. Huge brambles have been chucked on the steps so as to prevent anyone from walking up. We find a way through, and make it to the top. This place was never actually a theme park, it was going to be one, but they must have stopped building it half way through for some reason. We make our way across the dusty floor of a dark hall, and reach a door which leads outside onto the roof. Spag says we shouldn’t go too close to the edges in case someone at ground level sees us and calls us to come down. Just as he finishes his sentence, a voice behind us makes us jump and turn around. A 35 year-old bloke in a stripy polo shirt is standing in the doorway, spiting words in chinese. From the way he’s waving his hands about, I understand he means something like “you need to leave this place”. We do our best to look awfully sorry, and head down a different flight of stairs.
The man has left, and we’re free to go and wonder towards the castle. A narrow path takes under a massive metallic structure which looks a little like an imitation of the Garre Saint Lazar, but was imagine this place was going to be a market where one could have treated himself to bright pink candy floss, or chinese-style extra-oily churros. People have been cleverly using this area to grow vegetables where the restaurants and the slot machines would have been. At the end of the path, we reach the castle, an ugly concrete effort with a very tall tower which might have been Rupenzel’s bedroom. It’s amazing that these unfinished buildings are giving the park such a strong atmosphere. The metal structures on the roofs of each tower are rocking gently in the wind, squeaking slightly, decaying slowly, the fairytale turning into a horror film the more I look at it.