China's Fake Paris
After my idea to cross Hangzhou in a straight line for 24 hours it was time to head to a ne location. Somewhere stranger and a strange niche within Chinese culture. China is known for it’s strange eating habits, beautiful mountains and diverse culture across a varied landscape. But it’s the little things that interest me. Places and stories that tell a lot about life in China that many have never heard of.
One thing China does which I’m yet to discover elsewhere is re-creating cities. I had visited a fake London when I arrived in Shanghai but there was more. I had heard of China’s fake Paris and even a fake Venice! I wanted to head to this artificial Paris, having at least been for reference and see what all the fuss was about.
I have to thank Atlas Obscura on this one. It’s a website that helps you find the more unusual locations within a country. I can promise you that this is an affiliated mention as well… no one actually reads my blog. But definitely check their website out if you like the weirder side of life. I had scrolled through the page the night before and decided to head there and take a look. I grabbed a few trains and buses before being dropped off at the centre of Paris. I was the only person that got off the bus, the place looked deserted.
As I stepped off it was pouring with rain but I began filming the location anyway. It was huge and straight away I felt immersed within a new city. From one end you could see a large fountain, sculptures rising up and out of the water with steps surrounding it on the outside and up into the distance. If you did a full turn you could see French style apartment blocks boxing in a walkway all the way down, a 30 minute walk to the Eiffel tower. It stood there in in the centre, a spitting image of the original.
The Eiffel tower is an exact replica of the original, about 1/3 the size of the real one. Here in Hangzhou I had found a copy of Paris. It was built, just like the other fake cities in hopes of bringing people all over China to live here. With many working their whole lives to move to Europe, most of them never get the chance to move abroad. So why not just build European cities here in China instead? That was the business idea anyway. In fact with over 10,000 homes to choose from in fake Paris, only 10% of them are still occupied. The development never took off and I was left in an eerie ghost town, wandering without people once again during my travels.
I headed up the great steps and around the fountain getting a magnificent view all the way to the outskirts. I walked around the park exploring before heading down to the central walkway. Following this I noticed the main square was lined with shops and picked up a bubble tea which is a Chinese thing, not French. But beside the tea shop were some French style bakeries and coffee shops, closed now with lack of any customers. I wandered down with my bubble tea and gazed up at the Eiffel tower. I was trying to get my head round all of this feeling like I’d entered a strange amusement park. Having visited a few abandoned spots now in China it didn’t surprise me a great deal and I swiftly moved on to see more of the city.
As I headed out I joined onto a cobbled street that headed out of the city. Finding myself in a whole new and still empty area. There was a lake shouldering it on one side with a man made beach. On it were whales carved out of the sand and I got a video of myself making sand angels in the rain. I re-joined the path having a stare off with a stray cat, frozen in it’s tracks probably from seeing the first human this week. Up to my left on a high hill I could see a castle perched on top of the hill. It looked like something straight out of Disney.
My curiosity took over and taking some steps through dense trees I clambered my way up the mount. Lugging my bag around with me it was a tough climb to reach the top and there stood a princess castle in an off putting yellow paint. I tried opening the door but it was screwed shut and peering in it was clear the whole place was abandoned. I expected a ghost to appear at any moment so decided to get out of there and headed to the final stop before my journey home.
I found a stage, all set up and ready to go for shows or theatre performances. Rows of chairs in lines of multicolours headed up on a slope like an amphitheatre. I headed down the narrow aisleway in the middle and climbed up on the stage. The rain poured and I peered out to hundreds of empty seats trying to imagine what it would be like performing to that many people. I couldn’t help but test out the acoustics shouting and dancing around the stage for far longer than I should have. I even sung twinkle twinkle little star at voice shout before giving a big bow and sitting in a front row seat to give myself a clap for such a wonderful performance.
I headed back to the centre of the city trying to work out what I’d just visited. It was a beautiful copy and maybe even a half decent idea. Amazing in it’s own right for replicating it so well, it just wasn’t quite like Paris…
In my next blog it’s time for me to head back to my favourite mountains. The mountains that got me addicted to travel and inspired James Cameron to make avatar. Don't forget to sign up in the top right hand corner to comment and receive updates!