You’re not far from Shanghai, yet the spire of the Victorian revival church in front of you casts its shadow across a medieval town square. A row of Tudor homes are just around the corner from a string of pubs and shops. But you notice everything is closed. The only people you see are the occasional wedding party taking photographs. A sign at the entrance reads:
“Welcome to Thames Town. Taste authentic British style small town. Enjoy sunlight, enjoy nature. Enjoy your life and holiday. Dream of Britain. Live in Thames Town.“
It’s not quite right, much like the rest of the town.
The borough known as Thames Town was part of a 2001 initiative to move millions from Shanghai’s city center into nine international suburbs. The concept had noble intentions, but things did not go as planned.
Deep in the middle of Sri Lanka, a massive column of rock juts out from the green tropical forest. It reaches 660 feet tall and features frescoes, graffiti, and landscaped gardens. The rock is known as Sigiriya (see-gee-REE-yah) and holds a special place in the island’s cultural history.
It was established as the stronghold of a rogue king over 1,500 years ago, and today the Sigiriya complex stands as one of the earliest preserved examples of ancient urban planning. Ultimately the rock was unable to save its king, but it succeeded in preserving ancient Sinhalese culture.
Forty miles east of Jakarta, a river over 186 miles (300km) long winds across the island of Java. For thousands of years the Citarum River has been an important resource for the Indonesian people. Today it continues to support fishing, agriculture, electricity generation, and sewerage for nearly 30 million residents.
When Indonesia experienced a manufacturing boom, little attention was paid to key components of infrastructure. Proper framework for waste disposal was largely neglected. As a result, manufacturers and residents abused the river, leaving the Citarum one of the most polluted waterways in the world.
Turkmenistan is seventy percent desert – the Karakum Desert, to be exact. The nation is divided into five provinces, the second largest being the Ahal Welayat which occupies the south-central portion of the country. Ahal is almost entirely desert and contains just fourteen percent of the country’s population, but it is also rich in natural resource deposits.
When Soviet scientists discovered a cache of oil reserves near the town of Derweze in the Karakum Desert, drilling quickly commenced. When a drilling rig collapsed and created a crater, large amounts of methane were released. When the oilmen attempted to burn off the methane, it started a fire that still burns over forty years later. Read more…
Located about 50 miles north of Hong Kong in Dongguan, China, the New South China Mall is the largest mall in the world by gross leasable area. Twice the size of United States’ Mall of America, it was opened with room for 2,350 stores in 7.1 million square feet of leasable space.
No mall in the world can rival New South China in any category, except perhaps number of tenants.
Despite having every amenity a shopper could want, the mall has been 99% vacant since it’s opening in 2005.
Previously Sometimes Interesting featured Guiyu, the Chinese town tasked with disposing most of the world’s electronics. What about the origins of the electronics we buy? It’s probably not a surprise to hear many are also made in China, and sadly the working conditions for those who build iPods isn’t much better than those who take them apart.
Imagine a place where eight workers share a dorm room and televisions only exist in common areas. Imagine a suicide rate so high the employer installs netting on the side of buildings to prevent workers from jumping.
Welcome to Shenzhen, China, where much of the world’s electronic components are created. Read more…