Echoes Of Commerce: Exploring Asia’s Secret Abandoned Malls

Urban exploration, or “urbex,” is the act of exploring abandoned and often off-limits urban environments. This intriguing hobby attracts adventurers and photographers alike, drawn to the haunting beauty and the whispering echoes of bygone eras that such places embody. Within the decaying walls and deserted corridors of these structures, explorers find a poignant, tangible connection to the past that modern, bustling cities often lack.

Asia, with its dynamic blend of ancient traditions and hyper-modernization, presents a unique canvas for this form of exploration. The continent’s rapid urbanization, coupled with intense economic fluctuations, has resulted in a multitude of abandoned malls. These sprawling complexes stand as silent monuments to commercial dreams that soared high before succumbing to reality’s harsh gravity. Each abandoned site, from the skeletal remains of once-bustling marketplaces to the eerie quiet of deserted amusement parks, offers a unique glimpse into the aspirations and failures of the past.

The Allure of Abandonment

The fascination with abandoned malls transcends mere curiosity. For many, it’s a journey through time, a way to touch the intangible and to connect with the layers of stories and lives that once filled these spaces. The appeal lies in the contrast between what was and what is—a poignant reminder of impermanence and change. As we wander through these deserted halls, we’re confronted with the beauty of architectural decay, where nature slowly reclaims human-made structures, creating scenes of unexpected, wild beauty amidst desolation.

Nostalgia plays a significant role in this allure. These spaces hold the echoes of past laughter, whispered conversations, and the silent footsteps of countless individuals. They stand as physical embodiments of memories, evoking a sense of loss and longing for times gone by. The aesthetic of decay—peeling paint, rusting metal, crumbling walls—carries its own unique beauty, offering a stark, visual poetry that captivates the eye and the imagination.

“Exploring these abandoned places, we’re not just observers of decay but witnesses to the stories that every broken window and locked door has to tell,” notes an urban explorer. “It’s a reminder that everything is temporary, and there’s beauty to be found in the impermanence of the world around us.”

This sentiment captures the essence of why many are drawn to the ruins of these commercial cathedrals. They are not merely empty shells but repositories of stories, dreams, and the relentless passage of time, offering a profound experience that challenges our perceptions of progress, value, and beauty in the forgotten corners of urban landscapes.

New World Mall, Bangkok, Thailand

  • Name and Location: New World Mall, located in the bustling heart of Bangkok, Thailand.
  • History: Opened in the 1980s, this mall was once a thriving four-story shopping center. It was closed in the 1990s due to violations of building regulations and a severe fire in 1997 that destroyed its roof, leading to its abandonment.
  • Current State: The mall’s basement, which was flooded, became home to thousands of fish, a bizarre ecosystem created by rainwater mixing with the urban environment. Although the fish were removed and the water drained in recent years, the mall remains a closed structure, not officially open for exploration due to safety concerns.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The interior of New World Mall offers a hauntingly beautiful scene, where sunlight filters through the open roof onto the overgrown spaces below. The juxtaposition of nature reclaiming this once-commercial hub, with vines and trees intertwining with escalators and shop remnants, creates a surreal atmosphere.
  • Photographer’s Corner: The best spot for photography is the main atrium, where the open roof allows for natural light to illuminate the eerie, aquatic graveyard of what was once a bustling mall. Wide-angle lenses are recommended to capture the scale and depth of the decay.

Keelung City Ghost Mall, Taiwan

  • Name and Location: Keelung City Ghost Mall, located in Keelung, Taiwan.
  • History: Initiated in the 1980s as part of a larger urban development plan, the construction of this mall was halted due to financial difficulties, leaving it an empty shell.
  • Current State: Today, the structure stands as a large, unfinished concrete framework, exposed to the elements and completely abandoned. It’s not officially open for visitors and can be hazardous to enter due to unstable structures and debris.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The ghost mall’s massive, unfinished concrete skeleton is a stark monument to economic ambition and failure. The absence of walls allows the wind to whistle through the beams, creating an eerie soundtrack to the desolation. Nature has begun to reclaim parts of the structure, with vegetation sprouting through cracks in the concrete.
  • Photographer’s Corner: The exterior offers the most dramatic visuals, especially during sunrise or sunset when the light casts long shadows through the skeletal frame. Photographers are advised to use caution and consider using drones for aerial shots to safely capture the scale of abandonment.

Wonderland Amusement Park, China

  • Name and Location: Wonderland Amusement Park, located on the outskirts of Beijing, China.
  • History: Begun in the 1990s, it was intended to be the largest amusement park in Asia. However, construction was halted due to land disputes and financial issues, leaving it an eerie, unfinished landscape.
  • Current State: The park, including its intended shopping areas, remains an incomplete, abandoned sprawl of structures. It’s not officially open to the public, but it has become a destination for urban explorers and photographers, despite the safety risks associated with decaying structures.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The looming, rusted frames of roller coasters and medieval-themed buildings offer a haunting backdrop, a stark contrast to the surrounding farmland. The silence is broken only by the sound of the wind, making it feel like a post-apocalyptic fairytale.
  • Photographer’s Corner: The unfinished Cinderella Castle offers a particularly surreal subject, especially when captured in the eerie light of dawn or dusk. Long exposure photography can capture the haunting atmosphere, and the contrast between the decaying park and the rural surroundings makes for compelling compositions.

Sathorn Unique Tower, Bangkok, Thailand

  • Name and Location: Sathorn Unique Tower, located in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand.
  • History: Construction began in the mid-1990s during Thailand’s economic boom but was halted in 1997 due to the Asian financial crisis. Intended as a luxury residential skyscraper, it has remained unfinished and uninhabited.
  • Current State: Known as the “Ghost Tower,” it is officially off-limits to the public due to safety concerns, but it has drawn urban explorers and photographers from around the world. The building is closely monitored, and entry is considered trespassing.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The towering, skeletal structure offers panoramic views of Bangkok from its upper floors, where graffiti and debris contribute to a post-apocalyptic vibe. The contrast between the bustling city below and the silent, decaying floors above creates a stark, eerie feeling.
  • Photographer’s Corner: The higher floors provide a unique perspective of the city, especially at sunset. However, photography is discouraged due to the building’s dangerous condition and legal restrictions on access.

Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo, Japan

  • Name and Location: Nakagin Capsule Tower, located in the Ginza area of Tokyo, Japan.
  • History: Completed in 1972, this building is a rare example of Japanese Metabolism, a movement that proposed adaptable and sustainable architectural designs. The tower consists of prefabricated capsules designed as compact living spaces.
  • Current State: Despite its historical significance, the tower faced demolition threats due to asbestos and lack of modern amenities. Some capsules are still in use, but the majority are abandoned, creating a dystopian feel amidst Tokyo’s modernity.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The futuristic yet decaying capsules, stacked and bolted together, offer a unique visual experience, reminiscent of a time capsule from a 1970s vision of the future.
  • Photographer’s Corner: Capturing the exterior’s geometric patterns or the contrast between the capsules’ dilapidated interiors and the surrounding cityscape can produce striking images. Night photography emphasizes the building’s isolation in the neon-lit city.

Check out other abandoned places in Japan

Paco Park, Manila, Philippines

  • Name and Location: Paco Park, located in the Paco district of Manila, Philippines.
  • History: Originally built as a municipal cemetery in the late 18th century, it was converted into a national park in the 1960s. The park is surrounded by walls and contains the remains of several historical figures.
  • Current State: Today, it serves as a peaceful green space amidst the urban sprawl, hosting events and concerts. Its history as a cemetery adds a layer of solemnity and mystery to the serene environment.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The lush greenery, old stone walls, and chapels create a serene oasis that contrasts sharply with the bustling city outside. The park’s quiet, reflective atmosphere is occasionally broken by the laughter of visitors and the music of live performances.
  • Photographer’s Corner: The chapel and the old cemetery walls offer a picturesque backdrop for photography, especially with the soft lighting of early morning or late afternoon. The historical and serene setting is perfect for capturing the unique blend of Manila’s past and present.

The Ming Jai House, Taiwan

  • Name and Location: The Ming Jai House, located in a remote area of Taiwan.
  • History: Details about its history are sparse, contributing to the mystery surrounding this large, abandoned structure. Local legends and stories have filled the void, painting it as a place of ghostly hauntings and tragic pasts.
  • Current State: The building stands in disrepair, with nature slowly reclaiming the structure. It’s not officially open to the public, and locals often discourage visits due to safety concerns and superstitions.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The Ming Jai House exudes a ghostly aura, with its dilapidated façade and overgrown surroundings. The silence is profound, interrupted only by the sound of wildlife and the creaking of old floors.
  • Photographer’s Corner: The exterior of the house, with its imposing size and eerie presence, makes for compelling photography. The play of light and shadow through broken windows and overgrown entrances can capture the haunting essence of the place.

Gunkanjima (Hashima Island), Japan

  • Name and Location: Gunkanjima (Hashima Island), located off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan.
  • History: Once a bustling coal mining facility from 1887 to 1974, the island was home to thousands of workers and their families, living in what was then one of the most densely populated places on earth. The mine’s closure led to the island’s rapid abandonment.
  • Current State: Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s now a haunting relic of industrialization, with tours available to certain safe areas. The crumbling concrete buildings, overrun by nature, stand as silent witnesses to the island’s bustling past.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The island offers a stark landscape of decay, with the sea surrounding the ghostly remains of residential blocks, schools, and community buildings. The juxtaposition of human-made structures and the power of nature reclaiming the land creates a profound visual impact.
  • Photographer’s Corner: The boat approach to the island provides a unique vantage point for capturing the entirety of Gunkanjima against the backdrop of the ocean. Inside, the contrast between the abandoned buildings and the occasional encroachment of nature offers compelling subjects for photography.

White Stone Resort, Hong Kong

  • Name and Location: White Stone Resort, located in the New Territories, Hong Kong.
  • History: Initiated in the late 20th century as a luxury residential and resort development, the project was abandoned mid-construction due to financial issues, leaving behind incomplete structures and facilities.
  • Current State: The area is now a ghostly shell of its intended grandeur, with overgrown vegetation and the remnants of buildings, pools, and recreational facilities. It is not officially open to the public, and the structures pose safety risks.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: Walking through the White Stone Resort is like stepping into a parallel reality where time stopped. The skeletal remains of luxury villas and leisure facilities, now entangled with vines and moss, offer a silent commentary on the transience of human endeavors.
  • Photographer’s Corner: The decaying luxury elements, juxtaposed with the relentless advance of nature, provide a visually rich setting for photographers. Early morning mist adds a mystical quality to the ruins, enhancing the ghost town ambiance.

Dongdaemun Shopping Complex, South Korea

  • Name and Location: Dongdaemun Shopping Complex, located in Seoul, South Korea.
  • History: Part of this complex dates back to the 20th century, serving as a hub for textile and fashion industries. While much of Dongdaemun remains vibrant and active, certain sections have been left abandoned, overshadowed by newer, modern developments.
  • Current State: These abandoned sections stand in stark contrast to the bustling market activity that Dongdaemun is known for. They offer a glimpse into the past, with deserted shops and stalls frozen in time amidst the thriving commerce around them.
  • Visuals and Atmosphere: The contrast between the lively market areas and the silent, deserted sections of the complex creates a unique atmosphere. The abandoned parts, with their empty corridors and silent stalls, tell a story of change and progress.
  • Photographer’s Corner: Capturing the dichotomy between the old and new Dongdaemun offers a fascinating narrative. The empty spaces, with remnants of their past commercial life, contrasted against the backdrop of the bustling market, highlight Seoul’s rapid development and the relentless pace of urban life.

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