The Cross Bones Garden in London is a memorial shrine on the site of an unconsecrated graveyard.
In medieval times it was a burial ground for prostitutes, known as ‘Winchester Geese’. In the 18th century it became a paupers’ graveyard.
Local people have turned the site into a memorial shrine and the garden is decorated with installations commemorating both the ‘outcast dead’ and the more recently passed away.
According to archaelogical excavations during the 1990s the Museum of London determined that over 15,000 people had been buried in what had been referred to as the graveyard for ‘single women’. They estimated that 60% of the bones were those of children.
South of Chumphon in Thailand is a rather special park called Toilet Land, or “Suan Nai Dum”. Dr. Borvon Aroonkong has collected and built numerous toilets which are on display and available for use.
The Cafe has fully fleshed out the concept with the decor. The ‘Menu Kee’ (“menu of crap” in Thai) includes ‘Cookie’ (a pun on the word ‘kee’ for crap) and Kopi Luwak (the famous expensive coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive system of civit cats and been defecated).
There are other cafes on site that don’t follow the fecal theme in case some visitors find it too offputting to enjoy their own digestive processes. I spent the weekend scouting trips for work, so I hope the boss gives me time off in loo.
There are some nice outsoor “Health Areas” where the seating is shaped as logs (literal and figurative). This seems appropriate for a b(log) post.
The bins and water fountains are shaped as lavatories and the signs at each exhibit are made of toilet seats.
There is a Sky Toilet inspired by Avatar and an Underworld Toilet inside a volcano.
The park really embraces the inclusive philosophy of ‘Toilet for all’.
The park also includes a pineapple-sorting factory and a large OTOP shop. Here are the Tarzan and Jane toilets:
Anyone traveling in the Chumphon area should ‘head’ for a visit to Suan Nai Dum, Toilet Land.
One of the interesting sites that should be visited during a trip to Yangon is the Drug Elimination Museum.
There are three floors of exhibits with an additional floor on top for officials that is closed to the public.
Touring upwards through each level is rather like following the process of drug therapy itself. The ground floor shows the transport routes and the war against drugs. The middle floor illustrates the consequences of drug addiction. The top floor shows vocational therapy through a variety of occupations and positive lifestyles.
A model of the rehabilitation centre (in northern Myanmar) is surrounded by pictures and paintings of vocational work activities.
A bee-keeping display shows a positive choice of career as an alternative to taking drugs.
A display case of animal vaccines shows how working as an animal health specialist could be a positive alternative to taking drugs.
Unfortunately some parts of the museum are poorly maintained and have fallen into disrepair. Some of the displays have been affected by water damage.
In this display the visitor is invited to press a button to activate the model that simulates the crushing of drugs by a bulldozer. When I pressed the button, nothing happened.
The Drug Elimination Museum is definitely worth a visit.
One of the main issues when considering urban exploration in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon is that virtually all the buildings in the city look abandoned due to the poor upkeep and their advanced state of decay. Anywhere else, the crumbling colonial buildings would house only ghosts. But here even the genuinely abandoned buildings are not empty as they are occupied by communities of squatters. Despite the country’s capital officially moving to Naypydaw, some of the main government buildings remain here and are as decrepit on the outside as any haunted house.
It’s rainy season and most pedestrians choose to walk on the roads with the cars. This is because the sidewalks are dangerously slick with algae that flourish on the wet surfaces. The footpaths are as slippery as ice and with all the obstacles and holes it isn’t worth the effort to try skittering across the green slime. It’s just better to take a chance and walk with the traffic.
At the southern end of the Zoological Gardens is an Amusement Park that was never opened and since completion has been left to rot amongst the encroaching vines. To get to it there’s no need to pay to enter the Zoo, but if you do then the walk will give you a good sense of the perimeter of the site and give a view of many of the rides without having to go inside. The fences between the Zoo and the Amusement Park have rusting barbed wire or are in such public view that entering here would be impractical and ill-advised. Instead, find the small car park beside the Zoo exit near the cages for the birds of prey and hop over the gate.
Barking by some of the resident dogs announces your entry to their territory when first crossing the fenceline. Otherwise they present no threat. Vine-shrouded tracks of the rollercoaster loop around amongst the trees. Pick your way between the pools of rainwater to see the carousels, the Dodgems pitch, the Rocket, the Astro Swinger, the Twister, the Balloon Cycle and the Arcade Hall packed with activities and rides. The rain begins to fall heavily and the packs of dogs take shelter in the Baby Garden. The sky darkens and the calls of animals in the Zoo next door come shrieking through the trees.
As with other ostensibly abandoned places in the city, the site is occupied to some extent. The restaurants along the road have back doors that open directly into the Amusement Park. The families running them store old carpets on the carousel and dry their laundry on the back porch that overlooks the rides. The park is effectively their backyard.
As for other opportunities in the city, there are some accounts online about tours given by the caretaker at the old Pegu Club. It had its heyday in the 1920’s and its main legacy is the Pegu cocktail still available in hotel bars. On the day I tried to visit, the security guard said it wasn’t possible to enter. Hinting at the chance of a tip didn’t budge his resolve. Being in the diplomatic zone, it’s likely that security concerns have resulted in a clamping down on random travelers accessing a building that looks across onto embassy grounds.
Urbex in Yangon means respecting the tenants of the territory you are entering whether you encounter them or not. Just because a place is abandoned does not mean that no-one has made it their home.
Kevin Cummings’ launch of Bangkok Beat took place at the Check Inn 99 on the 26th July 2015. Great fun and entertainment with many of Bangkok’s creatives dropping in to participate.
Here’s a video of the event for those not in attendance:
– Kevin hands out awards to some characters featured in the book.
– Music of the Heart band perform, and Kevin Wood joins them for a second song.
– Readings from the Bangkok Beat by James Newman, John Marengo and John Gartland.
For the first time ever I read Bangkok Beat as the paperback book it now is. I read it from cover to cover in two sittings. That surprised me. I thought it would be the type of book you can skip around in – it is, but I didn’t and it reads well, cover to cover. I could be biased.
Here is a list of what I liked about Bangkok Beat:
1. The cover. I cannot say it too many times. It’s brilliant. The idea was mine but the talent is all Cotterill. A shout out to whoever did the cover art for Bangkok Days by Lawrence Osborne. I sent it along to Colin with the instruction: “I want it to be like this, only different, with the Checkinn99 sign in the center. Chris Catto-Smith and his wife Mook can be seen in the tunnel entrance. I like that too.
The abandoned concrete pillars known as BERTS (Bangkok Elevated Rail Transport System) are due to be demolished to make way for the Red Line electric train. The bases of these concrete henges have become the canvases for graffitti artists and taggers. It seemed important to document some of these and so I walked from the Miracle Grand along the construction route to get some pictures.