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A city of nail houses
Home / Countries / China / The Nail City (Part 1 of 4)

The Nail City (Part 1 of 4)


The Nail City in Guangzhou at NightThe ladder shivered in the unrelenting wind. I turned around, and looked down. Bad idea. Dozens of stories below, small cars inched by like tiny ants fulfilling the meaning of their lives. My fingers bit into the steel, and I wrapped my arms around the ladder. Rust snowed down as I headed up. One hand at a time, I stayed steady, stayed calm, remembered to breathe, and tried not to look down again.

My feet kissed the soot covered rooftop as my shaky legs readjusted. The soft hum of wind whispered gently, the other sounds, were finally absent. No traffic, no voices, no noise of society or of nature. Coming to the rooftops in China, became my way to get away, to be alone in a city of millions. I’ve lived in and visited cites all over the world, New York, Paris, Istanbul, Bangkok, and many others, but only in China have I found that almost all rooftops are unguarded, and unlocked. I’ve come up to many rooftops, to look around, to see the city, and to know the city better.

Up above it all, I always let my eyes bounce around, ping pong balls exploring the city. The Golden and azure skyscrapers; the 20 story boxed apartments; the towering construction sites with swinging cranes, exposed steel skeletons and balls of energy glowing as steel welds together; mega malls, neatly laid out parks, and wide boulevards all big enough to fit the never ending torrent of new people. The sights of new China are easy to see from any rooftop, but also the old China is still there. Identical, short, white apartment blocks all stained by red tears of rust; tiny brick villages who’s path through is an amazing complex labyrinth that all locals can easily solve; crude sidewalks made busy by rickshaws and motorbikes; and street markets busier than any mall.

I expected to see the same sights as usual, and visit a few of them afterword’s. But today my eyes landed on something unfathomable, explainable, new.
With my mind focused on what I had just seen and not on falling to my death, the climb down went stress free. Back in the apartment, I asked my host about what I had seen.

His eyes rose, as if thinking of how to explain it to me. “It’s a city of nail houses” He explained. Everyone has been ordered to leave. Some have left, and the empty homes were torn down, but most, haven’t left.
“When were they told to leave?”
“Four years ago”.

“Four years ago! That’s not a very serious order is it?”
“It is, they just won’t leave, because they are greedy and want more money.”
I nodded slowly as my mind went back to the roof top. Tall, gleaming blue and black, yellow and orange skyscrapers rose into the sky and stood guard around a tiny gray village. Some of the buildings were whole, some cut in pieces, their ruins scattered over the ground. A forgotten past enclosed by a new future. There was something more going on in the Nail city, people don’t choose to live in an area that looks like a war zone if they have a choice. It had to be far more then greed keeping them there. “Let’s go see for ourselves.”
“Go inside?”
“No, it’s dangerous.”
“Because” his eyes searched the roof of his mind for a reason, and found one, “because it’s full of poor people.”
“Good. The best people, the sweetest people, the most inviting people, the most giving people, are not rich, they are poor. Let’s go.”

His mouth said nothing, but his eyes blurted out everything as they fell guiltily from his feet.


“Did you enjoy this story? Well continue reading chapter 1 with The Nail City (Part 2 of 4)

Come explore the nail city with me.

Hey, I’m Eric, is my travel blog. I write this website to show you how easy it is to live, work and travel all around the world. I’ve been traveling almost 8 years now. I’m just about to publish my new book Where the Wind Blows: Traveling around the World on $5 a day

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