Can you be in two places at once? According to the architects who designed China’s Tianducheng a Paris-themed, gated community with its very own Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee, you can.
Tianducheng, a district of east coast China’s Hangzhou, is a real estate development which began around 2007 boasting all the charm of Paris, minus the crowds. That’s because while the community was intended to house around 10,000 people, it ended up becoming home to a paltry 2,000. Many claim that this is due to the location, which is 40 minutes away from Hangzhou’s downtown area, and wedged in the middle of farmlands. In spite of this, visitors shouldn’t be surprised to see cheapskate wedding couples opting for fake-luxurious photo ops.
If the classically European architecture doesn’t scream “France!” quite loudly enough, Tianducheng also includes a 300-foot Eiffel Tower replica, a Champs Elysee with fake Parisian restaurants, a “Chapel of Love” for couples to pose for photos, and a chateau on a hill.
However, a walk along this Champs Elysee doesn’t invoke a sense of romance, but instead a feeling of unease. With an anemic amount of foot-traffic, Tianducheng has an eerie feel to it. Scant locals have converted stone busts of poets into places to hang their laundry, and stores with misspelled cursive writing crack with worn paint. Stores are nothing more than walls painted to look like merchandise-filled windows, and ornate statues of horses sit alongside women selling cotton candy. Its like a Bizarro-Paris where the city is a spooky shell of our world’s City of Love.
So, in the end, it is possible to be two places at once. It just might be a little depressing.
Know Before You Go
If in Hangzhou, take the subway (line one) out to Linping and then catch a bus that will take you to Tianducheng. (In Chinese: 天都城)