Urban Exploration/UX/Urbex is the art of exploring abandoned man-made structures, and I’ve discovered a lot of beauty, artistic imagery, and landscapes through the hobby. Not only does UX involve a lot of surprises which can come in many forms, but it also presents great physical danger and the possibility of being arrested – so do not try this unless you are really ready to face the music. However, no matter how risky it is, I’ve found and seen great artistic inspiration. In this post I will not only share with you some of my explorations, but also list the must-have items for exploring if you’d like to experience UX yourself.
Onto my adventures…
Anytime I vacation out of Canada, I research interesting places to explore, and came across an amazing location in Sri Lanka earlier this year. Only there for two weeks, I knew I couldn’t pass on checking it out.
Piliyandala is a small town south of Colombo filled with endless of greenery and beauty – and an abandoned children’s toy factory that had been destroyed by a fire 15 years ago. I had to be particularly careful when exploring this space; I’d heard local villagers and residents don’t respond kindly to strangers (I assume many residents once worked at the factory and feel it’s their duty to watch over and guard the abandoned space).
Of course, that didn’t stop me. I spoke to a local town official and received verbal permission to explore and document my discoveries. (Tip 1: Find out if there is a local official in charge of the area, and check with him/her before exploring to avoid trouble.)
Alas, what did I discover? Here’s a few photos of the wonder that awaited me:
The quality control department was not easy to get into, and with six inches of water covering the floor, especially difficult to navigate. Luckily I had my waterproof Palladium Boots Pampa Cuff’s to change into, which made a huge difference traversing the extensive puddles.
The space felt incredibly chilling and haunting, like a scene from a horror movie. Strangely, instructions for what looked like a job application form covered the wall.
This factory is huge, making it easy to get lost. When exploring, it’s extremely important to keep track of where you are, especially in relation to exits. (Tip 2: Always draw a mental picture of a home base. It doesn’t hurt to have a small notepad and a pen to jot down a quick map.)
Next, I climbed all the way to the top floor where I assume the manufacturing department would have been. The floor resembled a colorful collage made up of broken wooden toys, mostly damaged and burnt. A certain charm and a true beauty covered the floor, but also an underlying sense of sorrow and sadness of a forgotten, once happy place.
To my surprise, I then stumbled on a huge empty square hole in the floor; I had to come all the way down to find the light source. A three-story plunge, this shaft could have been an extremely dangerous obstacle had I not seen it. (Tip 3: Take in the beauty while exploring, but don’t let it distract you. Always pay close attention to obstacles and potential accidents)
I noticed a lot of graffiti and drawings as well, which appeared to be added later by other explorers or people visiting the building.
While the graffiti is interesting, you should truly never add your personal touch to these landscapes while exploring. Let only nature paint its pictures as these spaces evolve over time.
After hours of exploring, it was time to leave. Although happy that I found this place, I felt myself left with a lot of unanswered questions, perhaps due to it being one of the most mysterious places I’ve explored. What caused the fire? Did people lose their lives? What was the aftermath? Next time, I want to challenge myself to explore this space at night. I’ve heard rumors of evil spirits lurking once the sun sets, and I’d love to share the stories of what I might discover in the dark.
Interested in trying UX yourself? Here’s what you’ll need…
Exploring is an art. To enjoy and experience this rush fully, I always have a few essential items on me. If you’re interested in experiencing this hobby yourself, make sure to gear up with these must-haves!
1. Endless Supply of Threadless Tank Tops/Tees
Sweat, dust, and dirt are a part of an explorer’s life; most buildings and structures are old and abandoned. It’s ideal to not only wear but pack extra tank tops or tees while exploring; if you need to change mid way through your adventure, you’ll be prepared. I always make sure to pack a bunch of fun Threadless tees to suit my mood.
Palladium boots are my chosen brand for exploring, and my favorite are the Palladium Boots x Alpha Industries Pampa High Zip MA-1. They’re strong and very light, which helps immensely when you step into unexpected, natural terrain. Developed with urban explorer ethos using the same nylon as aviation jackets and rubber as airplane tires, these shoes are the true definition of tough.
When it’s time for exploring, my go-to socks are McGregor socks, which are equally fun, stylish, and seriously comfortable. They come in a variety of great designs and utilize a unique technology called the terry cushion sole, one of several advantageous qualities alongside a sanitized process that fights athlete’s foot and prevents odors – perfect for when you inevitably get your feet wet.
Time flies when you explore, so it’s especially crucial to keep track of it (you don’t want to be caught in the dark unexpectedly). I love to be in touch with nature, making me a huge fan of Tense Watches. They select the world’s best natural materials from Africa, India, and many other exotic places to create their watches, and use one of the world’s top watch movements, the Japan-made Miyota 2035. Super dependable with a calendar feature, this watch is an exploring home run.
5. Phone + Extra Battery
This one goes without saying: a phone is a essential. In addition, be sure to pack a fully charged extra battery for emergencies. It also doubles as a second camera and handy tool for an explorer’s many unexpected discoveries.
Have you tried Urban Exploring? Comment about your experiences, and share your favorite places to explore!