There are no tumbleweeds or abandoned saloons here, but Ordos is most definitely an epic ghost town. Ghost city, to be precise — and the largest one in the world. Sitting in the middle of a desert in northern China, Ordos was intended to be the Vegas of Inner Mongolia. That was before everything went wrong.

Inner Mongolia’s GDP tops Beijing’s, and its cities were booming. So why did shit go south? According to Darmon Richter, it was too much, too fast. Richter recently detailed a depressing, eye-opening trip to Ordos on Gizmodo:

[N]obody quite anticipated how quickly this new development would fall flat on its face. Deadlines weren’t met, loans went unpaid, and investors pulled out before projects could be completed — leaving entire streets of unfinished buildings. The ridiculous cost of accommodation in this dream city put off many would-be inhabitants, so that even fully completed apartments became difficult to sell …

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Nowadays the Kangbashi district, planned to accommodate a population in excess of one million, is home to a lonely 20,000 people — leaving 98% of this 355-square kilometre site either under construction or abandoned altogether.

Richter witnesses a glamorous and nearly empty airport, the rickety corpse of a sports stadium, an unused mosque, and a ghostly downtown. The hotel minibar has peanuts, booze, and gas masks. The whole piece — an eerie look at imploded ambition — is well worth your time.

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