In the mouth of the Yangtze River off the eastern coast of China, a small island holds a secret haven lost to the forces of time and nature—an abandoned fishing village swallowed by dense layers of ivy slowly creeping over every brick and path.
Houtou Wan Village is located on Gouqi Island, which belongs to a group of 394 islands known as the Shengsi Islands in the Zhoushan Archipelago.
It’s one of many examples of small villages in China that have become ghost towns due to urbanization, inaccessibility, depletion of resources, and shifts in industry, among other factors.
Once a thriving settlement merely half a century ago, Houtou Wan Village was gradually deserted when the small bay could no longer meet the needs of the increasing number of fishing boats.
Over the past few decades, nature has reclaimed the land, turning the village into a hauntingly beautiful wonderland devoid of human presence save for wandering tourists and a handful of elderly residents who refuse to leave their birthplace.
Cambodia is the closest you can get, today, to your own real life Indiana Jones movie. There, the temples of Angkor seem built into the fabric of the forest itself, bats flap their leathery wings in the vaults, and incense drifts down the empty colonnades.
The god-kings of Angkor were at the height of their powers from the 9th century until the 15th century.
In that time, they built the largest preindustrial city in the world in Cambodia: larger than Rome, larger than Alexandria, larger by far than London or Paris at the time.
Wealth was poured into ever more spectacular temples, replete with intricate carvings and statues.
In the fifteenth century, for reasons which still puzzle scholars today, the gigantic complex was left almost entirely abandoned – lost to the jungle.
Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia (via Wikimedia)
Early Western visitors, glimpsing the astonishing structures looming up amidst the trees, were left almost speechless.
For António da Madalena, Angkor was “of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world.”
Since the 19h century, a slow process of restoration has been taking place. While tourists flock to Angkor today, much of the site remains to be discovered, and the trees loom on all sides, ready to swallow the city up again.
A rusting Ford Thunderbird is blanketed by red dust from a supercell thunderstorm in Ralls, Texas.
The dry, plowed fields of the Texas Panhandle made easy prey for the storm, which had winds of more than 90 miles an hour ripping up the topsoil and depositing it farther south.
I was forecasting and positioning a team of videographers and photographers on a storm chase in Tornado Alley—this was our last day of a very successful chase, having witnessed 16 tornadoes over 10 days.
The target area for a storm initiation was just south of Amarillo, Texas. Once the storm became a supercell, it moved southbound, with outflow winds that were easily strong enough to tear up the topsoil and send it into the air.
Image Credit: Photograph by Nicholas Moir / National Geographic Photo Contest