The $100 Billion “Ghost City” | The Eco-Friendly City Built To Last Now Eerily Stands Alone!

The $100 Billion “Ghost City” | The Eco-Friendly City Built To Last Now Eerily Stands Alone!

A city designed to be a paradise on Earth, an eco-friendly utopia turned into a creepy ‘ghost town.’ This Forest City came as a grand project in Johor, Malaysia, pictured as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Planned by Country Garden, China’s largest property developer, Forest City was supposed to transform into a bustling metropolis. The city features golf courses, waterparks, offices, bars, restaurants and so much more. 

The company expected the town to reside nearly one million people. However, it is now eerily silent with just 1% occupied and waters infested with crocodiles. There is also a staircase leading to nowhere, and a children’s train going around the mall while playing “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes” on a loop! Let’s dive in to know what led the city to become this and its creepy details as told by residents. 

The Rise and Fall of a Mega-Project

Launched with fanfare in 2016, Forest City promised luxury living. It is filled with amenities like golf courses, waterparks, offices, and restaurants. It aimed to attract a global community, particularly appealing to the wealthy looking for second homes. 

However, their dream crumbled due to factors like China’s currency controls, Malaysia’s political unrest, and the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The result? A ghost town, with 1% occupancy. The one or two lights in its towering skyscrapers clearly highlight its isolation. The Country Garden (its developers) are now at a loss of nearly $200 Billion.

$100 Billion Ghost City
Image source: Wall Street Journal

Forest City clearly gives the most strange atmosphere to its visitors. The place feels like an abandoned resort! On the deserted shore, there’s a white concrete “staircase that leads to nowhere”. The beach also has a messy children’s playground and a rusting old car, which adds to its creepiness. By the water, signs are warning against swimming due to the presence of crocodiles.

The mall in this city has a children’s train going endless laps around while playing “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes” nonstop in Chinese! How weird would it be to hear something like that in an empty city? 

$100 Billion Ghost City
Image source: South China Morning Post / BBC / Tourism Johor
$100 Billion Ghost City
Image source: South China Morning Post / Johor

Living In a Ghost Town | Stories Of Its Few Residents

The few who chose Forest City as their home tell tales of isolation and disillusionment. Residents describe the surreal atmosphere of living in a near-empty city, where amenities meant to attract people now sit unused and decaying. The city’s target market – affluent foreigners, mainly from China – left it inaccessible to local Malaysians. 

A 30-year-old IT engineer Nazmi, who moved to Forest City shared his eerie experience with the world. He had a one-bedroom apartment in a tower block overlooking the sea. However, after six months he got over living in the empty city. 

“I didn’t care about my deposit, I didn’t care about the money. I just had to get out. I’m getting goosebumps just being back. It’s lonely around here – it’s just you and your thoughts.”

Nazmi (Former resident of the Forest city and IT professional)
$100 Billion Ghost City
Image source: The Mirror / The Business Insider / Malaysia Now

Joanne Kaur, another resident of the town also shared her and her husband’s experience living in this abandoned town. 

“This place is eerie. Even during the day, when you step out of your front door, the corridor is dark. I feel sorry for people who actually invested and bought a place here. If you were to Google ‘Forest City’, it’s not what you see here today.” 

Joanne Kaur (One of the few residents of the forest city)

Just like Mr Nazmi, they are also renting an apartment and plan to leave as soon as possible. 

Eco-friendly Promises vs. Reality

Forest City was marketed as an epitome of green living. Yet, its construction led to significant environmental degradation, particularly the loss of vital coastal wetlands. The project faced backlash for disregarding the ecological consequences of its development. Fishermen from nearby villages saw their catches decline, their livelihoods threatened by the massive land reclamation needed to build this “eco-friendly” city.


Forest City serves as a cautionary tale about the risks of ambitious urban development projects that fail to account for economic realities, environmental sustainability, and the needs of the local population. Its silent streets and abandoned buildings remind us of the importance of aligning such projects with genuine ecological principles and the well-being of all stakeholders involved. 

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