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The bizarre tale of Sweden's weirdest tourist attraction

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The bizarre tale of Sweden's weirdest tourist attraction
No, this is in rural Sweden, not China. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
14:41 CEST+02:00
Twelve years after Sweden's most famous motorway oddity was commissioned by a Chinese billionaire, the Dragon Gate hotel has denied rumours it is closing before even opening.

"We have shut down our facility and business and don't know if or when we will open again. We still hope to see you at some point in the future," a message on its website read on Wednesday morning.

It could have been the end of one of the most baffling tourist attractions in Sweden – if not the world – which you are bound to have noticed if you have ever driven along the E4 motorway near Gävle (Sweden's most random city) where the massive oriental-looking construction looms over the roadside, tall and grey.

It all started in 2004, when Chinese billionaire Jingchun Li, who made his fortune in mosquito repellent, bought the former Hotel Älvkarlen and promised to turn it into the hotspot "where east meets west". But only the restaurant, museum and souvenir store ever opened to customers.

A grand opening concert was held in August 2014, attended by Swedish pop star Ace Wilder who performed her in this case aptly named hit Busy doin' Nothin'. But the hotel still did not open.

GALLERY: Sweden's bizarre Dragon Gate in pictures

The project has not been without ambitions. There are 200 replica terracotta soldiers in the museum, an enormous Guanyin statue and a restaurant that serves Chinese food. Its owners have in the past also announced plans to build the world's largest Buddha and bring in a live panda bear.

But the dream has been hampered by a series of problems. In 2004, it was stung by the Swedish Work Environment Authority and ordered to pay 1.1 million kronor ($130,000) for its bad conditions for staff. In 2008, it was voted "the worst building of the year" by a building magazine.

Sweden's public broadcaster SVT was first to report the news about the closure on Wednesday, but Dragon Gate fans breathed a sigh of relief when it turned out to be a false alarm based on a misunderstanding.

"We apologize for the strange message which previously appeared here," read an updated message on the hotel's website.

"This domain and website were deleted and as the new owners of this domain name we figured it was best to restore the website to its original state. One of our employees misinterpreted this and took it to mean that the hotel had closed down which is not the case."

According to Erland Ågren, former CEO of Dragon Gate, the hotel's actual opening is imminent.

"The restaurant is temporarily closed, because the chef went to China. Whoever wrote this must have got it mixed up, I immediately realized it was wrong. The hotel has been closed for years, but it's about to open. They're getting permission from the municipality to open this month," he told the TT news agency.

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