Travel memories: conquering Bangkok’s ghost tower

February 25, 2014

I found myself in Bangkok with my new friend Mikkel who I’d met just a couple days earlier. We’d bonded over both being Danish and decided to travel the next bit together. Overnight we’d struggled through a 14 hour bus ride from Krabi to the chaotic capital of Thailand.

We arrived at our ‘2 dollars a night’ hostel as the sun was rising. The reception area was unlocked but the staff wasn’t in yet, so we decided to leave our bags and take a morning stroll through Bangkok, which was surprisingly quiet in the early morning hours.

We saw forests of skyscrapers as we walked side by side on the main road, but one stood out to us: abandoned and nicknamed Ghost Tower. The actual name of the 49 story skyscraper is Sathorn Unique, and was destined to become a luxury complex, but it was abandoned when the financial crisis hit Thailand in 1997. Since then the unfinished skyscraper has been left more or less empty – most people keep their distance since it’s believed to be haunted.

The building was surrounded by a fence with warning signs promising prosecution to trespassers, but curiosity got the best of us and it only seemed like the right thing to try and get up there! Maybe because we were a bit delusional still from that bus ride and maybe because we’d only had 1,5 hours of sleep that night.

Sign on fence reading in broken English: “this is personal space. Do not go in prior permistion. If the violation you be proseuted by law. Contact officials this telephone number (0909020399)”

When we found a hole in the fence that was just about big enough for the both of us to squeeze through, we just had to go for it.

First floor was very dark, very moist, and eerily empty.

It showed obvious signs of having been abandoned for a while, but at the same time we saw little signs indicating that someone might stay here regularly. We didn’t entertain that thought for long as our only focus was how we could get higher up.

Soon we found a couple of stationary escalators in a very poor condition that we ascended carefully. We never knew what was going to be around the next corner. And as scary as it was, we found it incredible fascinating wandering around the gigantic, abandoned concrete building that was supposed to have had such a different destiny.

When we tried to get further, we found that all the stairwells had been thoroughly barricaded with sturdy metal grids and heavy padlocks – it was obvious that someone didn’t want people to enter.

Back on the first floor we did some more exploring. Hidden behind a wall we encountered a woman on a bed and a man next to her. We didn’t get very close before the guy dashed towards us, yelling “Get out! Get out!“. Shocked, we rushed away while apologising and hurriedly squeezed ourselves back through the hole in the fence.

Rusty bridge connecting Sathorn Unique to car park

Still determined to get up there we searched for any kind of entrance only to find that we’d have to cross the roof of a long, rusty metal bridge about 20 meters above the ground from the, also decayed, car park next to Sathorn Unique. We made our way up the seven stories to the bridge, and I think that’s when it hit us how incredibly dangerous it would be to climb over. We took turns attempting but neither of us ever let go of the railing, and after about an hour contemplating whether or not to do it we decided to head back home, super bummed that we weren’t even close to reaching the top.

After a quick nap at the hostel we suddenly decided that we were going to give it another go. We simply couldn’t leave Bangkok without having risked our lives just a little, so we went back there and the first thing we encountered was a French guy on his way down from the top poking his head out the balcony from around 7th floor. He yelled down to ask whether we wanted to get up there as well, so we told him yes! and hoped he had a better entrance than over the rusty bridge. Unfortunately he didn’t, but seeing him walk across the bridge with confidence gave the both of us the courage to give it a try ourselves. Pretty soon we found ourselves on the right side on the bridge, adrenaline pumping and ready to conquer the 49 floors to the top!

Rusty bridge without railing high above the ground

It was equally terrifying and exhilarating.

It’s nothing we gave much thought, but the building was obviously in decay and debris was scattered everywhere. Elevator shafts were uncovered and had it not been for the darkness we would have been able to look directly down all 49 floors.

We were the only two people there and we took our time exploring the different floors we came across, seeing turned over bathtubs, unused roof tiles, and lots and lots of graffiti. We even lost each other a few times when we accidentally wandered off and had to yell out the other’s name in the echoey building.

It was an absolutely wild trip up there, but after a long while we reached the top, and adding a bit more climbing we reached a platform from where the view was no less than amazing!

We sat up there with Bangkok far below our feet and shared a cheese sandwich (that we had initially brought in case we had to bribe someone). This has without a doubt been one of the most insane experiences of my life, and I feel lucky to have been able to experience something like this.

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