Sathorn Unique: Climbing Bangkok’s Ghost Tower

Ghost Tower: Climbing Bangkok’s Abandoned Skyscraper

Ghost Tower: Climbing Bangkok’s Abandoned SkyscraperBangkok’s Sathorn Unique skyscraper was built to become a premium luxury apartment complex with amazing views of the Chao Phraya River. That was until this massive construction undertaking was suddenly left abandoned due to the collapse of the Thai Baht during Asia’s 1997 Financial Crisis.

The rumors of the the building being haunted is for a reason. The 49-stories that extends into the clouds high above downtown Bangkok has claimed many lives, some from suicide and some from stupidity. Dead bodies seem to turn up here on a regular basis. There is the story of a local photographer who was climbing the tower happened to smell something rancid on the 43rd floor, and going to investigate to find a dead body rotting in among the piles on debris and concrete.

The Lebua State Tower, an exact copy of Satorn Tower sits within view, however while Lebua thrived (featuring in The Hangover 2), Sathorn Unique has been cursed to ruin for the past 20 years.

In recent times, social media has been inundated with photos of eager tourists using their Gopro cameras to take selfies on the top of the tower, some in absolutely crazy and life threatening situations.

My venture to the top of Bangkok

After watching the various Youtube videos people have produced to excite the urban adventurer in me, I decided to meet a couple of my Thai friends in Bangkok late on a Sunday afternoon to venture to the top of Bangkok’s Ghost Tower.

We had pre-planned well making sure the Gopro, mobile phones and DSLR cameras were charged, we packed about 3 litres of water given it was about 36 degrees that day and decided it was time.

toilet ghost tower bangkokWe arrived at the base of the tower, its quite an impressive, over whelming and dominating sight once your standing beneath it. Looking up as the crumbling concrete, seeing signs of mother nature reclaiming an area which once belonged to her. As you make your way down the narrow Soi, one side is lined with a flimsy corrugated iron fence in an attempt to obviously foil any would be adventures. As it turned out, it’s main purpose on this day was to funnel us down to an area where a man, possibly security, possibly local, would peal back a section of the fence and usher us through. Once on the other side, negotiations for an entry fee didn’t exist. If you want the opportunity to climb, you pay and today’s price tag was 500THB, it didn’t matter that my friends were Thai nationals either, 500THB for everyone.

Ghost Tower: Climbing Bangkok’s Abandoned SkyscraperNOTE: At the time of writing this, rumors have it that the tower is closed for the foreseeable future. My understanding is that the Thai police have taken offense to the amount of coverage on social media, and the potentially high risks that climbing to the top presents.

After paying our 500THB, we are instructed to climb a small half collapsing set of timber stairs off ground level onto the 1st floor. From here we casually walked past numerous security people in the dim shadows and made out way to the internal stairwell. The smell of moist concrete dust emanates from the darkness as we start out ascent. Makeshift lighting has thoughtfully been installed in the stairwell, danging down between the steps from the top. The bulbs are a mismatch of colours, some sections dimly light, other sections allowing you to see the graffiti adoring the walls with a yellow or red reflection from the lighting.

Stopping every 10 or so floors to allow for catching your breath and resting the legs, you get the opportunity to explore the rooms which are probably at a 60% complete state. The vandalism and graffiti show a different story though. Stepping out onto the balconies of the rooms gives you a strong sense of what the property developer had in mind with the stunning views of Bangkok’s bustling streets and the Chao Phraya River.

Ghost Tower: Climbing Bangkok’s Abandoned SkyscraperAs you get to the top floors, the light starts to shin through from the opening onto the roof of the tower, and you start to be exposed to the twisted Rio bars and steel reinforced concrete pillars that have never been completed. These final steps onto the roof are what the whole journey has been waiting for, the climax to the 45 minutes of hiking up a dimly lit stairwell. You are left absolutely speechless and you look around, trying to decide which vantage point you want to take in first.

The overwhelming sense of safety is paramount, remembering that this is a building that was closed mid construction, one false step could be your last. Carefully and cautiously being aware of my surroundings, I make my way closer to the edge of the roof, where nothing is impeding your final steps to doom if you went to far.

The sheer volume of similar enthusiasts on the roof was staggering, there would have been at least 100 tourists, all vying for that perfect photo of craziness or stupidity with people sitting and lying on rusting metal beams and concrete ledges which could end in death still amazed me.

Ghost Tower: Climbing Bangkok’s Abandoned SkyscraperFor us though, accepting ones mortality was more important and finding the perfect place for some privacy and sanctuary to watch the sun set from one of Bangkok’s premier locations was what we were after. Moving down off the roof onto the 48th floor, we found shelter from the hordes of tourists, and felt the temperate drop a few degree in the shade.

From here, we were able to sit back and relax, as the sun set over Bangkok for the day, and we were able to truly take in the once in a lifetime opportunity we were fortunate enough to have.