Talk about sticking the landing!
I was just planning on doing a post about Bangkok’s Baiyoke Sky Tower and the view from its rotating observation deck later this week, and then a bit of timely news (if that’s what you should call it) filtered through the internet. On Monday, three workers plunged to their deaths from the 69th floor of Thailand’s tallest building. They were installing advertising on the building’s exterior when a cable supporting the platform they were working from snapped. So I guess along with the suggestion that Baiyoke Sky Tower is worth visiting I should also include the warning that it’s best if you use the elevators running up the building’s interior rather than the E-Ticket ride outside.
A visit to the top of the Baiyoke Sky Tower is a lot like visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York. It’s there, all the locals are aware of it, but few have ever bothered with taking the ride to the top. Your boy du jour will not be as excited about the trip as he would be to one of Bangkok’s pricey shopping malls, but once he realizes a new cell phone is not within his immediate future, he will enjoy the visit nonetheless. And considering the high ticket price they charge, with you footing the bill he’ll be even more pleased with the ride. Besides, unless you take a taxi directly to the hotel you’ll be wandering through the Pratunam wholesale clothing market where prices are so cheap it’ll be difficult to say no to the new shirt(s), pants, belt, wallet, shoes, T-shirts, and latest knock-off designer wear that light up his eyes.
Management at Baiyoke figured a high building should mean an equally high ticket price, so they charge 300 baht for the elevator ride up to the 83rd floor where along with a huge skyline photo along the wall there are extremely tacky special photo areas where you can stick your head through a cut out of people in traditional Thai garb or hop on the hot air balloon to appear as though you’re riding high above the city. The ticket also allows you to walk up one more floor to the revolving roof deck on the 84th floor and its 360 degrees panoramic view of Bangkok. It’s not one of Bangkok’s better values, but it is an incredible view and gives you a good idea of just how large the city is. And your ticket also includes a ‘complimentary’ drink at the Roof Top Bar & Music Lounge back down on the 83rd floor.
There’s also an enclosed observation deck on the 77th floor that has a few displays about the building as well as coin operated telescopes to view Bangkok’s urban sprawl, however the glass windows are usually heavily smeared with hand prints and face it, going no further up than the 77th floor is like wanting to date a ladyboy but only offing a pre-op.
Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best analogy . . .
Baiyoke Sky Tower, also known as Baiyoke Tower II, was completed in 1997 and was, at that time, the tallest building in the world. Its website lists the building’s height at 1,014 feet, but not unlike what you’ll see at Soi Twilight’s Big Cock shows, though size matters, Thais are prone to exaggeration. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as well as several other organizations that concern themselves with such matters lists the Baiyoke’s height at 997 feet. Still, the sucker is tall and easy to spot in Bangkok’s skyline. And it still holds the record as the tallest hotel in SE Asia as well as being the fourth tallest all-hotel structure in the world.
I read that there are 2060 steps if you wanted to walk from the ground floor to the top of the building and that doing so would take you more than an hour. I’d bet that little jaunt would take most people closer to three hours. And if those unfortunate workers’ express elevator was available I’d bet some would willing hop on by the time they hit the 69th floor.
Visiting the Baiyoke Sky Tower is not unlike shopping at Walmart: you need to embrace it’s tackiness and steel yourself for the experience. It’s a popular destination for the tour bus crowd. And I do mean crowd. There are usually long lines for the elevators and they pack so many people in that a sardine would feel at home. Plus, you get to have that experience twice. The first set of elevators only go to the 18th floor. You have to board a second set to get to the top of the building.
Savvy visitors claim the trick is to book a meal at one of the hotel’s upper floor restaurants, but those are the type of savvy travellers who’ll rave about the great steak served at Sizzler. You will get preferential treatment for the 77th and 84th floor viewing, but will also get bad, bland, and over-priced food. Go for the view from Bangkok’s tallest spot. If you want atmosphere, you’re better off taking in the sights at one of Bangkok’s rooftop restaurants and bars like Sirocco and the Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower (where the food will be even more expensive and just as bad).
The 77th and 84th floor are open from 10:30 am to 10 pm daily. The Roof Top Bar & Music Lounge, where the view is almost as good, is open to 1:00 am. The best viewing spots are packed at sunset. Just make it clear that you are planning on using the elevator when you say, “Going down!”
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