Exploring the Ghost Tower
Abandoned places are really my cup of tea, so if I find any, you can be sure that I will keep nagging and whining until
somebody comes with me to explore the mystery with me. Naturally this happened in Bangkok too. I am very sure that a massive city such as Bangkok has a lot to offer for Urban Explorers, but the most well-known abanadoned tower must be Sathorn Unique Tower – better known as “The Ghost Tower” to backpackers. I already briefly mentioned this unique establishment in my top things to do in Bangkok, but this post will contain my personal and not super succesful experience as well as tips and tricks on how to be more succesful than I was. Although I must say, luck plays a little part in it.
A Haunted History
Apart from only unfinished and abandoned, it is believed that Sathorn Unique tower is haunted. When construction began in 1990 the tower was meant to rise as a fancy 49-floor apartment complex with a wonderful panarama view from the top, but has now found its destiny as a roof to junks and the homeless and has won the heart of many a young backpacker looking for adventure. The darker history of the building began in 1993, when its architect, professor Rangsang Torsuwan was arrested for allegedly plotting to murder the President of the Supreme Court. Though no attempt ever happened, Torsuwan was found guilty in 2008, but later released in 2010. However the building suffered more misfortune. The Asian financial crisis of 1997 hit hard and construction was halted, even though Sathorn Unique Tower was already 80% finished. Ironic is that Sathorn has a 68-story twin brother just down the road; Lebua State Tower was designed by the same architect in 1990, but this building thrived while Sathorn faced its decline. Lebua state tower is now the third tallest tower in Thailand and serves as a mixed-use building, housing apartments, restaurants and two five-star hotels.
After the halt of its construction, the building was left uncared for. Junks and homeless people started to live in the building and backpackers paid them a few bucks to be allowed to explore their “house” and leave some grafiti art now and again. Unfortunately, the building is terribly unsafe, because it has not been finished there are treacherous holes in the ground and accidents happened, so guards were hired to upgrade the safety measures, but it wasn’t until the suicide of a Swedish backpacker in 2014 who had hanged himself on the 49th floor, that a huge metal door was placed on the first floor, preventing entrance to the staircase. However, Thailand would not be Thailand if the guards could not be bribed…..
Since we had heard that light midday/early evening was the best time to attempt a visit to the Ghost Tower, our third day in Bangkok qualified as our Couchsurfing host had decided that arriving at his house the night before was the ultimate reason for a party, so he had kind of talked us into drinking too much whiskey and we woke up really late. More about the Couchsurfing experience will follow. Anyway, the day started late, so we decided to visit Khao San Road and the Grand Palace (the latter one was already closed when we arrived, the second failure of the day, if we count a hangover as the first), after which we would make our way to Sathorn Unique tower. Getting there was no problem at all. Once you get of the BTS at Saphan Taksin, the weathered building is hard to miss. It may have been negelected, but it still stands tall.
When we arrived at the actual tower we found a large group of over 20 people already waiting next to the fence. This is where bad luck comes in. The group consisted of one large group and a few smaller ones, but all of them where there for one thing: to climb and explore Bangkok’s haunted tower. It took a while before two guards popped up on the other side of the fence, with whom we tried to negotiate. Normally they are rahter easily bribed, but the size of the group must have held them back. All 25 of us offered them 500 baht (+/- €15,-) each, added up this should amount to more or less their monthly wage. However, they stood their ground and what were we going to do about it?
Julia and I decided to have some dinner. There was a nice street food stall just across the road and we were hoping to get luck lucky as people would leave their waiting spot while we were eating. We were partly right. When we got back there were less people left than before, but it was getting dark and the guards were nowhere to be found either. This is when we took our chance to sneak through a hole in the fence and climb up to the first floor. This was already quite impressive, we made it in at least. The concrete floor was full of large halls, moss and mold, but the enormous empty elevator shafts grabbed my intention. Then we were unpleasantly surprised…. The internet was not yet up-to-date on the placement of the enormous metal doors at the time we were here. That was a little problem… Getting inside the building without getting caught was one thing, but getting further than the first floor was quite another. The six people that lasted (including ourselves) talked through a couple of different strategies on how to reach the next floor whilst omitting the metal doors. All of them involved the ability to fly, seriously risking our lives or having professional lock-picking skills. Since we all lacked both the skills and the wish to die, this is where our adventure in the haunted tower ended. A dissapointment? Yes. Absolutely, but at least we got the thrill of seeking adventure and a little hint of the building we were planning to climb. And if you believe that all you can give everything negative a positive twist…. At least we did not have to walk up AND down 49 sets of stairs…. Instead us and our newly found friends went for a drink in a cute little rock cafe around the corner. Highly recommended to visit after either succeeding or failing to climb this abandoned highlight in Thailands metropolian city.
How to get there?
As mentioned before, the Ghost Tower is not hard to find. It was meant to stand tall and it will continue to do so as long as it does not collapse or is demolished. You take the BTS to “Saphan Taksin” get out of the station and look up. If you are unfamiliar with the BTS or Bangkok’s transport in general, this might help you further. Good luck and safe exploring!