2 November 2013

Sathorn Unique: Bangkok’s Ghost Tower

The Sathorn Unique was supposed to be another glistening addition to Bangkok’s ever growing skyline, a luxury residential skyscraper of over 600 homes and shops.  Yet the building work came to a drastic halt in 1998.  The towering building has stood abandoned and incomplete from then on.  Only urban explorers venture in now: many of the local population believe the skyscraper to be haunted and call it the Ghost Tower.

The early 1990s was boom time for the Thai economy. The country was experiencing its most rapid development ever and hundreds of construction projects were started in the capital of Bangkok.  As the wealth of the nation’s people increased it was envisioned that they would demand new, luxury apartments in which to live.

Sathorn Unique’s 49 storeys were located in the perfect place – at the edge of the old commercial town and a stone’s throw away from the new international business zone. Investors must have been rubbing their hands at the prospect of the profit which would be shortly coming their way.

Image Credit Flickr User Jonathan Burr
Image Credit Flickr User IMP1
Yet by 1997 it was over.  Investment had been uncontrolled and the bubble was destined to burst.  In a single year the economy of Thailand contracted by a massive ten percent.  By then Sathorn Unique was over two thirds complete but it was never to be finished.  Instead, the investors pulled out and the building was frozen in time, unfinished and uninhabited.

Inside Sathorn Unique
Yet time is a great healer - for economies at least - and now most of the buildings that were started before the 1997 crisis have been finished and are lived in.  Yet not the Sathorn Unique. Perhaps the project is simply too vast and expensive, the building too decayed to recover.  Certainly, the concrete is cracking and nature is taking over with trees growing on some of the balconies. 

The original brochure promised tenants a wonderful view of the city – and in that respect it was not lying.  The panorama is simply amazing.  The cityscape is crisply modern and is juxtaposed by the charm of the city’s Chaopraya River.  Yet the only permanent residents that the skyscraper attracted were the feral dogs which have taken up residence on its first floor (and which explorers must avoid at all cost, the dogs are not friendly).

Inside Sathorn Unique
There are other dangers too.  The stairways to the top are not safe and the unwitting explorer faces potentially deadly falls on their ascent.  Neither are the corridors – potholes abound and most of them are unlit by natural light with two decades of rubbish strewn about. Yet the building’s perils are not confined to the interior.  When it rains, local people keep their distance from the ‘ghost tower’ in their neighbourhood.  Wet conditions weaken the structure and large chunks of masonry have been known to fall from high above.

Little wonder that access to the site is strictly forbidden by the Thai authorities. For the foreseeable future it looks as if the Sathorn Unique will continue its steady decline, the occasional tourists its only (albeit temporary) inhabitants. Apart, of course, from the wild dogs of the first floor. Don’t forget the dogs.

Angry dog that almost took my leg off

First Image credit Flickr User IMP1