I had heard mutterings about an abandoned skyscraper in Bangkok.
It was rumored to be haunted and forsaken. If I wanted to enter, I was going to have to sneak in through holes in the rusty fence and bribe the group of junkies who guarded the first floor. I would have to enter the car park across the street, cross a rickety old bridge, and then scale the outside of a building, 50 meters in the air, with nothing but the cold, hard pavement below.
From what I could tell, entering the Sathorn Unique is like something out of a Jason Statham movie.
Standing 49 stories tall, The Sathorn Unique was slated to be the most glimmering addition to the Bangkok skyline. It was built to 80% completion during the 90’s but, in 1997, the Asian economic crisis put a very abrupt end to construction, leaving the city’s swankiest hotel a skeleton. It has since become known as Bangkok’s biggest eyesore, one which most locals dare not acknowledge. They swear it’s haunted, and it’s far too dangerous to enter.
With a 16 hour layover in Bangkok, there was obviously only one thing to do: climb that mother.
Armed with camera gear, flashlights and plenty of water, my climbing team and I made our way to the base of the building. Doing our best to go unnoticed, the three of us quietly slid in through the gaps in the tetanus-infested fence. Making it through without a scrape, we encountered exactly what we had been expecting: a group of junkies had taken over the first floor.
We had been spotted. A middle-aged twitchy fellow with an unkempt beard and too few teeth aggressively sidled up next to us, demanding that we leave immediately.
“Private property,” he told us.
To be fair, he was right. It’s illegal to enter the Sathorn Unique, but his crew squatting on the first floor was no more legal than what we were doing. We offered 200 baht ($6 USD) and he ‘allowed’ us 15 minutes.
Not only is it illegal to enter the Sathorn Unique, but it’s incredibly dangerous. Tetanus potential is high, as is misstepping and falling though a hole in the floor. And, as the hotel rooms are unfinished, there are no balcony windows separating the bedroom from a 40 story fall to your death. But, with determination to make it to the top, we disappeared from view in search of the best way up.
We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
Due to a few other people attempting to do exactly what we were (the Sathorn Unique is somewhat of a lesser-known tourist attraction for the truly adventurous), the stairwells had been blocked off with large gates welded into place, secured with shiny new padlocks.
We scoured the first floor in an attempt to get to the second. We tried climbing over, under, around and through the large metal gates (we even tried climbing up the inside of the elevator shafts!), but nothing was going to work.
Looking up, we spotted a ramshackle of an air-bridge connecting the fourth floors of the hotel and the abandoned car park next door. I had heard about this bridge and, unfortunately, it appeared to be the only way in.
We made our way next door, into the parking garage, past the makeshift cat dungeon and bird cages which had been constructed by some severely drug-addled minds. This wasn’t just an old car park–it was home to a lowly group of addicts. There were needles scattered around the floor and lonely old mattresses decaying in the center of the cement.
I took a moment to reflect on what I was seeing and moved on. This was turning out to be much more than I had bargained for.
Having reached the third floor, we found that the entrance to the air-bridge had been welded shut. But, there was an opening on the fourth floor which would allow us to climb on top of it rather than walk through it!
We would have to walk across the rickety old metal, 50 meters in the air, and then scale around the metal lattice, which had been welded into place on the other side.
It had been put there to deter people exactly like us.
We struggled with the prospect of actually going through with it; with only one day in Bangkok on my way home for Christmas, the last thing my mother needed was a no-show at the airport because her son had been flattened by the Thailand concrete.
Though I’ve been known to jump out of planes, off bridges and even the side of a 60 story building, I’ve always had a parachute on my back or an elastic band around my ankles. This time, though, I had no such fallback plan. All three of us wavered when propositioned with the reality of the situation and, not for a lack of trying, this became the end of our journey to the top. Not only were we going to have to climb across once to reach the summit, but we’d have to climb across a second time, in reverse, on our way back down.
All of us decided: this was not going to happen.
So, instead, we marveled at the history of this building and the potential it once held. Despite being abandoned 16 years previous, the Sathorn Unique lives on as an ever changing microcosm of its own. It’s calamitous past is testament to its future and, hopefully, in a few years time, we three adventurers may return with a new set of courage and a little bit less to lose.
Name: Sathorn Unique
Getting There: Take a taxi (just over 100 baht from Khao San Road) to Charoen Krung Road (corner of Sathon Tai), or take the BTS (metro) to Saphan Taksin. As it’s right on the Chao Phraya river, you could take a water taxi, as well.
Notes: A reminder that it is illegal to enter the building, and I do not advise you to do so. If you wish to take on the challenge and associated risks, however, start early in the morning and give yourself the whole day. Bring flashlights and wear sturdy footwear. Enter the next door car park from Alley 51 (visible on Google Maps).
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Wow! I really have to try this! I’m hoping to revisit Thailand in a few months, so I’ll see if I can talk the wife into a spot of urban exploring 😉 She’s the camera and I do the climbing, so we’ll see how far we get. Or if it’s a brand new block of apartments by now…
Ha! I’ve heard they run tours there now, but I’m not totally sure. I don’t think just one of you gets to do the climbing, though. It’s either both of you or none of you!
Well, I was thinking of leaving her at the bottom so she can call the ambulance…
Great read, going here later this month.
Anyone know any routes that are still accessible?
I’ve heard that the building has been opened up for public tours, though I can’t verify that. I’ll be curious to know what you find out!
This is so cool! Did you see any relics while you’re at it? You know, some traces that random people lived there after it was abandoned?
My friend and i wanna try this, but we must know what will happen if the police find you. Do you know? 😀
Also I think the escalators are gone.
Climbed the tower today. 1st floor stair case is now completely open which means you can easily walk all the way too the top without having to cross the bridge. That said not sure for how much longer this will be the case.
It’s not all that dangerous, a torch and a careful step is enough.
Also I think due to a recent suicide and/or development there are no dogs or homeless. The car park appears to be being used by construction workers to park their Utes. Only ran into a few fellow explorers and workers.
Wow, it seems like things have changed quite a bit there recently. I wonder if it’s under development now.
Wow! This is great! I was looking that building so many times and wondering what was inside….happy to finally see what’s there. I’m sure was lot of fun! Great day trip! lol
It sure does stand out, doesn’t it?
What a unique experience!! I heard crazy stories from people climbing up the elevator tunnel because they problems to access the top…
I actually made my way up to the Sathorn Unique Tower and I have to say, it was exhausting as hell. Walking all the stairs up to the 50th floor, and that’s in an almost pitchblack staircase is no fun experience…
It was scary, and it was bloody dangerous, too. Would not recommend anyone doing it. The only rewarding thing was the view from top of the Sathorn Unique Tower. It was like having my private roof terrace overlooking Bangkok!
Would I do it again? Hell… NO! Here is my experience about my climb into the Sathorn Unique Tower: http://www.justonewayticket.com/2012/12/13/exploration-of-an-abandoned-skyscraper-in-bangkok-the-sathorn-unique-building/
Sab, your experience was actually the one that inspired me to go check the place out! We tried to climb the elevator shaft, but it had been blocked off! We tried EVERYTHING and simply couldn’t get to the top without crossing that bridge!
Yep, super dangerous. I’m glad you made it to the top, though. Looks pretty incredible!
That is a really interesting building, I have never heard of it before. Wish I had known about it while I was in Bangkok, would have visited 🙂
Another peculiar attraction not to be missed.
It’s increasingly popular in the travel bloggers’ community.
Nice one Jeremy. Passed post onto friend who does urban decay photography.
There is a great passage in Gregory David Roberts’ “Shantaram” that details the (more hygienic and friendly) communities living in an abandoned high rise construction project in Mumbai
That book is next on my reading list. I’ve heard incredible things about it!
Crazy, man. I love adventure as much as the next guy, but I don’t do heights unless there’s some sort of safety rope attached.
Yeah, this one was an adventure, for sure!
Now this is seriously adventurous (and off-the-grid). Good for you! When we’ve visited Bangkok, we’ve enjoyed the usual attractions – longtail boat rides on the Chao Phraya River, the Grand Palace, silk shops…
Keep this one on your list for next time!