One of the most interesting and lesser known, until recently, off the grid attractions of Bangkok was the Sathorn Unique Tower, or more widely known as the Ghost Tower. This towering building today stands abandoned, decaying, and its future still unknown but back in the heady economic boom of the 1990s it was very different.
The 90s were a great time to be alive and in business, not just in the West but also in the developing world where the benefits of globalization were beginning to manifest outside of just the ‘Asian Tigers’ of Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore that had blossomed economically from the 1960s onward. Countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, and indeed Thailand were beginning to catch the interest of overseas investors beginning in the 1980s and peaking in the mid 1990s.
Of particular pride for Thailand and a sign of its seemingly upward mobility in the world economic order was its acceptance into the World Trade Organization in 1995, made all the more remarkable when you consider that China, who’s global economic impact was already huge, was not accepted into the WTO until 2001. By the time Thailand was accepted into the WTO in 1995 it was not only a growing tourist hot spot but also gaining ground through trade and industry. With money flooding into Thailand in the 90s and elites eager to display their new wealth, a construction boom was well under way by 1995. Here the story turns to the Sathorn Unique Tower, AKA the Ghost Tower.
A series of unfortunate events…
Construction began on the 49 floor luxury apartment tower in 1990 and was plagued by a series of unfortunate events that continue to haunt it to this day. First, you have the fact that the tower is believed to have been built on a former graveyard causing the construction and all those associated with it bad karma and the tower itself being filled with angry spirits. Then you have the drama that surrounded Rangsan Torsuwan, the designer and developer of the building. In 1993 he was charged with allegedly plotting to murder the President of the Supreme Court of Thailand and although he was eventually acquitted in 2010 after initially being found guilty, the court case has made it hard to find financing to continue construction. But perhaps the biggest impact on the tower was the onset of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis which led to construction being halted as investors and capital fled the country. Since then the building has been left to decay, which brings us to more recent events.
The legend grows…
The tower gained notoriety on the web among travel bloggers and backpackers at least from 2010 and quickly gained popularity as a unique and eerie place to visit among the more intrepid and persistent visitors to Bangkok. From what I’ve gathered, initially you could just find a hole in the fence and go right on through to the top. Then homeless people and hard drug users began to show up, asking for money to allow people through, which most people obliged as it only added up to a few hundred baht or so. Soon, more and more people began showing up leading to a man claiming to be the owner to block people from entering the premises by having guards stationed at the bottom….unless people paid a fee. Visitors kept pouring in, paying money, posting pictures, writing posts, and then apparently the true owner found out and took action against the imposter. The true owner (Rangsan?) put his own guards in and threatened legal against a few bloggers to make an example of them and prevent more people from coming. This all came to a head in 2014 when a Swedish backpacker was found to have committed suicide there and indeed it is possible other people met their ends there, only adding to the whispered legend of the ‘Ghost Tower’.
From what I’ve been able to piece together, 2014 marked the tightening up of security, except that the guards were still taking money but were cautious in allowing too many people in at one time and only at certain times of the day. Some of the later events described in the last paragraph may be a little out of order but it is hard to be certain as much of what has been written is unconfirmed and unreported besides what is written in other travel blogs.
Too little too late…
Fast forward to August 2015 and I hadn’t even heard of the Ghost Tower until I was in Bangkok doing my CELTA course. After seeing a picture from a friend of him being there I was instantly captivated and immediately planned on going, except my course turned out to be way more intense and I never got around to going. Still, interested in the subject I’d Google it now and then to see if new information came up and to see more pictures. After my course I went through Laos backpacking and then onto Pai in N. Thailand for muay Thai, and finally back home to Canada for a couple months before returning to Thailand on Boxing Day of the same year, 2015.
By this time it seems I was too late. Rumors of more death and an increasingly firm set of guards, not to mention big locks and big metal doors preventing people from moving on from the first floor, meant the game was up. From what I gathered the locks and metal doors appeared sometime between August to November 2015 though I may be off by a month or so. The Ghost Tower is officially closed for business….or is it?
A hypothetical fictional way up to the clouds…
What I write next is in NO WAY intended to encourage people to go there and break the law (in fact I’m writing about a fictional hypothetical building), but if you do, it is your decision and you face the legal consequences, if you are found out, of going forward with your intent to reach the top. Putting together information from the most recent blog posts from 2016, I think it is hypothetically possible to bypass the locks and barred metal doors but you need to be extremely well determined, have a plan, and be able to locate the necessary resources. 1) I imagine you need some heavy duty bolt cutters 2) you need to camp out and learn the movements of the guards and the daily movements of people around the site 3) you may need a 30ft plus steel ladder to bypass the locked doors and go around the side. So, yea, you need to be a James Bond/Macgyver type person and probably need a few people to pull it off.
I will also state that I’ve never actually been there and everything I have written has come purely from what I’ve found online and from my active imagination as to how you could actually do it. I have also purposely not mentioned specifically where the tower is to further not encourage anyone to go there. Perhaps the only thing this tower is good for is pictures like the one I posted and the fact it seems to a battlefield in the eternal struggle between Coca Cola and Pepsi as in my picture you can see Pepsi plastered over it and in other pictures online you can see Coke. I’m a Pepsi man myself, Pepsi Max for the win!
Hope you enjoyed reading this post! I really quite enjoyed writing it and I hope it inspires people to find DIFFERENT ubran exploration adventures in Bangkok as there are many to be discovered. Cheers everyone, like and SUBSCRIBE!!!