Sathorn Unique Tower, to give it its official name, is an unfinished skyscraper in Bangkok, Thailand. Originally planned as a high-rise apartment block, construction stopped around the turn of the century, most likely due to the Asian Financial Crisis (accounts vary, others link it to a high-society murder trial). However, it is much better known to locals by the more sinister name of ‘Ghost Tower’, and once you go inside it is clear why. Overgrown and flooded balconies with broken railings contrast with the shiny new skyscrapers opposite, while dark stairwells thread the dingy interior of the building, full of helpful graffiti like: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” (in blood red paint). Sunset creates an even more dystopian mood, with views reminiscent of Blade Runner or The Windup Girl – a science-fiction novel set in a future Bangkok full of abandoned skyscrapers.
This is a photo project I started in 2015, towards the end of my six years in Thailand. I was introduced to Ghost Tower by members of my local photography club, and the balconies overlooking the river were indeed often busy with photographers, trying to capture a sunset panorama without interference from building lights behind them. At the time, the tower was also popular with adventurous backpackers and urban explorers. The experience was a bit like hiking a mountain or exploring a cave system, but in the middle of a city. I got a similar sense of exhilaration when I reached the summit, after climbing 47 floors without the benefit of a lift or escalator.
I visited Ghost Tower three times, with a slightly different group of friends each time. Officially, the building was closed to the public, but in practice it was usually open to anyone who turned up with a torch, sensible shoes and 1,000 baht (£25). One time, the guards had even installed lights in the stairwell, set up a register of people going in and out, and gave out an emergency contact number. These were all sensible precautions – the building was fairly complete until about two thirds of the way up, but on the upper levels there were entire walls and floors missing, so you really had to watch your step. Here are some of my favourite photos from the three visits: