Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Tallest Building in the World

OK, pop quiz- how long to get from the above photo opportunity to the below- taken from the viewing platform on the 123rd floor? There's a clue in there somewhere- it's dark in the 2nd photo. Answer? 45 minutes. For tallest building in the world, read 'most complex'. To access this sci-fi wonder we walked for 30 minutes looking for the entrance coming across dead end after dead end (or equally unfriendly Armani hotel), before getting lost in an underground car park, then finally making it to the entrance. In the mall next door. While it's fair to say we got screwed over by our taxi driver, it's also fair to say that when a building gets this tall (and it's located in one of the least friendly pedestrian cities in the world) it's easy to argue it's become too big to be usable. I also can't believe that any skyscraper with 57 lift shafts is ever going to be efficient, but when you're looking up at 828m worth of building it's hard to deny that it is impressive.

Pop quiz number 2. How long to get from the 123rd floor observatory to the 122nd floor restaurant (entrance stair beneath)? Answer? Another 45 minutes. Yes, you have to queue again for the lift down, exit the mall, then get lost once more trying to find the new entrance, via another trip to the this time slightly more friendly Armani hotel, where someone suggested we get a taxi. Eventually, we found the entrance, and once slightly calmed down with a glass of bubbly we settled into a truly memorable evening. [In fact it could have been much worse]. But yea, it's funny, the wife and I had both expected to get extreme vertigo being so high up, but in fact it was more like being on a plane. You're so high, theres so little immediate context, that it simply doesn't happen. Not to say that it's not impressive, but being 'only' 30 storeys up in the center of HK, with all the surrounding density and the associated perspective, has more effect. You look down, you see the taxis in the street below, but at a certain height I guess the taxis just lose their effect. Even Taipei 101 'felt' higher.

Leaving the building (via the Armani hotel, which was right next to the restaurant entrance) was a chance to reflect on this crazy Arabian bubble. Hong Kong is crazy, but it's nowhere near as crazy as Dubai. HK might not be the most pedestrian (or cycle) friendly place, but it is navigable. The buildings may be tall here, but they do work. And yes, Hong Kongers love their malls, but you'd never be sent into a car park to get into one.

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