King Power MahaNakhon Skywalk Experience | Highest view in Bangkok
Bangkok, or Kreung Thep in Thai, translates into “city of angels.” The race to construct high-reaching high rises continue in Thailand’s capital. As a result, condominiums, restaurants, and cocktail lounges all boast to having the best view of Bangkok. One of the newest buildings now claims to have the highest and brightest view: King Power MahaNakhon. With that in mind, Peter Weibel went to see what all the publicity was all about.
Heading to Chong Nonsi BTS Station, between Silom and Sathorn, was a breeze. Just after the morning rush hour traffic. It was past nine and the trains were no longer full. The sky was blue – a promising sign. Ahead of my schedule, so I treated myself to a coffee at Sathorn Square Building. The building’s front features sculpture and roofing by Dong, a local artist who has created award-winning designs in many top hotels and other commercial buildings.
The Chong Nonsi – Sathorn area is one of Bangkok’s most developed areas. International companies and a few important diplomatic missions are located there. Bangkok’s cosmopolitan Silom Road is just around the corner and the riverside is only two-stations away.
The King Power MahaNakhon building is located at Silom Road, near the Chong Nonsi BTS station. This lofty building, currently the tallest one in Thailand, has an iconic shape to it. Some people joke that a number of bricks must have been stolen from the construction site, resulting in its rather strange pixelated shape. Despite opening only a few years ago, the building has already got quite a reputation already: one that has seen several high-profile brand names move in and out. Less than a year after its opening, the building was sold to King Power, Thailand’s Duty Free mogul.
On arriving there, I was hoping to get a picture of the ‘Bangkok Soul’, a sculpture located in front of the building. Roughly nine meters tall, the sculpture is the work of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Sadly, the artwork has now been removed. Half of the building has been walled off: it’s where Accor’s first Orient Express Hotel will be opening its doors. A lot of work seems to have gone into this development. Perhaps the Bangkok Soul may return afterwards.
I entered the building through the ‘King Power’ sliding doors where I was met by smiling faces. It was hardly 10:00 am and I was one of the first visitors. The ticket price – just over 700 baht – seemed a bit steep, but I had hope after seeing a few good photos and reading about the “thrilling experience” people had had.
With my ticket in hand and the clear instructions “this is only for one trip” – I followed a young woman, dressed in a blue MahaNakhon jacket and matching cap. At I passed through the X-ray machine, there was a wall lit up with special lights and a Bangkok theme. Two smiling attendants wanted me to stand and pose for a photo…Politely declining, I walked past them.
Reaching the elevator, I was handed over to another hostess. She navigated the lift swiftly to the 74th floor. No stops on the way, there was a colorful and lively display on the elevator’s walls. I exited the lift and was greeted by more smiling faces. Being one of the first visitors of the day has its benefits.
From the 74th floor, you don’t have to walk far to find a good view overlooking the city. My only problem was deciding where to start. The views were fantastic! From the comfort of the air-conditioned floor, I moved around and tried to locate buildings and neighborhoods I knew.
There are also interactive screens where visitors can learn about the city’s many attractions. Postcards with worldwide stamps are available here too, at a reasonable price. They can be posted right there also.
I took a few photos and then moved towards the rooftop. There was a sign explaining the ‘rules of engagement’. For one, visitors must put their belongings into a bag provided by the operator, so in went my camera bag. Next, I was handed two shoe covers. Visitors are not allowed to step onto the glass skywalk without them. A slight annoyance, but nevermind. Now with the MahaNakhon bag over my shoulder and shoe covers stuffed into my back pockets, I followed a staff member into a round elevator. Straight out of a science fiction movie, I thought to myself, “Beam me up, Scotty!”
And there I was – one floor up and 310 meters above Bangkok!
If you’re afraid of heights, this is not the place to be. But, if you love panoramic views, then this is paradise. These are perhaps the best views over Bangkok. At 10.00 am it’s not too hot and the sky was clear. There weren’t too many visitors stepping into your photos.
Before anything else, visitors must pass a bar area. Drinks are not included in the ticket; however, the prices are reasonable when compared to a similar rooftop bar at Le Bua State Tower.
At the other end is the Skywalk. The glass floor is the size of a small swimming pool. Visitors must pass a station where they hand their bags to staff, apply their shoe covers and then, a few at a time are let loose onto the glass. Staff are ready to help take photos; but, another rule of the Skywalk is that phones and cameras are not allowed onto the glass.
Standing on the glass floor is an odd experience. I wasn’t particularly scared looking down between the 310-meter void and the ground. Through the glass, the combination of scenery and height was, for a brief moment, awe-inspiring.
I moved past other visitors off the glass, got rid of the shoe covers and climbed a few steps to ‘The Peak’. At 314 meters, it’s Bangkok’s highest viewpoint. Here’s where you get a 360 degree view of Bangkok and beyond. With a clear sky, this would have been picture-perfect. Bangkok, however, does not have clear skies that often. I was happy with what I got, and again tried to identify a few buildings and places I was familiar with.
More visitors started arriving. A couple from Hong Kong had explored virtually every corner of the Indoor Observatory on the 74th floor. Taking tons of pictures together, before finally heading upstairs. The man was now getting ready to get on the Skywalk while the women held their camera. He made a show, laid down in a planking position, all the while smiling at the camera.
His wife took a couple of pictures. Only when she asked him if it was scary looking down, did he turn his head to look below and instantly lost his smile. But, he was up in no time grinning. I hit the shutter of my camera just a moment too late, nevertheless a priceless moment.
I left The Peak and walked past the bar towards the elevator and opted to take the stairs to get to the 74th floor. I was directed to a door that leads to the floor below; the staircase features Bangkok themed wall paintings, which are nicely done.
Reaching the next floor, I took the elevator to get to the ground floor, but my fears had become reality…I realized we had to get out on the second floor. And this is where my MahaNakhon experience turned a bit sour. Visitors have to end their skywalk experience wandering through a less than inspiring, and rather packed King Power duty-free shopping area. The way to the exit (two floors down) was not properly marked. As a result, I was suddenly lost among the Levi’s, Gucci, Rolex, etc. Eventually, I found a narrow corridor that allowed me to take my next steps to freedom.
I admit I am not into shopping: but, I paid the price for the privilege of seeing my beloved Bangkok from high above. I did not need to be forced to go through shops with people trying to convince me that I needed a new pair of jeans or sunglasses.
Is MahaNakhon Skywalk worth the visit? It surely is – perhaps it can be incorporated into a city tour (preferably one starting at 10.00 am, when there’s less visitors), or a sunset visit. The steep entrance fee may deter some clients, but MahaNakhon may just remain competitive with Le Bua at State Tower.
Visitors must be made aware that the experience ends with a walk through the King Power Duty Free area.
I was also told that there is a Skywalk AR app – a free download that would come in handy.
The Skywalk is open daily from 10.00 am to midnight. Last admission is at 11.00 pm.