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Shanghai at your feet

It’s lonely on the world’s highest observation deck on the 100th floor of China’s tallest new building, reports Reshma Patil.

world Updated: Jul 03, 2009 02:10 IST
Reshma Patil

It’s lonely on the world’s highest observation deck on the 100th floor of China’s tallest new building.

Go now to Number 100, Century Avenue in China’s global financial capital of Pudong, to walk on the roof of Shanghai. The foreign tourists are not flying frequently and the office-space is too costly to cope with a recession. On a weekday, you’ll have China’s tallest building almost all to yourself.

When the 101-storey bottle-opener-shaped Shanghai World Financial Centre opened last August as the world’s third-tallest building, the developers reported about 45 per cent occupancy and said it could climb to 90 per cent by the year’s end.

But there are no crowds of office-goers around one of the world’s most expensive real estate in China’s largest city. If you stand beside the marigold flowerbeds outside the skyscraper’s entrance, only the construction cranes interfere with your camera frames.

I entered the lobby twice, but there was never a single person ahead of me at the x-ray machine. Almost a dozen cafes serving foreign brands of doughnuts, Belgian chocolates and coffee were almost empty even during office lunch-hour.

There was no queue for the 150 RMB (Rs 1,050) ticket to the 100th floor. Tickets to the 97th and 94th floor are cheaper but even those floors had few visitors buying souvenir mugs and photos. There was no jostling in the neon blue elevator as it sped up and my ears stopped hearing the soothing music.

The 100th floor skywalk is a long corridor with several glass panels on the floor. No tourists push you aside as you strain to identify Shanghai’s squares, gardens, rivers and high-rises through the smog. Look straight down through the floor only if you don’t have vertigo.

On the street, you have to crane your neck to see the top of the skyscrapers. On the 100th floor, my wobbly feet wished for a bench as I looked top-down on the 88-storey Jinmao tower that was once China’s tallest. That day inside the Jinmao tower on Number 88, Century Boulevard, I had noticed that most windows overlooked cranes and earthmovers.

“These high-rises are all almost empty. They don’t need more skyscrapers,’’ pointed diamond trader Sudip Shah to this correspondent, as he swept his arm over the Pudong view. Nearby, the foundations are being dug for a 128-storey skyscraper to touch Shanghai’s crowded sky in 2014.