When it comes to admiring Asia’s cityscapes, few things beat the thrill of absorbing it all from a great height. Here are four observation decks around the region with some serious altitude.
1. George Town: WINDOW OF THE TOP
Penang’s tallest building, the iconic if incongruous KOMTAR tower in central George Town, now soars even higher thanks to the recent addition of three new floors and a host of attractions that capitalize on the bird’s-eye views. Starting on level 65, Window of the Top features an observation deck with floor-to-ceiling windows that afford a 360-degree panorama of the city and the Straits of Malacca. An even loftier perspective awaits on the building’s new rooftop, where a semi-circular glass walkway dubbed the Rainbow Skywalk cantilevers 249 meters above street level. You’ll feel like you’re walking on air.
2. Shanghai: SHANGHAI TOWER
Measuring a whopping 632 meters from base to tip, the twisting behemoth known as the Shanghai Tower is the latest in a trio of super-tall buildings to grace the burgeoning district of Pudong. From the basement, the world’s fastest elevators will whisk you to the 119th-floor observatory in under a minute. While it opened to the public last July, the project is far from complete—plans are afoot to install viewing areas on floors 125 and 126, which will double as a performance venue for audiences of up to 300 people.
3. Tokyo: TEMBO DECK
The height of Tokyo Skytree— Japan’s loftiest landmark—was determined by a numerical pun (“six-three-four”) on Musashi, the old name of the area around Tokyo. A little over halfway up, the 350-meter-high Tembo Deck offers a supreme vantage point for surveying the endless urban sprawl that has since engulfed old Musashi, with views stretching out to the far side of Tokyo Bay and even snowcapped Mount Fuji. If you’re intent on gaining more altitude, buy a ticket to Tembo Galleria, where a spiraling indoor ramp circles the tower to a second platform, perched 450 meters above a patchwork of traditional neighborhoods.
4. Guangzhou: 450 LOOKOUT
Distinguished by a fluid, double-tapered form, the Canton Tower rises across the Pearl River from Guangzhou’s gleaming new business district. For two years it topped the global roster of towers until Tokyo Skytree usurped the title in 2011. Though Dubai and Shanghai now boast higher observatories, it’s still a record-holder for its horizontal ferris wheel, with 16 “bubble trams” on an inclined track around the outdoor terrace 450 Lookout. The experience is best enjoyed after sunset, when the sky glows dusky orange and violet with lights glimmering below.
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2017 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Heights of Ambition”).