Monday, 16 July 2007

Another month another Country!

Its only July and already this year I have visited over 6 different country’s and dozens of city’s. Including Tokyo once, Hong Kong twice, Beijing 3 times, London 4 times, Shanghai over 10 times and my latest adventure – Kuala Lumpur.

I have to admit to having a passion for architecture, especially tall buildings! Eastern Asia, seam’s to have overtaken the US as the home of the modern skyscraper, and is now home to 8 out of the world’s top 10 tallest buildings.

No.1 Taipei 101 - Taipai, Taiwan
No.2 Petronas Tower No.1 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
No.3 Petronas Tower No.2 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
No.4 Sear Tower - Chigago, USA
No.5 Jin Mao Tower - Shanghai, China
No.6 Two International Finance - Hong Kong
No.7 CITIC Plaza - Guangzhou, China
No.8 Shun Hing Square - Shenzhen, China
No.9 Empire State Building - New York, USA
No.10 Cental Plaza - Hong Kong

I have been fortunate enough this year to visit 7 out of the top 10, and my favourite was always the Jin Mao – maybe because it has a bar at 88 floors up, overlooking one of the most exciting city’s in the world. I will always remember my first time at the top sipping a chilled glass of wine, and watching helicopters circling below!

The Jin Mao tower is the 5th tallest building in the world, standing at over 1380 feet, but is slowly being dwarfed by the latest addition to the Shanghai skyline - the new Shanghai Financial building.

This is being constructed only 20 feet away, and will tower over the Jin Mao by a further 300 feet. the immense building already casts a shadow over the Jin Mao, although in my opinion isnt as pretty!

My latest encounter with a VTB (Very Tall Building - otherwise known as FTB, I will let you work out what the ‘F’ stands for!), was a trip to the Petrona’s Tower’s in KL. The building is famous not only for its appearance in the film Entrapment (Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones), but also for its ‘Sky Bridge’.
This is a viewing platform that stands between the 41st and 42nd floor’s, allowing breath-taking views across KL’s impressive city skyline. I have to admit the building does seem to have been constructed just to be tall!
You have to wonder why someone would go to such extreme lengths and costs to build such a vast structure.
Well I guess the reason why so many of the modern tall buildings are being constructed in Asia, is because they are displays of incredibly ambitious and immensely aggressive economies. I am sure Freud would call them gigantic phallic symbols, statements of a nations desire to be known on the world stage, and show everyone just how important and technically advanced they have become (despite being built by American, British and Japanese Engineering teams!).

It may also be the reason why the US, has all but stopped building them, London has never really been serious (Canary Warf stands at No. 169 in the list!) And other major developed countries of the world have never bothered, these are places that don’t feel a need to prove anything to anyone anymore.
I have to admit that on my journeys through some these Asians hotspots, I am amazed at the advancing infrastructures. Gleaming Airports, high-speed rail networks, 8 lane high ways with automated traffic control and alert systems, sophisticated public transport – under-ground, over-ground, priority lanes, taxi-s running on electric, gas, and even hydrogen. Public High Speed Wifi Zones, 3G Networks, brand new hospitals, schools, hotels and supermarkets. The roads are filled with the latest metal from Germany, Japan and the best the emerging markets can produce. Shops are stuffed with luxury items from Paris, New York and Milan. Visitors could be fooled into thinking they have indeed landed in super rich, super efficient metropolises. The people seem happy, prices are reasonable (cheap by UK standards) and crime is apparently non-existent.

Perhaps all of this is exactly like the skyscrapers, put there to portray a highly advanced society, financial stability, forward thinking and advanced planning ability’s. Whilst just a few blocks around the corner the gap between the rich and the poor widens, public health issues spiral out of control, governments control every aspect of communication, and the prisons numbers are only reduced by the ever increasing number of executions performed daily.

Very few tourists are allowed to venture far from the glitz and glamour, and it probably takes many months, or even years to unearth the real truth behind it all. I guess most of us are happy with our ignorance, and just enjoy the oversized hotel rooms, with breathtaking views and direct air-conditioned walkways to the clinical shopping malls, stuffed with offerings for our hard earned hard currency’s. We have enough doom and gloom at home, and don’t want to be reminded that rape, murder, exploitation, prostitution and burglary’s happen in down town Shanghai as well as in our own leafy suburbs.

The purpose for my visit to Kuala Lumpur? well it was a family compromise – I fit in a little site-seeing and VTB photography, and the family use it as a stop over to Langkawi – a tiny island just off the coast of Malaysia, for some sun, sand, sea and monkey spotting!
(But I did get to spot a Rover 216i Cabriolet while I was there! – that was a poor attempt at keeping the BLOG topical, or should I say 'Tropical')

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