After two years as a digital nomad and visiting six countries in Asia, I think it’s finally time to admit to something I have been struggling with for awhile now.
I, Julie July, am hopelessly addicted to skydecks.
Observatories. Skyscrapers. Massive architectural delights. Whatever you want to call them, if a tall building exists with an incredible skyline view you can most assuredly find me at the top. I love when my ears pop as the elevator zooms to the top floor. I love pressing my face against the windows like a little kid. I love standing in the sky, knowing that there is only a pane of glass between me and a sprawling metropolis that I have only scratched the surface of exploring. From up in the air, a city feels so alive, and I feel so small. Every new view is a reminder that there is a big, wide world out there just waiting to be seen!
Though seeking out observatories is arguably the most “touristy” thing I do in every new country, it has also become my most anticipated activity. I especially love visiting just before sunset so that I can watch as the cityscape transitions from day to night. It is a magical feeling to watch the changing colors of the sky as the sun goes down, while the twinkling lights from buildings and cars light up the darkness one by one.
These are some of my favorite places to observe the magnificent skylines of Asia.
Taipei, Taiwan (1,671ft)
Taipei’s iconic skyscraper is a stunning sight at any time of day. It was designated the tallest sustainable building in the world due to it’s environmentally responsible building practices, and can even withstand earthquakes and typhoons. The ride from the 5th floor to the observatory on the 89th takes only 37 seconds!
Of course the only downside to viewing the city from Taipei 101 is that the skyline will be missing its most recognizable feature. If nature is more your vibe, take a 20-minute hike up Xiangshan Mountain instead for a real photographic treat. Just be sure to go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
Baiyoke Sky Tower
Bangkok, Thailand (1,014 ft)
Baiyoke is the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia, and I guarantee the 360° view from the revolving, outdoor skydeck on the 84th floor is enough to take your breath away (or make you throw up, depending on how well you do with heights). Just feeling the cool breeze from the tip-top of the city as the platform slowly rotated round and round was worth it alone, but because a free drink was included in the ticket price, I also got to enjoy a fresh coconut at the bar on the 77th floor while I waited for the sun to set. Bangkok’s architecture is so unique and lovely that somewhere between the wandering between floors and taking photos, I lost track of time and wound up staying for three hours!
Tokyo, Japan (1,092ft)
Though it may look awfully familiar to another famous landmark, Tokyo’s version is actually taller and functions as a communications and radio broadcast tower. I immediately wanted to visit it even in the beginning stages of planning my trip to Japan, despite Tokyo Skytree being nearly twice the height. It might have been the two super weird mascots (known as the “Noppon Brothers”), the fact that it is painted bright orange, or that it has glass viewing floors that make for some fun photo ops. In any case, something about it just charmed the pants off me. Of course, the view of Tokyo wasn’t half bad either!
Bitexco Financial Tower
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (861ft)
There is truly no better place to view the dense and colorful expanse of Ho Chi Minh City than Bitexco Tower; the building is impossible to miss due to the enormous helipad sticking out from the side. There is an observatory on the 49th floor, but through some internet sleuthing I discovered that you can visit the bar on the 51st if you would rather pay for a drink instead of the skydeck entrance fee – so that is exactly what I did!
Bitexco was the first observatory I visited in Asia and was definitely the catalyst for my obsession. Exploring the streets and taking in the sights on foot is an experience in itself, but I’m convinced there is no better place to see a new city than up in the sky.
After all, traveling makes you feel on top of the world. Why not have the view to match?