Architects must get huge job satisfaction, I think, when I stand at the entrance of the King Power Mahanakhon building in Bangkok. It must be so fulfilling to see your work actualized from an idea in your head to a real-life steel and glass structure. It must be even more satisfying when that creation becomes an icon of its city.
When I first met German architect Ole Scheeren, the creator of this imposing structure, he was already internationally famous for designing Beijing’s fantastic CCTV Tower and also known for dating a very famous Hong Kong actress at the time. But I would never have guessed it when meeting the quiet man sitting in the living room at my friend’s small dinner party in Bangkok. He didn’t have the typical architect look of sharp planes and monochrome wardrobe. In fact he looked more like a rumpled traveller in need of a comb and an iron, and maybe even a short nap to clear the tiredness in his eyes. He was living in Beijing and, over a bowl of duck red curry, he vaguely mentioned that he was in Bangkok working on some sort of project, without giving away any details.
He didn’t say much else and this was years ago. So, fast forward to August 2020 and here I was, standing in front that same secret project – now towering over me as Bangkok’s most iconic skyscraper, the King Power Mahanakhon building. See? Isn’t amazing how a silent idea can manifest into a world-class structure bigger than Godzilla?
The building is high-impact, exuding a strange force that compels you to stare, and keep staring at it. So much is distinctive about it: its futuristic pixelated structure draws the eye, even from miles away. It doesn’t blend into the skyline but stands out as the tallest building in Bangkok at 78 stories high. You can see it from different areas of Bangkok, and it tends to look closer than it actually is.
If you’re travelling by boat along the Chao Phraya River, you can see the King Power Mahanakhon building from almost any point on the river, and the building appears to mysteriously move around in the landscape. One minute it appears ahead of you, some minutes later it appears behind you, then it pops up to your right and then again to your left. In fact the building is fixed in place and its you who are constantly moving in all directions as your boat meanders around the many bends and twists in the river.
And it’s the meandering river that’s the star of the show that you get from the rooftop SkyWalk observation deck. I was fascinated to see how much the river twists and turns and even doubles back on itself. It’s the river’s curvy path that inspired the building’s logo design.
This is the highest spot in Bangkok and the best place (other than a helicopter) you’ll get this 360-degree view of the city and river spreading in all directions far below. You can see all the way to the Gulf of Thailand, which is that flat strip of blue in the far horizon. It’s an impressive sight!
Bangkok’s tallest building wouldn’t be complete without featuring the city’s highest restaurant, bar and observation deck which is a brilliant way to connect this marvelous building and all its glories with the general public and the city residents. The Mahanakhon Bangkok SkyBar restaurant and Mahanakhon SkyWalk observation deck opened in July 2019 but what with this year’s pandemics and lockdowns, this was my first time to visit here.
There weren’t many visitors when we arrived, which was no surprise with the city empty of its usual tourists throngs. We were grateful for this Covid-era absence of crowds and were able to enjoy the whole place almost to ourselves.
It must be noted that Mahanakhon Bangkok SkyBar restaurant and Mahanakhon SkyWalk observation deck are two separate destinations within the building. Upon entering the ground floor lobby, you enter separate turnstiles to go to the SkyBar, the SkyWalk and the King Power Duty Free shop.
There’s an entry fee of THB 880 per adult / THB 250 per child to enter the SkyWalk experience, which consists of a 74th floor indoor observation deck and 78th floor outdoor rooftop observation deck.
The Mahanakhon SkyBar restaurant is sandwiched between the two observation decks, and diners who spend 1,000 baht or more are given vouchers to access the Skywalk after the meal, where they can enjoy drinks from the rooftop bar.
Mahanakhon Bangkok SkyBar restaurant offers lunch and dinner set menu selections of elegant Asian and Western dishes. A 3-course set menu at THB 1,600++ offers Pork Jowl, Australian Wagyu Ribeye or Seared Andaman Sea Bass and Roasted Pineapple dessert. A newly launched 4-course set menu at THB 1,800++ offers luxurious Salmon Rillettes, Pan seared Foie Gras or Larb Ped Spicy Grilled Duck Salad and Chocolate and Banana dessert.
Our feast started with the classic Thai flavours of juicy pork jowl slathered with a zesty cucumber and spring onion relish, along with another Thai classic appetizer, Banana Blossom Salad with plump Grilled Prawn.
I was in heaven with my main course of Australian Wagyu Ribeye steak that melted in the mouth, accompanied with a glistening gel of spicy Thai Jeaw sauce. The steak is served on its own, all the better to let the meat’s luscious juiciness stand out.
A Thai-inspired Seared Andaman Sea Bass came on a bed of rice and a velvety Thai green curry-flavoured sauce.
The desserts feature a distinctive tropical fruit theme. Roasted Pineapple comes with refreshing coconut sorbet and delicate candied ginger slices, while a Chocolate and Banana plate features caramelized banana on a mountain of creamy chocolate ganache sprinkled with a nutty crunch of hazelnuts.
The limitless cityscape is the best décor you could ask for, viewed from comfortable sofa seating clustered in cozy nooks around the room.
Around the lofty space, tribal statues, stuffed Amazonian birds, Asian ceramics, antique European books and a mix of cultural artefacts displayed on shelves create the air of being in a global traveller’s penthouse living room.
After lunch we headed up to the Mahanakhon SkyWalk rooftop observation deck on the 78th floor for the 360-degree view. From here you get an amazing eyeful of Bang Kachao district, or Bangkok’s Green Lung, and can marvel at its lush and massive enormity. You get to see Bangkok on a scale that you can’t imagine when you’re a tiny speck among hundreds of other tiny specks scurrying along on the congested streets below.
The Big Thing here is to walk, lie down, and take photos on the glass tray, where you can see straight down to the street 78 hair-raising stories below. People love to do this! I’m not one of those people! I get anxious just going up a glass escalator in a shopping mall. The friendly staff asked me if I wanted to go on the glass tray but I shuddered and backed away. (#ThanksNoThanks)! Please don’t make me go on that thing, or you’ll find grooves where my nails dug into your nice cement floor after you peel me away from the edge sobbing in terror.
I could imagine how crowded it must be during a normal tourist season. Aside from us there was a small group of university students taking graduation photos in their white and gold graduation gowns and a handful of local Thai visitors.
I was told that you can come up here every day and the view never looks the same because the light and mood changes depending on the time of day and the weather. The best times of course are sunrise and sunset. Sometimes sunrise yoga events are held up here, with the teachers doing warrior poses on the glass tray. I can imagine how sexy it must be at night, with music filling the air and drinks flowing from the bar … I’ll have to come back another time to discover the SkyBar and SkyWalk’s other different moods.
Have you been to Bangkok’s tallest restaurant yet? How was your experience?