Fri, Jan 21, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Getting high on Taipei 101

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vistors admire the view through a window of the world tallest building, the Taipei 101, which opened its observatory on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AFP

At 1pm on Wednesday, the 89th-floor observation deck of Taipei 101 opened its doors to the public and within six hours the world's tallest man-made edifice had became the nation's number one tourist spot.

Exactly 2,256 visitors flocked to the tower on the opening day and many more thousands of visitors will make the trip to the 382.2m-high observation deck this weekend.

According to a spokesperson for 101's observation deck, the number of people expected to make the trip in the opening weeks could well exceed 150,000. The deck can accommodate only 1,396 people at one time, so be warned: you could be in for a long wait.

Once at the observation deck visitors get to enjoy a stunning 360-degree vista of Taipei City and parts of Taipei County as well as getting to eyeball the skyscraper's mammoth Canadian-designed damper, which is used to counteract strong winds and earthquakes.

For those looking to spot their apartment -- or even friends -- from the top of the world, seven NT$300,000 Japanese-manufactured telescopes equipped with lenses far more powerful than any regular camera allow visitors to zoom right in.

The telescopes are so powerful that on a clear day, individuals can be spotted and car license plates read as far away as the junction of Hsinyi and Chinshan south roads. You only get 50 seconds for NT$20, however, so you better know where and what to look for.

Along with the vistas, 101's observation deck also features a souvenir kiosk selling an assortment of 101 paraphernalia. Ranging from T-shirts and coffee mugs to key rings designed to look like the damper, sales of knick-knacks are expected to generate a staggering 50 percent of the observation deck's annual income.

From now until March, the observation deck will be open from between 1pm and 7pm, Tuesdays through Sundays. After the grand opening on March 1, however, the observatory's operating hours will be extended and it will be open from 10am to 10pm, seven days a week.

As if the view from the roof of the world weren't enough to placate those in search of adventure, getting to the observation deck is an adventure unto itself, albeit a very quick one, as visitors are able to take a ride in the world's fastest elevators.

Developed jointly by US-based elevator consultants Leach, Bates and Associates, Toshiba Japan and GFC Taiwan, the two elevators each weigh 1,600kg, can carry 24 passengers at a time, and were manufactured at a cost of NT$100 million per elevator.

The elevators reach speeds of 1,010m per minute, or 60kph, on their ascent, and a top speed of 600m per second, or 36kph, on their descent. Passengers won't get much time to enjoy these record-breaking speeds, however, as it takes only 39 seconds to go up and 46 seconds to come down.

Such speeds mean that the elevators act like airplane cabins and have been specially manufactured in order to deal with mounting air pressure. Air pressure is so strong that if not countered, it could lead to injuries such as ruptured eardrums. Each elevator is hermetically sealed and has twin air-pressure-control systems that begin to reset cabin pressure as soon as the doors are closed.

The cutting-edge elevators also offer passengers one of the smoothest rides in town. The ride is so smooth, in fact, that a NT$50 coin can be placed on its rim on the floor of the elevators and it will not move let alone topple over.

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