The thrill on Canton Tower – China’s tallest, world’s 3rd

By Edmund Smith-Asante, GUANGZHOU

The Canton Tower at close range.   PICTURE BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE.jpg
The Canton Tower at close range. PICTURE BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE

If I was at my daring best when I climbed 877 wooden steps up the Kwahu Mountain at Obo Kwahu in 2016, then going up the Canton Tower in China defies any form of description.

It was not going up the highest tower in China per se that was indescribable or defied any logic to me, although it was my first time going up that high on my two feet without an airplane.

Climbing on top 111 floors was the craziest vertical distance I had ever gone. But adding to that I went on one crazy ride in the air over 1,591 feet or .31 miles above sea level aboard one crazy drop seat in one crazy moment of temporary insanity.

The experience was beyond thrilling – my furiously pounding heart said it all – the adrenalin was high and it took time to stabilise after the crazy ‘fright’ called Sky Drop from the base of the tower’s antenna.

The drop

Relishing my experience on China's tallest tower..jpg
Relishing my experience on China’s tallest tower.

Initially when we got to the platform in the open on top of the tower my first instinct was to resist the offer to go up although our tickets permitted us a vertical ride. No way! I ‘ain’t’ going up that – I mused to myself.

I had rather go for a ride in the steadily moving bubble trams on the top fringes of the tower. At least that was enclosed, I reasoned.

Nonetheless a greater force got a hold of me after I watched the first set of my colleagues go up and drop like led midway before landing. Maybe at that point I was not thinking but somehow I knew I would return safely to the base – what if I was wrong and…There was no time to reason and I was already being strapped to a seat just like three other colleagues.

So up up we went slowly till we reached the first demarcation on the antenna. Wow! What a breathtaking view of Guangzhou that you will not get anywhere else in China’s commercial city. This may be how God looks down on us from the heavens as mortals.

But we were jolted out of our fantasy world when there was a slight tug and we suddenly started rushing down with the speed of lightening. All of a sudden I felt lightness, loss of control of my environment and a sense of hopelessness.

I saw ‘death’ gazing at me. So is that how the end is going to be like? But as we thought we were going to plunge several feet down into maybe the glistering Pearl River we could see below, there was another tug and this time we moved at a slow space till we landed.

Whew! That was close and certainly not for the faint hearted or anyone with heart problems. Indeed two colleagues decided not to go up the tower at all because they were acrophobic.

You can imagine the deep breath we took when we realised we were still alive and did not fall off after all. Onlookers said I was throwing my legs during the free fall but who wouldn’t – Perhaps it was an attempt to clutch on to life.

Comments from two colleagues sum the experience better. When asked whether he would go up again after the drop, Mr. Eric Biegon from Kenya vigorously shook his head and said “never!” We had a good laugh but such was the thrill or scare up there depending on which side you stand.

Even just after we had climbed up the tower Mr. Hilton Kimeng, a Cameroonian journalist after asking himself rhetorically why he was on the tower, said in his usual funny accent and monologue – “who are we, to be looking down skyscrapers, on top of a tower?”

The canton tower

According to our pretty Chinese tour guide who took us up the tower, Ms. Crescent Huang, it was designed by a Dutch couple, Mark and Barbara from Information Based Architecture (IBA).

She said its construction was started in 2005, was completed five years later in 2010 and it became operational the same year.

The tower’s design which is like a trophy has a Chinese name which literally translates “the slim waist of a fair lady”. From the base to the peak it is 600 meters tall with its body taking up 450 meters and the antenna 150 meters, making it currently the highest tower in China and the third highest in the world.

The highest tower in the world is the Bui Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at 828 meters and the second highest is the Tokyo Sky Tree, which stands at 634 meters tall in Japan.

From the bottom to the top of the Canton Tower there are five functional areas which are identified by different colours – there is zone ‘A’ which houses a café, restaurant, shopping centre, banquet hall, outdoor plaza, parking lot, multifunction hall and conference rooms and a lobby from the first to the sixth floors.

The zone ‘B’ coloured green houses a cinema from the 17th to 22nd floors 84 to 116 meters above the ground and there are also the zones ‘C’ and ‘D’.

The ‘E’ zone also has three eateries – the French and Mediterranean Revolving restaurants as well as a Cantonese restaurant, a sky bar, cloud and star observation decks and a science and technology hall from floors 103 to 110 from 376 to 450 meters above the ground.

The orange coloured zone is the tower top on the 111th floor, which has two platforms. These are from 450 meters to 488 meters, which is the highest point tourists, can go.

There is a freefall sky drop for 30 meters at two sections of the antenna and orange bubble trams which revolve around the tower for twenty minutes. It is known as the romantic spot on the tower because many couples share romantic moments such as courting or proposing to each other in them 460 meters high off the ground.

World records

Floor 107 also has the highest post office in the world (a Guinness Book record), while on the ‘E’ zone on floor 106 is the highest revolving restaurant in the world described as a “Twist Mediterranean Buffet Revolving Restaurant” by the Guinness Book of Records.

The Guinness Book of Records also reports the Sky Drop as “the highest thrill ride” and says it “truly defines gravity.”

There are four types of tickets for the guests. The first ¥150 or RMB ($21.79) is just for indoor sightseeing, the second ¥228 ($33.12) is for floors 107, 108 and also the top of the tower on the 450 meter platform.

To go on the Bubble Tram Combo one would have to buy the ¥298 ($43.29), while to enjoy all the thrills up high including being on the cloud and star observation decks require the ¥398 ($57.82) ticket. All ticket prices are however halved for children.

Writer’s email:


  • The World Federation of Great Towers lists nine towers with China’s four towers – the Canton (2010) at 600 meters in Guangzhou, Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai (1994: 468 meters), Beijing Central Radio and TV Tower (1992: 405 meters) and Macau Tower (2001: 338 meters) placing 3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th
  • The tallest tower is the Buri Dubai Tower (2010) in the United Arab Emirates which measures 828 meters in height, followed by the Tokyo Sky Tree (2012) in Japan measuring 634 meters above the ground.
  • The CN Tower (1976) in Toronto, Canada is the 4th highest, while the Empire State Building (1931) in New York, USA and the Eiffel Tower (1889) in Paris, France takes the 9th

This article was written on April 21, 2017


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