Very Tall Things


the Burg Khalifa – World’s tallest empty building

Very Tall things

Greetings Gentle Readers. I write to you today from the city of Kuala Lumpur, which is in the country of Malaysia. This is another hot and steamy South East Asian country where mildew is the official national flower. I am here for a presentation but I left my laptop computer back at the airport in Houston. I realized it when I was on the plane so I alerted the airline; they located it and put it in the Lost and Found for me. I hope they find my brain too.

I booked this hotel based on a travel agent’s recommendation. I told him I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money but I wanted to be in a specific area of the city. So I got this dump. It is a very modern high-rise hotel, but it has no exercise room, no pool, and no business office for guests to use. Instead of a business office, this hotel had a COIN OPERATED computer at a table in the lobby. You got five minutes of computer time for each half Ringet coin deposited. (about 15 cents). I was re-creating my presentation (since I left mine with my laptop) and had to keep feeding this crummy computer these large token size coins in order for it to work. I would get engrossed in what I was doing and suddenly the cursor would stop moving. I would struggle with it for a moment and remember to put another coin in the slot. It was slow and tedious.

The only form of “attraction” this hotel seems to claim is “Fish Reflexology”. This is where you put your bare feet into a fish aquarium where thousands of minnows eat the dead cells from your skin. Along with the fish nibbling between your toes, you get a facial and a manicure. I have big feet. If I decided to dunk my feet in the aquarium there would be enough dead skin to feed Moby Dick. The minnows would think they died and wend to fishy DisneyWorld. (is this how Nemo got his start?) This hotel’s restaurant features fresh fish on the menu. I certainly hope their fish does not come from the Reflexology tanks. Come to think of it, the facial cremes they used looked like tartar sauce.

Normally I don’t care much about the hotel’s amenities. I am very busy going to meetings or getting lost returning from a meeting. But this time I spent three nights here for just one presentation. The rest of the time I wandered around the area surrounding the hotel. There are hundreds of tiny restaurants and unkempt shops wedged in to t every available space along the streets. There are an incredible number of retailers selling the identical merchandise: watches, cameras, T-shirts and tiny replicas of the Petronas Towers. Petronas is the National Oil Company. To show off their oil wealth, they built a twin set of office towers which, at the time, was the world’s tallest building. This was back in the 90’s. You may have seen a cheesy Sean Connery movie in 1999 that featured the Petronas Towers as the setting for a high stakes heist.

Two decades later, the Arabs had to one-up Petronas by building what is the currently the world’s tallest building in Dubai, U.A.E. Originally it was to be named the Burg Dubai. (Burg has a soft “G”, like in barge) This thing is massive. (see the photo)  It is over 2,000 ft tall; nearly twice as tall as the Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago. The Burg Dubai was a financial fiasco. The city of Dubai built it when they were flush with investor cash. They ran out of money and had to get bailed out by the city of Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. which is controlled by Shiek Khalifa. As a thank you for saving their financial “bacon” the developers re-named the building Burg Khalifa. As of now the building still sits 80% vacant. I like to call it the “Splurg Khalifa”.

I took a tour of it with a colleague last year. We stepped in to the elevator, the doors closed, but nothing happened. I looked over my shoulder and saw a computer screen displaying the floor numbers which were changing rapidly. We had already started moving up at lightning speed but there was no sensation of movement. I had a brief flash of concern that the brakes on this elevator would fail and we would be launched like a cannonball in to the Arabian Gulf. (Editor’s note: that did not happen)
This building was also featured in a recent movie. You may have seen the commercials for it showing Tom Cruse jumping out of one of the upper floor windows of it. I understand his frustration. He was probably tired of feeding coins in to his “business office” computer too.

One last thing about my travels which is sort of interesting…I’ve been to Dubai on this trip and to Kuala Lumpur, both with two of the world’s tallest buildings. Now if I go on to India as planned I will probably see the world’s tallest rubbish pile. World travel can be memorable.

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