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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Taipei 101: The other way down

In a recent post, I talked about my visit to Taipei 101, which currently holds the record for the tallest building in the world, not to mention the fastest elevator in the world. Well, I found out there is a faster way to get down from the top.

In December 2007, base jumper Felix Baumgartner leaped from the observation deck of the building. Five seconds was all it took for his free fall. Those five seconds took months of preparation. The 38-year-old Austrian scoped out the tower on several visits while dressed in various disguises, all the while taking note of the surveillance cameras, security systems and inaccessible areas.

On the day before the jump, Baumgartner hid his parachute in a toilet with the help of a local. The next day, he commenced the secret mission with all the flair you might see in a James Bond film. On the look-out platform, helpers distracted the security team, giving Baumgartner the opportunity to climb the security wall, drop down to another ledge and jump off the building.

Baumgartner made a safe landing on a parking lot. "F*&#ing A! I did it," he exclaimed after completing the first-ever base jump from the tallest building in the world. He hurried to the airport and flew to Hong Kong couple of hours later to avoid arrest.

The jump did, however, have consequences.

Taipei 101 terminated its contract with the security firm in charge of protecting the observation deck. "It has failed in its task to prevent such risky acts from happening," Taipei 101 Spokesman Michael Liu said.

Since then, security has been beefed up and tourists are not permitted to carry large bags onto the observation deck, such as the backpack Chris was carrying with him the day we visited. Lockers are available in the lobby to hold belongings.

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