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DANGLING FROM ropes, window cleaners toil on a high-rise building in Bangkok.

Developers have studded the Thai capital, and cities throughout Asia, with such residential and office high-rises. They soar above teeming neighborhoods, gleaming, expensive towers of steel and glass.

But some have turned into “ghost towers” or “ghostscrapers” — high-rises that were abandoned in the fallout of Asia’s economic crisis of the late 1990s. They loom ominously, unfinished, empty and decaying.

One of the most notorious is in Thailand’s capital, on the banks of the broad Chao Phraya River in the heart of Bangkok. The 49-story Sathorn Unique building was to contain hundreds of state-of-the-art condos and fancy shops. With dreams of luxury lost in a financial quagmire, the giant concrete shell has stood empty for more than a decade, home to squatters, debris and graffiti — but no windows to clean.

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Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at

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