For many of us, the Guinness Book of World Records was a fond childhood companion, a source of amusement as we leafed through the familiar images of Robert Waldow — the world’s tallest man at 8 feet 11 inches — or Robert Earl Hughes, a man so large, weighing at his heaviest 1,069 pounds, it was reported (falsely) that he had to be buried in a packing case made for a grand piano. And then we moved on.
Not so in Malaysia, a country obsessed with world records.
Malaysians currently hold the record for most days spent inside a box with scorpions and the longest pizza in the world. One record they no longer hold, however, is for the world’s tallest building. This has not always been the case. In 1998 the 1,483-foot-tall Petronas Twin Towers were completed to great acclaim. Their reign, alas, was fated to be brief, for in 2004 Taiwan built the Tapei 101 tower, which rises to 1,671 feet. And yet Taiwan too has little time to gloat. The Burj Dubai Tower is scheduled for completion in 2009, and its height — a closely guarded secret — is rumored to be over 2,200 feet. It seems exceedingly difficult to hold onto the title of world’s tallest building.
It is even more difficult to get a clear definition of what is meant by “tallest building.”
Up until 1998, it all seemed so clear. The Sears Tower in Chicago (1,730 feet) was considered the tallest building in the world. But then along came Petronas, whose antenna, in a direct slap at Midwestern supremacy, extended 30 feet higher than that of the Sears Tower (though the building without the antenna was, in fact, smaller). Finally two organizations — Emporis, a real estate data company headquartered in Germany and the imaginatively named Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat located in Illinois — stepped in to clarify matters. The term building is now defined as a “continuously inhabited structured,” thus creating the new category of “tallest free-standing structure,” a title currently held by the CN Tower in Toronto.
Problem solved, although the dispute rages on in the world of cyberspace, where the CN Tower, for instance, refers to itself proudly as the “tallest building in the world.” Of course Worrell’s Seafood Restaurant in Wilson, North Carolina also claims to have the “World Tallest Replica of the World’s Tallest Lighthouse” in its parking lot, so clearly you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.
Nevertheless, here are ten absurd, interesting and record-holding places to visit throughout the world.