Inside the highest hotel in the world

November 29, 2012: 1:45 PM ET

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong has the distinction of being the highest hotel in the world.

By Jennifer Abbasi, contributor

FORTUNE -- Last week, news broke that construction on the new tallest building in the world begins this month in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, China. If the reports bear out, the proposed Sky City will rise to a height of 2,749 feet, besting the record-holding Burj Khalifa in Dubai by a mere 32 feet. Thanks to a prefabricated skyscraper construction technique pioneered by China's Broad Sustainable Building, the 220-floor tower is expected to be completed by January, according to the company's website.

Five out of 10 of the world's current tallest buildings and seven out of 10 of the tallest buildings under construction are located in China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the international Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat says. (Chicago's Willis Tower is the only U.S. skyscraper on the current top-10 list; One World Trade Center in New York will surpass it in 2014, when it's set to be completed.)

As cities go, Hong Kong is the uncontested skyscraper champ: It boasts 1,224 buildings over 200 meters (656 feet), the measure used by Emporis, an online database of global buildings, to define skyscrapers. The runner up, New York City, has a measly 574. Fascinatingly, bamboo scaffolding is used in the construction of most of Hong Kong's buildings. The ancient Chinese practice applied to modern construction heights is a feat you have to see to believe. (Check out these stunning images by photographer Peter Steinhauer, which depict the latticework scaffolding and the colorful tarps that wrap around the buildings.)

MORE: Inside Frank Gehry's surreal Opus Hong Kong

Hong Kong's tall buildings--almost all its buildings--are clustered around Victoria Harbour, the body of water that separates Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, the city's two business centers. The panoramic view, with verdant hills rising behind glittering waterside towers, easily surpasses the skylines of Chicago and New York, day or night. So proud is Hong Kong of its impressive silhouette that every day at 8 p.m. sharp, 45 skyscrapers beam colored lights, lasers and searchlights, choreographed to music, into the night sky.

The jewel in the city's crown is the International Commerce Center (known as the ICC), which sits on the Kowloon side of the harbor. At 1,588 feet, it's Hong Kong's tallest building. Superlatives abound here. The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, which occupies floors 102 to 118, has the distinction of being the highest hotel in the world. (Hotels located at the top of skyscrapers are hot in Asia, says Bonnie Kwok, head of PR for Hong Kong's Ritz.) Perched at the top level of the Ritz is Ozone, the world's highest bar. Sure, getting a cocktail on the open-roof terrace at night may feel like drinking in a wind tunnel, but you can't beat the view from the top:

Credit: International Commerce Center/The Ritz-Carlton

Credit: International Commerce Center/The Ritz-Carlton

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