Alongside obscenely tall observation wheels that make you want to vomit into your handbag instead of lean over and smooch your sweetie, glass-bottomed walkways are the hottest — and most unpleasant, depending on how you feel about extreme heights — trend in thrill-based tourist snaring. Some of the world’s most heavily trafficked monuments, both natural and manmade, now have ‘em.
To little surprise, China has emerged as the triumphant leader in the fad with the recent unveiling of a glass suspension bridge, apparently the world’s longest, named Haohan Qiao — or “Brave Man’s Bridge.” And it takes a very brave man or woman indeed to traverse this admirable/completely horrifying feat of engineering that spans nearly 1,000 feet across a canyon in Shiniuzhai National Geological Park.
So exactly how high is the bridge, you may ask? Try a more than slightly vertiginous 590 feet.
To be clear, Haohan Qiao isn’t an entirely new feature at Shiniuzhai, a sprawling geopark in south-central China’s Hunan province. Stretching from mountain peak to mountain peak, the petrifying promenade replaces an only slightly less terrifying wood-floored suspension bridge that was partially retrofitted with glass sections last year. Now, the whole stomach-churning shebang is outfitted with 24-millimeter-thick glass panes.
Judging from photos, some brave park-goers have opted to crawl on all fours across Haohan Qiao. Makes sense to me. However, if some insane person was compelled to merrily hop across like a bunny, that would be fine, too: "The bridge we build will stand firm even if tourists are jumping on it,” one of the (hopefully very well-compensated) workers who installed the glass panels explains to the state-owned China News Service. “The steel frame used to support and encase the glass bridge is also very strong and densely built, so even if a glass is broken, travelers won't fall through."
How very reassuring.
While Haohan Qiao is currently the biggest, baddest and most immobilizing glass-bottomed suspension bridge in all of China, an even longer and higher transparent span is set to open at Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, also in Hunan, in the near future. That one, designed by Israeli architect Haim Dotan and hovering nearly 1,000 feet above the canyon floor, will also reportedly feature a bungee jumping station and a catwalk for high-altitude fashion shows. Zhangjiajie, apparently a fabulous place to visit for those who like their gorgeous natural scenery to be accompanied by sweaty palms and buckling knees, is also home to the world's longest cable car ride and a glass-floored walkway that hugs the side of Tianmen Mountain.
Would you fancy taking a stroll along Haohan Qiao?