One thing I have witnessed over the years living in Phra Khanong area is its gradual transformation. Although several new residential buildings are apparent (including my place that used to be a cinema), there is obscure evidence that changes could be traced from its past glory to what it might become–they are shopfront signs.
These signs are from shops in the patch that is now known as W District. But, to be exact, they are on Pridi Banomyong 3 Alley, a small bit of Sukhumvit 71 Road, Edison Alley (Pridi Banomyong 1 Alley), and Sukhumvit 69/1 Alley. Map below.
The collage is roughly arranged in a matrix.
The vertical arrangement shows how old I guess the signs would be. Signages of closed shops and stores that are fading and frozen in time from decades ago are in the bottom. And ones that are running and new business (as of September 2019) are towards the top.
Whereas from left to right is ordered by the languages used. The most left is only Thai on the shopfronts. There are some only in English. Then there are dual-language signs that don’t have to be in Thai. And to the right, there are three in one: Thai, English, and either Japanese, Chinese, or Korean.
Phra Khanong is going through another transformation. And it is not certain that any of this shopfront sign would last for how long in years to come. Old ones might even stay longer than the new.
To me, these different uses of styles, typography, and languages on these signs show the glimpse of its diversity and history of this area.
I love Bangkok for many reasons but one of the things I hate the most about the city is that the pedestrians’ rights are being ignored and violated heavily. However, when I get back from DC this month, there are some obvious changes on my neighbour’s streets in Phra Khanong area that make me feel welcoming. One is the installations of anti-motorcycle barriers and the other is the reorganising of street vendors.
Bangkok is quite infamous for its traffic but it doesn’t really bother me that much as long as public transport is still running reliably. So often that I rather walk unless it’s too hot, humid, or raining. But it is also often when you walk on the pavement and have to give ways to motorcycles. They illegally make a cheap short cut on the footpath—pedestrians’ footpaths—to avoid traffic on their roads where they are supposed to be. I find it is extremely unfair.
This is why I’m glad to see those anti-motorcycle barriers popping up on Sukhumvit Road around Phra Khanong Station. They are called ‘S-guard’, apparently. Even though I don’t think they will completely eradicate the behavior, at least, it’s a start to discourage bikers to evade walkways.
To a more controversial issue—street vendors. It has been somewhat a win-win to both vendors and customers. Optimising public space for micro business is not uncommon in Thailand. Bangkok’s street-food scene is one of the best in the world. And I couldn’t agree more. But when Bangkok Metropolitan Administration announced they were going to clear up the streets, there were some outcries about banning the unique Thai vendor culture.
On the very first night back in Phra Khanong, I am disoriented to find that half the vendors disappear from the street. There are only stalls on the building side of the pavement. But further down, those missing vendors are grouped together in small open area in front of a building that hasn’t been commercially utilised for years. It’s a relieve to see that my favourites noodles vendor is still there.
Personally, I like to have good footpaths to stroll on. At the same time I don’t mind getting something to eat there as well. These changes seem to be a practical compromise for me. And Phra Khanong is fortunate that is working. This might not be the case in other areas as some reports say.
Have you ever wondered what the building you live in now used to be? When I found out that the condo I am living in now was one of stand-alone cinemas in the neighborhood, it excited me tremendously. It triggers my thoughts about the transformation of the Bangkok’s urban landscape.
When I moved back to Bangkok few years ago, it just happened that I ended up living in Phra Khanong area where I was very new to it. It’s on the other side of this big city as opposed to Don Muang, where I grew up. My last recollection of this strip was the heavy traffic jam on the intersection and there was a row of cinema signage.
On top of that, it is gorgeous to see its transformation as well. An enthusiast has posted a photo series of its demolition. And luckily, when Google Street View started to roll out in Bangkok in 2011, it has archived the construction of the new building as well.
Asia Rama was not the only stand-alone cinema in Phra Khanong area. There was a cluster of them. While it was in the hay day, there were at least six theaters and five department stores in this area. But I think the cinema was the last one operating. According to Wikipedia, it was closed down on 20 August 2009. The transformation is still happening as we speak. I will post about some of other cinemas later.
As soon as I got up on the train from Chiang Mai, my focus was almost immediately on the changing landscapes outside the window—from Ayutthaya Station right up Hua Lamphong Station. It was an enjoyable mixed bag of urban creep sceneries to see.
In Ayutthaya, there was a rhythm of rice fields and industrial estates emerging from the light of dawn. Then they started to work on the new Dark Red Line suburban commuter train in Rungsit. Don Muang was the mark that it had entered Bangkok with the old International Airport. Along the way, there was Bangkok’s Stonehenge, which became street artists’ heaven. It went through the train depot in Bang Sue, which would be the last clear horizon perspective from the train. Finally, while it was approaching the final destination in Hua Lamphong, Bangkok from the train view turned into dense communities.
By the time the train arrived Bangkok, the camera phone and the spare powerbank almost ran out of their power and I got very exhausted with the travelling and everything. But it was all really worth it.