Similar to the other City of Angels in Southern California, Krungthep is very spread out, lacking a cohesive downtown. Driving through the city, you find high-rise buildings spread liberally throughout the metropolitan area. That said, there are a few areas with a concentration of office buildings, most prominently the stretch of Sathorn Road from Rama IV to Surasak Roads.
Figure A: Sathorn Road, looking east from the Naratiwat intersection. Decades ago, this was a wide canal with small roads on either side. The canal was lined with fruit trees that were eventually cut down so as to widen the roads.
Along this stretch, the Sathorn-Naratiwat intersection seems to be the new hot spot. Located next to the Chong Nongsi BTS Skytrain station, this intersection has several new condos, hotels and office buildings in various stages of construction or recent opening. Real Estate sections of the local newspapers tout this as the place with the most quickly rising land values in the whole city.
In a few years, this intersection will be home to the tallest building in Krungthep, MahaNakhon Bangkok, a 77-story tower that will include the new Ritz Carlton Residences, private condos and a luxury hotel. The pixelated design by Ole Sheeren (designer of the iconic CCTV Tower in Beijing) promises to add a unique focal point to the city’s skyline. Inspired by DNA, I have to wonder why anyone would buy into a building that looks like it is disintegrating.
Above, an artist’s rendering of MahaNakhon Bangkok.
Let me take you on a tour of the area. There are many interesting things going on here.
First, a map to give you an idea of where you are. The letters on the map correspond to other pictures in this entry and the arrows show the approximate direction of the view.
Figure B: Looking from the Chong Nongsi BTS Skytrain station platform southbound towards the Sathorn and Naratiwat intersection. The track makes a right-hand turn onto Sathorn Road, heading towards the Chao Phraya River. Most of the new construction is occurring on the right-hand side of this picture.
Below, another shot from the same platform, looking westbound between two buildings. The one on the right is a condo that recently opened. The one on the left is a mixed-use complex that is still under construction. In a rare act of historical preservation, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority required that the former Russian Embassy (shown on the map above) be preserved and incorporated into the development. This beautiful colonial building is a treasure. Hopefully it will not be lost in a forest of tall buildings, just like the main character’s home in the recent Pixar movie, Up!
Figure C: From the Sathorn-Naratiwat intersection looking back towards the Chong Nongsi BTS Skytrain station. There is a new pedestrian walkway in a stalled stage of development. This is part of the “BRT” – Bus Rapid Transit – project that the previous governor of Krungthep started. This idea would create a light rail like network, but using buses instead. The infrastructure is less expensive to build than rail, which sounds fine by me.
The walkway would connect the Skytrain station to the BRT station on the other side of the intersection, visible in Figure E, below. The construction has stalled because of an investigation into how the project was procured. Once again, accusations of corruption. My opinion is that even if the rest of the BRT system remains stalled, completing this walkway would be a good idea. It is, after all, almost complete.
Figure D: This is a wider shot showing looking north towards the BTS Skytrain station. I took Figure C from the corner of the pedestrian bridge on the right-hand side of this photo. The only way to cross this very busy intersection is to use the pedestrian bridges. If you disembark at the BTS Skytrain station, you currently have to descend to the street level, navigate the vendor and motorcycle-strewn sidewalk, then climb back up the pedestrian bridge to cross Sathorn Road.
If the elevated walkway that is part of the BRT project were finished, it would provide a direct, sheltered connection for BTS Skytrain passengers who are going to the Sathorn-Naratiwat intersection. Sounds like a good idea to me!
Figure E: Pivoting 180 degrees to the left from Figure D, looking south along Naratiwat Road, you can see where the BRT station is in a frozen state of construction. There is another walkway that would connect that station to the pedestrian bridges at the Sathorn-Naratiwat intersection.
The big question is, why was I down in this neck of the woods in the first place? I have a Canon Laser Printer/Copier at home and had several used toner cartridges I wanted to recycle. None of the retailers who sell Canon toner will accept the used cartridges for recycling. After contacting Canon via email, a helpful employee called and explained that I could bring the cartridges to their headquarters to recycle them. Canon is on the ninth and tenth floor of a building that is just to the left of Figure E.
Just trying to do my part to save the world. I double-side my print jobs, too. Ha ha…