Changing Landscape

This morning I went for a bicycle ride, enjoying the breezy weather and using the opportunity to see what’s changing in Wattana, the larger district in which Tawn and I live.  This area, with its large expat and middle-class Thai population, is forever changing.  In what used to be the outskirts of town forty years ago, well-off Thai families built their weekend homes here along the canals and fruit orchards.

The canals and orchards have long since passed with condos, restaurants and spas taking the place of the 1960s style modern Thai family homes.  One of these homes, located in the property to the north of our condo, has just been torn down.  The condo’s management has checked with the district office to see what is planned for the property but no plans have been submitted yet.

Interestingly, most of the demolition was done by a team of a half-dozen laborers.  It was only shortly after the point shown above that a machine was brought in to tear down the final walls.  The result, weeks and weeks the sound of breaking glass, cracking concrete and tearing wood.  Made it a bit hard to record audio for some training programs I was working on.

Something I noticed from our side of the property was that a poster of His Majesty the King, something that pretty much all Thais put on a wall in their house or place of business, was still attached to the wall even as demolition commenced.  Is that kosher to do?

At the end of our soi (the small alleys that branch off the main roads) another large property has been cleared and construction fencing erected.  According to the sign posted on the front of it, a seven-floor condo is being built there.  More neighbors.

Riding through the Wattana neighborhood, I spotted several interesting things.  On Sukhumvit Soi 33, which is in an entertainment area geared largely for the Japanese community, I noticed this massage parlor.  Based on the various massage services offered (“Lady of the Night Massage”?) I would assume that it isn’t the most legitimate place to find practitioners of traditional therapeutic Thai massage.

My riding took me up along the train tracks that run parallel to Petchaburi Road.  For four years now the Airport Express (“red line”) elevated rail line has been under construction.  Bear in mind that the airport itself opened three years ago.  Word is that it will be running either in April or August of next year.  As most of the physical construction is complete, the frontage roads that parallel the tracks of the traditional railroad (the red line being built above the right-of-way for the regular train) has been rebuilt after having been shut down during construction.

There is a lot of housing built adjacent to the train tracks.  I’m sorry for the people who live there; I’m sure the noise of construction was terrible and the noise of the trains not much better.

I was able to follow the train tracks about 8 kms to the east of my house to the Hua Mark station (just shy of halfway to the airport) before the paved road runs out.  I then turned around and pedaled back, overshooting my house and going to the main in-city Makkasan station, located at Asoke Road.

This is the Ramhamhaeng station located at Sukhumvit Soi 71.  Oddly, there are a dozen parking spaces under the station, wholly inadequate for any actual parking needs.  Also interesting: at all of the stations there are escalators that will run only in the up direction.  The tracks are four to five stories above ground but passengers will have to descend manually.

When I made it to the main Makkasan station, I pedaled into the construction gate and asked the guard if I could ride around.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t think that would be a good idea despite the fact that the roads are all paved and perfectly safe to ride on.

Some other sights: the Terminal 21 building, about which I wrote a few weeks ago, is making quick progress now that all the foundation and underground work is done.  I’ve started shooting weekly pictures of the progress so that in the end I have a record of this building, which is rising at the corner of Sukhumvit and Asoke Roads.  Anyone need another nine-story mall, cinema, office building and service apartment?  Good, you’ll be glad to know a new one is being built for you.

Passing another construction project on Ekkamai Road, I was tickled that the contractor made an effort to put the sign in English.  Normally I have to practice reading Thai but this one was very clear.  The project is to “make new restaurant.”  Now, we’re not going to tell you what restaurant it is.  That’s a secret.

0 thoughts on “Changing Landscape

  1. Great pictures!!  I love exploring new places, especially the buildings and houses where the locals live.  And I got a good laugh over that last one too: haha..project: make new restaurant. 

  2. I love to follow you on your adventures around Bangkok!! I wish I was good enough to remember the exact locations that you are talking about. I bet Pat can help me refresh my memory!! All of the names of the roads you say are SO familiar but of course they look absolutely NOTHING like they did when we lived there. Ruth Ann

  3. You have a stay at the hospital and the next time you are out and about the landscape has changed! Haha. The building frenzy reminds me of work – they have put up 4 new buildings and have 2 more in progress. The people that graduated last May won’t recognize campus when they return. We now have our own little university village complete with restaurants, law offices and clothing stores. There is even a doctor’s office. I suppose for the students that don’t want to see student health services…

  4. Nice pictures.I think homes built back in the 1950s and 1960s are pretty vulnerable to new development. I’ve seen it in Bogota, Panama and Mexico City. The plots of land of those homes are usually well located and larger than average but the construction is no longer attractive to new families. Say in Bogota and Panama a lot of those homes were single floor homes in nice neighborhoods (not the “top” ones but still very desirable places). In Mexico City the preferred neighborhoods for redevelopment are usually older upper middle class or middle class areas which are central and which gradually decayed over time.

  5. Just a little more concise than “PROJECT: PUT BUILDING HERE” haha.Yes, it’s very odd that there are only escalators going up; though I seem to recall that there were places along the BART line that did that too… speaking of noise by the tracks, I used to live, for about 6 months, about 30 feet away from a BART track. That was not pleasant. I will never live anywhere near something like that ever again.

  6. @ZSA_MD – That’s assuming it is a Thai restaurant.  My guess is that it is something splashier than that.  Thai restaurants usually just slip into whatever space without announcing it in advance.@TheCheshireGrins – Shhh!  Don’t tell anyone…@arenadi – BART is an extremely noisy system.  I don’t know why but the trains make so much more noise than other rail systems I’ve been on, especially through the tunnel under the bay.@TheLatinObserver – It makes sense that those types of neighborhoods would be the ones targetted for redevelopment.  Home construction in the 50s and 60s in the tropics wasn’t necessarily designed to last more than half a century, so the properties are well on their way to decay or needing replacement.  Since the previous owners are older or the properties are now in the next generation, who have their own homes elsewhere, the desire to develop or sell and make more money is quite a bit higher.@ElusiveWords – I’m assuming that the property next to us with the house being torn down will at best become a 3-4 story private residence, maybe a family compound type condo.  The footprint isn’t large enough to become much else.  Hopefully.  The head of the condo association is keeping an eye on the district development office to catch those plans as they come in, to lodge any complaints if something is not right with what they are building.@yang1815 – Great way to save money.  Only a very few stations on the SkyTrain have descending escalators.  The subway, on the other hand, has both descending and ascending escalators on all platforms and almost all entrances.@murisopsis – Seriously, three days away and all this new construction!@Redlegsix – Those are all major streets, so I’m sure the names are familiar.  Asoke = Sukhumvit 21.  Thong Lor = Sukhumvit 55.  Ekkamai = Sukhumvit 63.@secade – With my short attention span, I have no trouble being fascinated by just about anything.  =D@lil_squirrel4ever – It is the best way to really understand a city and its residents, I think.  Explore their neighborhoods and see what life is really like.@Dezinerdreams – Maybe that’s how they got started.  “You have three wishes…”  =P

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