Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 368: The Ghosts of Bangkok

Living in the Lak Si District of Bangkok, means that I live alongside one of the seven(ish) wonders of the modern world .... The Hopewell Ghost Towers ..or as they are referred to by the Bangkok Post, 'Thailand's Stonehenge'
Back in the 1990's, money flooded into Thailand and the rest of Asia. As property prices across Europe fell and then plummeted, Investors looking for a return on their money, and other peoples money, started looking to the East. Thailand was seen as one of the investment hot spots and property development rocketed ... along with prices. It was of course a bubble, and like all bubbles, it burst. That's what bubbles do, it's their nature and their only point. Amongst the grand development  projects for Bangkok, and there were many, was the Hopewell Mass Transit System. An elevated rail and road system that would run from the heart of Bangkok to Don Muang, the old and now almost defunct, International Airport.
The plan involved a total of 60km of transit system, but in all honesty, it appears that's about as detailed as the plan ever got. Work started in the early 1990's and 'Hopewell' began erecting towers. In all, 6km of towers were erected before work was finally abandoned in 1997. The Asian financial crisis put an end to the half-baked idea and today all that remains are the concrete pillars. Over a thousand of them have stood unused for 14 years. Later concrete flyovers and BTS Skytrain tracks now intersect the line of Hopewell Towers and nobody seems to know what will become of them.
The Hopewell Towers are not the only monuments to the Asian Financial Crisis of the 1990's. The Bangkok skyline is still littered with the empty shells of skyscrapers. Huge structures once designed to house the growing middle class are now home to vines, wild dogs and graffiti artists. The largest of these structures is Sathorn Unique. A high rent 650 apartment/90 retails outlet building standing close to Taksin Bridge on the Chao Phraya River. Forty six floors of ultimate luxury in the very best part of town. The lower apartments already had fitted bathrooms, hard wood floors and most of their fixtures and fittings. But, it's a ghost structure, probably never to be finished, a future uncertain, ownership unclaimed.
I'm not entirely sure what the 'Point' of this post is .... For me, it's things like this that make Bangkok a fascinating place to be. Everything here has a back-story, but the back-storey seldom makes any sense. Why don't they knock the pillars down and use the land? Why don't they finish building Sathron Unique instead of starting to develop new skyscrapers in its shadows? There are no answers, only questions and nobody living in the shadows of these structures seems to mind .... it's all just a part of life in Southeast Asia  .... mai pen rai kap 

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