Bangkok’s Crucible of Construction 2003

Bangkok's Crucible of Construction Blue - shopping centers and shopping areas
Yellow - palaces, shrines, and temples
Green - BTS Skytrain stations and lines, bridges, sewers, etc.
Brown - other areas of note

January 6, 2003 - Things are looking up--at least that is what developers think. An amazing collection of huge shopping centers is being built and renovated along Ploenchit and Ratchadamri Roads. Our map and the notes below are an attempt to chronicle the history this area of town and point out some features of note. This area--the Sraprathum area--was the location of Thailand's first airport before Don Muang Airport was opened in 1914. Interest in this area as a major shopping district has been around for some time.

1 - An old wooden house surrounded by shophouses (this can been seen only from the Skytrain)
2 - Lighted fountains - This kind of public decoration is a shocking rarity in Bangkok. Many public art and facilities like this were instituted during former governor Bhichit Rattakul's tenure.
3 - A splendid old wooden house hemmed in by concrete shophouses
4 - Co-Co Walk - For years a vacant lot, this area is now a new open-air market, Co-Co Walk, opened in January 2003

5 - Hollywood Street Plaza - One of the last unairconditioned shopping malls built in Bangkok. It used to be a good shortcut to get from Phayathai Road to Phetburi Road. The side that exited on Phetburi Road had a life-size copy of Rome's Trevi Fountain. Hollywood Street had a brief moment of popularity in the mid-1990's, then dwindled. Later it was reconstituted as a tech mall (a place to buy pirated CDs) and then went dark again before the north-south section was demolished in October 2004.


6 - Mackenna Theater
One of the large old-time movie theaters in the area that closed due to competition from more modern venues at nearby shopping centers. In March, 2004 it was torn down. Mackenna was one of the big old theaters in the Crucible of Construction. Along with Scala and Lido in nearby Siam Square, it was one of the large, old-style theaters where big movies opened. With the advent of smaller, modern luxury theaters in upscale shopping centers, it could not compete, as Mackenna is a stand-alone theater not near any shopping area. After it closed as a theater, it served for a short time as a snooker hall. No word on what will replace it. Mackenna was developed by the Poolworaluk family (they control Entertain Golden Village Co Ltd - EGV).

Left: Mackenna Theater on Phaya Thai Road.


Right: Main theater of Mackenna. Paragon Project cranes can be seen in the background.


7 - The bridge on Phayathai Road - The bridge has beautiful elephant carvings that have been temporarily moved while the bridge is being widened.
8 - Bangkok Art Museum - After this project was canceled by former governor Samak who wanted the spot to be a shopping center, this project is back on track to start construction in 2006. At present the lot is a small park.
9 - Mahboonkrong Shopping Center (MBK) - A huge and dense collection of shops catering to the youth market (1985). Lots of cell phones and video games. MBK also has a highrise office tower and a hotel tower.
The National Stadium (off the edge of the map to the left of MBK) - Built in 1937 and opened in 1940 on the former palace of Crown Prince Vajirunahit (AKA Hor Wang or the Siamese replica of Windsor Palace). Crown Prince Vajirunahit was the first Crown Prince. He passed away in 1894 at the age of 17. Presently, the National Stadium looks dilapidated after the 1998 Asian Games due to the lack of allocated funds compared to Huamark Stadium which has a large budget. National Stadium has been used for domestic sports since 1940 and for hosting international sports since 1959.

10 - Sra Paduma Palace (left) - A 17-acre site rich in history. Sra Pathum Palace or Lotus Pond Palace was the site of the weddings of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and HRH Princess Mother, parents of the present Thai monarch in September, 1920. The present King and Queen were married there on April 28, 1950. The late Princess Mother lived at the palace and it has been recently renovated to serve as the residence of the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

11 - Discovery Center (left) - An upscale shopping center and highrise office tower (1997)

12 - Siam Center - Opened in 1973, this shopping center that has experienced a revival with its connection to the Siam Skytrain Station. It is also linked to the Discovery Center by elevated walkways. Siam Center has gone through several renovations over the years, including one after a November, 1995 fire that killed several people. In 2005, the interior and exterior are undergoing an extensive renovation.

13 - Siam Square - A warren of upscale open-air shops, restaurants, trendy English schools (41 tutoring institutions according to The Nation, January, 2002), and old movie theaters on land leased from the adjacent Chulalongkorn University. The area first began to develop in the late 1960s with the construction of Siam Theatre (opened January 1, 1967), the Lido Theatre (1968), and Scala Theatre (1970). The Siam Skytrain Station (where the two Skytrain lines cross right in front of Siam Square) has made the area livelier than ever.
14 - Chulalongkorn University - Thailand's first university - The southern end of the university (not on this map) is also being developed into Chula Hi-Tech Square

15 - Paragon Shopping Center - The Paragon is under construction. It is on the site of the Siam Intercontinental Hotel (left). Built in the gardens of Sra Paduma Palace in the 1960's, the Siam Intercontinental Hotel was a well-known Thai landmark. However, when the hotel's 30-year lease expired, it was torn down in 2002 to make way for the Paragon. The 26-acre gardens will be reduced to a few acres. 2b has a page of photos showing the unusual hotel being demolished. The Paragon is on track for opening in October 2005.

16 - Wat Padumavanaram (also Wat Padum Vanaram) - Temple built over 100 years ago

17 - Royal Thai Police HQ - The main Thai forensics lab is here as well. On more than one occasion we have first smelled and then noticed the dead bodies that are brought in by pickup trucks at an entrance along Henri Dunant Road.
18 - Police General Hospital


Above: July 25, 2005 - Forecourt of Central World Tower as seen from the Skytrain viaduct. At one time there was controversy about the development of a high-rise next to Wat Padumavanaram (middle left). Now the Wat is almost completely enclosed by modern buildings. The Paragon construction is going up in the background.


Central World Plaza at Rajaprasong Intersection - August 17, 2005
Also: The unprotected intersection - March 22, 2006

19 - Central World Plaza (formerly World Trade Center) (left) - Massive shopping center and highrise office tower built on the former site of the Phetchaboon Palace (home of Prince Juthathuj's family). There was controversy over whether it was proper to build a highrise next to Wat Padumavanaram. Part way through the construction of the highrise, the developers (Wang Phetchaboon, owned by the Wanglee family) went broke, leading some to speculate that building a structure over a wat caused the bad fortune. Others blamed the 'curse' on constructing a shopping center on former palace grounds. The agency that holds the title to the land, the Crown Property Bureau, ended up suing Wang Phetchaboon. The entire site was recently taken over by Central Pattana (owners of the Central chain of department stores). The large plaza (for Bangkok) outside the center makes it a prime location of new year's eve countdowns. This is the location broadcast from Thailand to the rest of the world on new year's eve. The site is 'protected' by gigantic shrines on either end of the site.
January 24, 2003 - The Bangkok Post reports Central Pattana, will finish the construction of the World Trade office tower, currently stalled at 39 stories. The building's height has been scaled back to 45 stories from 63 stories.
February, 2003 - the "World Trade Center-Bangkok" is to be renamed "Central World Plaza." The complex will be expanded including more retail space and a new 5-star hotel.
June, 2003 - Press reports now cite the tower's height at 51 stories.
March, 2004 - A giant TV screen has been erected in the plaza.
September, 2004 - Central World Plaza office tower opens.
The walkway under the Skytrain was completed and opened in 2004.

Original Bangkok World Trade Center model - On the 7th floor of the Bangkok World Trade Center shopping center is the original model (with a 63 floor tower) of the entire World Trade Center complex. The model shows a long walkway under the Skytrain tracks and connecting walkways to the tower WTC and the shopping center.
Left: Chad Blair send in this rendering of the revised WTC tower (now called Central World Tower) with only 43 floors instead of 63.
Right: An alternate rendering from a poster on the construction site.


Update on the Central World Plaza - Bangkok Post, June 27, 2003
...Central Pattana last year signed a 30-year lease agreement with the Crown Property Bureau to run the 32-rai site. The World Trade Center had previously been managed by Wang Petchaboon Co. The Bureau had filed suit against Wang Petchaboon and declared the lease void for failure to complete construction of the site. Central Pattana has announced plans to revamp the site into a hotel, office and luxury shopping centre by 2005...
Work on tower resumes - Bangkok Post, June 28, 2003
The 51-storey office building, due for completion at the end of next year, is part of Central World Plaza, the new name adopted by CPN for the shopping and office complex in central Bangkok.
An earlier article: Construction resumes on long-suspended tower

Four contractors win CPN tower work - Bangkok Post, September 5, 2003
The four Thai and joint-venture contractors will transform the 51-storey structure, left unfinished in 1996 by the former developer, Wang Petchaboon Co, into a high-tech ``intelligent'' building within one year.
Assigned to carry out the work were: K-Tech Construction and Engineering Co, responsible for structural work and architecture; Power Line Engineering Plc, for building systems; CWT Joint Venture for curtain walls; and Jardine Schindler (Thai) Ltd for lift and escalator systems.
CPN will also invest about 160 million baht by the end of this year for an elevated walkway linking the existing BTS skytrain walkway to both the plaza and the tower.


Central World Plaza at Rajaprasong Intersection - July 27, 2005
Left to Right: Paragon construction, Central World Tower, Central World Plaza...

Walkway - In 2004-2005, an elevated walkway was built on the underside of the Skytrain tracks. This connects the Siam Square area with the Chitlom Skytrain Station. We came across mention of this plan from 1997: "The development and expansion of existing shopping facilities on Ratchadamri Road linked by a network of covered walkways to facilitate movement. The overall objective of the project is to turn the Ratchadamri Road area into a beautiful, convenient, orderly and clean center, with a distinctively Thai character and ambiance, which will be a world class entertainment and shopping area on a par with Singapore's Orchard Road, the Champs-Elysees in Paris, or Fifth Avenue in New York." - Minister to the Prime Minister's Office Piyanat Watcharaporn at a tourism convention in Bangkok in 1997.
20 - Peninsula Plaza - In the early 1990's this small shopping center had all the top-notch foreign designer shops. It still has an exclusive (and sedate) aura, but it has been eclipsed by flashier shopping centers like Gaysorn Plaza.
Behind Peninsula Plaza a 'Courtyard by Marriott Bangkok' (a hotel) is to set up in the former Park Lane Mansion behind the Four Seasons. Due to be complete in 2007.


21 - Royal Rajdamri - Ever since we featured a photo of a dramatic abandoned highrise on Rajadamri Road, we received lots of questions about it. It is one of the few derelict structures left in Bangkok's Crucible of Construction. Now an abandoned construction site with a dramatic tiered entrance (left), "it was to be a high-end condo with a shrine to Rama II (I think) in the entrance foyer, linked to WTC and Amarin by air-conditioned walkways. It was going to be the biggest residential complex in Ratchadamri area." (Thanks to Chad Blair and Mike for this info.) Note: Both 'Rajadamri' and 'Ratchadamri' are both the same Thai word, transliterated differently. Usually buildings along Ratchadamri Road use the spelling 'Rajadamri.'
April 14, 2003 - More on the Royal Rajadamri
Chad Blair uncovered some additional info on the project including a photo (right) of the model of the building. He writes: The Royal Ratchadamri was designed by CASA Architects. The developers were a joint-venture between Srivigrom Group and Maneeya Group. It was to be a 50-story residential tower with a 10-story parking garage connected to a 9-story retail-part in front of the building. Presently debt reduction is being negotiated and will hopefully be done by late 2003 and then construction can resume.

April 18, 2003 - Royal Rajadamri to be a Ritz Carlton?
An anonymous tip we received: I work in the Maneeya building which has recently become almost 100% full, with lots of tenants wanting additional space including my office. We spoke to the landlord recently who told us that the planned Maneeya South building is to be resumed for completion by end of 2004 owing to limited space in the Maneeya Center. The 'Royal Rajadamri' building is also scheduled to restart, though he didn't give us a specific timeline for construction--the info we have is that this is to become the Ritz Carlton with a retail shopping area in front.
September 9, 2003 - Royal Rajdamri revived has confirmed that Gannon Realty (Thailand) Co., Ltd. has plans to revive the Royal Rajdamri project. We are trying to get more details... UPDATED - September 10, 2003: Gannon has informed us that more details will be available by the end of October. The Royal Rajdamri site is an L-shaped plot that connects Rajdamri and Ploenchit Roads.


Royal Rajadamri construction - December 11, 2004
The long derelict Royal Rajadamri is finally under construction again. Most notably the grand staircase has been removed.
Above: December 23, 2002
Below: December 11, 2004



Royal Rajadamri construction - July 5, 2005
After some tinkering it seems all of the existing structure has been removed except for one section.

(Photo: Harry Piskun)
22 - Grand Hyatt Erawan - An upscale shopping center and hotel (reservations). Built after the four-story Erawan Hotel was demolished in late 1987. The shopping center in the complex was remodeled and reopened in 2005.

Left: The old Erawan Hotel
23 - Amarin Plaza anchored by a Sogo Department Store - In the early 1990's one of the biggest upscale shopping plazas. Home of the first McDonalds in Thailand opened at a cost of USD $2 million in 1985. Linked to the Chitlom Skytrain station by foot bridges.

24 - Maneeya Center - Office building - a second tower, "Maneeya South" is to resume construction soon.
25 - Erawan Shrine - Shrine held in high respect by Thais (you will often see Thais waiing it as they pass). Maybe because of this respect, some sources breezily claim that the shrine predates the development around it, but this is untrue. It was built during the construction of the original Erawan Hotel in 1956 after the deaths of several construction workers and other mishaps. The shrine is also often erroneously cited as an example of a Thai spirit house. The intersection in front of the shrine is called Ratchaprasong intersection. This area is considered fraught with potential bad luck since it was once an area where criminals were put on public display.
Also: Destruction of the Phra Prom statue

26 - Gaysorn Plaza - Recently reopened (after an initial failed configuration that included a Planet Hollywood) and rebranded as a high-class shopping plaza (with the most expensive foreign brands). Linked to the Chitlom Skytrain station by foot bridges. Rather conspicuous for not have prominent shrines outside the building for protection from the area's bad luck (see #24).

27 - Narayana Phand (or Naraiphan Pavilion) - A shopping center for Thai handcrafts and souvenirs. Cheaper than such stores in the Sukhumvit and Silom areas, but more expensive than Jatujak Market. Formerly the home of Rajprasong Shopping Centre (1964), Thailand second shopping centre and its first air-conditoned one.

28 - Arnoma Hotel (reservations)
29 - Thai-numbered clock on a pedestrian overpass

30 - Big-C Supercenter - The claim is that it is the largest retail space locally. It will include enclosed walkways to existing shopping centers further off the street. This was the former site of Rajadamri Arcade (1972), Thailand's first shopping center with a parking lot.

31 - Small shopping area and home of several watch dealerships run by the C. Thong Panich company.

32 - Le Meridien President Hotel

33 - This area is filled with many shops

34 - Central Chitlom - The flagship store of the Central chain - completely remodeled every few years including once after a fire in the mid-1990's

35 - Sewer - Right off the bridge is a massive and deep shaft that connects to the new sewer system (left).

36 - Pantip Plaza - Not really part of the upscale sweep of Ploenchit Road, but is world-famous for the extensive selection of pirated software and CDs openly for sale in store after store.

37 - Textile plaza - A major wholesale textile shop - if you have a store and want to buy locally, it is likely you buy here or in the adjacent maze of markets
38 - Grand Diamond - Highrise condominium and hotel

39 - Watergate Hotel - The area is called pratunam ('water gate' or 'dam' in English). Someone has literally made this English translation of the area name the name of the hotel resulting in an unintentionally (?) humorous name.

40 - The Platinum Fashion Mall - Newest addition to the crucible--a shopping mall and condo project developed by S.P.C. Properties and Development Co., Ltd. Under construction now.

41 - Pratunam Complex - Construction restarted in 2002 after a couple of idle years. In 1992, when the shophouses that occupied the site were being torn down after their leases expired, owners put up banners demanding they be allowed to stay on since they had occupied the site for 30 years. The Pratunam Complex includes two 44 story residential buildings, a 42 story hotel, and a 14 story shopping complex. The condo towers are still under construction.

Pratunam Center is on the rise - Bangkok Post, September 9, 2003
Pratunam Center, the huge commercial complex left unfinished because of the 1997 financial crisis, has been revived and is set to open its doors by the end of this year.

Left: November 7, 2005 - The towers at Pratunam Complex near completion.

42 - Yindee gem scam shop - A famous gem scam shop
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