Physical graffiti: Photos from Bangkok’s khlongs

Two young volleyball players pose in front of a graffiti mural beside the canal
© Andrew Brown/2015/Thailand

Another photo project from my time in Thailand (following Ghost Tower). Bangkok used to be known as the ‘Venice of the East’ with canals – or khlongs – providing the main routes through the city. In the Nineteenth Century, wealthy citizens built houses fronting on to the canals, a few of which like Jim Thompson’s House are still there. Times have changed and many of the canals have since been filled in. A few remain and narrow khlong boats provide a faster alternative to congested streets. The only problem is that the khlongs now weave their way through slum districts with poor sanitation, and the waterways double as rubbish dumps and sewers. The smell was unpleasant, to put it mildly. I used to sometimes take the canal boat on my way home from work but I always had to have a scarf handy in case a boat came the other way and I got splashed with a faceful of fetid water.

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Photos: Climbing Bangkok’s Ghost Tower

A view of the Bangkok skyline from an overgrown balcony half way up Ghost Tower
© Andrew Brown/2015/Thailand

Sathorn Unique Tower, to give it its official name, is an unfinished skyscraper in Bangkok, Thailand. Originally planned as a high-rise apartment block, construction stopped around the turn of the century, most likely due to the Asian Financial Crisis (accounts vary, others link it to a high-society murder trial). However, it is much better known to locals by the more sinister name of ‘Ghost Tower’, and once you go inside it is clear why. Overgrown and flooded balconies with broken railings contrast with the shiny new skyscrapers opposite, while dark stairwells thread the dingy interior of the building, full of helpful graffiti like: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” (in blood red paint). Sunset creates an even more dystopian mood, with views reminiscent of Blade Runner or The Windup Girl – a science-fiction novel set in a future Bangkok full of abandoned skyscrapers.

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