Save Our Soi - Soi Wanglee and the Oldest Bar in Bangkok

Long-time residents of Charoen Krung Soi 52, also known as Soi Wanglee, are trying to save what is left of their historic neighbourhood from land developers working in cooperation with the local temple, Wat Yannawa. Though some residents have accepted the compensation on offer and moved elsewhere, those that remain are in the courts fighting the developers plans to destroy the 80 year old shophouses and build a new four story commercial development. An alternative design for the soi that would preserve the existing shophouses was prepared by the group but has been rejected by the wat in favour of something that they no doubt see as more profitable.

Many of the two-story shophouses in the interior of the soi have already been gutted and damaged but the three story structures that front onto Charoen Krung Road are still intact, including the one that houses one of the earliest bars in Bangkok, now a noodle shop. The Prasitiphon had its heyday back in the 1950s and earlier when male patrons could dance with hostesses both Thai and European at the bar. Of course, you can still have a beer there if you wish. The walls are lined with old bottles of whiskey and cognac, and even some ancient bottles of Red Bull. A sign over the door which once led to the dancing area reads, in English "Please Entertain ... Here".

Feb 19, 2007

These bottles of whiskey and Red Bull are well past their sell-by date.

Source: CK

This door must have led to the dancing area.

Source: JN

Front Entrance of the Prasitiphon Dance Bar

Source: CK

Bottles of very old liquor line the walls of the Prasitiphon.

Source: CK

As of March 2, most of the shophouses still stood, though the central section of the row furthest from the Wat of Greed has already been destroyed.

Source: JN

As of March 22, about half the shophouses have been destroyed beyond repair, though the three-story shophouses at the end of the soi, including the Prasitiphon are untouched so far.

Wat Yannawa looks down upon the destruction.

Prasitiphol in November 2007

In November 2007, the Prasithipol Bar building still stands though the rest of the shophouses have been turned into vacant lots. Has Wat Yannawa decided it will be good karma to save this one building?

A visit on April 5, 2009 found the former site of the historic shophouses overgrown with weeds and bushes, with the soi used as parking for songthaews, tuktuks, and some other vehicles. All traces of the soi's history have been wiped clean, except for the Prasithipol Bar building. The developers and the wat have clearly decided to abandon their plans for the soi, at least for the moment. Too bad they had not made their decision before evicting the residents and destroying another small piece of Bangkok history.

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