Anyone with an interest in Urban Exploration (Urbex for short) has their personal bucket list. Having scoured the many pages of “the worlds most (insert your favourite adjective here) abandoned places” on the internet, we all end up with a shortlist of dream destinations in mind. Nara Dreamland in Japan (which has now sadly been demolished), Estación Canfranc in Northern Spain and yes, sure enough, the Aeroplane Graveyard in Bangkok (Airplane Graveyard to the Americans in our readership, nothing at all to do with SEO, honest) had long been high on my list of priorities.
How long had we been in the Thai capital before we finally made it there? Something around 18 hours, if I’m not mistaken. I like Pad Thai and enjoy a good massage, but neither of those was going to get between me and those beautiful plane carcases I’d heard so much about over the years.
We set out from our hostel in Din Daeng at midday with our eyes firmly on the prize. Most of the walk was along main roads, but the last stretch along the canal was a pleasing prelude to what was to come.
After a couple of hours of walking (and a quick pause to eat), we were blessed with our first glimpse of a derelict jumbo jet. We quickened our pace as we got approached the bridge that linked us to the other side of the canal, passed through a Buddhist temple (an alternative setting for a lesson on impermanence), tried not to slip on a thin wooden walkway above the water, then 10 metres more of main road and we were there!
Being one of the world’s more famous abandoned places, it wasn’t overly surprising to find we weren’t the only ones who’d decided to visit this particular attraction on this cloudy (and later, very rainy) day. As we approached the entrance, a set of four British tourists were skulking about, deciding whether or not they were willing to pay the fee being demanded of them by the cheeky local kid who lived inside one of the planes that lay on the other side of the gate. Whilst slightly disappointed to have to share the experience of this special day, it made good economic sense for us to team up with these four lads and see if we could strike a deal that would leave everybody happy.
I’d read online that we would be expected to pay anything between 100 and 600 THB per person. We agreed a fee of 1000 THB for all six of us (around 23 GBP) and were let through the gate by our friendly, but unpredictable doorman.
What will you find at the Aircraft Boneyard?
The living area, where local families occupy a couple of sliced off sections of 747 jumbo jet, was to our left. We assumed it wouldn’t be in good taste to roam into this zone, so instead headed right towards the bigger pieces of former aircraft.
The biggest of the planes was first stop.
We climbed in through an opening near the base (presumably where baggage had been loaded during the aeroplane’s flying days). Our host led us to a ladder through a trapdoor which linked us to the second floor, where everything looked a bit more familiar to the eyes of a frequent flyer.
More familiar, that is, except that all of the planes to be found in this place had been sliced into segments. I guess this was in order to carry them more easily.
Inside the planes, the seats had been removed, along with other bits and pieces of value, or those that would be easy to recycle. As such, leg room wasn’t too much of an issue. In fact, they felt positively spacious.
There are still plenty of recognisable features we all know and love from our experiences in the air.
Many a child dreams of being allowed into the cockpit, who would stand between a child and their dream?
Our companions discovered a route out through a window in the cockpit of the 747 which allowed them onto the roof. Shortly after the following photo was taken the rain started. By the time we got back up to the cockpit, the roof seemed too slippery for us to climb onto. As much as I might have joked about dying and going to urbex heaven, I wasn’t prepared to meet my end on that particular day.
A brief history of the abandoned planes
“Brief” is the active word. It seems nobody quite knows how they got here. There are theories that a rich Thai business man owns the land and the retired vehicles to be found there. I don’t know whether or not that’s the case. The most sinister piece of potential history of the place is that of the MD-82s. They had been flown by a company called One-To-Go (which no longer exists), owned by Orient Thai. In 2007 the model was involved in a fatal crash at Phuket airport, in which 89 people died. Again, whether or not this was the motive for these planes to have met their final resting place in a field in East Bangkok, we can’t be sure.
Did the Aeroplane Graveyard live up to expectations?
In all honesty, not quite. I had a wonderful time there and would certainly recommend a visit. In fact, it would still top my list of Bangkok attractions. However, urban exploration is at its most exciting when you simply stumble upon a place, find an entrance and make your way in unimpeded. Negotiating an entrance fee takes the edge off the whole experience.
There is no opportunity to wander around, slightly in fear of what you might find around the corner in an eerie setting. The existence of this place is so widely documented that you’re almost bound to find yourself in the company of others upon arrival.
As the paths around the plane were very well marked, whilst the surrounding plant life is very overgrown (at least it was the day we went there), we were only able to access points from which to take photos that have been used thousands of times before. I take all my photos on a relatively cheap smart phone, so a simple search on the internet reveals multiple examples of the same shot, looking much more professional. This can be disheartening…
All that said, it really should be considered a must-see during your time in Bangkok. After all, it’s not every day you get to step foot on a plane without having your bottle of water confiscated. That alone justifies the trip!
How to get to the Plane Cemetery
If like me, this tops your list of things to do in Bangkok, you’ll be heading straight for the neighbourhood of Hua Mak. Thankfully, it’s not at all hard to reach. As I mentioned before, the walk along the canal we took was a pleasant one. If you’d rather take a boat, the local ferry port is Wat Sriboonreung. The nearest bus stop is known as Amway Company 2, check the numbers and colours of the buses that run there on the map below.
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