We leave behind the throngs of Bangkok’s Weekend Market, Chatuchak and go in search of a very different type of attraction in the city, which you are not likely to find on any itinerary: Bangkok’s only Train Graveyard…
When your boyfriend is an ‘Urbexer’, you are rarely allowed to spend time lingering in the tourist realms of a city.
Instead, you are dragged away from the promise of 2 for 1 cotton t-shirts, durian ice-cream and the smell of 100-baht tiger balm foot massages and taken to a place that you won’t find on any ‘Bangkok Top 10 To Do Lists’. (Except maybe on this website.)
The focus of today is to seek out Bangkok’s only train graveyard in the district of Bang Sue. After looking up online every abandoned place in the city, Dave (my Urbex addict boyfriend) has decided that this is the most appealing.
After all, we had already visited the top 3 Urbex sites in the city during our last visit: The Aeroplane Graveyard, Ghost Tower (which we found we could no longer enter) and a disused shopping mall that had been flooded and filled with hundreds of fish.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get inside that one either. Yet one out of three is not a bad record as far as Urban Exploration goes. This sport is never guaranteed to deliver the goods.
So would Bangkok’s train graveyard reward us with glorious sights of dilapidated trains and rusting machinery?
Finding our Way to Bangkok’s Train Cemetery
The seduction lies just 1km away from the famous Chatuchak Market, visited by over 200,000 people each weekend. The nearest BTS sky train station is Mo Chit and the nearest MRT Metro Station is Kamphaeng Phet, but there’s still a fair walk from either of these stations to reach the train boneyard.
On this particular day, we walked all the way from our lovely hostel, The Yard, in the neighbourhood of Ari, which took several sweaty hours.
After passing briefly through Chatuchak Market, we attempted to continue walking to the dot on our Google Maps, finding ourselves in a particularly scruffy spot along a main road behind the main Mo Chit Bus Station.
As an Urbexer, dual carriageways become your hiking trails as local people stare and wonder how the ‘farang’ (foreigner) got so far off the tourist trail.
We stop and consult the map and realise that the holy grail lies beyond an enormous building site that is fenced off on all sides. Huge piles of cement and what looks like the beginnings of a new sky train route block any view of our potential journey’s end.
We flag a taxi down. The first two refuse to take us anywhere, the last one, amused at our bizarre quest agrees to take us to the dot on the map.
After 15 minutes we arrive at a small market on the outskirts of one of Bangkok’s poorer neighbourhoods that lines the railway track. Groups of motorbike taxi drivers in orange vests line up to take locals to the nearby Tesco Lotus.
Logic tells us that we aim for the railway tracks which takes us through the neighbourhood.
Anywhere else in the world and you may feel afraid walking through one of the most deprived areas of the city, but not in Thailand. Here the people are friendly, smiling and simply amused to see us. The only thing that is slightly intimidating are the packs of stray dogs which wander by the railway line like gangs of teenage drug dealers.
Groups of children giggle and stare as we walk along the small path next to makeshift houses made out of corrugated iron and bits of old wood.
The occasional motorbike whizzes by. An old man passes by on a bicycle so amazed to see us that he nearly falls off.
And then we see it.
A rust-covered carriage on the other side of the railway and what looks like several more of them behind that. It’s a glorious sight to the Urban Explorer. Yet there’s clearly a wire metal fence which lies between us and the treasure.
We stop to ask some very confused local women who motion us in the direction of Mo Chit Bus Station. ‘How could the farang have gotten so lost?’ Their eyes say.
Some local kids that we meet prove to be more useful in locating our target. I remember the word for ‘train’ in Thai and I looked up the word ‘photographer’.
“Pen chang paap. Kow tongkan tai loob lot fai. Ka.”
“My boyfriend is a photographer. He wants to take photos of the trains.” I attempt to say.
“Pen ting tong.” (He’s crazy) I knew that one!
The kids laugh their heads off at us and tell us to head to the end of the path where we can clearly see that there’s a trail leading across the railway line.
We follow their instructions and cross the railway line, past the baffled local women and the stray dogs and into a huge building site.
A group of Burmese workers piled onto the back of a pickup truck, ready to go home after finishing their day on the construction site, stare at us as we walk by in the direction of the trains. (I can tell that they are Burmese from the yellow Thanaka bark that is smeared across the faces of some of the women. Even though it’s 40 degrees they are dressed as if it is winter with sweaters, long pants, boots and hard hats. They must be boiling!)
We simply smile at them, look a bit stupid and walk on by. Two Thai women sharing a flask of tea giggle at us nervously.
One of the tactics we’ve learnt whilst Urbexing is not to ask permission. Ignore any signs that you see (pretending that they never entered your field of vision) and certainly don’t ask any official for permission.
Simply wander on by as if you have no idea why on earth you wouldn’t be allowed to wander into the urbex anyway.
“Who me? Oh, I’m not allowed here? Really, I had no idea! I’m so sorry. Yes, of course, I will go immediately. I had no idea, really.”
And so that’s how we got past a truckload of construction workers and able to climb all over the rusty carcasses of abandoned trains.
Now I’m no trainspotter.
I have no idea what these models of trains are or how old they were. However, I’d say, they’d clearly been rusting here over 20 years, maybe a lot more.
Someone (Thai I presume) had placed coloured garlands on the train fronts, the same sort that is placed on long-tail boats in the South of Thailand… perhaps for good luck, or protection, who knows.
Inside, old machinery rusted still forever is an Urbexers dream.
Every abandoned site has its own unique story and part of the fun is researching interesting facts about how the site ended up in the state it is in today. However, I could barely find anything about the history of this place online apart from reports from a few photographers who had also managed to enter the site.
After about half an hour of climbing on the trains and photographing everything we could, we were spotted by an official. A rather chubby and friendly Thai guy in a shirt, tie and workman’s fluorescent waistcoat shouted over at us and motioned to us that we must leave.
Our time was up. Oh well, we’d certainly had our fun and had managed to snap some alternative photos of the city that are not on your average Thailand travel website.
We trundled off past the Thai guy giving him an apologetic ‘wai’ and saying ‘kotord ka’ ‘excuse me’ or ‘please pardon me’. He seemed rather amused actually and we were thankful that we weren’t in any more trouble than simply feeling a bit like naughty schoolchildren. I bet a few naughty schoolchildren had been here to be fair.
Pacing back through the building works, and back over the railway line, we were on a bit of a high. We stopped for an iced coffee at the side of the road and the local Thai lady was so pleased to see us that she took a photo of us for her Facebook page. (The coffees were delicious and they were only 25 baht each!)
We grabbed a taxi back to the hostel as we noticed the sky start to darken quite ominously. As we sat in the pouring rain and ubiquitous Bangkok traffic jam on the way back to Ari, we discussed how few tourists must know about the abandoned trains and even fewer who have must have visited them.
That’s one buzz of urbex. With such an obscure method of sightseeing, you know for sure that you’re not going to find hundreds of other tourists with cell phones and selfie sticks at your chosen attractions.
This can all change fast, however, as it did with the abandoned water park of Hue in Vietnam. And, sure enough, as soon as the masses come, the place gets fenced off, shut down and security are installed. Urbexing is a fast-paced and unreliable recreation. (We were recently told by one of our readers that the abandoned prison in Chiang Mai is no longer accessible.)
That evening at the hostel after a few drinks we were telling a few of the travellers that we’d met about our day of Urbex. Proud of his winnings, Dave was showing off a couple of photos to one of the young English guys.
The next morning, we awoke with a plan to get our boarding passes printed out for our flight and grab a coffee. On the way out of the door, we met the English guy from the night before who had roped in a pretty young German girl to go with him to hunt out the train graveyard.
Our faces dropped. We felt like Daffy from The Beach who had just given some backpackers the only map to a paradise island. (Okay, so all we’d done was let out the secret about some rusty train corpses, but the similarity was there.)
We wondered how the local people in the area would feel seeing more foreigners traipsing to see the abandoned trains. Would they be mad at us? Would the security guard at the building site wonder what the hell was going on seeing ‘farang’ here two days in a row? Would he still be amused or would he be angry?
We never did find out if the pair made it to the train graveyard or not, and after a few days, we lost interest in wondering whether or not they did.
We thought about whether or not we should write an article about it, then decided we would.
With the building work going on in the area it’s very likely that the trains will be taken away and scrapped very soon anyway. We’re just pleased to have had an exhilarating urbex out of it while it lasted.
So if you’re reading this. Don’t try to find the train graveyard in Bangkok. Seriously, don’t.