The death of an icon in the City of Angels

17 11 2010

One of the sad things about the violent Red Shirt protests that occurred in May of this year, is the destruction of what had been an cinematic icon in Bangkok, the Siam Theatre. One of the few remaining single seat cinemas left in Bangkok, the Siam Theatre has stood in the Siam Square area since 1967 and has thus far, withstood the dramatic changes that the area has undergone in the four decades since. One of the more dramatic changes to area, the Skytrain (BTS) line and station which leaves much of the very busy Rama I Road in its shadow, in fact, provided a vantage point from which I was able, on a recent visit to Bangkok, to see the demolition of the burnt out shell of the former Siam Theatre and some of the surrounding shops for myself.

The view of the demolition of the buildings damaged during Red Shirt protests in May that included the iconic Siam Theatre.

I had first been acquainted with the area at the back end of 1984, during a stay that coincided with the release of Murray Head’s hit “One Night in Bangkok”. That stay, during which I spent not just a night, but some five and a half weeks in the City of Angels, gave me an opportunity to explore a city that I had only once before visited as a teenager in which I was not just to become acquainted with much of Central Bangkok, but with parts of Sukhumvit Road and the Klong Toei area.

How the area around Rama I Road and the former Siam Theatre had looked in 1992 before the BTS was built (source: http://www.2bangkok.com).

Siam Square had somehow seemed to be a centre of focus somehow, with me frequenting the shops and food stalls in the area on many occasions, once even being brave enough to catch a movie at Siam Theatre … one for which I would most remember for the audience scrambling to their feet at the image of the much revered King and Queen, as the National Anthem was played. On my more recent trips to the city, I have often visited the area – not recognising much of it as a result of the changes that have taken place, as well as for the Skytrain line which now dominates part of the area. What I was able to identify immediately on my previous visits was always the old Siam Theatre, which sadly is now only a memory.

A lady contemplates the changes taking place around Siam Square.

More of the demolition work in the area.