RIP Liberty Garden Hotel

5 04 2016

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My first day back in Thailand was something of a shock, although also in its way, a quintessential Bangkok experience. I pulled into the driveway of my hotel only to find that it has been closed down and boarded up. The Liberty Garden was no more.

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Readers of this blog in the past will know of my soft spot for this hotel, with its cinematic decrepitude, splendorously kitsch lobby and vast swimming pool under an old camphor tree. Best of all was its location on the lively Thanon Pradiphat in the heart of the colourfully down-to-earth working class suburb of Saphan Kwai.

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But Saphan Kwai is changing. The whole block on which the hotel now semi-stood was closed down, no doubt to make way for another monster condo development. Dark-skinned men in Burmese longyi seemed to be camping out on the construction site around lamps, the old archway was painted over and barred shut.

Somewhat sadly, I hauled my suitcase down a few blocks to the similar vintage but not-quite-as-picturesquely retro Hotel Pradiphat.

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I was glad to see other parts of the neighbourhood still going on as normal though, like the street food on the corner with Thanon Phahon Yothin and the surreal Alice-in-Wonderland beergarden of Coffee Model, standing in its shady lot of British phone booths, moose statues, zombies and piles of old midcenury kitsch.

The venue had in fact recently hosted an interesting event – a concert by some visiting Malagasy children organised by an NGO to promote ties between Thailand and Madagascar. I would have liked to have gone.

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Near the skytrain station I could see the new and old Saphan Kwai in full collision – amulet sellers and piles of porno and cheap clothes on the street outside opulent new residential developments with rooftop pools and upscale pretentions. Such is Bangkok.

 

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