Secret Bangkok – Chic Bang Rak and the Historic Prince Theatre

Inside the Prince Theatre hostel - image courtesy of AJWood
Inside the Prince Theatre hostel - image courtesy of AJWood

Exploring the enchanting heritage of Bang Rak: where tradition meets the 21st century.

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Inside the Prince Theatre hostel

When I first arrived in Bangkok in 1991, I worked in the Bang Rak area at the Shangri-La hotel. So let me share a secret. Bank Rak is centered around Charoen Krung Road, (which literally means New Road) is a favorite venue of mine and is now served by the BTS skytrain which is just a short stroll away at Saphan Taksin station and boat pier. Situated next door to the Shangri-La hotel just before the bridge that crosses the impressive Chao Phraya River-known as Bangkok’s River of Kings.

At the BTS station take exit 3, which takes you straight onto Charoen Krung Road, take a left and stroll down the main street.

BANG RAK

Bang Rak is one of the fifty districts of Bangkok. It lies on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River. One of Bangkok’s earliest riverside settlements, Bang Rak grew inland as new roads and canals were constructed during the second half of the 19th century.

It’s great fun walking in this district. Bursting with history, tradition and heritage.

Bang Rak is testament to Bangkok’s evolution, it thrived as a riverside settlement during the 19th century.

Venturing into the heart of Bang Rak, you are greeted by a kaleidoscope of shop houses selling Chinese medicine, shark fin restaurants and chick eateries. In was Chinese New Year, a lunar festival in January or February. On the lunar calendar, the first day of the month begins during the new moon. Because of this, the Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year. However, it does always fall between January 21 and February 21. I saw the streets teeming with fruit sellers and a myriad of red and gold ornaments, including the traditional lucky red and gold ang pao envelopes symbolizing prosperity and good fortune.

Bangkok’s fascinating Bang Rak - images courtesy of AJWood
Bangkok’s fascinating Bang Rak – images courtesy of AJWood

Wandering down Charoen Krung Road, Robinson department store stands as a modern landmark, anchoring the district’s historical charm with its 21st-century modernity. However, just steps away, the bustling street vendors offer a sensory journey with tantalizing aromas and flavors, keeping the essence of traditional Thai street life alive.

Is tourism back? It certainly is! The streets were packed with tourists and locals alike. A good sign.

After a five minute walk from the BTS I take a left turn down Si Wiang Road, this is my destination and it wasn’t difficult to find. A large luminous billboard heralds the Prince Theatre. This is an iconic Bang Rak establishment since its inception in 1912. Over its 112 years, the Prince Theatre has undergone numerous metamorphoses, Bang Rak too. Both continue to  evolve, the past intertwined with modernity, inviting locals and visitors alike to embark on a journey through time.

PRINCE THEATRE HISTORY

When it opened in 1912, the Theatre was actually named The Royal Casino which included a raunchy male Chinese Opera Group. A place of entertainment and liquor it was a popular watering hole for locals and farang (foreign) residence alike.

Booze and gambling led unfortunately to trouble and things got out of hand. People were having a bit too much fun and it was ordered to close.

Resurfacing in 1917-1957 it was rebranded to the Prince Rama a wholesome neighborhood movie house screening everything from silent black and white, Hong King and Thai films to modern day Hollywood blockbusters. As cinema goers headed to the large Malls and Multiplexes the days were numbered for standalone neighborhood theatres. The Prince didn’t totally fade away. In 1985 it metamorphosed one again. Tucked down an alley off the main drag. Prince’s under-the-radar location made it the perfect spot for screening classic adult naughty movies and porn! Men, women, and teenagers sneaked in to watch a naughty film or two!

After a careful preservation it is now a hostel hotel called the Prince Theatre, Heritage-Stay Hostel. Located off Charoen Krung Road, Si Wiang, Bang Rak, makes it a perfect tourism venue in Bangkok. With daily films for hostel guests and free popcorn the hostel pays homage to its heritage, with a bright, art-deco yet colorful style, make it a hit for travelers of all ages.

This hidden gem is a great hide-away for any visitor to Bangkok. But remember it’s our secret!

About the author

Andrew J. Wood, a travel aficionado, brings Bangkok’s hidden gems to life in today’s article. His travel reports makes every adventure a celebration of culture and joy.

A travel junkie, Bangkok based, English born Andrew J. Wood, is a freelance travel writer and a regular contributor. For most of his life, a professional hotelier.  Andrew has over 45 years of hospitality and travel experience.

A former director of Skal International, hotel GM, a Napier University, Edinburgh graduate. Andrew is a regular guest lecturer at various universities around Asia.

WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS ARTICLE:

  • When I first arrived in Bangkok in 1991, I worked in the Bang Rak area at the Shangri-La hotel.
  • Bank Rak is centered around Charoen Krung Road, (which literally means New Road) is a favorite venue of mine and is now served by the BTS skytrain which is just a short stroll away at Saphan Taksin station and boat pier.
  • After a five minute walk from the BTS I take a left turn down Si Wiang Road, this is my destination and it wasn't difficult to find.

About the author

Avatar of Andrew J. Wood - eTN Thailand

Andrew J. Wood - eTN Thailand

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