Friday, April 2, 2010

The Sala Phaya Yen - Pak Chong, Korat, Thailand

Situated at the southwesterly tip of Korat province, Pak Chong district has the unofficial distinction of being the unofficial entrance to Isan. The name Pak Chong has its roots in the early twentieth century, during construction of the railroad's Isan branch. Two nearby mountains had channels blasted through them to make way for the train line and the new economic opportunities it would bring. Pak Chong, or "mouth of the channel,"was thus dubbed so in honor of this infrastructural achievement. As time passed and the town grew, it became the domain of two stand-alone movie theaters, the latter or which was the Sala Phaya Yen.

The etymology of the name Sala Phaya Yen can be attributed to the nearby Dong Phaya Yen mountain range, which transects Khao Yai Nation Park and comprises a portion of Pak Chong district. In prior times much of this area was itself known as Dong Phaya Fai, or "Jungle of the Fire Lord," a malarial swath of forest which killed most travelers who dared to venture through it. Subsequent deforestation helped eliminate malarial mosquitoes and make parts of the region suitable for settlement, so the area was renamed Dong Phaya Yen, or "Jungle of the Cool Lord," implying a taming of the wilds. "Sala" translates to pavilion or public rest place. Sala Phaya Yen then means "pavilion of the cool lord." Nice name for a movie theater!

Lifeless lobby, alive with color

The sign posted on the door explicitly announces that "meetballs, smoothies and food are absolutely forbidden to be brought into the theater." It goes on to state that there is a "mid-night screening when available."

Chinese characters adorn the facade, while a pigeon oversees its domain.

By far Pak Chong's most noteworthy feature is that it contains a portion of Khao Yai Nation Park - the first national park to get established in Thailand and by all accounts a breathtaking example of what the Thai countryside was like before 90 percent of its forests were cut down. But not to be completely overshadowed by natural wonders, Pak Chong also had two movie theaters, giving it the balanced combination of healthy environment and escapism.

Built only about 30 years ago, the Sala Phaya Yen was the newer of the two. My next post will feature Pak Chong's older and still operating theater. So stay tuned for that excitement.

The Sala Phaya Yen closed down 4 or 5 years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment