Sunday, March 29, 2009

"The Jewel of Siam" -- Sakon Nakon, Thailand

If you were to visit Philadelphia in the 1960's you might have taken in a movie at the Goldman Theater at 15th and Chestnut. Or maybe not. Either way, if you were not familiar with the etymology of the name, you might think that it was chosen to conjure an association with a man of gold. The truth is it was just the surname of the proprietor. I'm guilty of a similar line of thought here in Thailand. Many of these theaters' names, when translated into English, have an elegant ring to them. But it's actually not the elegance of the meaning that is meant to be captured in the name, but the surname of the owner. This has a bearing, however petty, on the translations which I find myself making at times. In this case, however, I'm reasonably sure that the Siam Rath Theater is only the Jewel of Siam Theater and not the family name of the former owner.

This is the lone remaining, albeit non-functioning, single screen theater in town. There were once another two but they've since been leveled.

Sakon Nakon city has a fairly large Vietnamese community, which gives it a different feel than the other Isan cities I visited on this trip. One elderly woman whom I questioned about old theaters in town recommended that I go to Saigon, where the theaters are apparently much nicer. Some day I will.

Front entrance. Movie posters from films that premiered just a few years back adorn the walls. Older portraits of the King and Queen above the door.

The Siam Rath and the little restaurant next door.

Poster case with Som Tam menu in it

"S" for Siam, in a diamond shape, "Rath"

I didn't get any background details about this theater, but based on its architecture and the materials used, I'm reasonably sure that it dates to the mid-1960's at the earliest.

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