Friday, March 19, 2010

The Ubon Pappayon Theater - Ubon Rachathani, Thailand

The blistering Isan sun is no match for a mild case of O.C.D. - and I've got the photos to prove it! Yes folks, this dispatch is coming to you as close to "live" as you're ever gonna get from me. I arrived here in Ubon Rachathani this morning, following an arduous, 1000k road trip which began in Chiang Mai on Monday. By half-past noon I had compulsively tracked down this beautiful movie theater in the heart of town. Aging, neglected and used as a warehouse, the Ubon Pappayon Theater retains an air of architectural dignity all the same.

Locals estimated the Ubon Pappayon to be between 60 and 70 years old. If this age is correct, it's possible that this is yet another movie theater built by the fascist government of Phibunsongkram - Thailand's more benign answer to Hirohito, Mussolini and Hitler. During Phibunsongkram's militaristic reign - which included the World War Two years - the state undertook numerous construction projects aimed at "modernizing" Thai society. State-sponsored buildings, with sleek, fascist-inspired architecture sprang up in strategic locations across the country (see Democracy Monument in Bangkok for the most obvious example). Being the penultimate method of propagation that film was (and is), attractive movie theaters were commissioned to spread the gospel in.

A shady frame

This old sam lor driver probably watched movies at the Ubol Pappayon years ago.

Monk and movie theater

Side doors and pillars

I'm no architectural historian, so I can't tell you the specifics of the Ubol Pappayon's design, but it does have a few similar characteristics of the two other Phibunsongkram-sponsored theater's I've come across in my travels - the New Chalerm Uthai Theater, in Uthai Thani and the Thahan Bok Theater, in Lopburi. Either way, this is an architecturally significant structure and it should be preserved.

The Ubol Pappayon Theater is now privately owned and used as a warehouse. I have no idea if it was built by Phibunsongkram's government or not.

It hasn't shown a film in twenty years.

After further inquiry, including a trip to the Ubon National Museum, I've been told that the Ubon Pappayon was not built by the government. It was a private enterprise from the get go.


  1. Hi There! What a great Blog, especially this post! I live and work (and blog) in Ubon and had no idea about this building!
    I would love to know where it is located in Ubon. Do you have an address?

  2. Love your blog, always enjoy your traveling all around Thailand and Laos where is next?

  3. I don't have an exact address, but it's on Pichit Rangsun Road, two traffic lights from Thung Sri Meuang (the big park).