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Ghosts Of Hotel Raja Past

  • Written by Koon Saem
  • August 2nd, 2011
  • 4 min read


Sukhumvit soi 4 has a farang history and mythology predating Nana Plaza's emergence, circa '81.

For example, the Raja Hotel. Built around the time of the Nana Hotel, that being '66 -'67, though much taller, it has always stood in the shorter shadow of its more visible competitor. It is on the same side of the street and only a mere 100 meters or so southward. Still, in spite of its proximity to the Nana, and THE intersection – that kind of frontier boundary between the Arab / Persian / Nigerian world and the western ghetto of soi 4, it has quite a colorful and notorious past of its own. I remember going to the Grace Hotel coffee shop in soi 4 in '88. It was just like the Thermae coffee shop in that it was fertile ground for "ugly mixing", as the Saudis call such places. I've worked in the KSA, maybe that's why I'm so bitter and twisted.

As were many Bangkok hotels built in the 60's, it was conceived out of a need to meet the demand for housing the Bangkok based Vietnam war bases buildup in the northeast cities of Udon, Korat, and Ubon. The Raja, among other hotels, was contracted for use as Bachelor Officer Quarters – time to get wasted. Well, the boys did, and at night – when it was dark – one of them took by accident a ladyboy, and when to his horror its true nature was made apparent, he with a hot heart chucked it out the window. And so the reputation and mythology was established that the Raja was a haunted hotel. I've stayed there many many times since '88. I love the place dearly too. Had an ecosystem unique to itself, or so it seemed. A rhelm of roaches in miniature. It was refurbished around 2008. End of another era, but at least they did not knock it down. I grieved a bit. It pangs still, but not like a trading loss would.

Before the defilement / refurbishment, it was delightfully low rent and pristinely circa 66 – 67. No annoying improvements. Those defiantly ubiquitous nightstand out of order radios were still in place! Damn the cruel world! Everything from 'the day' was buns up and kneeling, baby! By around 2007 the elevator – an Otis, the best – had become very very capricious – to us – but to the Thais haunted. I'll never forget the look in that little guy's eyes, when that desperately underpaid doorman in his careworn uniform, eyes as big as saucers, looked with real fear at the elevator floor readout lights as the elevator meandered with a mind of its own. To the logical westerner it was a serious malfunction, but to the Thai it was ghostly malevolence. Girls I'd take from the Nana parking lot would walk with me carefree until I approached the Raja, and then they'd look forebodingly, and when I actually turned into the lot, they were truly in fright. They looked at the place like it was an executioner / Hostel Bratislava i.e. not the best prelude to a kiss. The real pros though did not let it spoil their fantasies of cunnilingus with a woman. The ones on amphetamines and drunk on the street beer were immune to the weakness of their sisters. I like chicks on speed as much as y'all, but I will not be bawdy as all that. My reverence for the old place lingers.

With its karma defying reincarnation from pauper to prince, the Raja is now on a par with the Nana. That was the plan of course. The room tariff is similarly Nana-ish. The staff are the same, but they now walk about with a new spring in their step. They are visibly proud now, and the only fixtures that survived. Gone are the multiple species of mini beetles, and vintage furnishings. The rooms were gutted and nothing remains of the grit and grime, when the place (and carpet) oozed with "no tell motel" remnants. A place to get down and dirty. A bit like the short time hotel on Soi Yamoto way down yonder in Pattaya. No one besides me will miss the vintage televisions that only offered a few local channels plus BBC broadcast in analog. Back in the day TV could never compete with the nightlife, unless you were stricken by fever and bed ridden. Nowadays I must sometimes choose if going out is really better than watching Casablanca for the 10th time. Wonder if the Thais now embrace the now polite and riap rawy looking Raja. I also wonder if the Nana parking lot chickens still fear the reaper by entering without getting drunk first. With a new spirit house perhaps it will no longer harbor ghosts of katoeys that got dispatched to the ground floor by their big big GI honeys. Rest in peace ghosts or hotel Raja past.


Stickman's thoughts:

There remains some interesting history in these Vietnam era hotels, although like the Raja many are being refurbed and the history lost.