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Thailand Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Institution, Thailand, August 2019

Hughie

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1. The History
Located just north of the old city in the centre of Chiang Mai, there’s not a lot of information on the web (in English) about the former prison. It dates back to the early 1900s (although some other sources refer to the 1920s) when it was originally used to incarcerate men. It was built on the land that had formally housed the palace “Wiang Kaew”, owned by King Mengrai and latterly the Chiangmai provincial governor’s house, which was knocked down in 1902. Sources state that between 1998-1999 it became a female-only institution predominantly for women incarcerated for drug-related offences. All the female inmates were then moved to Chiang Mai’s male prison, away from the centre of the old town and then on to another penitentiary on the outskirts of the city in Mae Rim. The prison operation for over a century and was infamous for being a death row facility, with executions performed within its four walls.

Archive shot of the prison:



It was finally closed as a penal institution in 2013. In the first week after its closure seven days and nights of Buddhist rituals held by monks between Saturday, January 19th and Sunday, January 27th. It was paid for by the government and included participation by the general public. Thai cultural belief requires such rituals to be held at places with a ‘difficult’ history. Thai culture requires spirits to be treated with respect and vigilance. Appeasing the spirits of those who once dwelled there was thought to stop them from seeking vengeance from future inhabitants. The prison’s reputation wasn’t helped by the discovery of a number of bodies in the prison’s well, who had apparently committed suicide. Official numbers or whether the cause of death was really suicide will never be known.

Shortly after closure:



The prison was due to be torn down soon after the date of its closure, given the location is prime real estate and there were plans to develop a commercial complex on the site that included shops, restaurants and office space. However, that project was been put on hold, most likely due to financial reasons rather than issues with planning permission.

Despite its reputation according to according to Chiang Mai City Life the prison was supposed to be one of the best places to do time in Thailand.

2. The Explore
From the Summer holidays the summer before last. There isn’t a massive urbex scene in Thailand to be honest. Managed to find a blog by an expat guy who’d been doing exploring in the country and found out about the prison that way. It’s pretty easy to locate but didn’t have any access info. Did a circuit of the place admiring all the graff on the walls and having gone all the way round and even getting up one of the four corner towers was none the wiser on how to get in. Then a tuk-tuk driver seeing me looking a bit lost pointed out how to get in. The wall by the north-west tower had been breached and the whole barricaded with rubbish so after a bit of a squeeze I was in. And what a sight greeted me. Nothing had prepared me for the amount of undergrowth inside the four walls. There were very few well-trodden paths and I was reticent to trample over the undergrowth due to snakes. After a bit of toing and throwing I managed to make it to the cafeteria hall. Then with more searching found a track to the main entrance building. Next up was getting into one of the cellblocks. There were two large ones and three small ones. Again, after a bit of going around in circles, I managed to get to the large block near the fountain. Having explored that I thought I’d quit while I was ahead so navigated my way back to the breach in the wall, emerging to be greeted by much hilarity from the tuk-tuk drivers.

3. The Pictures

My circuit started (and finished) here:





The quality of the graph this side is fab:













The north-east watchtower:





The main gate is on the south side:





The south-west tower looked promising:



Got to the top but there was no way in from here:









First stop the food hall. Buddha would have sat here:



But this place was very far from nirvana:



Then it was past the fountain:



And on to the main entrance:





















And up-stairs:



Apparently with was the Governors’ quarters:





Then it was on to one of the large prison blocks. It was a bit of a struggle getting in:





The downstairs was grim:





This must have been the ‘naughty cell’:



Prisoner details board:

i

The obligatory picture of the now deceased King still hangs on the wall:



Alfresco toilet facilities:









Up-stairs at least was a little lighter:







View across the courtyard to the sister block:



And northwards to one of the three smaller cellblocks:



Finally, over the food hall:



And another shot of that fountain:





And finally, this is a photo taken by Mark and Kirsty Bennett in July 2018, just over a year prior to my visit, that shows you just how much the vegetation had taken over the prison recently:

(c) Mark and Kirsty Bennetts by HughieDW, on Flickr
 
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jane doe

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wow that is seriously overgrown ..but what an amazing explore... brilliant that you found a way in ...really enjoyed your photos and the history to it ..Deffinatly wouldnt have wanted to be serving time in that prision ..it looks hideously grim inside lol :D
 

Hughie

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wow that is seriously overgrown ..but what an amazing explore... brilliant that you found a way in ...really enjoyed your photos and the history to it ..Deffinatly wouldnt have wanted to be serving time in that prision ..it looks hideously grim inside lol :D
It was really quite a weird place to be honest. And bang in the middle of Chiang Mai too. Was seriously difficult getting round the interior as it was so overgrown. And there's snakes in the long grass too!!!
 

AndyK!

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Very nice of the tuk-tuk driver, I wish all locals were like that! Really nice explore here
 

Hughie

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Very nice of the tuk-tuk driver, I wish all locals were like that! Really nice explore here
Cheers Andy! Shame I couldn't get round more of it but the vegetation was incredible. Got another even more bizarre explore in Thailand that I'll post up soon.
 

Dubbed Navigator

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Looks very cramped, but at the same time, spacious and relatively appealing outside. It is a prison I guess, it will only be so nice.
Your last picture really doesn't shout prison to me at all.

Great writeup there and pics, enjoyed reading that - nice.
 
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