There is a strange fascination with places that were once busy and have been abandoned but left almost intact. Disused underground stations in London fascinate people as do hospitals, factories, abattoirs and shopping malls around the world that suddenly fall into disuse. Most of these places are hidden away but finding them can be like stepping into a time capsule. There are many people around, known as urban explorers I believe, who actively seek out such buildings.
Hat Yai Plaza, just behind the Clock Tower (Map 1), is always busy. Being the centre of the local rag trade, many clothes are made and sold there. In addition to locally produced clothing there are many shoe and leather shops as well as vendors selling toiletries, groceries, DVDs and all kinds of knick-knacks.
However, as you wander around you may notice that the clothes stalls are located around a quadrant and that there is nothing in the centre of the building. Well, that is not exactly correct. A large cinema exists there.
It is an old-fashioned kind of cinema from an era when only one film was shown at a time. Consequently there are more seats than in the average modern multiplex cinema. Hat Yai's three current cinemas exist in shopping centres that are fairly recent so I guess this was the town's original cinema before they were built.
With everything covered in a thick layer of dust it doesn't look as if it has been used for many years. What is strange is the way it has been left. It's as if after the credits ran on the final movie they just turned off the lights and closed the doors.
Maybe another purpose has been planned for this unused space in the future but for the time being it just sits there with only the ghosts of Thai ice-cream vendors watching over the empty seats. The entrance to the cinema is locked most of the time but if you are lucky you might find it open. Alternatively, if it is closed and you want to look, a smile, a few kind words and a few Baht might help to open the door.
October 2007 update: The old abandoned cinema (sadly) is no more. It has been refitted and is now a brand-spanking new conference venue with plush carpets and new seats. I happened to be passing by and saw the workmen adding the final touches.
It looks quite impressive and I'm sure many people will benefit from the new facility but sadly, another piece of Hat Yai history has disappeared.
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