After The Final Flight
Bangkok’s Airplane Graveyard
The last thing you want to be thinking about while you’re flying to your vacation spot is “I wonder where this plane will end up when it eventually stops working?”. It’s a valid question! Any vehicle owner knows you can only service your car/bike/boat so many times before it’s just not road or sea worthy any more. The same applies to aircrafts. Many airlines send in the old fuselages of their planes to be recycled, and salvage any components which may be reused again – be it for a new plane, or something completely different. Not all planes get to be reincarnated though. Some end up all but forgotten in an open field for earth to reclaim. Bangkok has one of these Airplane Graveyards just outside of town!
I had just heard about this, but my mind didn’t know how to imagine the surroundings. What would an airplane graveyard look like? Was it a big parking lot with some rusty old planes? Would it look like the opening scene to the TV series LOST? As I rode the city bus down the busy street of Ramkamhaeng, my excitement grew. I watched patiently out the window for a glimpse to these old airplanes, maybe even expecting to see their wings stuck upright like a monolithic tombstone. From the window, finally we had arrived. A vast field with several old aircrafts bodies, semi dismantled, strewn across the tall grass.
As we got off the bus, we had to backtrack just a little bit, crossing over a small bridge over a klong (one of Bangkok’s stinky canals), and then through an opening in a fence surrounding the airplane graveyard. It was exciting and a bit nerve racking as we quickly realized we weren’t alone in what is surely some kind of private property.
As we cautiously approached the nest of these huge dormant giant metallic birds, a man appeared from behind one of them. He was alone, shirtless, and carried a wide grinned smile with him. “You go in? 600 baht” he stated. That’s roughly $20 USD. We handed him the 600 baht for the 2 of us, though he may have been expecting 600 each, he made no further mention, smiled and waved us along.
Was he a corrupt security, I thought? No, of course not. No uniform (and too lax on the bribe). Coming around the corner, we soon realized he must be a refugee, or at least impoverished. He had found asylum inside this abandoned airplane graveyard, along with several other families. The bribe would go to buy the families a little extra food that day – not bad being able to charge admission on somewhere you squat!
As we moved around, there was a couple planes (or at least what was left of them) which had curtains up. Clearly ‘no fly zones’ – as in, please do not disturb. However, the main giant fuselage, and several of the other smaller ones still were open and possible to explore.
We entered the first plane, very careful about where we put our hands and feet, as there was several sharp, jagged edges inside the old scrapped planes. It was incredible just thinking how far those vessels must have travelled in their lifetime to wind up stripped clean, ripped apart, and inadvertently repurposed. All the seats were torn out, many of the overhead compartments had their doors removed. Most electronics, such as the TV displays, had been stripped as well. The cockpit, with all its levers and buttons curiously seemed the most in tact.
It felt reminiscent of the Hunter S Thompson quote ““Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”.
In the field, there’s several bodies of airliners you can wander through and explore. Of course, you must be respectful of the families living there, and if you see a curtain up, no photographs or exploring should be happening in that person’s home.
Overall it was a really cool experience. It was a glimpse into history. It was an adventure. It was an ironic twist of fate that these planes became homes to those who could never have afforded to fly in them – and who can now charge an admission for you to board them.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
To catch a glimpse of this unexpected sight, head to Ramkhamhaeng Road Soi 101 and continue for roughly 100 meters. The lot is on the left, next to an auto body repair shop. If you get to soi 105, you’ve gone too far (and somehow missed these giant flightless birds nesting next to you.
There are several ways you can get here. If coming from the BTS, go to the Phrakanong station, exit 3. Walk up towards the bus station and wait for bus 40ร. It will take you almost the entire journey, though you’ll need to walk about 5-10 mins at the end. The cost is about 9 THB for this bus (though it may vary depending on the bus company you get on).
You can also take the Airport Link and exit at Ramkamhaeng station. From there, you can take bus 40ร, 58ร, 99ร, or 173ร. You will want to catch the bus on the same side of the street as the Airport Link station is on (opposite the Nasa Vegas Hotel).
My preferred method would be to take the Klong (canal) Ferry. It is the very last stop, so it’s impossible to miss. The Pier is called Wat Sri Bunruang Pier, and the price would vary depending on what stop you originated in, but would never exceed 19 THB (the maximum price of the ferries). Once you walk around the temple (Wat Sir Bunruang) you’ll end up on Soi 107. Walk to the end of the soi where it connects with the main busy street of Ramkamhaeng, turn right, and you’re only a hundred meters or so away.
Taking a taxi, you will need to tell them Ramkamahaeng soi 103 (soi nung – soon – sam).
It should be noted that Ramkamhaeng is one of the busiest, most congested streets in all of Bangkok during rush hour. Avoid early morning, lunch hour (12-1) and any time after 4:30 pm when planning your visit, or you will be stuck in traffic for a very long time!
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
There is no real seasonality to this, as it’s not a legitimately organized ‘attraction’ so to speak. You will want to take extra care if visiting in the rainy season, however. I would only suggest visiting during the day, and use your own caution when doing so.
Safety – Possible risks
Please use extra caution when visiting this site. There are lots of places where you could fall, get cut on jagged edges or otherwise injure yourself.
Additionally, be aware that this Airplane Graveyard is not an organized attraction. Be alert and aware of people who are there. Though the folks we encountered seemed genuinely friendly (and happy to have collected some money for the day), do understand that they are living in dire situations. If you don’t feel safe or welcomed, it’s often best to trust your gut.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate travel medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
This is private property, but here’s a WSE Travel pro tip: when approached, 600-1000THB can be donated as the price of admission (divided amongst a group). Please remember – the people living here are impoverished families seeking asylum. Your 600+ THB donation to them could mean the difference between eating and not eating that night!
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Very simply – this has become the home to some impoverished families seeking refuge. Be mindful of where you are. The small donation you make as your ‘entrance fee’ will likely go to feed the family that night. If you want to create even more of an impact, bring some non-perishable food to offer as well! Avoid taking photos without permission to do so (often you can ask if it’s ok by making eye contact then pointing to your camera. If the residents shake their head down, they will appreciate that you respect their wishes. Do not enter any of the planes that have been blocked off by tarps either – or if it is clearly occupied as a home, unless they invite you in. By showing respect, you will be greeted with respect and it will add to both your experience and theirs!
Reality Check – Be Aware
This is a really cool spot to check out and if you’re an aviation geek like I am, I’m sure you can appreciate what a unique experience it is. It is a bit of a hike to get to from the centre of the city, mind you. This makes it much more of an adventure. Entry is not guaranteed either, so please remember that doing so at your own risk! If you follow the steps listed above, your chances are pretty good – but I can’t guarantee the mood of whomever is letting you in that day (or denying you entry). Also, please be mindful that this IS the home of some impoverished families. You are their guests, so you play by their rules. Also – be VERY careful walking around! One slip or rip could be the end to a cool experience or to your holidays! Otherwise, enjoy yourself and let us know how it went if you do make it out here!!
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