As an avid Urban Explorer; I’m always on the lookout for derelict buildings and always do research before I travel on any abandoned locations along route.
Upon researching; I stumbled across The Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution.
An abandoned prison; located in the heart of Chiang Mai’s old town. It is easily missed and without knowledge or luck, you have a strong chance of walking past, unaware of what lies past the broken wall.
Luckily, during my research I located my exact entrance into the prison. The wall has broken down, leaving a gaping hole leading straight into the prison grounds.
The History of Chiang Mai Women’s Prison
The prison in Chiangmai, northern Thailand has been abandoned since 2013. Originally open in the 20th century, the prison initially housed only male inmates. In the 1970’s, the men were moved out and into a newly built facility, Mae Rim.
This location operated as a women’s prison until 2013, when the women were relocated to the prison that the men originally transferred too; the men there moved to yet another new location. The facility was closed for good in 2013, with plans made for a demolition that has yet to happen.
For 7 days and nights after the closure, Buddhist rituals took place; held by monks. These rituals were paid for by the local government. Thai cultural belief often requires rituals to be held at places with sinister history.
Executions were performed here as it was a death row facility, and a number shocking events were said to have occurred here, including suspicious ‘suicides’ of inmates in a water well.
A number of bodies were found in a certain well on the premises, with suicide being given as the cause of death; however, sometimes it’s just easier to list the death as a suicide to avoid having to do an investigation.
My Visit / April 2019
During the day, tuk-tuk drivers congregate on this corner. As I entered the prison in the early hours on the morning; no one was around. It is unknown if the tuk-tuk drivers would alarm authorities if they saw you enter; but as soon as you are through the hole in the wall; you are out of sight.
The main entrance is boarded up and padlocked shut; with no leeway of squeezing in. The high perimeter wall is covered in street art and foliage, and as you walk along the wall; you quickly notice a big giveaway that this is in fact a prison; razor-barbed wire along the top of the wall and the four watch towers positioned at each corner.
One of the watchtowers had a small open doorway at its base. Poking my head through the doorway, I saw an old rickety staircase which led up to the turret.
As the prison grounds have become overgrown; the view from the turret is mainly overgrown weeds and swampland; however, you get a clear vision of what had previously been and the scale of the prison grounds itself.
Entering through the gaping hole; walk along a trampled path and you will reach a building on your left, which has the sign ‘Ruanpen’ above the entrance. As the translation of this word appears to be the same in English – I am not sure what this building was used for.
The rooms were filled with old supplies, gas bottles and other rubbish. Either these were dumped here; or this building used to be the workers base.
As you exit the Ruanpen building, the canteen will be straight ahead.
At the head of the canteen, used to stand a Buddha statue; now, this has since been destroyed; replaced with a sinister art piece.
Head through the canteen, drop down and head to the building on your left. Here will find the jail cells!
Two floors, both lined with jail cells overlooking the courtyard. The jail cells were surprisingly bigger than imagined. The population of the jail at time of closure is unknown; but I imagine the cells were full of multiple inmates at any given time.
The next building, I explored was too the left as I exited the cell block. In this building, you will find the entrance, processing and classification centre, visitor rooms and holding cells.
Unfortunately, everything has been removed apart from a couple of pieces of furniture; but the signs located around the building give a clear indication of what used to happen behind the scenes, when the doors were open.
The last building, I visited was another two-story cell block to the left of the entrance.
As I had to make my transfer, I left shortly after exploring the last cell block. I looked around all of the buildings I could see above the overgrown foliage in around an hour; however, I would of liked to have stayed a little longer to explore all the nooks and crannies, to discover any potential hidden gems concealed beneath the shrubbery.
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