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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Space Roller, Chiang Mai

An oblique view of the abandoned Space Roller arcade.

Space Roller is an abandoned rollerskating rink not far from the Arcade Bus Station on the northeastern outskirts of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I dropped in to check it out in January 2016 after reading about it online, possibly here, and was impressed with the scale of the place. It is big, taking up the better part of a city block, with several unfinished add-ons extending into the urban wilderness on either side. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of credible information about Space Roller in English so this post will consist primarily of photos of what I found in about half an hour of skulking around in the shadows.

A distinctive sign over the main entrance to the abandoned roller club.
Inside the arcade: Space Roller Extreme Sports & Techno Games.
What remains of the roller club sign over the entrance.
Poking around in the ground floor office.
The pillars remain; everything else has been stripped out.
What remains of the former ticket booth on the second floor.

Not long after wandering upstairs to explore the second level a young man wearing headphones jumped the barrier on the far side of the balcony and, evidently without noticing me, disappeared into the main hall. Another explorer, perhaps? Or maybe a squatter? Taking a closer look at my surroundings I realized that much of the building had been colonized by the homeless—but it wasn’t clear to me whether the man I had just seen was living there, working on a project of some kind (there being plenty of graffiti pieces throughout the building), or merely passing through.

The area to the left of the main entrance to the roller rink has been filled with garbage.
Crazy cobwebs cover the metal staircase.
A festering pile of trash from the other side.
Inside the abandoned roller rink in Chiang Mai.

Without any local language skills or understanding of how squatters might react to my presence I did my best to evade detection as I crept through the dark entrance into the main hall. Here there was a stairway leading up to another second level balcony and an open area leading to the edge of the roller rink itself—a vast space pierced by a divine beam of light.

A ray of light pierces the shattered rooftop at Space Roller.

Breaking out of a momentary reverie, I heard sounds from upstairs: shoes scuffing the floor, a loud thump as some heavy object was moved into place, and then the buzz and whirr of power tools filled the gloom. It sounded like one or two people were working on something on the balcony overlooking the roller rink. Not having a good sense of the situation I declined to make their acquaintance. The scene was somehow reminiscent of something from my childhood and I wasn’t interested in pressing my luck.

Squatters occupy much of the left wing of the building. Their homes have been covered with sheet metal.
Graffiti on the third floor of an outbuilding at the abandoned roller rink.
A closer look at the squatters’ homes on the far side of the arcade.
Spray cans and gutted rollerskates. I would imagine the metal was stripped and sold for scrap at some point.
I thought this might be a subversive Bitcoin poster, but no, it’s an advertisement for Big Buy.
Symbols of a colonized mind: evidently someone in the abandoned roller rink has little appreciation for the royal family.
What might have once been carpeting.
Ornate columns on the outside of the building.
One of the empty outbuildings. Looks like an incomplete construction project.
Nature has done its best to colonize these brutal concrete forms.
A bare concrete paradise adjacent to the abandoned roller rink.
One last look at Space Roller from the street. Finding this place is no sweat if you wander around the bus station.

Factual information about Space Roller seems to be in short supply. I have no idea when it first opened, though it seems to be part of a wider trend of kitschy spaced-themed entertainment in Chiang Mai that began sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. It was already long-abandoned in 2011 when this short video premiered. This post in Thai suggests it has been abandoned for more than a decade. No great catastrophe seems to have led to the roller rink going out of business—it was likely the victim of a faltering economy or changing consumer habits. Beyond that I haven’t any idea what the story might be.

Bonus: a creepy doll hanging outside the abandoned roller rink. What could it mean?

For more from Space Roller check out all my high-resolution photos on Flickr or this set of images from HKurbex. For more abandoned places in Chiang Mai have a look at my write-ups about the House of Success and the White Lion House.

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