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Space Roller, Chiang Mai

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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