American photographer Dax Ward spends a large amount of his free time going to places most of us are likely to avoid.
When he isn’t teaching IT at an international school in Bangkok, he is out exploring abandoned buildings and other interesting forgotten sites.
His passion for photography and urban exploration or ‘urbex’ has enabled him to take fascinating photographs of abandoned structures in Thailand and elsewhere.
His photographs have been featured in CNN, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Sun, Lad Bible, the Weather Channel, Lonely Planet and many more.
His journey into photography, which he only started in 2015, was almost by accident.
“I joined the Bangkok Photographers Group and started attending workshops and going on walks with them but before that I knew hardly anything about photography”, Dax told Hua Hin Today.
Then in 2016, again almost by accident, some of the first photographs he shot of an abandoned location in Bangkok came to the attention of a UK based content syndication company.
“I posted some photos on the 500px.com website, a popular photo sharing site similar to Flickr,” Dax said.
“I was then contacted by a British syndicator that asked if they could use my photos and interview me for a story. I didn’t really know much about it or think much of it but then the story ended up going really viral.”
The photos were of the so-called Airplane Graveyard – a field in Bangkok’s Bang Kapi district – where two MD-82 jetliners which used to belong to Orient Thai Airlines have been left to rot.
After Dax saw the popularity of his photos from the Airplane Graveyard, he began visiting other locations around Bangkok.
Dax says there is no shortage of abandoned sites to explore in the Thai capital, particularly on the outskirts of the city: from condos and office towers to shopping malls and bowling alleys.
Many of the buildings were left abandoned as a result of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, known in Thailand as the Tom Yum Kung crisis, following the collapse of the Thai baht.
Despite the crisis happening 25 years ago, the buildings remain abandoned.
As well in Bangkok, Dax has traveled all over Thailand photographing abandoned buildings.
He says one of his favourite locations was the Petch Siam Cinema in Sukhothai, which had been left almost intact, even with the original seating and projectors, for the last 30 years.
Abandoned sites in Ch Am, Hua Hin and Pranburi
Locally, both Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan are home to several interesting abandoned sites.
Hua Hin Today caught up with Dax after he visited the site of an abandoned temple in Pranburi.
“The temple is in the middle of nowhere but looks like someone at sometime put a lot of money into it”, Dax explained.
“It has a beautiful reclining Buddha and a large statue of a monk. It’s really quite grandiose”
Dax has also explored the site of a hotel in Cha Am which was left unfinished and never opened. The so-called “Cha Am Ghost Hotel” is the subject of much speculation and rumour.
What actually occurred during the construction of the hotel has been difficult to verify.
Needless to say, according to local legend, the hotel allegedly has somewhat of a dark past involving a foreign man and his Thai girlfriend.
The Ghost Hotel isn’ the only site in Cha Am which is said to have a shadowy past.
Dax recently visited what he called the “Abandoned Village of Death” which is located approximately 15 kilometres from Cha Am. He said construction of the village coincided with the Tom Yum Kung crisis and the site has been abandoned ever since.
The village is also said to have been the location for a number of serious crimes, with Dax saying the site left him feeling “uneasy” and was “unsettling”.
In Phetchaburi, Dax has explored the abandoned building of what used to be The Roxy Disco, which was once a buzzing nightclub and the place to go for a night out.
The club, which first opened in the mid-1980s was reportedly the scene of a serious crime, resulting in bad publicity from which it never really recovered from. It did reopen for a short time before closing due to a fire in 2007.
Dax, who has shot more than 50 abandoned places in Thailand, says that he normally finds out about a location through word of mouth, with people reaching out to him online and on social media.
He also has a friend who is well established in the ‘urbex’ community in Thailand and is able to help Dax gain permission from the owners or overseers of the site prior to him visiting.
“I don’t take any risks and always gain permission before I enter a site”, Dax said.
“Once I get told about a place, I will do my own research online using Google Maps and Google Street View and I will also try and find out about the history of the building”.
“I do as much research as I can to try and understand what a place once was and what happened there.
“What happened, where is it, how long has it been abandoned and what is planned for the future, those are all types of questions I think people want to know,” Dax explained.