• Matthew Beysen

Story of Soi 15

Soi 15 has been associated with NIST and its international school community more frequently over time because of the thousands of students, parents, and teachers that travel up and down the Soi during the weekdays. However, even though students frequent the walkways of the road many times, only a few know about the real in’s and out’s of the Soi. Common knowledge of the Soi is that it is composed of rather modern houses, multiple apartments, and hotels with some shops along the way; however, has the Soi always been this way?

Sukhumvit road itself was created all the way back in 1936 and spans a lengthy 488km. Nowadays most people think the Sukhumvit road may only reside in Bangkok along with the BTS line named after it; but actually, the road officially has one end in Ploen Chit and the other end all the way near the border of Cambodia. Sukhumvit road’s south end culminates in the Khlong Yai District of Trat, one of the east most provinces of Thailand. The Sukhumvit road was actually meant to be a road that connects the capital of Thailand to Cambodia in order to establish a firm trading route, but nowadays the road is used for much more purposes such as travel.

Soi 15 itself is near the beginning of the Sukhumvit road and is in Asok, a district associated with expatriates because of the multiple apartments and hotels. Soi 15 now is definitely an accurate representation of its district’s impression; however, around 20 to 30 years ago the Soi was very different.

The director of Ruamjai Heights, a 28-year old apartment complex located directly across the NIST campus, has confirmed in an interview that the Soi used to be much different. The Ruamjai Heights apartment was created in 1992, and at that time, the Soi was filled with much more trees and houses. Rich families from Bangkok lived in two-floored houses with garden space along the Soi which was also populated with a small, but growing amount of apartments, thus showing an ongoing urban transition in the Soi at this stage in time.

The late 90’s was the beginning of a turning point in the Soi though, as NIST, which also opened in 1992, started to gain more students and recognition as they became the first school in Thailand to offer the full IB diploma education in 1999. NIST’s reputation as a school increased dramatically and soon, the properties on the Soi increased in demand as many businesses were looking to build apartments for the school community members. This started the Soi’s urban transformation as the house owners were able to sell their properties for luxurious amounts of money and in their place, multiple apartments were built as seen today. To better fit the growing number of apartments and community members in the early 2000’s, more types of businesses such as restaurants and stores populated the Soi. Thus, it started to fully fit Asok’s reputation as a business district. The photograph below is Google Earth’s earliest image of NIST International School and the Soi. 15 area around it and as aforementioned, the early 2000s saw the soi start to house more and more large buildings like apartments rather than normal family homes. Despite this development however, it can also be seen that there were still a lot of trees throughout the soi and building spaces showing that the urban development is still ongoing.

A Google Earth image of NIST and Soi. 15 in 2002

Nowadays in the late 2010’s and early 2020’s, there are only a few old houses that remain most likely because of their owner’s unwillingness to give up on the property that has been theirs for so long. This is the case with the house and related properties right next to NIST as the school was trying to expand the campus more and more towards the Klong; however, the owner of the house refused to give up their property no matter the price. This shows that previous house owners of the Soi have most likely originated from the area and have been here for a long time. Soi 15 is now bustling with businesses as many students and workers in the Asok area populate the multiple apartments and buildings throughout the Soi.

This can be seen when comparing the above image from 2002 and this second image below from 2020. It is evident that there are much more apartments and taller buildings that look more complex in terms of design, including NIST itself. Additionally, there are significantly less trees that cover the soi and building spaces in it which shows the increased level of urban development that occurred over the course of 18 years as eventually, the natural aspects had to be replaced with more and more infrastructure as more businesses wanted to invest in the soi’s money-making capabilities.

A Google Earth image of NIST and Soi. 15 in 2020

Aspects such as the construction of more modern and taller buildings like apartments, for example, are a result of the developed, original pull factors mentioned above such as the proximity to NIST, a prestigious school that is still developing to new heights; and the business district of Asok, which at present is a popular staple of the Sukhumvit Area. Despite all of these developments though, the remaining traditional-style houses along the soi are a nice reminder of the past in a now urban present.

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