Celling It: Pay to get locked up at Bangkok’s new prison-themed hotel

The author’s partner graciously posed for the photos in this story. Photos: Laurel Tuohy

While Thai prisons are nowhere anyone wants to end up, a new hotel in Bangkok features a jail theme and offers a cartoonish riff on life behind bars for its guests.

Located just off Sukhumvit Road in the up-and-coming Udomsook neighborhood, Sook Station is a hotel with a very unusual theme.

For just THB1,080 (USD$30) per night, guests can pout behind a fake set of bars that act as the door to their room, hunker down in oversized black-and-white pajamas, and pose for mugshots.

To complete the anti-luxury feel of the hotel, the bathrooms are shared. They feature harsh hanging lights and metal shower stalls. The benches nearby are grim slabs of concrete dug into gray brick walls.

The absence of TVs in the nine rooms adds to the prison feeling, as does the lack of closets. Instead, guests can hang their clothes from pegs made of pen hammers, which can also be used to dig themselves out of the hotel, should the prison experience become too intense, suggested co-owner Piyanat Teekavanich.

Room 203 is the best choice if for those traveling with anyone that might actually try to escape. They call this room “the darkness” and it’s so spartan that it doesn’t even have a window. It’s Sook Station’s answer to solitary confinement.

In addition to the rooms’ metal bunks and minimal furnishings, striped prison outfits are provided for each guest. The Hamburglar-esque striped fleece pajamas include pull-on pants, pullover tops and striped caps.

When checking in, guests are presented with a “mugshot card,” which includes their name, room number and the date.

Piyanat said that guests should use their prison pajamas in that same way they would use the robes and slippers supplied in hotel rooms throughout Asia. That means: wear them in your room, and to some extent, around the hotel. But, most likely, people will also pose for lots and lots of pictures in them and the hotel encourages that. The rooms, which feature sliding glass doors outfitted with steel bars and glass, provide ample opportunities for photos, as does the lineup wall on the landing.

If guests get really attached to their cozy prison pajamas, they can take them home for THB700 (USD$20).

Standard rooms in the hotel are just eight square meters with bunk beds and small balconies.

Though Piyanat’s hotel is designed to provide a fun, whimsical travel experience, Thai prisons are nothing to laugh at.

Obviously, staying at Sook Station isn’t quite like serving time in one of Bangkok’s real prisons. There is a restaurant and coffee shop on the first floor, a co-working space on the second floor and a rooftop sun deck. The owners are in the process of completing two jacuzzis on the roof as well.

Piyanat thinks the hotel, which opened its doors in February, will be popular because it’s so different from other budget hotels in Bangkok. “It appeals to someone who likes comfort and also appreciates something different. It’s for someone that wants a laugh,” she said.

Some of her friends have been skeptical about the new project. One came to see the progress on the building and said, “Oh, who would come to a place like this? Tourists want to enjoy themselves, not be locked up.” But much like the clientele she hopes to attract, Piyanat just laughed.

To find out more, visit Sook Station’s Facebook page.

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