Photos recall those who bet their lives on horses at old Bangkok track

A photo taken by Artyt Lerdrakmongkol. It’s on display as a part of the ‘Poor Man’s Binoculars’ exhibition at Kathmandu Photo Gallery in Bangkok. Photo: Artyt Lerdrakmongkol
A photo taken by Artyt Lerdrakmongkol. It’s on display as a part of the ‘Poor Man’s Binoculars’ exhibition at Kathmandu Photo Gallery in Bangkok. Photo: Artyt Lerdrakmongkol

Four years after Bangkok’s century-old Nang Loeng Racecourse was demolished, a street photographer is reviving its golden days at an exhibition to remember the place and its regulars.

Artyt “Sun” Lerdrakmongkol spent every Sunday for over a year at the race track to observe the fans, gamblers, and punters there between 2017 and 2018, just before it was closed by the Crown Property Bureau. 

“I was going in and out the racecourse every week for a year and six months,” he said.

Now through Aug. 25, his Poor Man’s Binoculars exhibition will feature his images shot color film to candidly capture the spectators – many of whom were drawn from the middle- and lower-rungs of society and glued to binoculars to follow the action. 

Photo: Artyt Lerdrakmongkol

After 102 years, the Nang Loeng Racecourse was ordered closed by the Crown Property Bureau.

The 279 rai (45 hectare) site was among a number of nearby properties reclaimed by the palace. Late last year came word it was being redeveloped into a park glorifying King Rama IX.

Noblemen opened Nang Loeng in 1916 after King Rama V imported a love of horse racing from Europe. The racecourse sat amid wide tracts of land which had been handed over from the monarchy for use by the public following the 1932 revolution that ended its absolute rule. 

Artyt said a sense of dislocation was one thing he took away from his many visits. The photo exhibition is divided into three sections harkening to horseracing: Ready, Run, and Final. 

Photo: Artyt Lerdrakmongkol

“When I was there, a cosmopolitan urbanite like me was out of place,” said the 42-year-old photographer. “The racecourse had its charm, the charm of people who had nothing left to lose, and all they could do was gamble away their lives.”

Poor Man’s Binoculars runs until Aug. 25 at Kathmandu Photo Gallery. The gallery owned by photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom is located on Pan Road, across from the Hindu temple on lower Silom Road. It can be reached from BTS Surasak, BTS Sala Daeng, or MRT Silom.

Photo: Artyt Lerdrakmongkol
Photo: Artyt Lerdrakmongkol

Related

Bangkok’s former race track slated to be park to Rama IX

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