From the outside, this four-storey, roofless, dilapidated structure located on a busy Bangkok intersection looks pretty much worthless. But the ruins of the once-vibrant New World Mall now house a different world within its crumbling walls – a unique indoor pond full of exotic fish.
Constructed in 1982 by the Kaew Fah Plaza Company, the 11-storey New World Mall enjoyed a brief period of success. It was shut down just 15 years later in 1997, when the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) realized that the owner had obtained permission to construct only four storeys. Seven upper levels were destroyed, and a subsequent fire in 1999 left the mall roofless.
Without a roof, rainwater filled the basement and this pool of stagnant water soon became a breeding place for mosquitoes. Annoyed, the vendors in the neighborhood got together and released a few fish into the water, to get rid of the pesky mosquitoes. The fish multiplied quickly, and soon the building became home to a 500-square-meter miniature ecosystem for thousands of koi and catfish.
When word got around of this amazing fish pond in an old building at the heart of Bangkok, the derelict mall turned into a tourist attraction. According to a local noodle vendor, Jae Toom, at least 10 to 20 people visited New World Mall every day, to get a good look at the fish, feed them, and click a few photographs of them.
“But since photos of the pond were shared on Facebook last week, many more outsiders have come to visit,” said Toom. “And that was when the BMA began to have problems with the fish pond.” Citing health hazards and structural instability as a possible risk the visitors, authorities have now banned visits to the mall. Barricades have been erected to keep the public out of the urban aquarium.
Authorities now plan to assess the situation – they hope to determine if New World is safe for public use by the end of July. If it isn’t, they’ll relocate its aquatic residents to a different home and tear down the structure. Sounds like a sensible plan, but not half as interesting as having a basement aquarium in the corner of a busy street!
Photos © Jesse Rockwell/Taste of the Road