Curious about prison life? Bangkok jail-themed hostel offers experience

BANGKOK - With its narrow rooms, metal bars and bunk beds, Bangkok's first prison-themed hostel promises the look and feel of a real jail in the bustling Thai capital.

The Sook Station hostel in Bangkok's Udom Suk neighbourhood offers guests striped pyjamas for 700 baht (S$29) and a wall with a height chart where they can have their mugshots taken.

The nine-room hostel is the first foray into the hospitality industry for Mr Sittichai Chaivoraprug, 55, and his wife, 49-year-old Piyanat Teekavanich, after careers in the technology sector.

They were inspired by a shared love of travel and the 1994 prison escape film, The Shawshank Redemption, starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.

The hostel's design includes black-out doors and windows in two rooms to create the feeling of being in solitary confinement. Showers are located on a caged-in rooftop.

For guests who may feel a sense of claustrophobia, seven rooms have a small balcony.

Thailand expects to welcome almost 35 million foreign tourists - nearly half the country's population - this year. Many of them visit or transit through Bangkok, a regional travel hub.

Sook Station charges between 790 and 1,630 baht a night for the prison-themed experience. "People love it or hate it," Mr Sittichai told Reuters, adding that most bookings have come by word of mouth.

Some guests like Ms Yui, a 42-year-old hotel worker, are repeat customers. "I feel it's a real prison because when I arrived it was dark," Ms Yui said. Now on her third stay, she said the hostel's style and friendly staff "feels like home".