Articles and Features

Streetlighting in Thailand

An illustrated article that covers Bangkok and Phuket

In July 2006 I visited Bangkok and Phuket Province in Thailand, South East Asia. During my travels I discovered a wide variety of streetlighting in use, with many of the lantern types resembling older style British designs in their outline. While I was there I took the opportunity to photograph examples of installations in both Bangkok and in Phuket, where a combination of high-pressure-sodium, low-pressure-sodium, Mercury, and Fluorescent lighting are used to illuminate the highways and byways of this colourful Country.


Left: These Chue Chin Hua (CCH) fittings for 250w/400w SON/MBF lamps are one of the most common lanterns to be found in Thailand. The appearance of these lanterns is reminiscent of a larger version of the GEC Z8691 80/125w lantern, and similar in size to the mythical 250/400w GEC Z8438 lantern. Looking at CCH's 'HS3' lantern (ex GEC Z8536), it would appear that the Company have had some dealings with GEC in the past, which made me wonder if the GEC Z8691and/or the Z8438 had in any way influenced the design of these lanterns? The glass bowl used in them is almost certainly a GEC Z8430/8438 lookalike. This SON lamped example seen in Phayathai Street, Bangkok, is typical of Thailand's streetlighting in that it's a bracket-mounted lantern attached to one of the thousands of concrete electricity pylons that line virtually every street in the City. Right: An illustration of a GEC Z8438 from an old GEC streetlighting catalogue.

Here's a front view of the same Chue Chin Hua fitting for SON/MBF lamps.

Looking a little like a  GEC 'Brookvale' MBF lantern that has been attached to an oversized gear-shoe, this 'geared' fitting for 80w/125w mercury lamps, which has an American look to it, was photographed in a side street off Pradiphat Road, Bangkok, and was the only example of this type that I saw during my visit.

Fluorescent lighting is used extensively to illuminate minor roads, access roads, and commercial premises throughout the Country. Most lanterns are fitted with either single or double 4ft, 36w/40w T8 tubes, although there are smaller variants using 2ft 20w tubes. This access road to the Elizabeth Hotel in Pradiphat Road, Bangkok, is entirely lit by this type of fluorescent lantern.

A daytime view of a bracket-mounted fluorescent lantern for 36w/40w T8 linear fluorescent tubes - this one is seen in a residential access road off Phyaya Thai Road in Bangkok. The elevated bridge in the background is part of the Northern route for the City's Skytrain, which is used by thousands of commuters each day.

Here's a close up of the same lantern, which shows it to be a single-tubed 36w/40w lantern with a wide canopy that's minus its clear plastic bowl.

Also missing its bowl is this double-tubed variant that was just a few streets up from the lantern pictured above. It's likely that the bowls have been deliberately removed from many of these lanterns, as the UV light from the lamps tends to yellow the bowls over time.

This narrow canopied fluorescent fitting is manufactured by ST Lighting Ltd and uses a single 4ft 36w/40w/4ft T8 tube. This  example was pictured in an access road to commercial premises, off Pradiphat Road, Bangkok.

Left. This smart looking post top lantern is made by a company called 'Starlight'. These lanterns are mounted on very short columns (about 3 metres high) and are used to illuminate the pavement along Phyaya Thai Road, which runs directly under the piers for the Skytrain Railway.  As I only saw these lanterns during the daytime, I don't know if they run mercury or high-pressure sodium lamps. However, I would hazard a guess that they run mercury lamps because dedicated lighting for footpaths and foot bridges in the City tend to be lit with mercury lighting. Right. A Starlight post top lantern on one of the short columns in Phyaya Thai Road.

A view of the Skytrain Railway looking down on to Phyaya Thai Road below  where the 'Starlights' are to be found.

An unknown high-pressure sodium lamped illuminaire in Wat Srabua near to the National Stadium in Bangkok.

Another unknown luminaire for SON lamps. This is another lantern with an American look to it. The fitting is seen in Phyaya Thai Road, Bangkok.

Bangkok has some low-pressure sodium lighting too, as illustrated by this CCH LS1-180w  SOX geared-lantern. Hundreds of these lanterns are used to illuminate the roadway beneath the elevated Donmuang Tollway that runs above. The picture is a little grainy, as it was taken from some distance away using full 4 x digital zoom because trying to cross the mega busy carriageway to get closer to the lantern would have been suicidal.

This white mushroom shaped component is a photocell/control unit to control the switching on and off of the light mounted on the bracket above. None of the lanterns I saw in Thailand had photocells fitted directly to them; instead they were either group switched, or, as in the case of this fitting, the Photocell control unit is fitted to the base of the bracket.

Phuket Province

Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket) is an island in South East Thailand, just off the mainland Province of Phang-Nga (pronounced Pang-na), and is linked to the mainland by two bridges. Phuket Island measures about 30 miles long by about 12 miles wide and is a popular destination for tourists and holiday makers. Situated on the South East of the island is Phuket town in the Muang district, which is the main town and commercial centre of the island. On the South West side of the island lies Kathu district and the beach areas of Patong, Karon, and Kata.


While SON lighting is extensively used to light the main trunk roads on the island of Phuket. Phuket town itself has very little SON lighting, but instead relies on a combination of Mercury, low-pressure sodium, and fluorescent lighting to illuminate its streets. Like Bangkok, much of the lighting is suspended on brackets attached to the many concrete electricity pylons that line the streets, as illustrated by this picture taken in Thep Kasattri Road close to the centre of the town.

 SOX lighting isn't common on the island, but it is to be found in conjunction with mercury lighting at major road junctions in Phuket town. This geared CCH LS1 90w SOX fitting (left) is seen illuminating a traffic light controlled crossroads in conjunction with a CCH mercury lantern (right) on Phuket Road.

Similar in shape and size to the Philips MA50GO/SRS201-135 lantern, this geared CCH LS1 SOX lantern is big enough to carry a 135w SOX lamp, but appears to have a 90w lamp fitted instead! This lantern is one of several that preside over the traffic light controlled junction of Thep Kasattri Road and Thung Kha Road in Phuket.

A general view of Thep Kasattri Road and Thung Kha Road junction looking down Thep Kasattri Road towards Phuket town. One of the SOX lanterns is just visible on the approach to the junction. The footbridge is mainly for the benefit of local school children who cross this busy road to attend the three schools in the vicinity, as well as the nearby Technical College. Motorbikes are a very popular form of travel in Thailand and it's not uncommon to see three, four, or even five people on one small motorbike!

Another geared CCH LS1 SOX lantern, but this is a dedicated 90w lantern with a 90w SOX lamp fitted in it. This lantern was photographed in Phang Nga Road, Phuket.

More SOX lighting situated at a major road junction. This is Phuket Road at its junction with Tilokuthit Road and Montri Road in Phuket Town. The 90w SOX lanterns are fitted to 9-metre tapered lighting columns that have been adorned with rope light ropes and flags in celebration of 60-years of HM the King's accession to the throne of Thailand.

One of the light-rope adorned SOX columns seen in the daytime. These 9-metre tapered columns are likely to have been manufactured by Chue Chin Hua Ltd of Bangkok.

Located on the same large traffic island in Phuket Road as the rope-light SOX columns are four of these ornate concrete columns with CCH decorative lanterns fitted with mercury lamps.

A general view of the same location at night.

More decorative lanterns and columns in Phuket Town. These are in Ratanakosin Song Roi Road on the approach to Phuket Bay; hence the boating theme.

Possibly an old 90w SOX gear-in-shoe fitting, as the bowl has gone milky white? This was one of the older style lanterns I came across in Thailand, and the only one of this type. It is located on Danrong Road, Phuket.

Driving in Thailand is dangerous at the best of times, so in an effort to improve road safety, LED illuminated traffic signals have been installed at some major junctions on the Island along with countdown displays to indicate when the traffic lights will change priority. This system is similar to that used in America. Note the position of the concrete electricity pylons and how close they come to the edge of the road - and so close to the junction, surely an accident waiting to happen, but this is common practice in Thailand!

This simple enamel open-lantern with a blended-mercury lamp and 'MP' air-cooled lampholder is one of the older generation of streetlighting fittings that had somehow escaped replacement. It is seen suspended above Rat-u-thit 200 Pee Road in Patong.

Left: The cast-aluminum 'MP' (ES40) air-cooled/waterproof lampholders as used in the open lanterns in Rat-u-thit 200 Pee Road are still available to buy in electrical shops for about 135 Baht each (about 2.00p). These two examples on crudely made brackets were fitted with 250w mercury-blended lamps, but were minus their green enamelled shades. They are pictured at the entrance of Duang Jit Resort Hotel in Prachankuhro Road, Patong. Right: A similar 'MP' lampholder was acquired for my collection from an electrical shop in Patong; the pen gives an indication of the lampholder's size.

Electricity supply cables are all suspended from concrete pylons that line almost every road in the Country. The amount of electrical cabling and shear weight of it is quite mind-boggling, so quite how engineers work out what is what is beyond me. On one occasion I did see one group of electrical engineers carrying out repairs; they had a bamboo ladder lent against the cabling to get up to it, and were actually sat up there in the bundles of insulated cables carrying out repairs!

Here's some more of the same with coils of spare cable waiting in readiness for new connections and/or repairs.

Yes, it is the pylon that's leaning, and not me. Electric meters to premises are attached to the concrete pylons, so it's no problem for the electricity company meter readers getting access to them - so it's no use hiding behind the settee pretending you're not home!

A 2 x 40w  4ft twin-tubed fluorescent lantern situated in a side street close to the Metropole Hotel in Phuket.

An evening shot showing another 2 x 40w  twin-tubed fluorescent lantern working in a side street off Tilokuthit Road in Phuket Town. Like most of these types of lanterns, this one is also bracket mounted on to a concrete electricity pylon.

Left: Photographed in a small residential side road off Thep Kasattri Road is this example of a geared twin lamped fitting for 2 x 20w 2ft fluorescent tubes. One of the two glow-starters can be seen situated in the reflector plate above the nearest tube. Right: A couple of examples of the type of glow starters used in these sorts of lanterns.

Another type of fluorescent fitting seen in and around Phuket are these fibreglass lanterns for 2 x 40w 4ft tubes, but they looked more like a bulkhead fitting adapted for streetlighting use. This one is seen in Prachanukho Road, Patong.


It would appear that several companies make these small aluminium canopied fluorescent fittings, but all seem to be very similar in design. This ST Lighting Ltd 'SY' narrow fluorescent fitting for a single 4ft x 40w tube is seen bracket-mounted to a tree! The picture is taken on Phi Phi Don, an island in the Andaman Sea some 40km east of Phuket. Judging by the yellowed bowl, the lantern is at least two or three years old, so is likely to have witnessed the Tsunarmi coming ashore on 26th December 2004, wreaking havoc on this small island and its people.

Aside of the former GEC Z8600 lantern now manufactured by WRTL as their MRL6, it is widely accepted that GEC's erstwhile streetlighting products are long out of production. But this is not quite the case, as CCH of Bangkok still make the former GEC Z8536 as their HS3 lantern, and there are literally thousands of these lanterns to be found all over Thailand. Seen with others of the type, the example pictured burns a 250w SON lamp and is situated on Chalermprakiat Road, Phuket, which is part of 'Route 402', a highway that runs from the North of the island to Phuket town in the Southern district of Muang, and is lit by these illuminaires for virtually all of its length.

Here's another HS3, but this one burns a 250w mercury lamp (does that make it a CCH LM3?). It is seen in Hat Patong Road, Patong.

In this close up of the underside of the HS3 lantern, the CCH maker's label can be seen.

Photographed on the Chalermprakiat Road (Part of Route 402) is this damaged CCH HS3 250w SON lantern lying across live electricity cables after one of its mounting bracket securing bolt's failed. It would appear that the force of the fall has broken the back of the lantern and caused the bowl to come adrift.

Like the CCH HS3, this is another 'Turtle' type lantern, but is slightly smaller. Whether or not it is a CCH product, I really don't know. There are several of these fittings to be seen around Patong and all appear to be mercury lamped; this one is in Rat-u-thit 200 Pee Road.

Blessed with the spectacular view of Karon Bay and bathing in the sunshine, these Chue Chin Hua (CCH) post top lanterns line the roadside at Karon Beach, Phuket. The flags mark the celebration of 60-years of HM the King's accession to the throne of Thailand.

Ouch! This CCH post top lantern in the un-glamorous grounds of Phuket's main Post Office isn't quite as fortunate as its Karon based brethren.

Looking like a post top lantern from a 1950's British housing estate, this fitting looks big enough to house two or three 2ft fluorescent tubes, but is in fact a SON lantern. These types of lanterns tend to be found in groups of four on small road bridges, or in the grounds of the Electricity Company offices. This lantern is one of four on a road bridge in Damrong Road, Phuket.

Another post top lantern with a British (GEC/Phosco) outline. This is one of four on a bridge in Phang Nga Road, Phuket.

Here's another version of the post top lantern pictured above, but with a larger canopy; again this a SON lamped lantern. This one is outside the local electricity company offices in Rat-u-thit 200 Pee Road, Patong.

Another CCH product is the smaller LM1 for 80w/125w mercury lamps. This one is situated on a footbridge over Thep Kasattri Road in Phuket town. Although the LM1 is a mercury lantern it could be regarded as Thailand's Thorn Beta-5, as they seem to be in all the sorts of places you'd expect to find Beta-5's lurking in Britain, such as footpaths, minor roads, access roads, etc.

This LM1 has lost its bowl, but that gives us a unique opportunity to peer inside the lantern.

Now this is where it does get confusing. This looks like a CCH LM1 lantern for 80/125w MBF lamps, but has a similar shaped gear shoe to the larger CCH SON/MBF fitting, which is fine; except this has a label on it declaring it to be a CDC product?.....I'll go and lie down.  The lantern is seen in an access road to Phuket's International Hospital.

And finally. So you've got a small business and need to advertise it with an illuminated sign, but there's no room on the shop to mount the sign. Not a problem in Phuket...just attach it to the nearest road sign, and for good measure, make sure that the sign sticks well out in to the road where it can clip a passing motorcyclist or truck; you'll certainly get their attention. As far as I know this sign means crossroads ahead/cocktail bar to the right, and not 'end of clearway', as it would in the UK.

For more information on the products of Chue Chin Hua Ltd (Bangkok) please take a look at their website.

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Copyright(c) 2006 Claire Pendrous. All rights reserved.

Please note that all pictures are by Claire Pendrous, or are part of the Claire Pendrous photographic collection unless otherwise stated; none of these images can be copied without obtaining prior permission.