Expats in Bangkok mourn loss of street food stalls to creeping gentrification

Published:  10 Nov at 6 PM
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Bangkok is a favourite expat destination for those looking for a unique experience both at work and at play, but the city is changing its focus in a frantic rush to modernise and Westernise.

Bangkok has been a hub for expats seeking a totally unique experience combining comfort with tradition and a comparatively low cost of living. The city’s street food is world famous, but may not be on the menu for very much longer as traditional food markets are being closed by the government or relocated a distance from their clients.

It’s not just government directives which are killing a trade seen on Bangkok’s streets for centuries. Younger Thais are graduating to upscale Western-style eateries, bars and clubs, scorning their parents’ choices of food and drink and preferring the lifestyle they’ve seen on TV and online. Being young, they don’t connect their preferred lifestyles with the effect they have on everyday traders whose livings are no longer ensured.

One street vendor selling traditional noodle dishes saw her area re-branded as a ‘creative district’, whatever that new name was supposed to mean. For her, the result of the change was an almost total lack of customers for her fare once the area was taken over by moneyed urbanites. Her only clients now are expats, foreigners and the occasional local. This being Thailand, no-one is talking about the threat to the way of life of the traditional street vendors by creeping gentrification.

A local tuk-tuk driver is fully aware of the devastation to the area caused by its recent upgrading. He’d been forced to give up on his means of earning a living and had to move out of his rented single room. Once the street food vendors were banned, he couldn’t find affordable meals. He’s worked hard in the past to support his children’s college education, but is now planning to move back to his hometown in Thailand’s northeastern region.
If it weren’t for the expats, a few tourists and his few friends, he’d be gone already.

Residents in the area tell it like it is, with one saying they don’t want development, they just want to be happy as they were before. She adds the children of the poor may well grow up to be the driving force in the nation, helping to reshape Thailand as a home for all Thais, no matter what their status and income.
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