My first response to anyone who asks about my time in Bangkok, will be my infatuation with the cities street food. A belief clearly held by more than just myself as the city year after year takes out top awards, beating other city stalwarts as Hong Kong, Tokyo, New Orleans and Istanbul.
The culture of street food as been with Bangkok as long as the city has been established, with floating markets along the river canals being used by vendors for hundreds of years. However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s during Bangkok’s booming urbanisation, along with the game changing invention of the plastic bag, that the cities street food culture was taken to the next level.
It must be said that what makes Bangkok street food so good is not just due to the strong flavours and uniqueness that is Thai cuisine. This is a city and to a larger extent a country that lives to eat. The importance placed on food is so much more than many westerners fully appreciate; it is a land where rice is worshiped as a god.
However, recently to the dismay of both tourists and locals alike the BMA (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration), have begun issuing thousands of eviction notices to the cities street vendors. Some of whom are in their second and third generations of business.
The official reason given is to improve the hygienic measures and organization of traffic in Bangkok’s heavily populated areas. Though speaking to a few in the know locals their interpretation is very different. They state this latest push as just a means to push out streets vendors in areas that developers want to construct luxury condominiums and high-end retail stores.
This is precisely what so many Thai’s want to avoid, many have seen the humble street vendor as a place where the rich and poor sit side by side. A time when both are equals, their conduit a simple chicken noodle soup or pork and rice.