The best street food on the planet, but Bangkok bans its roadside stalls

City has just scooped CNN poll but official says ‘every street vendor will have to move out’ by end of 2017

City hall has said Chinatown’s Yaowarat Road will be one of the next areas to be cleared. Photograph: Alamy

Authorities in Bangkok have banned street food from the capital’s major roads, causing an outcry in a city famous for its affordable roadside cuisine.

In a move criticised by locals and culinary enthusiasts, thousands of vendors selling dishes such as spicy prawn soup and papaya salad will disappear by the end of the year in the interests of “order and hygiene”, according to city hall.

Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, said officials are “now working to get rid of stalls from all 50 districts of Bangkok” and return the pavements to pedestrians.

“There will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out,” he said in comments reported by the local Nation news portal.

For decades Bangkok, the most visited city in the world, has promoted itself as a key destination for the food-obsessed. Locals and foreigners dine on plastic chairs at folding tables, slurping steaming noodles at street food eateries that stay open until dawn.

Roadsides clog up daily as workers rush to buy pineapple slices, fried chicken or sweet pork kebabs. Tourism, which makes up an estimated 15% of the economy, is buoyed by hundreds of street food tours through the subtropical city.

For the second year running, CNN this month named Bangkok as the city with the best street food on the planet.

However, since seizing power in 2014, Thailand’s junta has led a campaign to “clean up” and “return happiness” to the country, focusing on issues such as late night drinking, corruption and the sex trade.

Chawadee Nualkhair, a Bangkok-based street food blogger, said authorities’ previous attempts to remove stalls had failed.

“Street food was still too popular with the locals,” she said. “Of course, it would make Bangkok less charming. But it also takes a big chunk of cheap options away from working Thais, and closes up an avenue of work for many. Where will shop employees, construction workers and taxi drivers eat?”

When the Guardian interviewed diners at one stall, a woman eating catfish and steamed rice declined to comment as she said she worked for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the agency implementing the ban.

A woman arranges fried snacks on her street food cart in the Pratunam district of Bangkok. Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images

Some of the city’s most acclaimed street food hotspots have been dismantled by developers who have bought land and evicted vendors.

Last year, the renowned Soi Sukhumvit 38 food market, which had operated for nearly 40 years, was destroyed to make way for a high-priced condominium. Some of the vendors selling pad thai and mango sticky rice were allowed to set up in the basement of a nearby building. Others selling egg noodles with BBQ pork and crab still squat in the area.

City hall says the central district of Siam has been cleared by police and that Chinatown’s Yaowarat Road and the backpacker haunt, the Khao San Road, made famous in the novel The Beach, are next on the list.

Along the busy streets of Thong Lor and Ekkamai, notices were warning vendors that the deadline to leave the area was 1 June. But it was brought forward to Monday 16 April, after the traditional New Year holiday.

Along Thong Lor on Tuesday, almost all the street vendors had left. Next to the spot where a popular chicken broth stall was based, a new sign says permits to trade have been revoked.

One vendor, a 61-year-old woman selling coconut and pumpkin sweets, said she was allowed to remain as she rented space in front of a pharmacy for about £5 a day, rather than using public space.

“There is nothing I can do,” said the woman, who called herself Aunty Tao and said she had worked there for three decades. She added that for years, law enforcement had often confiscated equipment from unlicensed vendors and fined them up to £35.

A giant pan of spicy noodles cooking on a street food stall in Bangkok. Photograph: Alamy

There has been confusion about how the policy will be implemented. The area’s district chief, Boontham Huiprasert, said push-cart vendors who could move around would still be tolerated but larger semi-permanent stalls with seating would have to go.

“Or if they can find a place to set up their shop without obstructing the sidewalk, such as behind the railing of the Thong Lor police station or some other private building, that would be OK too,” he said.

Additional reporting by Phakarat Ryn Jirenuwat

This entry was posted in Ẩm thực - Culinary art, Du lịch - Tourism, Văn hóa - Culture and tagged , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development ( I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

One thought on “The best street food on the planet, but Bangkok bans its roadside stalls

  1. Mấy anh chàng này – the rulling military junta – điên rồi hay sao vậy?

    So stupid!

    CNN mới tháng này xếp (trong 2 năm liền) Bangkok là thành phố có thực phẩm đường phố số 1 trên thế giới.

    Dù có bỏ hàng tỉ đô la để quảng cáo du lịch thì cũng không hiệu quả bằng được chức danh này. Và khách du lịch trên thế giới yêu Bangkok chính là nhờ thực phẩm đường phố. (xem bảng xếp hạng ở đây, Sài Gòn đứng thứ 18)

    Nhớ lãnh đạo military junta Thái Lan (hội đồng quân nhân) hiện nay, như rất nhiều hội đồng quân nhân trước đây, chịu trách nhiệm cho 12 cuộc đảo chánh trong vòng 80 năm ở Thái Lan, tức là trung bình là khoảng 7 năm rưỡi một vụ đảo chánh. Đồng thời military junta hiện thời mới làm Hiến Pháp thứ 20 kể từ năm 1932, tức là 4 năm một Hiến Pháp mới. Luật ly dị cũng không thay đổi nhanh như Hiến Pháp Thái Lan. May God save the Thai.

    Nhưng một số chế độ đã tính dẹp thực phẩm đường phố trước đây và thất bại. Thực phẩm đường phố là một phần lớn của sức sống, vẻ đẹp và kinh tế Bangkok. Để xem quý vị này có thể dẹp được bao lâu.


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