Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Last Call

Another landmark gone...

Bangkok is renowned for its street food and one of the best places in Bangkok for street food was Sukhumvit Soi 38, right below the Thong Lo BTS Station. Popular with Thais for decades as a source of cheap and tasty food it become a farang (foreigner) hangout for the same reason. The restaurants and food carts on the street relished their fame. Many had newspaper clippings from local and international papers hanging in their shops. Others had pages from Lonely Planet guides taped to the walls. 
Making "congee," a rice porridge, in one of the shops. 

On most nights, starting about 18.30, the place was packed. Thai office workers and university students vying for space with foreigners at the sidewalk shops. Among foreigners, it seemed to be especially popular with teachers and journalists, people who needed to stretch their Baht. 
Early in the evening, a vendor waits for customers. 

You can't stop the march of time. We've known about the end of the Soi 38 food carts for about seven months. The building that housed most of the shops was sold last year. The shops have been closing ever since. About 1/3 of them stayed open into the new year, but the experience was not the same. It's hard to define when something loses critical mass, but for me the Soi 38 experience died in September or October. It wasn't just the loss of the food stalls, it was the loss of the ambiance. 
Eating at a noodle stall on the street. Hard to believe this was "fine dining" but it was some of the best street food in Bangkok. 

Some of the food stalls moved into the parking garage of a nearby apartment building. It's a nice effort to keep the place going but it's just not the same. Not as much choice, not as many people and just not the same.
Foreigners look for a place for dinner. 

The street food stalls at Soi 38, like the market in Bang Chak, will be replaced by condominiums and high end retail. And another Bangkok institution will be lost.
Grilling chicken satay on Soi 38. At 10Baht per stick (a little over .25¢ US) it was a tasty bargain.

There are more photos from Soi 38 in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.