June 2, 2011

In Defense of Street Vendors

Taken Outside Today Where I Work
Bangkok. Where else can you get a pair of mickey mouse slippers, a jailbroken iPhone, and 3 sticks of luuk chin (mystery meatball things) on your walk home from work? The street vendors that populate the sidewalks selling their cheap meals and wares are just as much of the city landscape as the towering skyscrapers above. From a consumer perspective, it's actually quite convenient, and I have to admire their dedication toward frying up a chicken in the punishing heat and humidity of the city.

Yes, struggling to walk from the On Nut BTS station to Sawngtaeo #4 on the road can be a bit frustrating after a lousy day at work. But, isn't the in your face humanity all part of living in the big city?

Not everyone agrees with me apparently, because this month's Big Chilli magazine has an article that portrays these innovative entrepreneurs as total lowlifes (The Big Chilli magazine unfortunately cannot be seen online). I picked up the magazine today, because I heard that David Lyman was going to be in it. He's a great guy, a Navy vet like me, and a "pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory" as they say. Unfortunately, it turns out he's in next month's issue.

The featured article in May's Big Chilli discusses the mafia connection with the street vendors, which is problematic, as well as how vendors dump trash all over the place. However, I would not necessarily fault the people operating these stalls for the rubbish problem, as there is never a trash can in this city when you need one. Surprisingly, they didn't mention last year's Bangkok Post article about child pornography being sold on Sukhumvit road for dramatic effect. But what I really didn't agree with is the tone of the article, which makes it seems like they should just go away.

Not to wage class war here, but if these people are kicked off the street, where will they go? Then there's the matter of all the people who are dependent on buying these low cost food and goods to get by on a daily basis. A lot of people in Bangkok don't even make $250 a month, and the fancy restaurants that cater to expats and Thai's high society sure aren't going to let them in. Sometimes you have to think about unintended consequences. Besides, if you want a city where everything is pristine and expensive, just go live in Singapore.


madtom said...

I bet it works this time, at least now it looks like the regular comment box

Paul Salvette said...

Thanks, Tom. Looks good.

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