Editor’s Note: From time to time, we receive a reader submission that provides a great look into the communities that built this crazy city that we call home. Here’s one of those submissions, sent in by Coconuts reader Adam Miranda-Artizada.
Bangkok has many hidden gems and one of the best I’ve found is my old neighborhood, Phra Kanong’s Pridi Banomyong Soi 2.
Located near a skytrain stop, it’s the front line between the fancy condos of the more affluent area and the suburbs of the city. Probably best known for the popular outdoor food court of W district, there is much more to Phra Kanong than meets the eye.
To outsiders, Soi 2 may just seem like a hive of activity with a plethora of street-food, countless stray dogs, and endless faces. Or a street desperately in need of a sidewalk to keep people from walking in the road. To me, this was home.
This was the street that really taught me what it meant to be a part of a Thai community. Fresh food, shopping, electronics, clothing repairs, haircuts, massages and hardware stores are all part of the thriving local scene. People have not only been working in this area for over 40 years, but also have a true passion for their trade and their community.
I lived on Soi 2 for two years and created friendly relationships with lots of the local residents. They cared for me, fed me, and taught me a lot about the meaning of community. Here are some of their stories.
“I have been on this street for over 40 years. I am from Bangkok. My wife and I own and run the chicken shop. We live upstairs. The building has three floors. I wake up at 4am every morning to start cooking, then I sell food all day. It’s not easy work but I like it. My son is a doctor in northern Thailand. He comes to visit every few months. I am very proud of him.”
“I have been selling vegetables for 40 years. I make pretty good money. I have tattoos all over my body. More than I can count. Mostly Buddhist tattoos for good luck.”
“I have been selling iced tea and coffee for 15 years around the city. I rent this space during the day.”
“I have been selling noodles for three years. I used to sell duck noodles near a hospital and sold very well. The shop I work at now is not mine. I work everyday and get one day off per month. I work 12 hours a day. I don’t make much money. It’s hard to save but it’s not hard work. I like it. I don’t have a family here. I would like to have a family one day.”
“I have been selling meat since I was 22 years old. It’s the only job I have ever done. It’s good physical work. I like the community here and talking to customers when it is slow during the day. Most people that buy from me are Thai. Some Burmese people come and buy as well. I give the Burmese construction workers a good price for their meat because they are hard workers.”
“My daughter helps me with the shop. She has two children. It’s a hard time to be a butcher. Many people buy from grocery stores so I have to price my meat competitively. I wake up at 5am to sell and finish around 7 in the evening or later. It’s long days and long hours. But it’s all I know and it’s my home and my business and I have freedom to do it the way I want. I am my own boss.”
“I’ve sold fish for over eight years. I was born and raised on this street. Right now I am having a hard time selling my fish. Generally in the community, people have less money. The price of food has gone up. Ten years ago we sold much better. Before I got about 10,000 baht per day, now I only get about 5,000 baht per day.”
“We buy the fish from Klong Toey market at 4am. I start selling around 6am, and I work every day of the week. I only stop working if I have other things to do. It’s my own business so I can stop when I want. The thing I like most about this street is the easy going feeling, it’s a close knit community. People know their neighbors. It’s my home so I don’t know much else.”
“I have worked as a tailor for around seven years. I rent this space for 1,600 baht a month. Before I worked as a tailor, I used to sell pirated DVDs and tapes. I’m not originally from Bangkok. I’m from Phichet province, north of Bangkok. In Phichet there is a huge gold mine. The company that owns the mine and the local villagers are in conflict. Some villagers have gotten sued by the gold mine, it’s a really awful situation.”
“I moved when I was 20 and now I’m 63. I’ve lived in this street the whole time. Some of my customers bring me a lot of clothes, some just want one or two items fixed, it depends on the season. I have three children, all of which own their own businesses like I do. It’s hard in Thailand right now for people like me. Some of my friends who used to work in this street have lost their businesses, but mine has been steady. Even this morning a community member came to me to ask for money. Sometimes it’s only 20 baht, sometimes 50 or more. If I know the person really needs the money, I’ll give it to them. If they are in a really hard situation and don’t pay me back, I don’t judge them. It’s good karma to help other people out in a bad situation, or people who have fallen on hard times.”
“I like running a sewing business. It’s not physically demanding work, but you have to use your hands and it’s a highly technical skill. You can make a clean and honest living. We have a lot of regular customers who I can talk to and get to know. It makes me happy, it’s a good living.”
“I have been living in this street my whole life. I have been a Muslim my whole life. I have many friends who are different religions. We just finished the celebration of Eid and our fasting month is over. Islam and Christianity have many similarities.”
“I have sold a lot today. Lots of people buy from me. Thais, Cambodian, and Burmese. My shop has been open for two years.”
Adam Miranda-Artizada is a freelance photographer living and working between Europe and Asia. See more of his work here.