Bangkok’s Street Vendors

This article in the New York Times about street vendors in Beijing, China made me think of the vendors who ply the streets around me in Bangkok.

A Street Vendor's Cart

Unlike in China the authorities seem to welcome them. There are four supermarkets within easy walking distance of my apartment (Jusco, Carrefour and two Tops Markets) but still the vendors seem to do a good business. I hear their cries every morning. As in China they compete with each other for attention.

I think their survival is partly tradition, but it is also convenience as the vendor comes right past your door.

There are virtually no barriers to entry to be a street vendor. You can buy a used hand cart for a few thousand baht. There are wet markets all over the city selling wholesale fruit, vegetables, meat and almost anything else. For 50฿ a tuk-tuk driver will deliver it for you.

There’s no fuss with business licenses or sales tax. And no hygiene inspectors either. The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority has a police force that supervises the fixed and street markets but they do not seem to trouble the vendors who keep moving.

Seeing and sometimes patronising the vendors is one of the small delights of living here. I don’t think they’ll be around for ever – young people don’t want to push a heavy cart around the streets all day to earn a few hundred baht. I am photographing them while they are still around.

Also, as people move into apartments it’s less convenient for them to go and meet their favourite vendor. I am sure that trend affects their sales.

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