Bits of Bangkok: Pak Khlong Talat

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bangkok / Contax Tvs / Kodak UltraMax 400 / photowalk

Bits of Bangkok, shot with a Contax Tvs compact camera:

Photogenic baskets in the sun

A truckful of baskets

A cat appears from behind a basket

Walking through the wet market at Wang Burapa Phirom

Blue hues, with a sprinkle of yellow

I took these photos while wandering through Wang Burapha, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Bangkok. The area is home to a handful of markets, including Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s largest wholesale flower and vegetable market. The traders supply produce to family restaurants like Thai Heng Lee. My Thai friend Yok likes to point out white tourists and say falang! – as if she hadn’t lived in predominantly white communities in the States for 18 years.

I like the neighborhood because there always seems to be bustle and activity, even during off-peak hours on weekday afternoons; but there are also pockets of stillness: quiet alleys to duck into, shophouses that snooze during the day.

Gentrification has hit this area slower than others, it seems. For the most part, shophouses in Wang Burapha appear to be rented – not owned – by their occupants. These remain largely family-run businesses and homes, unlike the yuppie shophouse bars and restaurants of Singapore and Malaysia, where shophouse conservation is undertaken by national ministries.

But authenticity, local tradition, and nostalgia seem to be driving tourism; so the question of preservation becomes tricky.

On her teaching breaks, Yok likes to wander along the verandah of the Yodpiman River Walk. The walkway runs adjacent to the Chao Phraya River and is the mall’s main feature. To the developers, it’s a Thai Heritage mall built in a Neoclassical Colonial style. To me, the complex resembles a theme park, with cart-shaped kiosks selling overpriced goods no one seems to buy, and chain outlets like Boots and Starbucks (hardly surprising though, given the high rent).

On the other hand, I can see the mall’s potential appeal: it’s clean, well maintained, well lit, and probably provides a breeze at night – a comfort in a city where temperatures can climb to 38 degrees Celsius (100 F). The developers bought over the Yodpiman Market in 2010 and re-zoned it, which explains its neat signage and orderly appearance. Yodpiman Market leads to Pak Khlong Talat, if you take the right path; this, too, has been cleaned up – preserved, if you will – but ah, I’ll perhaps continue my notes on preservation in a future post.

In any case, with the upcoming expansion of the MRT network, rents in the area are bound to rise. What will happen to the shophouses? Where will the ghosts and termites live?

Directions to Pak Khlong Talat
Take the BTS to Saphan Taksin (Silom line) and look for an express boat with an orange flag. It’s about a 15-minute ride from Taksin pier to Yodpiman pier; look out for a pale yellow building with white gates. That’s your stop.

Camera: Contax Tvs
Film: Kodak Ultramax 400
Lab: Triple D Minilab

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