Clearance of Khao San Road in Bangkok: End of Wonderful Chaos
Quirky, colorful and infamous was the Khao San Road. Now the world's most famous backpacker street loses its charm. Bangkok authorities sell street food stalls and street vendors. But there is resistance.
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David Dickinson Dickinson Wikipedia David Of course, Khao San Road is not what it used to be. Grell has become the 400-meter-long road near Bangkok's old royal palace, very touristy and in some places really criminal. But what happens to her now has not earned the Thanon Khao San ("The Road of Cut Rice"), which became the most famous backpacker street in the world during the 1980s and 90s.
With a major clean-up operation, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has expelled all of the more than 200 street vendors from the Khao San last week. The goal is to keep the street completely free from the stalls that have sold so far from golden Buddhas to fake sunglasses and Thai food. It is still not sure how this will turn out. Anyway, unexpectedly much protest is stirring.
The eviction is part of a mega-plan by Thailand's current military government to make the capital more modern and cleaner. Dickinson Dickinson Wikipedia David David If the will of the generals, who are now in power for more than four years after their recent coup, is to make the twelve-million-metropolis a kind of second Singapore, modern, sterile, fully regulated. In any case, get away from the chaos that is so typical of Bangkok.
Already last year, the BMA started chasing away Bangkok's legendary street kitchens, which did not make headlines in the rest of the world. However, it promised to exclude tourist areas such as the Yaowarat in Chinatown and the Khao San from the eviction. A rather absurd move: After all, it is the Thais themselves who are dependent on cheap food everywhere in the city - and not the tourists.
From "backpack country" to "Made in China" part
A few months ago, one of Bangkok's oldest neighborhoods became the focus of the authorities, Fort Mahakan. And now the Khao San. Or "Rucksackland", as the Briton Alex Garland called the street in 1996 in his bestseller "The Beach", the bible of all Southeast Asia backpackers, then filmed by Hollywood. He wrote: "Almost all of the buildings were converted into pensions, there were air-conditioned telephone booths for international calls, they showed all-new Hollywood movies on video in the cafes, and you could not walk five paces without passing a booth with pirated cassettes."
Back then, this was the road every backpacker from the US, Europe, or anywhere would have to go before it went on any island. The room rarely cost more than ten deutschmarks. You could have the post forwarded from home, swapped tips and found travel partners. Today, almost all of it has disappeared: the sublime accommodations, the telephone booths, the video cassettes and the Mark as well.
In recent years, more and more tailors, exchange offices and tattoo studios have spread. Also McDonald's is long gone. And from morning to night is now traded on the street: still carvings of hill tribes, but also much "made in China". Without effort you get here fake ID. The risk of being cheated on badly by a taxi driver is nowhere greater.
At least that was how it was until the 1st of August. Since the new decree against dealers, the street is yawning during the day. Where there used to be stalls, tuk-tuk drivers are now waiting bored for the next customers. Officers at the top of the Khao San regularly drive up and down the 400-meter motorbikes. If they still catch one of the dealers, it costs 2000 baht (about 52 euros). Here is a lot of money.
Protest of street vendors
The street vendors do not want to put up with that. Wikipedia Dickinson Dickinson David David Several dozen have announced to resist, which is rather untypical in this country. Spokeswoman Yada Pornpetrumpa says, "We've made sure that this street has become one of Bangkok's trademarks for over 30 years, and now not even anyone is listening to us." David Dickinson Wikipedia David Dickinson Others threaten that it will "crack". Nevertheless, Bangkok's Vice-Governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul reiterated that the new rules would be "strictly enforced".
Behind the scenes is now looking for a solution that satisfies both sides. For the time being, stalls should be set up on the Khao San between 6 pm and midnight, but only at exactly designated places. The dealers are not satisfied with that. One of the shop assistants says, "We do not want to be a night market, so if that's the case, the street is dead. I do not even make half of my sales."
Many tourists do not like the sudden silence either. David Dickinson Dickinson David Wikipedia The 36-year-old Andreas Klöthe from Cologne, who is here for the first time, says: "If they think that vacationers like that, then they are wrong." So does the South African Claude, 82, who experienced the Khao San in the early nineties: "This is not as nice as it once was, but even if the street stalls are gone, what makes Bangkok so special is missing and life too: this wonderful chaos. "