A village Called Khlong Toei
No Khlong Toei (Pandan Leaf Canal) is not a village but a large district, known for the port and one of the major busy and animated market. The locals in the past named it Nakhon Khlong Toei, which means the city of Khlong Toei, or Thawip Khlong Toei, the continent of Khlong Toei. For me where I take you to visit is a village full of life to meet simple but really nice people.
Community and Change
Here no big business but a community where everyone has their own business for generations. On the ground floor of their home or on the pavement, are mainly small restaurants, grocery stores, fruits, and vegetable stalls, cafe and tea or fruits juice, parking space for rent and nowadays the trend is the renovation of old buildings into apartments for rent. Also, a subway station (MRT) has facilitated the real estate development and in the last six years some condominiums have been built, fortunately only low rise buildings, because the Sois are not of legal width (10 meters) to build high towers, and also where it is impossible to bring big machines of construction materials, except the cement mixers and the work is carried out manually. However, there is one exception, a new 33-floors project under construction that is located in the crossroads at the exit of the MRT where space allows it. The physiognomy changes slowly but the area keeps its soul.
Labyrinth of small streets full of life where I sometimes like to have breakfast at a food stand, lunch very often and shop for dinners. Rather, quiet during the day but comes to life again at the end of the day with the closure of schools (16.00) and administration offices (some at 17.00). Sellers of takeaway meals at very low prices, thirty to seventy baht/dish where the competition is fierce, set up their stands around 16.00, some sell everything in around two hours, others do not and therefore open earlier in the day. The smell of chicken, pork and grilled fish on embers, street vendors in pick-ups filled with seasonal fruits, often much cheaper than in supermarkets but not of the highest quality, but the small retailers that we often see with their fruit trolleys are fresh and ready to be tasted. Merchants (mostly Pakistanis) selling peanuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios and other snack seeds in their baskets. Neighbors having a drink in front of their house, of course with dishes. A good and warm atmosphere.
Sewing Workshops Costume Makers
Many sewing workshops which lead me to believe that business is going well in this field. I stopped by one of them and asked him some questions, of course, he thought I was coming as a customer and at my first question he understood that I wasn’t. This workshop works with 6 to 8 workers, I saw them working until very late in the evening and only closes on Sundays, the manager told me that he is manufacturing about 30 costumes /month. He makes both for individuals but mainly local shops. Most often the customer chooses the fabric presented by the dressmaker, some bring their own. It takes about 3 to 4 days of work per costume depending on the difficulty, the price if you bring your own fabric is 2000 baht (64US$) but if not everything will depend on the fabric chosen.
Years ago, I used the service of a Taylor on Sukhumvit (Milan suit, close now) I was never disappointed and the price was advantageous. You will find many shops on Sukhumvit, Silom avenue, and the area of Bang Rak Charoen Krung road. the majority of this business is owned by Sikh. Negotiate prices firmly.
The Charcoal Man Soi Paisingto
You can’t not see him, located in the middle of the bend before the Khlong, he remains for me the most amazing and active character in this neighborhood. Aged 53, and before selling charcoal, he was a mason. “Why did you choose this job? My mother was in this business and I took over” and this for over 20 years. When he started, he had settled in front of the Ruen Malika Royal Thai Cuisine restaurant but had to move to where he is now (which is a public space) and pays 500 baht/month rent to the MRT company. The charcoal (hevea wood) comes from the southeast and southwest Thailand, transported to Prawet (one of Bangkok’s 50 districts) where he’s going to buy it every morning. After asking him why he doesn’t buy it from Klong Toei, he explained to me that on this market mangrove wood is sold (which is forbidden in Thailand) the price is more expensive and sold by KG. In Prawet the big sacks (kasop) is sold 470 baht, which will then be filled in small plastic bags sold 20 baht each, but he could not answer my question, how many small bags he filled, “I never counted” but he said sells 15 big sacks per day. He starts working with his wife at 07:00 and very often until 23:00. Of course, he doesn’t live here and just covers the rest of the stock with tarpaulins, and there are sometimes thefts. He told me that if he stopped one day, he would lose his income and would have to sell twice as much the next day to compensate, which he cannot do. He only sells in this area where he has his regular customers, and also some come to buy on the spot. I see him making his deliveries every day, whether it rains or it is very hot on his bike loaded with bags, and sometimes the weight forces him to push it. Father of two children, a daughter who has just completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a son who is studying for a Master’s degree, he said that’s why he’s still working hard to give his children a better future.
Our Breeder of Fighting Rooster and El Mercado
I visited the guy Who is sometimes responsible for my (too early) waking up, a cockfighting breeder. Before that, I stopped at the El Mercado grocery store which is also a very fashionable restaurant frequented by expatriates, and a wealthy Thai clientele, especially on Friday evenings, to see and be seen. Run by a Franco/Spanish couple, the cuisine is simple but made only of imported products from France and Spain, cheeses, delicatessen, oysters and others, except for seafood. Wines of small local producers from France and Spain selected by the owners. I bought some pastries to offer him and the charcoal man. Cakes that they have never tasted, too expensive for this social class and not necessarily of their own taste. They were surprised but seemed to appreciate it.
A smiling and friendly gentleman, he has told me about himself and his passion for more than 20 years, the fighting cocks. At the end of a small alley along a dirty Khlong Is the place where he lives, a stilt wooden house, messy, but does not pay rent and he says he will stay here till the authorities will ask him to leave. Of course, the roosters and hens in the yard occupy the space, it’s clean and doesn’t smell too bad, he lives in a small room above. His wife used to sell soups in another neighborhood but had to go back home in Roi Et northeast province to taking care of her family. Every morning he goes to Khlong Toei market to buy food to feed his livestock and evening sales Look chin (fish and pork balls) in a neighboring soi. He has two children, one boy 22 years old married and living in Roi Et, and a daughter 19 years old still a student but pregnant and plan to marry soon, he doesn’t seem to be really happy about this situation. He said he could sell about 2 to 5 roosters per month ranging from 2 to 5000 baht, and very few time 10000 but that some were sometimes sold at hundreds of thousands and even millions’ baht. He said the crest, the plume, the crow which let you guess if the rooster will be good or not and have to wait until he is 7 to 10 months old before he can fight. They are selected according to their resistance to pain, their tenacity and their willingness to fight and he has seen some who sometimes who don’t want to. The interesting part is that some weekends he used to chose his best rooster to participate clandestinely in fights organized on vacant lots generally under highway bridges where betting was going well, which according to his say could reach large sums. In an open smile, he told me that the very vigilant police intervened and had to pay a “strong” fine, he pointed out that today this takes place mainly in the suburbs of Bangkok and he was no longer going. In Thailand the game is illegal, only registered cockfighting sites are allowed to organize this “entertainment”. Birds must be registered and have an identity card. Like boxing, there are weight categories that can vary from 1 to 6 kg. There is a cockpit stadium near Bangkok where fights are organized every 2 weeks. Although the fighting is not fatal, not only by law but also in the interests of the breeders I personally do not appreciate this “show” and would refrain to promote it.
- A few years ago, the singer from Carabao (Buffalo in Tagalog), a very popular Thai rock/folk band and cockfighter promoter, organized the wedding of his cockfighter offering five million baht to the bride. The value of his rooster champion was estimated at 15 million baht.
In the same Soi, a furniture restorer, where on the sidewalk” chairs, armchairs and sofa are waiting to be restored or delivered to the customers. I pass it most of every day and space is always occupied, so the business is going well. A family settled here for 30 years, the parents are still there and one of the sons, the one who did not want to go to school, takes over the business the mother who seems to be running the business told me that the father (not active anymore after a stroke) had taught him the trade with an “iron fist” the price to pay for his years of wandering. I just gave them work, 2 chairs to restore, invoiced 1700 Baht/chair.
Next door is a turner, a gentleman who lives alone and his life is only his machine, he told me that he doesn’t receive any pension, he has orders from time to time to earn a modest living.
My Way to the Market
I regularly walk around the neighborhood where I have my little habits and as I often do, I continue my way along the Klong of the soi Paisingto, social housing building and on the Klong houses where people live in what could be called slum that is facing the new complex FYI center (for your inspiration) where there are company offices and a hotel. Soup vendors’ stalls as well as many moto-taxi and here I am on Rama 4 road and I just have to cross it to get to the market, but not this time.
To Go There
MRT Sirikit center and exit 4 soi Paisingto. When out of the station take a left and about 20 meters further go left. If you want to visit the rooster breeder after the charcoal man walks along the Klong to the end, if not, pass El Mercado and straight into the very narrow alley (where you can find the motorcycle rental) and immediately to the right, and again to the right, then walk through the small alleys. Do not hesitate to retrace your steps or going to the Rama 4 Road or to Soi 22.
Attractions. Flow house, Urban playground climbing, Benjakiti park, bars, and massage parlors soi 22,
Where to Eat
The Ruen Mallika Royal Thai Cuisine and the local restaurant are located in this area as well as the rat na (lad na).
A Tiny Isan Restaurant
At the beginning of this year, a new tiny restaurant (4 tables) has just opened, located a few steps after El Mercado. Isan food, a menu that offers a wide choice of dishes, of course, the inevitable classic somtam (papaya salad) but also with cucumbers, marinated oysters, corn, fresh shrimps, vermicelli and salted crab, and don’t forget to order the khao niaow (sticky rice) somtam is always served with raw green vegetables. Lab Moo Spicy minced-pork salad, a soup that I like is Kaeng Het (a mixture of mushrooms) which here is quite spicy, so be careful. In the preparation of the dishes, the chef will ask the customer how many chilies they want, you have the answer, may pet kap/ka.
This time I had lunch in the soi opposite the Ruen Mallika. Kao kha moo always served with a soup called pa lo. Braised pork leg, hard-boiled eggs, boiled kale, chili (served separately), large garlic and marinated turnip in hot sour sauce, coriander. The original dish is from the city of Chao Shan in southern China. A popular and economical meal in Thailand, mainly eaten for lunch. is not really the ideal dish if you are or want to follow a diet.
Motorcycle rental, bad boy, a few steps from the MRT Queen Sirikit Center station, call 0823515323 speaks English.
Khlong Toei a vast area to explore.
I hope this will be helpful for planning your next trip to Bangkok. If you have any questions, I will be happy to help you.