If you ever ambled down the streets of Bangkok, you know that any mild annoyance at the vendors crowding the sidewalks quickly fades as the scents gai bing—sticky, chicken skewers—and som tam—papaya salad—overload your nose, and you part with 50 Baht (about $1.50), to purchase more of the food than you'll ever eat.
But the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has decided the price residents and tourists alike pay to give up sidewalk access in favor of access to cheap eats is too high: The agency has announced it will ban all street vendors from the city by the end of the year, favoring cleanliness and safety over culinary convenience.
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The announcement comes shortly after CNN named Bangkok the world's best street food destination for the second year running. (From experience, CNN made a good pick.)
The BMA has already cleared vendors from popular street-food areas such as Siam Square, Pratunam, and the flea market under Phra Phuttayotfa Bridge. Next, it will clear the carts from Yaowarat and Khao San Road, where there are more than 200 street-food vendors alone. And by the end of the year, the administration pledges, not a single street-food vendor will be left on the sidewalks.
"The BMA is now working to get rid of the street vendors from all 50 districts of Bangkok and return the pavements to the pedestrians," Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok's governor, told the local Nation news portal. "The street vendors have seized the pavement space for too long ... so there will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out."
Social media has reacted with outrage. "I think my heart actually started to ache reading this," wrote one American Twitter user after reading the Nation's post. "Street food is the soul of Bangkok." Another bemoaned, "Bangkok will not be the same without the cheap street food."
Notices placed around the city warn vendors to vacate the area between April 16 to June 1. It may be too late for some, but if you've been considering a Bangkok getaway, may we recommend there's no better time to hurry up and book.