The Hand that Feeds You

The Hand that Feeds You

I saw this hand yesterday while walking around Talad Noi, one of my favorite Bangkok neighborhoods and a place I’ve documented for over a decade. The outstretched hand reminded me of how hard it can be to accept change. Even if it means abandoning the very hand that feeds you, change aka evolution aka iteration, is an inescapable part of life

Let me explain.

In the three years since my last visit, Talad Noi has clearly gone through a sanitation process. It’s still wonderfully gritty, smelly, and rough, but also a little less soulful. I stumbled onto a new trendy café where coffee was priced like in downtown Paris and a small bottle of soda water was USD$5:50. Later, Charlotte and I spent a small fortune on a few basic, yet quintessential beverages (beer) at a riverside restaurant with an über-cool retro decor and a playlist chockfull of easy-listening FM tunes.

While there, I thought of how ironic it was that the audience these new, trendy, high-end places are targeting come so geographically and financially far away from the people that live in Talad Noi. These high-end establishments have chosen a market segment and pricing position that just feels arrogant and in complete lack of humility for where they are located. What happens when the very hand that feeds these chic, hotspot hangouts, i.e., the working-class ambiance disappears and the only thing left is juat a vague hint of a life non of their patrons can relate to?

I doubt the working-class vibe will ever completely abandon Talad Noi. I certainly hope not. And the transition the neighborhood is currently going through was, as aforementioned, unpreventable. It’s a classic case of gentrification that I’ve seen happen firsthand in other Bangkok neighborhoods like Rattanakosin and in other cities, most notably Berlin, Copenhagen, and New York City.

While walking back to Bang Rak last night, weaving through the crowds along the Chao Phraya River where tens of thousands were gathering to celebrate Loy Krathong, I saw a few locals of Talad Noi. They were sitting in front of their shophouses, chatting away, enjoying the cool, evening temperature while sharing a meal. Those fleeting scenes gave me solace.