Tourists and stallholders say citys attempt to sanitise the bustling, chaotic Khaosan Road is stripping the area of its charm
Few streets evoke the chaos of Bangkok like the Khaosan Road, a place of pilgrimage for tanned, dreadlocked, tassle-adorned backpackers for decades.
Yet this week, in an attempt to impose some order on the capitals famed tourist road, the Thai authorities ordered all street vendors selling food, clothes and trinkets to clear off the pavements during the day.
The edict caused an outcry from locals and tourists alike. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), a form of city police, has been accused of trying to sanitise the atmosphere that makes this stretch such a draw for millions each year and at the expense of the streets 200 vendors, who already have meagre earnings.
Its such a shame, its a shocking idea, said Taisha Thompson, who was visiting from Sydney. We came here this time last year and the street was full of food and it was amazing, it was a beautiful atmosphere. I was wondering what had happened, the atmosphere is entirely different now. They are wrong if they think this is what visitors want.
Sitting surrounded by beads, gold buddhas, elephant-embroidered trousers and an assortment of coloured, dreadlocked hair extensions, one shop owner who has had a business on the Khaosan Road for more than 20 years was downbeat. On a Thursday afternoon, the day after the clearance, the road was unusually deserted.
Gone were the stalls, and with them the tourists who would usually be purchasing mango smoothies, pad thai and cheap sunglasses.
She declined to give her name for fear of angering the authorities. Yes, its been quiet since the street vendors were cleared, she said. The street is now orderly but I think its lost the charm. As you can see it now looks quite ordinary, like any other street in the world.
The vendors have been here for a long time and [they] created the atmosphere. Yes, some shops or business operators may not like the stalls setting up and blocking their front doors but it isnt always the case. There are much worse spots nearby where people cant walk on footpaths.