What’s survived Thailand’s brutal crackdown on Bangkok’s iconic street food scene

Your next trip to Bangkok is going to look very different. The city’s iconic street food scene has been devastated by a brutal military crackdown — for news.com.au, Ronan O’Connell reveals what survived.

Bangkok’s world-famous street food scene has been gutted over the past 18 months as the Thai Government has sought to clean up the sidewalks of the Thai capital’s downtown area.

The city’s spectacular street food scene is a major drawcard for tourists but they’re now out of luck on Bangkok’s long, main thoroughfare, Sukhumvit Road, along which many of the city’s biggest hotels are based.

The crackdown has seen hundreds of licensed food vendors across the city evicted from their prime streetside spots into new, out-of-the-way locations designated by the government.

One of the great charms of the city for locals, tourists and Bangkok ex-pats like myself has long been the way you could leave your home or hotel and immediately find an array of amazing street food being sold for as little as $1 per dish. You pull up a plastic chair at a rickety table and eat basic but delicious Thai food like papaya salad, pad Thai noodles and tom yum soup.

Many people love the fact that Bangkok is raw and unusual, but the Thai Government seems intent on trying to shape the city into a more polished and predictable metropolis in the mould of Singapore.

The street food crackdown has received a mixed response from Thai people and a pretty overwhelming thumbs-down from tourists and ex-pats.

Among Bangkok locals there is a popular belief that street food vendors were clogging up the streets in an already-busy city, and also creating overwhelming mess and smells in these public spaces.

On the other hand there are many more Thai people who see street food as a proud element of their culture, and as an important means of supplying cheap and accessible meals to city workers.

Bangkok’s renowned street food is also an undeniable element of its extraordinary popularity as a tourist destination. It has ranked among the top three most visited cities in the world for the past three years in a row, and gorging on street food is arguably Bangkok’s single-most famous tourist activity.

I have my favourite vendors for dishes like Hainanese chicken rice, Kway Teow fried noodles and stewed pork leg with rice.

Because this is the heart of Bangkok’s enormous Chinese community, Yaowarat is also the place to go for rare Chinese treats like bird’s nest and shark fin soup.

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