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2008.05.09

Comments

Chuck

Yet another great article.

Here is the link:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121027407772078137.html?mod=home_asia_weekend

I hope you enjoy your time in SF. I look forward to reading about it.

Cupcake

I'm saving the hard copy for you!

Yrs truly
Cupcake

Austin

I also find this one of the more interesting and atmospheric markets in Bangkok, and wish there were more like it, but am not sure I agree with the central theme of the piece. Do you really feel wet markets in general are a dying breed? There are two wet markets and three open-air talaat nat more or less within walking distance of my house in northern Bangkok, and they all seem to be doing quite well. In fact, I'd venture to say that there probably are more and bigger markets in Bangkok (and SE Asia?) than any time previously.

Also, wasn't the renovation of Talaat Nang Loeng due to a fire that destroyed much of the central market, and not the benevolence of the Crown Property Bureau as you suggest? I seem to recall reading about this in the papers, although I can't seem to find anything about a fire online...

I know the sai krok plaa naem vendor too, but have never seen his dish served with rice. Are referring to the grated fish cooked in coconut milk?

My favourite vendor is the khanom beuang (Thai-style 'taco' sweets) sold out front on Th Nakhorn Sawan. Ratana, the curry stall you mention, is also pretty good. There's also a famous bamee vendor who still makes his own wheat noodles the old-skool way.

Robyn

Hi Austin - the piece is about this market in particular, and the theme is that this market is struggling. I think that's pretty accurate.

I spent several days in Nang Leong with lifelong residents, working the market and surrounding streets, and talking to other residents, vendors, and shopowners. All felt that business has dropped off drastically. People say that the market is a shadow of its former self. I don't know if you've been lately but the place is quiet until the weekday lunch crowd. It's a noticeable change even from when I first visited Dalat Nang Leong in early 2002, when business was booming as early as 8am and there was still a decent trade on Sat.

The BCP has recently leased most of the new stalls, so perhaps business has picked up. But I have to agree that alot of the market's uniqueness is gone - many vendors in the food court area sell the same old same old guaytiow nam, grilled chicken, somtam, etc. Maybe if you have time you could stop by the market at some point and give anyone who reads this an update vis a vis the newly leased stalls.

I do, BTW, believe that SE Asia's old-style wet markets are a dying breed. That is meant as an observation that applies to the long term. I'm not saying that markets will disappear in the next 3 years. Perhaps Bangkok is an exception -- the city still allows ambulatory vendors to sell on the streets, after all, which you don't often see even in KL - but KL's Chow Kit won't be around forever, it sits on prime real estate in a city where the goal seems to be a shopping mall for every man, woman and child, and even if it still stands business has dropped precipitously. Singapore just closed Tekka Market for extensive renovations ... the result will no doubt be cleaner and more hygienic but will also lack some of the character (and vendors) of the old Tekka (I know you're a fan of Singapore-style upgrades so that might not seem significant to you). Ben Thanh is a shadow of its former self, though markets thrive in other parts of Saigon.

I think it's just a fact of life that as SEA cities modernize and redevelop these places will give way, that as locals become busier and wealthier the appeal of shopping in these kind of places fades - let's face it Tesco and Carrefour are more convenient. I've seen it happen in Hong Kong and it's happened extensively in Shanghai since I left in 1998. Singapore too. Jakarta probably has many years to go but changes are certainly afoot in KL. Bangkok may be the holdout. That's something to hope for. I hope for it, anyway.

Did the BCP undertake renovations because of a fire (strangely, non of the NL residents, vendors, or shop owners mentioned this to me -- and if there was a fire it can't have been very extensive as the spirit house wasn't damaged) rather than from a desire to preserve this little bit of culinary and cultural history? Perhaps. I don't know.

Unfortunately most articles can't be everything to every reader. If you're looking for investigative journalism don't look to WSJA's 'Weekend Journal'. Given your experience writing for various print media, you're no doubt aware that the publication one is writing for determines, to quite a large extent, the angle of a piece. There has been some controversy regarding the renovations (and about BCP and its real estate dealings in general) and the BCP was a bit leery about speaking with me. During my interview with Chief Apiradee of BCP I felt it was appropriate to keep to the theme of the piece(the market, its renovation, and its prospects)rather than to use our time to attempt to uncover her organization's 'true' motivations for renovating.

Regarding the sai krok plaa naem - that vendor made it with rice for us as she did for other customers. (Though she was nice enough to make that little banana leaf container for us - everyone else got theirs in a plain old paper cone). I was introduced to her by one of my contacts in the Nang Leong neighborhood.

I'll have to follow up on the bamee when I'm next there (I'm not a fan of kanom beung). The stalls/shops I included were the ones we were taken to by Nang Leong neighborhood old-timers. I wanted to focus (and my editor wanted me to focus on) places that were doing stuff that's not found just everywhere, as much as I could, anyway. I really could've included at least 15 more spots but - again, as you know - every writer must grapple with word counts.

Rasa Malaysia

Congrats Robyn, I see your printed articles everywhere now. :)

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