A Walking Tour of Soi Chan 16

Wandering in the night. The community that's usually active at night in the Soi Chan 16 neighbourhood appears to be subdued. It wasn't like this before. Life then was hectic, filled with work and promises of good times ahead for the night merchants and street vendors.

Night life is not what it used to be. There is a strange feeling of boredom, a repetitive, almost robotic reaction to life. Gone where the days, of bustling times, of working hard that usually led to good earnings. On the faces of some, they look almost overwhelmed; disheartened perhaps.

I wander, restless, through the narrow lanes with only the street lights and memory to guide my way. Passing a small park, I see a couple of homeless women. They, like many of the homeless in this colossal city, carry with them plastic sacks of what's left of their personal possession. I smile at them, and one returns with a crooked grin.

The market is around the corner. Taxi drivers and riders sit on flimsy plastic chairs on the roadside. Some are drinking the local brew with ice. Its their break, from the gruelling day, while others are preparing for the graveyard shift.

Soi Chan 16. I've visited this place many times before. I've spoken to some families and teachers living and working here. Many are friendly and talkative. The community consists primarily of Buddhists, and many are of Chinese ethnicity. There's even twenty Thai Muslim families that I've met.

The lanes and stalls are dwarfed by the old cramp flats, with shop lots on the ground floor. Many families use the shop lots for work during the day, and use the space for their evening meals before retiring to the first and second floors to sleep.

Walls, pillars, grills and glass. Marked with dirt, rust and stained with scribbles.

The working class here are practical about their income. They try to save whatever they can, for that rainy day, after paying off their personal debts. And usually that's not much, with some families in this neighbour save between 1,000 - 4,000 baht per month; they're the lucky ones. Many others simply are not able to save money for the future.

Times are expected to grow worse, and desperate. I fear, poverty is creeping into this neighbourhood, and with it, comes an unstoppable mass-scale economic inequality and the creation of another ghetto.

A street dog takes a break on the cool floor, while a couple prepares flowers to sell for tomorrow. Often street-kids wait at traffic lights, and walk towards cars to sell flowers to drivers.

A familiar sight. Empty. The street food vendor is not happy with tonight's earnings.

Fruit carts are commonly found in Bangkok, some offering a wide-range of fresh fruits regardless of the season. Depending on the type of fruit, its usually affordable.

Preserved, sweet and sour fruits, alongside cold fruity drinks, as a couple waits.

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