Klong Toey neighborhood is famous for its slums. While much has been written about them and was shown in movies, I had never visited this area of town until this year. According to Father Joe Maier, the author of “Welcome to Bangkok’s slaughterhouse” and long-term resident of the slums, there are many thousands of people who live below poverty lines in Bangkok from one day to the next, or just to survive. Crime in this area is high and drug trafficking and prostitution is common…so why go there?
I had no idea how to get into the slum and wasn’t really sure whether I wanted to go there in the first place. But I had heard about Klong Toey market and felt it might be a good place to start exploring. Often, late at night, on my way home from Sukhumvit area, I passed by the market’s bustling streets and well-lid stalls – in a taxi.
Recently I walked into a (for me) new world and part of Bangkok. On first sight the market is smaller than what I expected. Based on Wikipedia and the Internet, it is the biggest wet market in the city. On second sight, ohhhh my God, it is huge…
To get there, it is easiest to take the MRT underground to Klong Toey station, take exit 2 and walk along the road for about 5-7 minutes until you come to a huge overpass that crosses the busy road in four directions. Anyway, you turn, it will take you to the market – if that is your destination.
It opens at six in the morning and doesn’t close until two a.m. the following morning. On my first visit I went around 11 am on a Saturday and it was pretty laid back. On my second visit, I thought that it would be as laid back on a Sunday afternoon, but we were weaving in and out of the crowd, trying to stay out of the way of the porters.
However, as the first time, the fruit and vegetable vendors were in action and an occasional meat stall with pig heads or chicken feet or wings were set up. But it seemed that inside the market building it was rather quiet and maybe the main fish and meat vendors had already finished their day’s work and left.
The stalls outside in the street were well kept and organized. The vegetable, herbs and greens looked fresh, appetizing and clean. Even the meat was displayed nicely, although it is a bit strange for Westerners to see pork or chicken sit out on trays with the occasional fly and sun ray, without being cooled and protected by glass. According to Hindu tradition the fresh meat needs to be sold the same day. I just wonder what happens to the meat that is not sold in the Buddhist tradition…