Crikey reader Damian Doyle writes from Thailand:
Each morning she is there, her stall set up beneath the stairs of the Thong Lo skytrain station long before the sun is up. This gorgeous little Thai woman, conservatively in her fifties (and I am a notoriously bad judge of age), dressed in a matronly apron and a faded baseball-style cap that barely covers her short white hair.
Working at a million miles an hour, calm as she handles money, bags of soup, and cooking utensils, this lady is in command of her realm. She is a pleasure to watch, and I savour the few seconds that I see her each morning as I take a walk to buy a newspaper.
Her stall is one of the countless snack outlets that line Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok’s major thoroughfares. Much of Bangkok’s workforce – commuting by moto, bus, or train – seems to sustain itself on the snacks and lunches provided by vendors like this lady. There’s grilled fish, curries, noodles, soups, buns, fried goodies.
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Thai cuisine is not a new story, nor is Thai street food. In fact, being the Canberra hipster that I am, even I have a book on the topic sitting on my coffee table. But as I walk past this hard working Thai lady each morning I feel as though there’s another story that could be told.
I’m imagining a thin, easily-read paperback, sold at airports and newsagents. It’ll have a colourful illustrated cover depicting food stalls in a Bangkok street which will catch the eye of travellers and expats. And it will tell the story of this lady with the stall beneath Thong Lo skytrain station.
It will be a positive, respectful, human story. It will tell of her daily rituals, her years of hard work, her pride in her success, the setbacks and challenges, perhaps even the political tussles that were fought to secure this piece of prime real estate for her stall.
All this could be set against a family drama, showing us the personal side of this lady’s life, and the colour and sound of Bangkok’s streets over various time periods.
Perhaps someone has already written a little story like this. If not, I hope someday they will. Some expat who’s hanging in Bangkok. Someone who can get out and chat to people in the street, learn their stories, and then tell their stories to us. That would be a valuable book indeed.
This post first appeared on Tofu Notes.