Faces of Thailand
Updated: 6 hours ago
The seen and unseen of Thailand!
Traditional Thai coffee is prepared from a mix of Robusta coffee grounds, brewed and filtered through a tungdtom (tea/coffee sock), and from there came the beverage such as oliang (with ice, derived from Teochew Chinese 烏涼 โอเลี้ยง - dark-iced), kopi (Teochew & Hokkien pronunciation of coffee) mixed with condensed milk, quite similar to Vietnamese coffee (cà phê sữa nóng).
Coffee is a beverage that was not imported into Thailand until the early 1900s, and this very coffee shop is among the earliest ones, including supplying roasted beans. It has been in operation for over 100 years, and where it is situated is nicknamed Talad (market) of 100 Years. In its heyday, it was one of the prominent wholesale coffee centers, and coffee merchants from all over Thailand came to visit through the network of canals (canal 12).
The development of coffee industries started in this particular area and tied much to the early Chinese immigrants who arrived in the Kingdom illegally therefore they settled here under the protection of the Christian Missionaries (who also introduced them to this black beverage) and most of them converted to Christian as a result.
I visited this location for over a decade and returned from time to time, seeing its graduate, and probably irreversible decline, forgotten by most Thai for its early effort in making coffee a popular beverage in Thailand.
Makkasan Community is situated right in the most developed zone of Bangkok, where new condominiums claim the highest price in Thailand and the most luxurious shopping centers at a comfortable walking distance. Yet, it is also an area ignored by public attention. Residents there live with worries of being forced to relocate without compensation to give room to profit-hunger project developers in the guise of city authority.
The households nestled along the train track for decades, as close as only to allow the train to pass, which nowadays reduced to only occasional service trains. Walking on or right next to train tracks is the only way from one household to another. Trian track is an integral part of their lives, where they sit and rest as if it is furniture and a playground for the kids, or sometimes as a bed for the babies.
Thatchai, in his late 50s, sold to the Teochew Opera owner when he was 7 as a solution to his Chinese mother's gambling debt for 5,000 baht, including the 10% cut for the middleman. The Teochew Opera changed his life since. And He is one of the prominent faces of the Teochew Opera in Thailand today.