For a few months now, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the number of people frequenting my favorite weekend market, Chatuchak. My regular parking lot is now half empty instead of packed and as you walk in the narrow aisles of the market, I don’t get pushed around nearly as much. In fact, the wider streets seem relative empty and the number of foreigners seems smaller. Of course, tourists do tend to come in waves and sometimes there are more tourist than others, but the crowds just didn’t seem as bustling as they normally are.
After week after week of low attendence at Chatuchak, I began to wonder if this isn’t a sign of the global economies weakening and its effect on tourism and shopping. The fewer number of tourists can be a direct effect of economic downturns in the US, Europe and even other Asian countires. The fewer number of Thai shoppers can also be explained by the crunch felt by locals as gas and food prices increase and the cost of all goods and services increase as well. Perhaps staying home is the wisest choice when simply leaving the house costs so much and money is tight.
As time progress though, I noticed the lack of shoppers in other markets around Bangkok and even on the streets of Bangkok themselves. And while, I’d never go so far as to call Bangkok a ghost town by any means, there still is a feeling of openness in Bangkok’s vast concrete jungle that was never there before.
Where are all the Bangkokians? Have they lost their regular appetite for shopping? Is it possible that everyone has fled to the countryside during the summer school holidays? Did the workers go home for Songkran and decide not to come back? Will the number of people out and about in Bangkok rebound when the school term begins?
It seems that I will find out the answers to my questions soon enough as most Thai schools will start in the next week or two. As university students flock back to their tiny flats in Bangkok and families return from their summer holidays, many more people will be in Bangkok have been in the past two months. However, it will interesting to see if there is a dramatic change in the number of cars on the streets and shoppers in the markets in the weeks to come.