Bangkok’s Chinatown street food stalls, gold shops see worst trade in years

The Thai capital’s once bustling Chinatown is now uncharacteristically quiet, with many businesses suffering from the impacts of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

The 9pm to 4am curfew in Bangkok and 12 other provinces is prompting numerous street food stalls and restaurants in Chinatown, centred on Yaowarat Road, to open earlier than usual.

One of them is the “Kuay Jub Nai Ouan” restaurant, which has reopened after the original owner died of COVID-19. They decided to open at 9.30am, instead of in the evening to earn more, to cover their daily expenses.

Many of the street food stalls, including a shop that sells imported fruits, revealed that their incomes have dropped significantly, compared to the more than 10,000 baht they used to earn per day.

Another shop, which sells Thai desserts, also said that their income has dropped by half, adding that, throughout their 20 years of doing business, COVID-19 has affected their lives the most, more even than political protests or the great floods back in 2011.

President of the Thai Restaurants and Street Food Association, Prapassorn Rungsiroj, said that restaurants are being greatly affected by the pandemic. Many of them have had to adapt to changes, while smaller ones are closing down because they can no longer bear the costs of staying open. They are also demanding that the government come up with more relief measures.

The association also predicts that 60% of stalls and restaurants (not including street vendors) will cease operations in the third quarter of this year, if the government cannot control the COVID-19 situation.

Meanwhile, many gold shops in Chinatown are also being deeply affected by the pandemic. Some still opened on the recent public holidays, but with almost no customers.

The CEO of the Hua Seng Heng Group revealed that they have closed two branches, and one in a shopping centre, due to the pandemic. Online trading is, however, still available as usual. Many gold shops also came up with more channels to sell gold, to increase income.

The Gold Traders Association predicts that Thailand will take a long time to recover from the pandemic, as the number of infections is still rising, even with the partial lockdown in place since earlier this month. They also hope that the government will speed up its mass inoculations and procure more efficient vaccines and medication to fight COVID-19.

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