Saturday, October 23, 2010

Patpong, Part 2: The Set-up Guys

Hundreds of countertop bases start to take shape

Assembling the skeleton of the Patpong night market is a noisy operation. Most of it's made from galvanized pipe, a lot of it partially pre-assembled but all of it heavy, in and of itself. It's brought out in loads by a handful of fork lifts, driven from the storage areas and down the street to where they're needed before being lowered noisily onto the pavement.

A load of wall/awning uprights being moved into place from storage

First comes the framework bases that hold the table tops - three or four rows of them, each nearly 800 feet long, stretching between Silom and Suriwong - carefully lined up and evenly spaced for crossing aisle breaks every so often. If I'm remembering correctly most of the market is stored closer to the Suriwong end of the street, although I can't say for sure if the skeletal framework and tarps are stored separately from the trunks of merchandise. I would guess they are.

Difficult, heavy work - done with the precision only practice can bring

The photos today give you a feel of the enormity of the project overall. Somewhere I have clips of the "roof and walls" set-up and merchandise unpacking, too. I'll keep looking and catch up with them later.

What's amazing to me is that this whole operation is unloaded from storage, set up, open for business for about seven hours and then broken down and put back into storage again before dawn, only to begin the process again in 10 to 12 hours. Every day. The demonstrations, and violence earlier this year certainly hurt the vendors there, but I don't recall reading that the night market was shut down entirely even then.

Many of the guys who work this afternoon shift are regulars I've seen several times over the past handful of years since I've made a point to wander through the area during set-up time. It's heavy work, done at a faster pace than many other jobs you're likely to see there; probably because of the timetable they're on. Nevertheless, they're willing to stop for a picture, bless their hearts.

Taking a break for me - but it was probably a welcome break

As you can see by the signs in the pictures, the Patpong night market is bordered on both sides with bars and clubs of a more basic carnal nature, so the area isn't really all that family friendly. However, I've seen many families there - and wondered what Little Johnny and Jane are learning along the way while Mommy is bargaining for a knock-off D&G handbag.

It's a tourist trap of classic proportions - selling most any copied, pirated items you'd ever want. Knockoff Rolex watches, share space with Nike and Adida copies, 150 baht DVD movies, software, baubles, bangles and beads. There are probably better bargains to be found, but there are certainly good deals to be found.

The uprights to hold the tarpaulin "roof" are in place

Even if you don't stick around to see the madness during regular selling hours (roughly from 18:00 to 01:00), it's a free show in the afternoon - and one I recommend all fellow people-watchers make a stop to see.

This guy has been around for a few years

Not my photo, but it shows the finished market open for business


Shameless Mack said...

And these guys, through their daily work, have the kinds of bodies that make salivate! The guy in the green shirt (second last pic) espeically.

Would somebody tell them they can make extra bucks by dancing in gogo bars between setting up the stalls at 6 and taking them down at 1 a.m.?

neil said...

How long does it take to set up?

khunbaobao said...

Mack - the guy in green sported far fewer muscles a few years ago, but I've watched him with admiration myself. I've wondered myself if the same guys break down that set up, but I've never asked. Anyone else know?

Haven't been there for the breaking down, but I'll try next trip... it would justify some night photography, too!

neil, they start somewhere between 2:30p/14:30 and 3:00p/15:00 I believe. The market "opens" at 6p/18:00, but the last hour or so is product set-up.