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Tea Leaves

For Thais, nostalgia isn't what it used to be

In Bangkok, rapid development has triggered longing for the vanished past

Bangkok's Ong Ang Canal, once a hub for illegal electronics and junk vendors, has been transformed with colorful street art and a weekend flea market in the city's historic quarters. (Photo by Yukako Ono).

In my Bangkok neighborhood there is a luxurious shopping mall that has been largely empty since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Thailand in early 2020, sweeping away big-spending foreign tourists. Strolling there recently, though, I came across a corner that was bustling with local office workers.

It was an average weekday and lunchtime queues were forming at two restaurants. One was at Thong Smith, which serves boat noodles -- a traditional noodle bowl with spicy broth that was once sold from boats -- and the other was outside its adjacent sister cafe Thong Sweet, which specializes in Thai desserts.

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