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Tea Leaves

Pandemic takes flavor out of Bangkok's grocery shopping

Thai capital's wet markets struggle to survive disruptions

Vendors offer food and drinks from their small boats to people visiting the Amphawa floating market in Samut Songkhram Province, west of Bangkok, in 2013.    © Reuters

Long before the pandemic, I spent an enjoyable afternoon at a floating market on the outskirts of Bangkok where women in traditional dress paddled flat boats piled with fresh produce along a narrow canal.

It was a picturesque scene, based on the history of Ayutthaya, Thailand's former royal capital 80 km north of Bangkok, where floating markets were part of the cosmopolitan spirit. But it didn't take long to realize that the spectacle was a tourist trap. Hardly any Thais were shopping at the market, which was really a form of light entertainment advertised by posters fixed to the backs of taxi drivers' seats.

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