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Tea Leaves

Want to save Bangkok's shophouses? Don't count me in

Replacing most of these utilitarian structures has benefitted the Thai capital

Classic shophouses are about to be torn down on Sukhumvit 77, Bangkok.

In the mid-1980s I lived in a Bangkok shophouse for two years. Built of cement, the classic three-floor structure was on a dead-end soi (lane) that did not have a proper address; taxi drivers had to be directed rather vaguely to a point "opposite Sukhumvit 26," which was across the road.

I chose to rent the place not for the unique cultural experience it offered but because it was cheap, at $100 a month. As a freelance journalist, I had a Sino-Thai clan to support, so I put up with the inherent drawbacks of the shophouse lifestyle: lack of privacy, window bars to keep robbers out, road noise, inner-city pollution.

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