Monday, July 11, 2011

Soi Arab

A woman from the Middle East talks to a Thai souvenir vendor on Soi 3 in Bangkok. 

One of the things I love about Bangkok is the city's incredible diversity. It's a real melting pot, I think it's probably the most diverse city in Asia. Lower Sukhmvit Road has been best known for its tawdry nightlife. Soi Nana and Soi Cowboy are world famous "red light" districts that cater to sex tourists from around the world. Rock music blares from speakers while scantily clad women hang out in the "beer bars" waiting for lonely or desperate men with more cash than common sense. 

Just across the street from Nana and a couple of blocks from Soi Cowboy though is Soi Arab. What started out as one small street, formally known Sukhumvit Soi 3/1, is now a veritable casbah of businesses that cater to Muslim, overwhelmingly Arab, visitors to Thailand. The signage and music is Arabic. You hear Arabic being spoken on the street more than English. Many of the street vendors are Muslim Thais (about five percent of Thailand is Muslim). Finally, there's a real family vibe to the whole neighborhood. You wouldn't know you're two blocks from some of the most infamous adult "entertainment" districts in the world.

There are more photos from Soi Arab in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.