Thailand At Work – 7 Eleven or 9 to 5

After the success of my recent photo post Four Beddings, One Wedding and a Funeral, I thought I’d try the same formula again by adding another post to my Thailand At Work series.

I’m sure many readers of the numerous blogs about Thailand have never visited the country itself and are curious about different features of it. This post will give them an idea into the many ways ordinary Thai’s go about earning their livelihood. It may also serve as a reminder to ex pats that the back door which needs fixing or the picture that requires hanging is not such an arduous task after all.

The West’s approach to work is still very much a 9 to 5 time slot but in Thailand 7-Eleven is not only the brand name of their very popular convenience stores, it is also a perfect way to sum up the working hours that are filled by many of the jobs which keep the wheels of economy turning in the Land of Smiles.

In Thailand’s villages and rural districts having wheels gives you many business opportunities and pictured below are just a few of them. From an ice cream seller to a woodcutter, wheels make those jobs all possible. There’s also the bin men who go around and dispose of all the food wrappers and plastic bags those businesses have created. Standing in the back of a garbage truck in 40 degrees heat has got to be a very hard job and the smell…..ugh.

Click on a photo to enlarge or hover your mouse pointer over a picture for a brief description.

Thailand’s market vendors work long hours in often stifling heat but somehow most still have a big Thai smile for their customers. I love the atmosphere of the night markets and the hurly burly yet laid back ways of the day ones.

Thailand’s markets whether on water or dry land always offer a great photographic opportunity. If you are travelling to Thailand then make sure you visit one of its many markets at least once. Market activity starts very early morning and the night markets stretch into the late evening hours. Fortunately for most of the market community their work hours are one or the other.

Here’s a few photographs from my archives.

Travelling by road you quite often come across a lucky flower garland seller when stopping at traffic lights. The lady in the photo below flashed a smile despite being stood in the middle of heavy traffic and the air pollution that comes with it.

The photo at the bottom right is an interesting one and was taken on the waterfront at Phon Phisai. It shows a couple of people (one resting) at their work place which is at the foot of a giant Naga (serpent) statue on the banks of the Mekong River. Phon Phisai is famous throughout Thailand for it’s Naga Fireball Festival at which a serpent is said to shoot fireballs into the night sky from the Mekong River which separates Thailand and Laos.

Well would you trade your work for any of the ones shown in this post. Remember, Thailand does at times get extremely hot with high humidity. Lifting garbage and chopping down trees must be thirsty work at the best of times.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

12 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn a great selection of working Thailand. I like the wheels theme, I haven’t taken many myself recently so your post is a bit of a reminder for me.

    Also I better put the rubbish out since its bin day and MTF like many Thai’s has her own way of disposing of it which doesn’t necessarily include a trip to the bin.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Rambutan Fruit Photo/Image =-.

  2. Lawrence says:

    Martyn, you’ve made a very productive trawl through your picture archive here. I like your appreciative take on the hard work so many Thais do. Good one!

    Like Mike, I must remember to put the rubbish out tonight … they won’t be back for a week, unlike the daily collection in Phana.
    .-= Lawrence´s last blog ..Pic of the Day 19 April – 25 April 2010 =-.

  3. Hoo Don says:

    Mike I remember one of your local transport theme posts. Thailand has so many different types of transport it really is an interesting topic. Travelling along the country roads you come across many different modes of travel. I just wish I had a few photos of the colourful haulage trucks.

    The bin men are a big progressive step towards Thailand getting the country cleaned up and stopping the burning of rubbish.

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Lawrence I know Thai’s are used to the heat but come this time of the year and some of the jobs must be a very hard day’s work.

    The bin men come twice a week in Wilai’s village compared to fortnightly here in Swindon. I reckon they must be spoiling you in not just Phana but here in the UK as well. They won’t be back for a week will soon be a thing of the past in your neck of England too.

  5. Catherine says:

    Martyn, great pics (and as usual, a wonderful idea for a post). I absolutely love the sound the ice cream cart makes as it goes by. Ok, they are probably all different, right? But I love them all anyway 🙂

    You pointed out the Thais ability to work in the heat of the day. I too am impressed at their staying power. I don’t do heat well. Remember those people swinging away in the hammocks? Well, that’d be me. And I’d have a cold Singha beside me for good measure.

    So here’s cheers to cooler days (because it’s HOT HOT HOT out here!)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Staying Safe in Thailand: Streetwise Advice + Twitter =-.

  6. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I can imagine the ice cream carts are doing good business in the provinces right now with the summer heat getting quite unbearable. Sunday morning I’ll be experiencing a little of Bangkok’s and Pattaya’s sunshine myself.

    I’ve tried working in Thailand’s heat myself by doing a little gardening and it was too much for me. I also helped out by digging up the ground for our fishing pond and even at 8 in the morning I had to give up after half of an hour. I prefer sitting at the garden table with a smoke, Bangkok Post and a cool glass of Beer Leo.

  7. Talen says:

    Love the pics Martyn. I have a little experience working in Thailand. A few of us spent the night at Cherry bar on soi 8 in Pattaya and next thing we knew the sun was coming up and the trash truck was coming down the soi.

    We decided we would help them out so we played trash man down the whole soi…they even let my one friend drive the truck. All I have to say is that I was drenched in sweat by the time we made it to second road and this was at 7am. I definitely would have a hard time doing a full day on a Thailand garbage truck.

    Other than that I did manure duty on the farm and that really took it out of me. One day in the future I am going to post a very non flattering picture of myself taken that day that is sure to get a chuckle from everyone.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Thailand in the News Week Ending 4/24/10 =-.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Talen what a great bin man story. Thinking about it and knowing soi 8 as I do then I bet your gang wasn’t the first falang garbage gang to take over the truck and probably won’t be the last. The sweat must have been dripping off all of you.

    The most I’ve sweated in Thailand was when I played a game of football on a village school pitch in Chachaengsao, a proper 11 a side match. By the end I was wringing with sweat. Quite a few of the locals at gathered to watch as word spread a falang was playing. At the end I staggered up to a group of youngsters and mouthed.

    ‘ Falang khor nam, falang khor nam.’ I really needed a drink of water.

    A small boy raced off and quickly came back with a bucket of water which he threw all over me. I didn’t get my drink but I squelched back to the village house one refreshed and much cooler man.

  9. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I can’t take working in this heat either. A couple of weeks ago I suffered from heat stroke and I wasn’t even gardening. I just spent too long in the sun without noticing what was going on. Lots of water is the ticket. That, and a big hammock swinging under a tree. And Singha…

    Enjoy your next trip to Thailand (as I’m sure you will 🙂
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Staying Safe in Thailand: Streetwise Advice + Twitter =-.

  10. Talen says:

    Cat, I think I had heat stroke last trip. Spent all day out and about in Bangkok in the heat. Next day in Pattaya I went to a clinic for some much needed intravenous fluids.

    Definitely not something to play around with in Thailand.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Taking Pets to Thailand =-.

  11. Emm says:

    Heh. I’m quite aware that I live in the lap of luxury in London and it is one of the reasons I don’t want to return to South Africa! I could wake up after 7am to leave home for 8am to catch the train into London Bridge and get to work by 9am. I usually make it out a bit earlier so I can laze around in a coffee shop a bit first.

    In South Africa, I left home shortly after 6am and drove for at least 45 minutes in bumper to bumper traffic into work. That was known as “leaving home early in order to ‘beat’ the traffic”. Then I’d leave work around 5pm to struggle with the traffic again.

    Which is still relative luxury compared to the millions of people around the world who work 18+ hour days!

    I love posts like this and that is why I visit expat/travel blogs – to see how other people live.
    .-= Emm´s last blog ..Window Into South Africa: Rencia Froneman =-.

  12. Catherine says:

    Talen, you might know of this better than I… a friend came across a lime and salt drink at JJ’s. She said it was awful going down, but it revived her in the heat. Since moving here, she’s had to add salt to her diet as previously she took care on how much she consumed. I’ve long upped my salt intake so it’s second nature. And ok, I LOVE salt!
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Thailand’s Multi-Coloured Politics: Will Thais Talk to Thais? =-.

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