Forget street food; Bangkok is 7-Eleven country. Within a 200m radius of my apartment, there are six branches of the minimart:
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In my case, this could be because 7-Eleven’s HQ is nearby, or maybe it’s somehow rooted in the fact that Thailand’s very first 7-Eleven was installed on Thanon Patpong, also in the same ‘hood. But actually there are 7-Elevens all over this city — nearly 3,000 of them. Here’s something I wrote about this phenomenon for Lonely Planet Bangkok:
Be extremely wary of any appointment that involves the words ‘meet me at 7-Eleven’. In Bangkok alone, there are 2700 branches of 7-Eleven (there will inevitably be several more by the time this has gone to print) – nearly a third the number found in North America. In central Bangkok, 7-Elevens are so ubiquitous that it’s not uncommon to see two branches staring at each other from across the street.
The first sewen (as it’s known in Thai) in Thailand was installed at Patpong in Bangkok in 1991. The brand caught on almost immediately and today Thailand ranks behind only Japan and Taiwan in the total number of branches in Asia. The stores are either owned directly by the company or are franchises, owned and managed by private individuals.
Although the company claims its stores carry more than 2000 items, the fresh flavours of Thai cuisine are not reflected in the wares of a typical Bangkok 7-Eleven, whose food selections are even junkier than those of its counterpart in the West. Like all shops in Thailand, alcohol is only available from 11am to 2pm and 5pm to midnight, and branches of 7-Eleven located near hospitals, temples and schools do not sell alcohol or cigarettes at all (but do continue to sell unhealthy snack food).
7-Eleven stores carry a wide selection of drinks, a godsend in sweltering Bangkok. You can conveniently pay most of your bills at the Service Counter, and all manner of phonecards, prophylactics and ‘literature’ (although very few English-language newspapers) are also available. And sometimes the blast of air-conditioning alone is enough reason to stop by. But our single favourite item must be the dirt-cheap chilled scented towels for wiping away the accumulated grime and sweat before your next appointment.