AMITIAE - Sunday 19 January 2014

The Other Bangkok: Barbershop Octet

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


The Bangkok of the tourists is a mix of bars and temples with a few shopping malls and well-known markets thrown in. It is also a major center for gems and finance, while politically, it can sometimes be (as now) unpredictable. It is also a major city which houses millions of ordinary (and not so ordinary) people.

I have lived on the unfashionable side of Bangkok's river - The Chao Phraya - for many years. I joke with locals that this is where the real Thai people live, but there is a grain of truth to this too. As I found when I lived in the USA in the 1980s, what seems ordinary may have a certain allure to it if on'e eyes are open.

In occasions in the past, I have walked round the streets with my camera and there are a number of items on my web-site that show the scenes, as well as my trips on the low-key railway that runs this side of the city. Some links are at the bottom of this page.

While the fashionable (and not so fashionable) malls may have expensive shops where ladies can be coiffed and the male of the species may have his hair done in the latest style, there are hundreds of barbers around Bangkok that are decidedly less chrome and glass.


I have been using the same shop for a number of years, although individual barbers have come and gone. They do what I need with a basic haircut and a relaxing shave, with none of the prissy fuss that some shops may impose. I sit in the chair, and the barber gets on with the job. I do not even have to tell him what I want.

Barbershop Barbershop

There was a slight difference today when the customer before me noticed the strop at the right side of the chair. I had not seen this before as I approach the chair from the left side.


The strop is a leather strap that is used to hone the edge of the older style, single-blade (cut-throat) razor. It was almost a ritual in my grandfather's house as on Sunday mornings he would rhythmically pass the blade up and down, before lathering his face with the shaving brush and scraping away at the week's stubble.

My barber told me that these are not used any more because of the fear of A.I.D.S. The type used now has the handle like the cut-throat razor, but the blade is half a safety razor blade and is changed for each customer.


The shop, now owned by a lady, has three barbers these days. Her two children are grown and visit only occasionally. Local people wander in and out for a chat when it suits them.

Barbershop Barbershop

When I first used the shop there were five barbers and it was run by her husband: a large man with a shock of white hair. He was quite religious so the shop is adorned with may pictures of monks and artefacts, as well as a collection of amulets. The shop may be old, but it is clean. The barbers may be basic people, but they are always polite and easy to get on with, like many in this part of the city.

The eight images here (including the icon shot) give a small insight into another part of this city.

The Other Bangkok

The Other Bangkok (1): Early Morning - A Photographic Essay

The Other Bangkok (2): Mid-morning Stroll - A Photographic Essay

The Other Bangkok (3): To the Canal and Back for Lunch - A Photographic Essay

The Other Bangkok (4): From the Canal to a Split in the Road - A Photographic Essay

The Other Bangkok (5): A Loftier View - A Photographic Essay

The Other Bangkok (6): A Detour to the Main Road - A Photographic Essay

The Other Bangkok (7): A Few Loose Ends - A Photographic Essay

See Also

The Other Bangkok and Beyond - A Railway to Nowhere (1)

A Railway to Nowhere (2): Ban Laem to Mae Klong

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



Made on Mac

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