221111-เป๋-Bey-slicing-pork-vertical-ตลาดสดเทวราช-Thewes-Market-Bangkok-cutdown

Midnight approaches Bangkok’s cavernous Thewet market; the stench of fresh pig blood permeates the air as the pork delivery boys wheelbarrow in stacks of freshly slaughtered pigs, butchered down the middle from top to bottom not unlike a Damien Hirst sculpture.  Additional plastic crates soon follow containing severed heads and bags filled with blood and organs.

At no point in time from when the pigs are slaughtered to when the pork is sold in the market is the meat refrigerated.  Timing is therefore critical, with the entire cycle from slaughter to human consumption taking place usually within 24 hours.

Bey the butcher sleeps from 6 pm to 11 pm everyday on a pork processing counter in the market where he works his nightly shift from midnight to noon. As the pork arrives, he wakes up, pours a large tin bowl of water over his head, sparks up a cigarette while his hair and face are still wet, and begins working.

Because of the sweltering Bangkok heat Bey works shirtless, chain smoking his way through two packs of Wonder Red brand cigarettes a day to keep him energized. With his head tilted to the side so the smoke doesn’t burn his eyes, he works with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, a thick string of ash accumulating as if he were Keith Richards riffing his way through a blues number with a meat cleaver.

The gentle light of dawn seeps through the market’s colored plastic rain tarps, mixing with the stark light of the hanging bare bulbs, illuminating the morning’s fresh produce as the Bangkok denizens throng to the markets for their daily nourishment.

By noon most of the pork will be sold and Bey’s shift will finish.  As Bey is winding down from his 12 hours shift, listening to music and watching TV, the slaughterhouse is lining up the pigs for butcher and the daily cycle begins anew. By 9 pm a procession of pork delivery trucks are fully loaded and on their way into the Bangkok night.