Seven, as it’s known to the locals and extended-stay foreigners, is the quintessential grocery, convenience, and all around necessities store. Sevens dot the streets like McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. In any of the cities, it’s safe to say if you turn down either direction of the prominent roads and you’ll eventually hit a Seven. Typically more than one. When receiving my assignment in a small town in the rural province of Isaan, our consultants assured us that there was plenty of shopping essentials, there was a Seven! A Thai friend asked me why I kept calling my town ‘Chonnabot,’ which means roughly small town in Thai, when there was a Seven. You have Seven, not small town, he told me.
We grew to love our Sevens, just like we love our Starbucks and our Subways stateside. Whenever anyone needed anything, we just popped into a Seven. We were taken to Seven for breakfast; we occasionally got lunch or dinner there, and stopped in Sevens all the time for snacks and beverages. At Seven I could refill minutes on my phone, purchase a beer with a bag and a straw, or acquire shampoo, bread, personal hygiene products, or little school supply odds and ends. The Seven was a staple of Thai life. On a few islands Seven was missing, because the island was too small or there was one nearby on mainland or a nearer, bigger island. Out in the country, one had to actual travel a bit farther to find a Seven, probably in the nearest town.
On one evening, I met up with a few friends in Bangkok and we did a bit of Seven hopping. We got a beer in one Seven, walked around a bit (none of that silly open container business), and then grabbed another beer at the next Seven when the first was finished. A few times we literally could see another Seven from out front of the current Seven. It is not an exaggeration to say: They. Are. Everywhere. There is one drawback, however. The Sevens are regulated so they will not sell beer or alcohol after a certain hour at night, or for a few hours in the middle of the day. There are usually enough little stalls or roadside makeshift shops that make up for this fact though.
Personally I became quite fond of the microwave ham and cheese sandwiches. Terrible, pretend food, but delicious in all its processed glory. They microwave the sandwiches and frozen food right there in the store for you. Or throw certain packages into the Panini makers. Just grand! They’d offer to open some beverages for you, too, and always tossed a straw into your beverage bag, regardless of the beverage. I strolled down the street sipping canned Chang from a straw on one particularly warm afternoon.
Sevens seemed to also function as a social hangout. At least in our town, the local Mattayom kids frequently clogged the parking lot with their bicycles and motorbikes. It helped that Sevens were air conditioned to the hilt. It was nice to just duck into them while out and about for the quick respite from the overwhelming heat. Buses stopped here, picked people up here, motorbike taxis operated outside, it was the all around hot spot.
Love you, 7/11!