Yaowarat Road or Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the most exhilarating tourist and gourmand experiences. Although the whole country is a travels delight but Chinatown is a must-visit as per my observation. It is a Chinese ghetto in the heart of Bangkok. At day time, it’s busy, as hordes of shoppers descend upon this 1-km strip and adjacent Charoenkrung Road to get a day’s worth of staple, trade gold, or pay a visit to one of the Chinese temples. At night, it’s a different ball game altogether with endless street-food stalls, people rubbing shoulders and having a time of their life.
The sights, sounds and smells of Chinatown are an assault to the senses; so visitors should be prepared but for anyone with a sense of adventure a day lost among the many market alleys and street food vendors can be the most memorable of any spent in Bangkok. Due to the mix of Chinese and Thai cultures this area is unique and fascinating, especially for photographers who will find stunning temples, exotic street food and everyday street scenes just begging to be captured on your camera. Although any time is good but during major festivals, like Chinese New Year, and you will see Bangkok Chinatown at its best.
My 6 prime points which makes this place an absolute delight are listed below
- Wat Tramit– Although you are absolutely done with endless monasteries and Buddha statues in Thailand, you still don’t want to miss this one for a reason. This one houses the biggest pure gold Buddha in the world and gives you some picture-perfect moments too. Cost 10 THB, time 0900-1700 hours.
- Sampeng Lane -This is a long narrow street intersecting Chinatown selling a jumble of goods also known as Soi Wanit 1. Much like the rest of the area, Sampeng Lane is cluttered, chaotic and that’s what makes it a lot of fun. The dimensions of this street are so limited, in certain parts, you could stretch out across the alley and grab a pair of something from one side and something else from other, without even stepping in either direction. The alley is so narrow that cars cannot fit into it, but it is packed with a mass of humanity, motorbikes, and rickshaw porters delivering goods throughout the day and night. Yet unbelievably this was the original high street of Chinatown when the Chinese community first moved here. Timing 09:00 – 1800.
- Yaowarat Road– The present high street of Bangkok’s Chinatown – transforms into one of the greatest street food locations in the world at night. It attracts locals as well as visitors. People can be seen all along the main thoroughfare sampling their way through all that there is to offer, turning dinner into an evening of exploration. It can be confusing at first but with a sense of adventure, it can be a lot of fun. Popular offerings include dim sum, oyster omelettes, flat noodles in a pepper broth, and lots of fresh seafood. There are also many exotic fruits on offer, as well as homemade ice-cream (which has both extremes likes coconut and durian).
- Thieves Market– It’s not the most welcoming name for a market perhaps why they changed the official name to Nakon Kasem but seriously intriguing, Thieves Market doesn’t actually sell stolen goods anymore, instead it is full of second-hand curios like antique cameras, Buddhist amulets, and even old shoes! It’s far more interesting for photographers than for shoppers, but you really never know what you might find. Thieves Market is between Yaowarat and Charoen Krung Road on the western edge of Chinatown.
- Eating– Now its not just Yaowarat that has food to offer but the whole Chinatown has a number of small nook and corners serving delicious food. The rule of thumb is, be inquisitive, be open and try. If you have preferences it’s ok but don’t come with a set mind and then try and find your flavours here; Let them play their game. Here you will find amazing things like a shark fin, birds nest and a lot of old Chinese style baked products.
- Photography– The last but not the least, this place mostly the calls the traveller/explorer in you to make some timestamps. There is so much drama and action happening all around you, just keep your eyes open. The best part is they work with so much concentration and have probably seen so many of us that they are very warm and are happy to get clicked without any problem or plain simple busy in their work and stay unaffected by your big honking gear.
How to get there–
The easiest way to reach Chinatown is by boat. Alight at the Ratchawong Pier and walk up Ratchawong Road to Sampaeng Lane or Yaowarat Road. You can also alight at the Harbor Department Pier, which is closer to Odeon Circle; or you can also use Memorial Bridge Pier, right at the flower market. Alternatively, you can take the subway to Hua Lampong Station. From there it’s a short walk to Wat Traimit.