A City in The City
One of Bangkok’s oldest districts, Chinatown is renowned as the most authentic outside China and one of the largest in the world. A city in the city that has not changed much over the past decade and is one of Bangkok’s most popular attractions. A place to explore on foot in a full-day.
Opiums Dens and Brothels
In 1782 the King Rama1 established the capital in Bangkok. The Chinese community was resettled to what was then a boggy, and small alley to become soi Sampeng, which had the shabby reputation of having most of the opium dens, gambling houses, and brothels in Bangkok. Of course illegal nowadays.
Jammed Narrow Lane
Sampeng lane renamed Soi Wanit 1 is the business center of the area. It’s said the lane of the road resembles a dragon’s curvy body, making it a propitious location for business. A few years ago one part of the narrow lane was covered with a glass roof, making it cooler and more agreeable despite the crowd, and many shops have air-conditioned, a place for shopping and photos. Cheap goods, some from local production, but mainly imported from China and South Korea, bags, shoes, toys, textiles, cosmetics, fashion accessories, stationery, and much more of everything. Wholesale price or pack(6 to 12pcs), cheaper, but you can buy per piece. Try to bargain for fun, but often the prices are fixed, no tourist-target here. A lot of retailers coming to buy here, and you will see many of these goods sales on the streets or other markets in the city. Be Careful of the pickpockets. All the shops close at 17.00
Yaowarat Road gold and old shops
The center of Chinatown, built during the reign of King Rama 5, named the road Yaowarat which means young King. There are many popular gold shops, and it’s still the largest gold trading market in Thailand. Old shops of Chinese herbs, pharmacies, dry fruits, brass wares, stalls fruit, Chinese bird’s nest, and shark fin soup restaurants. It is also a favorite destination for food, and every evening change of scenery as both sides of the street are lined with food stalls, plastic chairs, and tables. Crowded but everything going smoothly, a good atmosphere, and the vendors are effective and friendly. Seafood is a little bit expensive for street food stalls. A large part of Yaowarat Sampeng is under renovation to give place for a new Asiatique night entertainment and commercial center.
Charoen Krung first proper road
The first proper road built by Rama 4 in 1861, because the foreign diplomat complained that no roads for them to ride their carriages. A major road, the main street of Bangkok till early of the twenty century. Long of 8.5km from Wat Pho to Bang Tho Laem district. Many historic buildings and neighborhoods which are under threat by the MRT (opening August 2019) will bring a significant change we can already feel by galleries, bars, restaurants, flourishing in the area.
The total distance of Walking Street Chinatown Bangkok is around 2 km. My itinerary is around 3 km. Take your time, many things going here and there. I like to start from Hua Lamphong MRT station to the Wat Traimit, pass the Chinese gate, a short walk and I am at Tien Fa Foundation, a Shrine dedicated to GuanYin Buddhist goddess of mercy, compassion kindness and love. Founded in 1902, it’s the oldest charitable society in Bangkok, the organization provides free medical care to the poor and the homeless. The statue is the highlight of the temple, is believed to be around 800 years old, and was carved out from a single piece of teak in China. I continue on Yaowarat road, after the Yaowa Phanit road, take the first small soi on the left, few more stride and welcome to the hubbub of Sampeng. Shoulder to shoulder, scooters loaded with cardboard, cars, buyer carrying huge plastic bags, routine for locals people. At Mangkon road intersection is Bangkok Bank Building, one of the oldest commercial buildings, and right across the historic Tang To Kang Gold Shop, a 7-floor building, which is also a museum. Built in 1880 was designed by a Dutch architect, and at that time was the tallest building in the area.
Information to Visit the Tang Toh Museum
6th floor of Tang Toh Toh Toh Toh Kang Gold Shop, 345 Wanit 1 Road
Tel: 02-224-2422, 02-622-8640-2
Monday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 4 pm. For any visit, please contact in advance.
Free of charge
Phahurat Little India
Then keep walking to the end, over the Klong Ong Ang, and to Chakphet road, cross it and you are in Phahurat, named Little India. The market is full of Indian fabric, cotton, silk, tweed, but also leather sandals, bags, jewelry, and Indian music. A lot of stalls and shops in small alleys. Amateur of India food, have your lunch (I always do) and fresh up on the fourth floor of the quiet mall Emporium, air conditioning, not expensive and good food. If you wish you can pay a visit to the Guru Tawan Sikh Temple, the Second Largest outside of India, but women need to cover their hair with a provided orange scarf.
Charoen Krung Mangkon Kamalawat temple
Let’s go to Charoen Krung, a walk in this active and noisy road to the 150 years old Mahayana, Mangkon Kamalawat (the Dragon flower temple), the largest and most important Chinese temple in Bangkok. My favorite one in Chinatown. Built-in 1871 with the Chinese name Leng Noei Yi, King Rama V changed to the Dragon Lotus Temple. A lot of different shrines (Taoist and Confucian deities), it is said that if you pay homage to all of them it’s will bring you good luck. At the main entrance, four Buddhist guardians of the world wearing Chinese warrior costumes is believed offering oil will smooth the path into the afterlife. More simple, as you enter the temple, just buy some fake paper banknote and burn them as an offering. Many ceremonies take place there, mainly during the Chinese New Year period but also during the vegetarian festival.
Shopping, Market, Restaurants and a Shrine
On the way to the temple, for those looking for cellphones, smartphones, tablets accessories, batteries, earphones, cables, chargers, have a look on Thanon (road) Suapa, cheaper, more choice than other markets in the city. I recommend the Remax shop, good stuff. From Wat Mangkon, cross the street and take the next right, Trok Issaranuphap, a wet market narrow alley connecting to Yaowarat road, known as Talat Mai the New Market. Plenty of food and strange products, a very atmospheric place to go and take photos. Down the soi is Leng Buai La Shrine, considered to be the oldest Chinese (1658) in Thailand. Inside there is a shrine dedicated to Leng Buai La and his wife in the center, on the left to the deity Going-Wuo and to the Queen of Heaven on the right.
Zongter Coffee Restaurants
A new restaurant opened a few weeks ago (October 2019) where was a retail trade of snacks, crackers, peanuts, chips, dried fruits and more. Well renovated with a Chinese atmosphere, this small 2-story restaurant serves delicious Dim Sums at a reasonable price. The manager told me that the owner, who still lives on the third floor, closed her business because of the increasingly fierce competition in this field.
Located at the entrance of the Soi Issaranuphap (16)
A little further down is one of the 22 of the chain restaurants, Hong Kong Noodles, they also serve Dim Sum, but I like the duck noodle soup. Crowded at lunchtime.
Grand China Princess Hotel Revolving Rooftop
But why not a good fresh drink with a great panoramic view, Chinatown and Chao Phraya river at your feet, drinks at reasonable prices, it starts to revolve from 6 pm. and then experience a good meal in a street stall on Yaowarat road.
Best Time to Visit
Of course, the Chinese New Year is the best time to visit Chinatown which will be on January 25th in 2020, The day before various activities and parades, acrobatic demonstrations and of course dragon dances take place during most of the day and evening. But also the celebration of the mooncake festival at the end of the autumn harvest, and during the ten days of the vegetarian festival when the whole Chinese district is covered with yellow color and people all dressed in white to honor the nine Taoist emperor gods, great atmosphere and food. From 16 to 25 October 2020
Since July 29th Chinatown is now accessible with the MRT blue line, Wat Mangkon and Sam Yot station.
I hope this will be useful to you in planning your next trip to Bangkok. If you have any questions, I will be more than happy to help you out.
Your messages of encouragement and comments are always welcome.