Chaotic Colourful City Captivated
in Chinese Culture
Gateway Arch and Wat Traimit - Chinatown
Bangkok Chinatown has to be one of the most fascinating and captivating
districts in what is possible and probably equally considered one of
the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world.
This particular area
of Bangkok was once the financial center of the city, but today and
every other day, it's a thriving and bustling market
place if not somewhat flirtatiously overcrowded, noisy and frequently
horrendously traffic congested at the best of times. In other words, this could be the place to either lose or find yourself in the moment.
in Bangkok is located between the two traffic-choked thoroughfares of
Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road where you'll find a labyrinth of
narrow alleyways which for the most part are packed with lively market
stalls. The most accessible being the wholesale fabric market on Sampeng Lane
and the diverse offerings provided by the vendors along Soi Lsara
There are three other major markets around Chinatown, but I will
get to them shortly. They are namely the Pak Khlong Market, the Phahurat
Market and the Nakorn Kasem Market.
Songwat Road in Bangkok Chinatown
Bangkok Chinatown - A Brief History
During the 18th century, many Chinese communities and their merchants
who had settled in Bangkok, originally occupied land in the old royal
city where the Grand Palace is today. In 1782 King Rama I decided
to establish the capital on the site once inhabited by the Chinese and
asked the traders to move.
They then settled east of this new city along
Chao Phraya River around Sampaeng Lane and Songwat Road. It's hard to believe that the
narrow street of Sampaeng Lane was once the main road in Chinatown. There is little room for cars and pedestrians to pass.
In 1863 King Mongkut
built the new Charoen Krung Road. It was to become the first paved
street in Bangkok and this allowed the local community to amplify
northwards towards it. Charoen Krung Road runs about 6 kilometres (4
miles) from the
southwards towards the river where it terminates, just south of the
Krung Trep Bridge. In 1902 the foreign community, who had settled on the
river further east of Chinatown, petitioned the king for a larger road.
And as a result, Thanon Yaowarat was built between Sampeng Lane
and Charoen Krung Road, becoming the principal road of Chinatown. It is
also the name which this area is frequently known, Yaowarat. Chinatown
is home to many examples of the architecture of Bangkok's early years.
About 14% of the buildings here have been designated as historical
landmarks. Most of them are off on side streets.
Charoen Krung Road
Getting to Bangkok Chinatown
Bangkok Chinatown lies south of the Dusit area, east of the old royal
city and on the north side of the Chao Phraya River. Getting there is effortless. You can take a taxi or if you sense a need for
adventure, a bus to Charoen Krung Road. Stop anywhere along the
route and spend your day wandering around the stalls. You can also take a
leisurely riverboat ride on the Chao Phraya Express and ask to disembark at the Ratchawong Pier or catch the train to Hua Lamphong Station.
district around Chinatown also runs along Yaowarat Road from Odeon
Circle, where a huge ceremonial Chinese gate unmistakably
signifies a grand entrance, and then right up to the Khlong Ong Ang Canal,
which marks the outer boundaries of this royal region.
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Yaowarat Road is also one of the main traffic arteries, and the bustling street is packed with gold shops, herbal sellers, cafe's and restaurants and just about anything and everything else. If you want to buy gold jewellery, albeit Asian gold, then this is the best place to shop.
Devote a whole day in Chinatown, interact and chat among the locals. You'll be pleasantly surprised how friendly the atmosphere is here and you need not have to worry either, it's perfectly safe too. Precautionary assurance is all you require.
Remember that pickpockets are everywhere and in every major city so it's always wise to keep your valuables close at hand. Thai food is in abundance so if you are feeling a little peckish and just want to snack on something, then go ahead and sample the delicious variety that abounds. There are also lots of restaurants for you to enjoy both local as well as international cuisine. There really is no rush.
Pahurat Market in Bangkok Chinatown
Bangkok Chinatown - The Markets
Pak Khlong Market
is situated on the outskirts of Chinatown on Soi Tha Klang and
is open 24 hours every day. This market provides the city with a vast
array of fresh flowers and vegetables. It's a one stop florist's dream
and is well known for offering the best flowers in all of Thailand. Here
you will find a display of the freshest roses, orchids, Jasmine and
lotus as well as some exquisite Dutch tulips.
The right time to
catch these blooms at their best is during the early morning hours
before 9:00 am. You can purchase single units, bouquets, floral baskets
or whatever else takes your fancy. There is just no limit to what you
will find here.
Phahurat Market is predominately an Indian market with sights and sounds of a typical Bombay street scene. Market stalls around
here are in a permanent flux of hustle and bustle with the main bazaar
spilling out around Phahurat and Chak Phet roads. Apart
from being the main wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Chinatown,
many merchants here appear to specialize in apocryphal fabrics.
diverse street level traders sell everything from tablecloths to
wedding saris. If you step upstairs and wander around the
dimly-lit sections, you'll find loads of traditional Indian
accessories from ornate jewellery to delicate sandals. Need
something to eat... No problem! There's certainly no shortage of food
here. In the surrounding streets there are plenty of hole-in-the-wall
Indian Restaurants and samosa stalls, creating an array of appetizers to
suit all taste buds.
Bead Sellers in Bangkok Chinatown
Bangkok Chinatown - The Markets
Nakorn Kasem Market is situated on Charoen Krung Road on the western edge of Chinatown and popularly known as the Thieves Market
because stolen goods were once allegedly traded here. A few decades
ago, householders would go in search of their stolen goods in this area
after being robbed, as it was the most likely place they might recover
their items for a much more reasonable price.
Believe it or not
householders who had their stuff snatched also had no way of identifying
their stolen property so in order to retrieve their goods, they had no
alternative but to repurchase them. It's madness.
Anyway, there is scant need for concern as this market has since
discarded its illicit past and has now a miscellaneous collection of Chinese Shop-Houses selling everything and anything from a wide range of ornaments and prosaic household goods to antiques, metal-ware and musical
instruments. Hopefully these goods are legal.
The Chinese Shop-Houses are very much a common feature in Chinatown. Families here are known for running their businesses from
the ground floor while living on the first floor above their shops.
An interesting market near Nakorn Kasem is Saphan Han Market. It's a covered market situated on both sides of the Khlong Ong Ang
(a narrow waterway off the Chao Phraya River). Specialties here are
electrical goods of every description as well as a variety of household
items - and inescapably, lots of pirated goods, too
many to mention.
This area is frequently filled with mostly locals who
come here to pick up bargains at the vast variety of stands and stalls.
It is also where good cheap food is aplenty and most noticeably, you
cannot but help gasp the aroma wafting from all the copious noodle bars around here.
Black Jelly Seller in Bangkok Chinatown
Bangkok Chinatown - The Markets
The photo above shows a young Thai lady scooping up what appears to
be some sort of sticky stuff that closely resembles that of tar. What
she is doing in fact is preparing to make a refreshing black jelly drink
known as Chao Kuai. This tar like substance is made from grass jelly, a dessert served with crushed ice and syrup.
Grass jelly is formed when one blends slightly aged oxidized stalk and leaves from a member of the mint family called Mesona Chinensis
with potassium carbonate and a little starch. The black matter you see
here is the end product produced by boiling all the ingredients together
for several hours and then allowing it to cool.
black jelly can be cut into cubes or various other forms and then mixed
with water and brown sugar to produce a drink thought to have cooling
properties. It is ideally consumed during the hot weather in Thailand.
Chao Kuai has a slight bitter taste and a light iodine lavender flavour, but with a little added sugar it becomes refreshingly palatable. It can
also be served with fruit such as the Jack-fruit or mixed with soy milk to produce a milky white liquid.
Kuai is often served in clear plastic bags as are many other cool
drinks that are sold in the markets of Bangkok. This is a preferred Thai
takeaway option but you can request your drink be accommodated in a
plastic cup should you so wish.
Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit Temple
Bangkok Chinatown - The Temples
is a white and gold temple well worth visiting while in Chinatown.
Seated in the grand temple's interior is the world's largest solid Golden Buddha
weighing five and a half tons. The Buddha was discovered purely by
accident in 1955 at a nearby riverside temple during construction to
extend the dock there.
The temple is situated just east of the
point where Yaowarat and Charoen Krung roads meet. It is also within
walking distance from Hualamphong Railway Station, the railway link that
connects Bangkok with the rest of the country. The temple is open daily
from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm with an entrance fee of just 20 Baht.
Wat Traimit near Bangkok Chinatown
Return from Bangkok Chinatown to Bangkok City
Return from Chinatown in Bangkok to Bangkok Markets
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