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Yaowarat Road by night in Bangkok
Yaowarat Road by night in Bangkok

CHINATOWN / YAOWARAT ROAD

Chinatown lies on the elongated Yaowarat Road in Bangkok and is known for its many (gold) shops and Chinese medicine sellers. Yaowarat Road has many narrow busy side streets/streets with food stalls, restaurant and market stalls. Once you are in the maze of Chinatown there is often nothing else to do but to be completely surprised. Nine times out of ten you get lost within 5 minutes and you can throw your created planning of the day overboard. But that’s what’s so nice about Chinatown! The smell of special bites, looking out your eyes, getting completely lost and the sweat running down your back, that’s Chinatown!

Marktkraam in Chinatown, Yaowarat Road in Bangkok

Chinatown’s history

The first Chinese who came to Siam (as Thailand used to be called) were mainly poor farmers looking for work. Besides the good trade across the river, Chinatown did not have a good name, good money was made in brothels, opium pawns and gambling houses. You must know that this was not at the place where Chinatown is now located, but a bit more to the north, the place where the famous Grand Palace now stands! When King Rama I moved the former capital from Thonburi to Rattanakosin for security reasons he made Thonburi the capital of Thailand. The Chinese traders were asked to leave the area. In this way the Chinese ended up a bit lower on the river. The popular Sampeng Market used to be called Sin Allay because there was a lot of illegal trade. Nowadays there is no trace of it anymore.

Chinese man sits at a table with a newspaper in front of a pharmacy in ChinaTown, Bangkok

The future of Chinatown?

Let’s get down to business: Chinatown has its own MRT (subway) station! The in 2019 opened Wat Mangkom subway station makes Chinatown much easier to reach. At the same time, it will make Chinatown (even) more interesting for big developers and many special old buildings will be demolished. Unfortunately, we have seen some examples of this in recent years. Especially for the people who have always lived and worked here, this must be painful, because small shops will probably have to make way for larger retail chains in the future. There are some dissenting voices, but it’s questionable whether that will work out… So visit (the real) Chinatown while you still can!

Excavator and construction workers turning China Town into a newer location

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

New building plans for China Town in Bangkok

New building plans China Town

 

Shopping in Chinatown

Sampeng Market

The Sampeng Market in Chinatown consists of an elongated narrow alley that runs parallel to Yaowarat Road. The whole alley is packed on either side with small shops with everything you can think of. Bags, clothes, shoes, toys, office supplies, cosmetics and all kinds of trinkets. The prices shown here are a lot lower than on the other markets in Bangkok and then you can often negotiate as well! Because there are also a lot of wholesalers, you get a discount if you buy more than one item. Much of the market is covered, so even on a rainy day this market is good to visit. The Sampeng Market is a very old market and is probably the first trading center of the first Chinese immigrants. Many old Chinese houses have been converted into small shops, which makes this market in Chinatown more than just a shoppers paradise!
Open: Daily from 09.00 – 17.00 | Location: Soi Wanit 1

DO YOU KNOW?
If you visit the Sampeng Market before 10:00 – which is quite a good idea given the heat – you also have a chance to meet Buddhist monks at the market collecting alms.

The Sampeng Market seen from above in China Town

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

The Sampeng Market in ChinaTown

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

The Old Siam Shopping Plaza

The Old Siam Shopping Plaza consists of 3 floors with clothing, shoes, fabrics and accessories. What attracts us most in this small shopping mall is the good and cheap food court on the ground floor. This consists of stalls with all kinds of (Thai) delicacies. Everything looks spick and span and you can see how the products are made. This is the place to try out (new) Thai snacks if it got too much for you in Chinatown! Our recommendations: Kanom Buang (sweet thai tacos), Sai Ua (slightly spicy pork sausage from northern Thailand) and the delicious fresh sushi!
Open: Daily from 09:00 to 20:00 | Location: Phahurat Road

Old Shopping Plaza in ChinaTown, Bangkok

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

Food vendors in Old Shopping Plaza in China Town, Bangkok

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

Sai Ua sausages in Old Shopping Plaza in China Town, Bangkok

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

Phahurat Market (Little india)

A small jump on the map for Little India, 5 minutes walk from Chinatown. Little India is also called the Phahurat Market. You will find mainly flowers, colorful fabrics, clothes and even wedding dresses. The shops are interspersed with temples and food stalls where you can eat the famous Indian curries with the latest Bollywood hits in the background. Little India is, as the name suggests, not very big but nice to walk through.
Open: Daily from 06.30 – 17.00 | Location: Phahurat Road

Chinatown, Phahurat Market (Little India) Seller with coloured bead necklaces.

Chinatown Food Night Market

Almost every evening around sunset on Yaowarat Road, Chinatown’s famous Food Night Market begins. Tables and plastic stools are displayed, food stalls emerge and restaurants open their doors. Because when night falls there’s only one thing that counts in Chinatown and that’s food, food and more food! You’ll find all kinds of fruits, juices, noodles, dim sum, fish and everything on a stick. Of course there are also many authentic Chinese and Thai dishes. Surrender to the smells, flavors and frenzy because this is Chinatown at its best!
Open: Daily from about 17.00 – 24.00 (less food stalls on Monday) | Location: Yaowarat Road

Seller behind market stall in China Town, Bangkok

Hotspots and Michelin Awards in Chinatown!

Chinatown has a number of places that have grown into real hotspots over the years, people come to the Chinatown Food Market especially to order their favorite dish from that one stall. Only because that’s where they like it the most. The restaurants and stalls below are some of the most famous food stalls in Chinatown and some even got a mention in the Michelin Guide!

Jaowarat Road in China Town

T&K Seafood Restaurant

T&K Seafood is very popular! Chances are that you can join the back of the queue to eat here. But usually the waiting time is not very long. When you arrive at the restaurant you will get a number and you can already place your order. T&K Seafood is popular for the good and cheap seafood. The menu is quite extensive so making a choice is not going to be easy. Nice is that you can often choose smaller portions so you can taste different dishes. It probably won’t be a romantic dinner because you are sitting on plastic chairs on a road with a lot of traffic, but you will love it! By the way, you can also sit inside where there is air conditioning, but then you will usually have to wait longer.
Location: On the corner of Yaowarat Road & Phadung Dao Road, the staff is wearing green shirts.

Patonggo Food Stall Savoey

Patonggo is a snack that most resembles Spanish churros or donuts but with a different shape and less sweet, it’s a delicious snack! The Chinese and Thai people like to eat these fried dough snacks at breakfast. As a topping you can choose from condensed milk or pandan (kind of vanilla flavor) to make the party complete. In Chinatown there is a stall where people queue up because this stall also puts the snacks briefly on the BBQ, this makes the outside extra crispy! This Patonggo stall has not gone unnoticed and has been included in the Michelin Guide in 2018 and 2019. Just assume the row is a bit longer now!
Location: At the corner of Song Sawat & Chaloen Buri Road, near the 7 Eleven

Patongo, Chinese donuts in China Town

Yaowarat Toasted Buns

Toasted Buns are a famous snack in Chinatown! The buns are grilled on the BBQ, then buttered and you can choose from delicious fillings such as Nutella, condensed milk, sugar, chilli or custard. Eat the sandwiches when they are still warm and everything is still dripping over your hands (there is a tap to wash your hands). The sandwiches cost between 15 and 25 baht each. You write your name and order on a note and remember your number. When your order is ready your name and number will be shouted at by the sometimes grumpy but funny owner. This Toasted Bun stall is so popular that there is often a queue before it’s open, you’ll have to do something for it!
Location: Yaowarat Road, near the Pa Tong Go food stall.

Temples in Chinatown

Chinatown is full of special temples! Many small temples you happen to come across as you wander through the many streets, often these are the temples you have the best memories of. This is because it still gives an undiscovered feeling and there is no other tourist to see. There are also a number of larger and better known temples that everyone visits because they are too beautiful or special not to go and see. 

Wat Mangkon Kamalawat

In the middle of the bustling Chinatown stands the Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, the most important Chinese Buddhist temple of Bangkok. During Chinese holidays it is quite busy here. The complex has a mystical atmosphere and is full of beautiful Buddha statues that are displayed in several rooms in showcases. The temple was built in 1871 and consists for the most part of wood. The temple is visited by few tourists probably because the famous Wat Traimit (the Golden Buddha) is only ten minutes away. Originally the temple was called Wat Leng Noei Yi but that was changed by King Rama V into its current name. What Mangkon Kamalawat means dragons lotus temple.
Open: Daily from 07.30 – 17.00 | Location: Charoen Krung Road | Entrance: free/donation

3 golden Buddha's side by side on an elevation in the temple Wat Mangkon Kamalawat in Chinatown, Bangkok

Sikh Temple (Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha)

Sri Guru Singh Sabah Temple is located in Little India and was built in 1932 for the Indian Sikhs who had emigrated to Thailand. You can recognize the Sikh temple by the white gate and golden domes. The interior is not very exuberant but we found it very interesting to see a Sikh temple inside. Also because it is something completely different. Everybody is allowed to walk inside and the clothing rules are almost the same as in Thai temples. Only women and men have to cover their hair here as well (scarfs can be borrowed for free). It may feel a bit strange to just walk in, but the people are very hospitable and you are very welcome! Every morning a free vegetarian breakfast (Indian Curry) is served for everyone who wants it.
Open: Daily | Location: Chakkraphet Road | Entrance: Free

Large room with red Persian carpets and praying people at the alter of Sikh Temple, Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Temple in China Town.

Image: Wikipedia

Wat Chakrawat – Crocodile Temple

The Wat Chakrawat Temple is actually called Wat Chakrawatrachawat Woramahawihan, but is regularly called the crocodile temple. Not for fun, because those crocodiles are really there! 3 alive and well. There is also a crocodile which is rumoured to have eaten a young monk. This crocodile has been set up (for punishment?) and placed in a showcase. The other crocodiles are probably well fed as a precaution because they are big guys! How and why the crocodiles ended up here is not entirely clear. Rumor has it that the crocodiles are there to get more attention for the temple, because more attention means more donations. Personally we think that a number of signposts would also help, because the temple is not easy to find. It is usually quite quiet in the temple.
Open: Daily from 08.00 – 18.00 | Location: Chakkrawat, Samphanthawong | Entrance: Free, donations are welcome

Stairs to white with golden tower of the crocodile temple, Wat Chakrawat in China town.

Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit)

The Temple of the Golden Buddha is the most visited temple in Chinatown and that’s not for nothing! The Buddha weighs 5.5 tons, is 3 meters high and entirely made of gold! For a long time the shiny gold was hidden under a layer of plaster. This layer of plaster was applied so that the precious was hidden from malicious people, like the invading Burmese army at the time. The statue first stood in Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand. Even when the statue was moved to Chinatown, people were unaware of its precious contents. It was only when it was moved again that the statue was damaged and the plaster partially crumbled and the gold became visible. Wat Traimit is 350 meters from the Hua Lamphong Train Station.
Open: Daily from 08.00 – 17.00 | Location: Charoen Krung Road | Entrance: 40 baht | Sarong rent: 20 baht

People on the steps of the Temple of the Golden Buddha, Wat Traimit) in Chinatown

Sol Heng Tai Mansion

Soi Heng Tai Mansion is not a temple but a special house that was built more than 200 years ago. It is one of the last old traditional Chinese houses. Because land in Chinatown is worth a lot of money, many houses have been sold for high prices. The owner of Soi Heng Tai refuses this. The house is quite outdated, but that is exactly what makes it so special. It is as if time has stood still. In order to be able to pay the costs of maintenance, the descendants (who still live there) started a diving school. In the courtyard there is a swimming pool where the diving lessons are given. As far as we know this is the only place in Bangkok where you can learn to dive! You are also allowed to just look at the house, the entrance is free but consumption in the cafe is mandatory.
Open: Daily from 09.00 – 18.00 | Location: Soi Wanit 2 | Entrance: Consumption is mandatory

red door with golden letters from Soi Heng Tai Mansion in Chinatown Bangkok

Hip spots in Chinatown!

In Soi Na Na, a small side street in Chinatown, something special seems to be happening and it could get bigger and bigger in the years to come. Amidst the more traditional stalls and restaurants in Chinatown is a street with a number of special / hip bars and restaurants. These distinguish themselves from the rest by, for example, a very creative decor and dishes such as the Wallflower Cafe or the TEP BAR (Cultural Bar of Thailand) where the Thai culture (literally) is given a special boost! The TOT is known for its Gin Cocktails, one of the 50 best bars in Asia. It is a small community that takes on the task of showing the commercial value of the old before it is demolished. In the infobox at the bottom of this page you can find more information on the going out tab. Don’t miss these special places in Chinatown!

Jaowarat Road at dusk in China Town, Bangkok

The area around Chinatown / Yaowarat Road

In the surroundings of Chinatown / Yaowarat Road is much more to see and experience! In the info box you will find tips, nice (special) restaurants, well appreciated hotels/hostels and information about transportation to and from Chinatown. We hope this will make your visit to Bangkok even easier and more fun!

  • Hostel Urby
    500 m from Yaowarat Road | 400 m from Rajchawong Pier | 1.2 km from MRT Hua Lampong and Hua Lampong Railway Station
  • River View Guest House
    1 km from Yaowarat Road | 900 m from MRT Hua Lampong and Hua Lampong Railway Station | 1.4 km from Rajchawong Pier | 450 m from Marine Dept Pier
  • Hotel Royal Bangkok @ Chinatown
    Directly on Yaowarat Road | 850 m from MRT Hua Lampong and Hua Lampong Railway Station | 850 m from Rajchawong Pier
  • Grand China Hotel Bangkok
    Directly on Yaowarat Road | 1.3 km from MRT Hua Lampong and Hua Lampong Train Station | 550 m to Rajchawong Pier.
  • Riva Arun Bangkok
    Directly on the river | 500 m from Tha Thian Pier | 1.8 km to Chinatown

In Chinatown it’s all about the food stalls on the street, be surprised and just follow your nose! Remember, where it’s crowded, the food is usually good and fresh! Besides the restaurants mentioned in our article, there are a number of others with a good reputation or a mention in the Michelin Guide of Thailand.

  • Kuay Jab Uan Pochana bangkok
    This food stall has been serving excellent Chinese rice noodle soup (Guay Jub) and crispy pork for over 50 years. A well-deserved mention in Michelin Guide!
  • Odean Crab Noodle Soup
    Here everything revolves around noodle soup with as much delicious crab as you want (who pays for it).
  • Sky view 360
    Restaurant on the roof of the Grand China Hotel, because the restaurant has large windows and rotates slowly you have 360 degree views over Chinatown and the Chao Phraya River!
  • Wall Flowers Cafe
    Special beautiful and creative shop with delicious, beautiful deserts and drinks! Wallflowers are also welcome!
  • River Vibe Restaurant & Bar
    Affordable and with beautiful views over the Chao Phraya River from the roof terrace, still relatively unknown.
  • BTS Sky Train: 
    At BTS Salea Deang (Silom line) change to Het MRT station Silom. Get off at the 2nd stop at stop Hua lampon. From here it is 1.4 kilometers to the center of Chinatown. You can take a tuk tuk (100 Baht) or change to the MRT for the remaining part.
  • MRT (Metro)
    From Hua Lampong train station and Hua Lampong MRT station take the subway to Wat Mangkom MRT , this is only 1 stop. When you leave the station you are immediately in the middle of Chinatown!
  • Chao Phray River express boot
    From the Ratchawong Pier it’s a 7 minute walk to the Grand China Hotel (550 m) and you’re in the middle of Chinatown. More information about using the boats on the Bangkok River can be found in our article about the Chao Pharya River Express Boats, it’s easier than you probably think!
  • Taxi
    Finding a meter taxi to Chinatown is not easy! Either the drivers refuse the ride because of the hustle and bustle or they just want to agree on a fixed fare with you, which is always more expensive! Sometimes you have more luck if you walk to the nearby train station to take a taxi.
  • Teens of Thailand / TOT Bar
    Hidden behind two large wooden doors is a hip little bar that makes special gin cocktails and even won prizes. Teens of Thailand has been rated one of the 50 best bars in Asia in 2016.
  • 23 Bar and Gallery
    Small hip bar where indie, rasta and rock is played with some seats on the street. On the 2nd floor is a gallery with regular exhibitions of local and international artists.
  • TEP BAR – Cultural Bar of Thailand
    Traditional Thai whiskey with medicinal herbs (Ya Dong) and Thai tapas while enjoying (live) traditional Thai music. Special bar and atmosphere! On top Thai!
  • El Chiringuito
    In the middle of Chinatown on the Sangria and Tapas, nice atmosphere! Olee Olee!
  • ASIATIQUE The Riverfront
    Modern market on the banks of the Chao Phraya River with the famous Ferris wheel
  • ICONSIAM
    Brand new shopping malls by the river, where you look your eyes out
  • Tha Maharaj 
    Small-scale shopping malls with nice spots by the river
  • Amulet Market
    Als je bijgelovig bent is geluk. rijkdom of wijsheid hier te koop
  • River City Bangkok
    If you’re superstitious, happiness. Wealth or wisdom is for sale here.
  • Cho Why: Interesting exhibitions about space and art in an old Chinatown building, in the hip Na Na area of Chinatown.

 

Image: Jimmy Chuah (Flickr)

Even more nice neighborhoods in Bangkok

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Photo with link to Rambuttri Road, one of Bangkok's popular neighborhoods
Link to all information about the area around Victorry Monument in Bangkok
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