The Bangkok Chinatown district is a must see destination for any traveler visiting Thailand. I first visited Chinatown back in 2010 and just loved the bustling yet energetic environment which is unique to this part of Bangkok.
Chinese heritage within this area dates back to the 16th Century when early Chinese settlers were based along the Chao Phraya River. In 1782 King Rama 1 moved the capital of Thailand from Ayutthaya to Bangkok, which meant the Chinese community were forced to move to make way for the construction of the Grand Palace.
Hence, with over 200 years of Thai-Chinese history crammed into the Chinatown district, it is easy to believe that you are stepping back in time.
The Chinatown or Samphanthawong district may be the smallest of Bangkok's 50 districts but it has the highest population density of any district and has some of the most expensive real estate in Thailand.
Nestled in between the historical Chao Phraya River and Yaowarat Road, Bangkok Chinatown is full of Chinese symbolism which shows itself in the form of worshiping-shrines which can be found on street corners, Chinese characters being displayed on shop signs, and the red lanterns and other decorations which come out during festivals and cultural events including the Chinese New Year.
However, it is along the main Yaowarat Road where much of the activity occurs with the main gate or entrance to Chinatown being located at the eastern end.
There are also a number of smaller roads and alley ways that intersect with the main thoroughfare including Rachawong, Charoen Krung, and Songwat Roads and these are also worth exploring.
Bangkok's Chinatown, is easily identifiable as you walk along the narrow streets by the old wooden shop fronts and the merchandise which spills out onto the side-walk.
Further, all the street signs and businesses within Bangkok Chinatown use Chinese characters which leaves the traveler with little doubt as to which part of Bangkok they have entered.
This is a very noisy and culturally rich area that bustles with human activity whether day or night. Even the traffic along Yaowarat Road is busy being jammed with buses, trucks, taxis, motorcycles and tuk-tuk's. The area was once known as being a hub for pawn shops, brothels and opium dens, and gambling although today it is the food and shopping which attracts the crowds.
However, it is at night time when Chinatown really shines especially along Yaowarat Road which is crammed with market stalls and shops selling gold, clothing, fast food, watches and just about everything else you can think of.
At night the streets are lite with bright neon shop lights, advertising the various establishments including restaurants, hotels, karaoke bars and gold shops to name but a few. Chinatown also has the oldest cinema in Bangkok known as the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, which was built back in 1933.
However, apart from the shopping, it is the smell of Chinese food that attracts many people to Chinatown. While walking along most of the streets, you will be tempted by the aroma of freshly cooked food which seems to permeate the air.
Such smells come from the numerous street stalls, and small restaurants which also spill out onto the side-walk providing an opportunity to experience the authentic cuisine. It is here you can sample a combination of Thai and Chinese inspired foods such as noodles, curries, pork and chicken, stir fried dishes, fried rice, shark fin and bird nest soups.
Once you are in Bangkok the best way to travel to Chinatown is either by ferry boat, taxi or train. If coming by ferry exit at Rachawong Pier on the Chao Praya River and follow the crowds.
You can also take a train to Hualamphong Station which is situated at the eastern end of the Chinatown district.