Best of Bangkok’s Chinatown

Bangkok’s Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in the world. Unlike Singapore’s Chinatown that you explore by foot in a day (or even less), Bangkok’s Chinatown is like a city within a city. We attempted to cover all of Chinatown, but three days is just not enough. I realized that when you come to Bangkok’s Chinatown, you must have a purpose and must know the exact location of that purpose. Otherwise, you’ll end up lost.  Here are the highlights of my walking tour around Chinatown.

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Bangkok Railway Station

The train station may have been swallowed by the tall buildings in Bangkok, but this station was an architectural grandeur back when it opened in 1916. The railway station, which connects the city of angels to most of the country’s major cities, is a half dome designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno (who also designed the Ananta Samakhon Hall).[1] Inside, I loved the high ceiling feature especially when seen from the balcony of the Grand Canyon coffee shop, which, by the way, serves good coffee and pastries. I also love the mini-museum in the Hua Lamphong MRT station because it shows the history of the MRT.

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View from the Station Cafe.

The Station Cafe.

The Chic Hostel was not the best place I have stayed in Thailand, but despite its cons, the hostel is in the best location because it is a walking distance to both the Hua Lamphong MRT and the railway station. One surprising plus of the hostel is the breakfast buffet at the Station Cafe located at the 12th floor of the next door luxury hotel, which will offer you a bird’s eye view of what a typical Bangkok morning would look like. I loved our breakfasts there, one of the best things in our Thailand trip.

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Khlongs and Shophouses

Bangkok is not called the Venice of the East for no reason. From the Chic Hostel, my husband and I loved walking along and across the khlong fronting the hostel. If we were not enjoying walking along the canal, we enjoyed walking along the streets looking at the many shophouses. Chinatowns around the world are distinct because of the shophouses (a building whose ground floor is used for business and upper floors as living quarters).

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Street Food and family-owned restaurants.

Except for Yaowarat Road, street food stalls in the area near Chic Hostel was not that many BUT the stalls there served better tasting food than the street food stalls in the Patpong area. I especially loved the steamed chicken rice, the stir-fried kale with pork, and the stir-fry noodles with shrimps. My husband and I ate lunch at one of the sit-in family-run restaurants in the neighborhood but, during dinner, when it was not raining, we sit at one of the many tables near the street food stalls not just to eat but also to listen to the neighbors talking with each other.

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Waffles and Ice Cream.

Thailand loves their sweets! There was a cute shop at the back of our hostel and we decided to have afternoon coffee and dessert. We ordered 1 waffle with vanilla ice cream and an extra scoop of ice cream, and we loved the waffle and ice cream combination. To me, it was perfect for the coffee. When we continued our walks in the neighborhood, we discovered some two other shops selling waffles and ice cream and coffee.

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Wat Traimit

This temple was just a couple of blocks from our hostel and we just discovered it accidentally while walking around the neighborhood. According to Thailand’s official tourism website, this temple houses the largest golden Buddha statue. We were not able to see this because at the time we went, there were many people and we learned from Facebook that Drew Arellano and his Byahe ni Drew gang was there a few minutes before us.

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Chinatown Gate.

Still just a couple of blocks from the hostel, and only a few meters from Wat Traimit. This is a ceremonial gate to symbolize the entry to Chinatown. This gate was built in the late 1990s to celebrate the former king’s birthday. To me, it is not an architectural wonder or a historical marker. Rather, it seemed to me the gate is a symbol of going forward as I read that the creation of the gate marked the transition of Chinatown to a tourist destination. This gate also served as a symbol of the Chinese community’s loyalty to the king.

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The Unforgotten.

Ah! My favorite find in Chinatown is this shophouse turned heritage boutique hostel that was so near our hostel. I want to go back to Bangkok if only for this wonderful boutique hostel. You can book one of the rooms of the hostel through AirBnB and use my link if you haven’t signed up yet to get P1,100 off from your first booking. The blue and white ceramic plates are all for sale. The guesthouse also has a small restaurant on the ground floor. We had a set lunch there for 65baht, which included a rice meal, a soup, and a drink. I got what they called the butterfly pea drink, which I believe is a tea drink, and came in a beautiful blue color. They also served us little desserts in, of course, a pretty plate.


Yaowarat Rd. and Old Siam Complex, which I included in my Bangkok budget shopping guide, are also in Chinatown.


Suggested Reading:

Letters from Thailand by Botan. I was reading this novel the whole time I was in Thailand, and, this book inspired me to roam around Chinatown because the novel was a story of a Chinese immigrant who was successful in Bangkok. They lived in what is now called Chinatown, specifically in Sampheng Lane and Yaowarat Rd. The novel is fun and introspective. I had several laughs, but ended up crying. It was such a good read!


Sources:

[1] The Architecture of Mario Tamagno and the Neilson Hays Library in Bangkok. https://is.gd/VXLHNH

 

 

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