Experience Bangkok Chinatown through 30 Photos.
The Thai capital is many things all at once. Crowded, beautiful, humid, strange, bustling, colourful and complex.
As a first-time visitor to Asia (never mind Bangkok), I found myself absolutely fascinated by everything I saw as it was so different from any other place I’ve ever travelled. I couldn’t stop staring at my surroundings, wanting to taste the food, talk to people, and come to understand their way of life.
Very much like my home city of Berlin, Bangkok is truly a place where you could wander for days on end and still barely scratch the surface of all there is to experience.
This very happening one kilometer strip attracts massive throngs of people each day and is pretty much always busy. As you walk through the narrow streets and tiny alleyways, you’ll find yourself hard pressed not to bump into other people.
Settled in the 1780s by Chinese merchants (actually predating the founding of the capital), Bangkok Chinatown now retains a large Chinese population who continue to practise their cultural traditions. The area is even said to be shaped like a dragon!
In my opinion, Bangkok Chinatown is best experienced on an empty stomach and a cash-filled wallet! Stuffed with Chinese temples, food stalls, gold merchants, restaurants, wooden shop houses and streetside beauty ‘salons’ (seriously), Chinatown is a place you can easily spend hours shopping and feasting on all that delicious food.
To give you a better idea of what it’s like to experience this area for yourself, I thought I’d show you versus tell you through these 30 photos of Bangkok Chinatown.
The Big Streets
Bangkok Chinatown’s wide streets are jam-packed with cars, tuk-tuks, motorcycles and pedestrians. It actually reminded me of Times Square in New York but on a way more intense level. I know that I’d personally never drive through these streets and was even scared at first to walk across the streets.
The Narrow Alleyways
This is when things started to get more interesting from a “fresh food” perspective. Yes, I am allll about the food, and when in Thailand, how can you not be? There were vendors selling everything you can imagine. I was already hungry and our tour had just begun.
As crowded as it can get in the tiny space available, people were still riding their motorcycles through.
The Food Stands
The food in Chinatown is out of this world. From fruits to vegetables, to fish and meat, there isn’t a Thai or Chinese specialty that you can’t find. There are even drinks in bags to go (apparently a thing in Asia in place of takeout cups).
The smells wafting through the air will lead you from one stand to another, and you’ll feel overwhelmed trying to figure out which dish you want to try first.
Even if you’re not hungry, it’s fascinating to simply walk through the markets, people-watch, and gaze at all that’s on offer. This was by far the highlight of Chinatown for me.
The Streetside Businesses
Yes, you can receive beauty treatments at streetside “salons,” like this man receiving a facial and having some threading done to remove unwanted facial hairs. Also to be found were men, rather cutely, sleeping on the job.
The Chinese Temples
Dotted throughout Bangkok Chinatown are many temples.
One of my personal favourite highlights of Chinatown is Wat Traimit, a temple which boasts the largest golden statue in the entire world! Fast facts about this monster-sized Buddha statue – it’s covered in 18 karat gold and is worth about $250 million US. It also weighs 5,500 kilograms and stands 3 metres tall.
I liked this quiet area outside of one temple, especially the beverage cart.
The Quiet Back Streets
During the late afternoon, these back streets were serene and beautiful, especially in the late-afternoon light.
Good to Know
- Chinatown is most easily reached by boat. Check out Bangkok for Visitors for more details.
- Once there, I’d recommend covering Chinatown by foot as it’s really the only way to get a deep and immersive experience of the area. Better yet, do a self-guided walking tour like the folks over at Y Travel Blog did or follow this one recommended by National Geographic.
- Some feel that Chinatown is best experienced at night. Bangkok Chinatown is simply a place that can be enjoyed anytime.
- As I mentioned above, come on an empty stomach and be ready to fill your belly!
- If you’re looking for something different, perhaps a “softer and slower” side of Bangkok, head over to the Thonburi District. Also consider checking out the weird and offbeat airplane graveyard in Bangkok.
- For more about Thailand in general, read these 50 things you need to know about travel in Thailand.
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* Disclosure – My tour of Bangkok Chinatown was complimentary, courtesy of TBEX and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Any opinions expressed about my love of food markets and street side beauty treatments are entirely my own.