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Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions: Attractions in Bangkok

Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions: Attractions in Bangkok


Bangkok’s Chinatown is an enthralling place, one of the most authentic and unchanged spots in the city, and one of the most enjoyable spots left for walking. There are so many tiny lanes and narrow alleyways which are ripe for exploration. Start your visit here off with a stop at the informative Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Centre, followed up by checking out the impressive golden Buddha statue in Wat Traimit, which is Chinatown’s most prized tourist attraction. From here, you can make your way down Yaowarat Road, exploring the vibrant markets in Trok Issaranuphap and Sampeng Lane. Other highlights here include the extremely colorful shrine of Guan Yin, the pilgrim filled Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, Bangkok’s most important Chinese temple, the hidden villa of Sou Heng Tai, and the colorful street art murals to be found in some atmospheric alleys. Don’t be in any hurry to leave Chinatown though. It gets even better on Yaowarat Road at night, with hundreds of delectable food stalls and restaurants opening up and an electric atmosphere filling the air. If you come here during holiday times, you may be lucky enough to see a Chinese opera, a dying tradition but one well worth making time for.

Yaoworat Road at night

Bustling Yaoworat Road in the center of Chinatown becomes a culinary hotspot at night, with restaurants spilling off the footpaths onto the street itself. Most are open only at night and serve great food — most places specialize in seafood and the activity equals the quality of the food. The bright neon lights, red Chinese lanterns, and huge crowds that come here to eat, drink, and wander make Chinatown very lively, and the atmosphere at night is far different than the bustling market feel that pervades here during the day. Make sure to get off of Yaowarat and wander through some of the tiny side streets which are very atmospheric and home to some great hole in the wall eateries.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: For a great mix of atmosphere, delicious food, and exciting street life, Yaowarat Road in Chinatown at night is worth the wander.

Dave’s expert tip: You can get to Yaowarat most easily on public transport by taking the MRT subway to Hualamphong Station and then walking down the Wat Traimit Road to the Odeon Circle, from where Yaowarat begins, look for the neon up ahead.

Read more about Yaoworat Road at night →


Trok Issaranuphap

Trok Issaranuphap is vintage Bangkok, and we don’t mean shopping malls or glitzy highrises. Trok Issaranuphap is a lane connecting Charoen Krung Road and Yaowarat, the main thoroughfares in Chinatown, starting just south of the Mangkon Kamalawat Temple. This narrow alleyway contains a wonderful wet market and just about every type of food one can imagine in Chinatown. There are plenty of take out opportunities here, and the small lane is one tremendous shopping and photo op spot. It might be worth it to go through here with a Thai guide, just to be able to know what all the strange products and foods are available for sale. Every type of crispy pork skin seems to have made its way to this spot, and there are plenty of other stalls and shops besides just food. The lane is very atmospheric, and a real ode to what Chinatown is all about.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: For a trip into the heart of Chinatown, Trok Issaranuphap is a highly recommended stroll.

Dave’s expert tip: The best way to find this tiny lane is to come from Wat Mangkon Kamalawat Temple, cross the street (Charoen Krung), and take the next right into the hidden alleyway.

Read more about Trok Issaranuphap →


Guan Yin Shrine/Thien Fah Foundation

The Guan Yin Shrine, despite not being listed in most guidebooks, is actually one of Chinatown’s most colorful attractions. Guan Yin is the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, and her 900 year old statue stands on the altar inside the shrine. Thousands of locals come to pray here, and especially at holiday times, the shrine is a riot of incense and smoke and the atmosphere is extremely otherworldly. The shrine is part of the Thien Fah Foundation, which is Bangkok’s oldest charity group, and the buildings surrounding the Guan Yin Shrine are actually hospital facilities, as the organization provides free medical care to the poor and homeless.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: For its mystical atmosphere and great color, the Guan Yin Shrine should be on any Chinatown sightseeing list.

Dave’s expert tip: The easiest way to get here is to take the MRT Subway to Hualamphong Station, walk down past Wat Traimit (golden Buddha temple) to the Odeon Circle, and then swing right onto Yaowarat Road, with the shrine just on your left.

Read more about Guan Yin Shrine/Thien Fah Foundation →



Wat Mangkon Kamalawat

Also known by its original name of Wat Leng Noei Yi, Wat Mangkon Kamalawat is the most important and revered temple in Chinatown. The temple contains Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian deities, and is absolutely thronged with worshipers during major holidays such as Chinese New Year and the Vegetarian Festival. Devotees float flowers in small pools, wave joss sticks and incense in the air, and stand in long lines to enter the temple’s inner sanctum to be blessed by the attending monks. From the entrance on busy Charoen Krung Road, the temple doesn’t look like much, as it is set back through a driveway, but it reveals itself once inside.Visitors are welcome here and there is no charge, but make sure to respect local sensibilities and don’t interfere with the merit making activities and people’s personal worship.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: For being Bangkok’s most revered Chinese temple, Wat Mangkon Kamalawat is worthy of a visit.

Dave’s expert tip: You can get here most easily from Yaowarat Road in Chinatown by walking up either Padungdao or Pleng Nam roads to Charoen Krung, which parallels Yaowarat on its northern side, and turning left here. The temple is on the right hand side of Charoen Krung, but you may need to ask a local to point it out as it does not look like a temple from the outside.

Read more about Wat Mangkon Kamalawat →


Sampeng Lane Market

Sampeng Lane is a very narrow alleyway running parallel to Yaowarat Road and is famed for hosting a cheap accessories and clothing market attracting hordes of young people. The alleyway, whose proper name is Soi Wanit 1, was actually full of opium dens and brothels way back when, and it is easy to imagine why, as you feel like you’re in a rabbit warren when wandering through here. The narrow lane can barely fit two people abreast, and if you add some motorcycles making deliveries through here, combined with 1000 people, well, you get the picture.

Despite the chaos, the market actually is divided into sections, with its eastern end concentrating on accessories like jewelery, shoes, and watches. The middle section of Sampeng Lane has ceramic toys, lanterns, and all sorts of Chinese goods, while the eastern end of the market features Indian run stalls selling silk and other fabrics.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: For an old school and real Bangkok alleyway market experience, Sampeng Lane is vintage Chinatown.

Dave’s expert tip: Try to walk through here earlier in the morning when it is not as crowded. It can be sweltering here in the middle of the afternoon.

Read more about Sampeng Lane Market →


Chinese Opera

Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

With roots going as far back as the Tang Dynasty, you are in for a historical and cultural treat if you can catch a Chinese opera performance while in Bangkok. Chinese opera is one of the oldest performing arts in the world. Combining literature and musical performance, the operas are an engaging visual spectacle, with an astounding attention to detail being a vital part of the show. Performers spend hours elaborately making up and going into character, and the shows can run for hours, combining myth, moral, and plenty of old fashioned entertainment. The shows are free, and are not attended much by young people these days, making the spectacle a dying art, so make a beeline for a performance if you happen to be in Bangkok during any festival or holiday periods.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: for true spectacle, tradition, and color, nothing compares with a Chinese opera performance if you are lucky enough to see one.

Dave’s expert tip: Performances take place during the Vegetarian Festival, Chinese New Year, and during other holiday times at or around temples and shrines in Chinatown. Consult the Chinese opera website for further information.

Read more about Chinese Opera →


Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Centre

Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

This well laid out modern museum was added to Wat Traimit recently, and details the history of the Chinese migration to Thailand evolving to the present day Thai Chinese. The presentations in the museum use a variety of nifty audio visual and hi tech displays to make the historical journey of the Chinese and the rise of Bangkok’s Chinatown an interesting and informative experience. There are photos of early Chinatown, scenes of typical Chinese homes, a well simulated view from the deck of a Chinese junk making its arduous way to Thailand in a storm, and plenty of life size models doing hard labor as coolies, which gives a very realistic portrayal of just how difficult life was for the first immigrants.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: For an informative look at the history of the Thai Chinese and Chinatown, this museum is well recommended.

Dave’s expert tip: You can buy a combined ticket to visit the museum and the golden Buddha in Wat Traimit for 140 baht, well worth it in both cases.

Read more about Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Centre →


Sou Heng Tai

This 170 year old villa is one of the more hidden secrets of Chinatown. Lived in by the 8th generation owner, who shoulders the costs of keeping it in shape, the home features beautiful teakwood , and is one of the last traditional Hokkien Chinese mansions in Bangkok. Its best experienced just after dusk, when they turn the lights on and illuminate the home, which oozes nostalgia, charm, and exquisite craftsmanship. The house also features some interesting quirks, like the swimming pool in the garden, which functions as a training center for the scuba diving school run by the owner! Entry to this amazing place is free, but you are somewhat expected to buy a drink from the small cafe they’ve set up to help defray the costs of this amazing place.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: For traditional architecture, Sou Heng Tai villa is one of Bangkok’s most amazing treasures.

Dave’s expert tip: The best way to get here is to take the Chao Phraya River ferry to the Marine Dept. pier, walk up to Soi Wanit 2 and turn left, then take the first left down San Chao Rong Kueuak, which then swings right to parallel the river, and becomes Soi Wanit 2 again after another block. In this block you’ll find Sou Heng Tai on your right side. If you start curving right again on Soi Wanit 2, you’ve gone too far.

Read more about Sou Heng Tai →


Chinatown Street Art

Chinatown has joined much of the rest of the city by welcoming colorful street art. Years ago, Bangkok was a pretty grey and artless capital, but the BUKRUK Urban Arts Festival in 2016 brought global artists to Bangkok in an attempt to enhance it as an Asian art capital. You’ll have a lot of fun wandering some of Chinatown’s small alleys checking out some of these colorful gems, and they seem to enhance the already atmospheric surroundings.

In Trok San Chao Rong Kueak off of Soi Wanit 1 Road near the river, you’ll find lifelike wall paintings blending in to the neighborhood. Windows, door, and bicycles painted onto the walls are actually hard to distinguish from the real ones, and this quiet lane is extremely photogenic. Head over to Charoenkrung from here, just on the edge of Chinatown, where you will find large murals on both Charoenkrung Soi 28, 30, and 32, which all dead end down at the river. Korean artist Daehyun Kim has a beautifully detailed black and white traditional East Oriental scene from his Moonassi series, and there are two im-mense murals by Romanian illustrator and muralist Saddo and Thai artist Bon, who painted his iconic bird Pukruk rid-ing a unicycle. There are also some large murals on Songwat Road further back towards the center of Yaowarat.

The artwork enhances what is already one of Bangkok’s most pleasant walking areas, just make sure to bring your camera and of course your appetite, as there are plenty of street eats as well as great Thai-Chinese restaurants to call into after your tour.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: For street art and atmosphere, this is Chinatown’s best walk.

Dave’s expert tip: You can take the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin and then the river ferry up the Chao Phraya to the Marine Department pier, which will get you a 3-minute walk from Trok San Chao Rong Kueak

Read more about Chinatown Street Art →


Wat Traimit

Not only is Wat Traimit Chinatown’s number one attraction, it is the site of the world’s largest seated golden Buddha, five and a half tons of gold, actually the largest gold statue in the world, and worth some 250 million dollars! The statue’s origins are unclear, but it supposedly comes from the Sukhothai period and was made somewhere in the 14th Century. Thousands of worshipers come here daily, and the temple has a mystical aura to it, especially around holiday periods like Chinese New Year or the Vegetarian Festival. There is now an excellent new museum on the premises detailing the history of the Thai Chinese, well worth a stopover in addition to having a look at the golden Buddha.

Recommended for Chinatown/Yaowarat’s Best Attractions because: The giant golden Buddha at Wat Traimit is one of a kind.

Dave’s expert tip: The easiest way to get here is to take the MRT subway to the Hualamphong Railway Station. Wat Traimit is a 5 minute walk from here.

Read more about Wat Traimit →






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