Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of those neighborhoods that many travelers would consider ‘authentic’.

If tourists stopped visiting tomorrow, it would keep being pretty much the same as it is now. Its two main streets, Yaowarat and Charoen Krung, would continue to be filled with cars, tuk tuks and people pushing food carts at all hours. Their sois -alleys- would continue to be filled with street food professionals cooking for customers waiting in plastic chairs. The merchandise, from stores that use the streets and sidewalks as if are theirs, would remain occupying the public space, while thousands of people would keep walking from one place to another trying to avoid all these obstacles and creating a curious order in the chaos.

Chinatown is an explosion of life, and somehow is Bangkok in its purest form.

Girls in Bangkok's ChinatownWhile other neighborhoods in Bangkok have sold out to modernity, Chinatown has stubbornly kept its spirit, and keeps being an exotic and chaotic neighborhood, hated by some and loved by others. Bangkok’s Chinatown district is not just another Chinatown, but one of the oldest in the world.

Bangkok’s Chinatown was born in 1782 when King Rama I -the first monarch of the current dynasty- decided to move his city from the west bank of the Chao Phraya river to the east bank, in the Rattanakosin area, pushing the Chinese immigrants that were living there a little further downriver, to the area where Chinatown still stands.

Chinatown by day: markets and traffic

daytime ChinatownSampeng Lane market

The most interesting thing in Bangkok’s Chinatown during the day is undoubtedly the Sampeng market. It is an extremely busy and narrow alley that crosses almost all of Chinatown, crammed with shops selling all kinds of products wholesale. If you like authentic Asian markets, you will absolutely love this one.

Chinatown markets by dayIn Sampeng you will find products mainly focused on the Thai market. Things like bags, shoes and sandals of all kinds, clothes, pillows, sheets, earrings and bracelets, among many others. Although they also sell single units, the market is geared towards wholesale buyers.

bangkok's chinatown marketsTo get there, you can go to the main street of Bangkok’s Chinatown, Yaowarad Road, and from there look for Soi Wanit 2, the alley where the market is located. The market runs from Chackphet Road to Yaowa Phanit Road.

Wat Traimit or Temple of the Golden Buddha

wat traimit bangkokThe Temple of the Golden Buddha is perhaps the most visited place in Bangkok’s Chinatown. After the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, Wat Traimit is the third most popular temple among tourists in Bangkok. What makes this temple specially interesting is its golden Buddha statue which, weighing more than 5500 kg, is the world’s largest and heaviest made of this material. It has an interesting history. This Buddha, believed to be from the Sukhothai period, was covered in a layer of stucco to conceal its real value, and it was not until 1955 that, in an attempt to move it, the statue fell and the stucco cover was partially broken. To everyone’s surprise, they discovered that its interior hid this golden statue of over 5 tons of gold. The gold it contains alone is already valued at about USD 250 million. It is believed that it was hidden during the Ayutthaya era to (successfully) avoid being found by Burmese.

monks in chinatownWat Traimit is located on one of Chinatown’s main streets, Charoen Krung Road, a 10-minute walk from Hua Lamphong MRT subway stop.

Chinatown by night: street food frenzy

chinatown by nightStreet food at Yaowarat Road

Yaowarad Road is the most typical of Bangkok’s Chinatown. On that street you can find all kinds of businesses. During the day its many gold shops stand out. At night, street food stalls take over the neighborhood. There you can eat practically anything, and at a very good price.

Mati enjoying street foodI personally love the satay (chicken skewers) sold at the beginning of Plaeng Nam Road (one of the streets that comes out of Yaowarad). After a satay dinner with a fruit juice, I usually try one of the many Thai desserts on offer in the area.

sate kaibangkok's chinatown by nightSadly, in Bangkok’s Chinatown you will also see many restaurants offering shark fin soups. Despite there being no proof of this, some Chinese believe that eating shark fins increases sexual potency, among other purported benefits. This stupid belief fuels the cruel fishing practice, already banned in the EU, of catching sharks, cutting off their fins and throwing them back into the sea, which is one of the main causes of the decline of the world’s shark population.

avoid shark fin soupAlso in Yaowarad street you will find one of the shabbiest and cheapest cinemas in Bangkok, the ‘Chinatown Rama’. During the day I think they show mostly Chinese movies, but at night their entrance turns into a makeshift street restaurant that seems quite popular.

bangkok chinatown shops by nightchinatown old cinemaFantastic views from the River View Guest House restaurant

With so many tall buildings, in Bangkok there are many rooftop bars and restaurants with incredible views. Probably the most famous of them all is Sirocco Bar at Lebua Hotel. Most of these bars are usually quite expensive. In Chinatown, however, there is a fairly inexpensive one that offers views that have little to envy of the fancier rooftop bars. It’s the River Vibe Restaurant and Bar, the rooftop bar of the River View Guest House.

river vibe restaurant viewsGetting there is quite tricky, since you have to walk a small maze of alleys, but it is well worth the effort. You have to go early, since they close around 11pm. It is located at Soi Phanurangsi, but it’s easier if you just follow this location on Google Maps and, once you find the street, just follow the street signs.

Are you going to visit Chinatown on a weekend? If you are going to be there on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, don’t miss the interesting and quite new Walking street of Khlong Ong Ang.

Do you want to sleep in Chinatown?

good hotel in bangkok chinatownIf you want to stay in Chinatown, I recommend the aforementioned River View Guest House in case you are looking for a cheap hostel, or the Shanghai Mansion if you want a good 4-star hotel. We use the latter for some of our clients at InThailand Travel, and the truth is that it is very cool and its location couldn’t be more central: on Yaowarad Road itself.

How to get to Chinatown

Chinatown Gate

๐Ÿš‡ You can get to Chinatown by subway by getting off at Chinatown MRT station.

โ›ด๏ธ You can also take the public boat down the river and get off at piers number 4 (Rachawongse) or 5 (Marine Dep.).

๐Ÿš• Of course you can also simply take a taxi or tuk tuk, although in peak hours many drivers won’t take you or will ask for a very high price.

chinatown tuktuk