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.
While 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.