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Things to do in Chinatown in Bangkok, Including Hidden Gems Only Locals Know About


Oct 28, 2021 · 13 mins read

Historic shrines, mouthwatering food, and narrow alleyways painted with modern art characterize Chinatown in Bangkok. Situated on Bangkok’s first-ever port, you’ll have the chance to witness the rich cultural blend from Thai culture and generations of Chinese immigrants.

Not only is Bangkok’s Chinatown the largest in the world, but it is also the most historic neighborhood in the city. You’re bound to be enthralled by the aromas, sights, and sounds of this unique part of town. But don’t leave before you’ve tasted your way through the street food stalls at the Yaowarat night market, discovered a local hidden gem, or captured your next Instagram post while posing alongside a mural. We’ve got all the local insights to ensure your visit captures the heart and soul of the Chinatown

A Glance at Chinatown’s History

Thailand February 16 2019.New year chinese celebration in Wat Lengnoeiyi. Bangkok Metropolis Of Thailand. @ Chanintorn.v | Adobe Stock

For the last 200 years, Chinatown has sat between Phahurat, or Little India, and the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. However, this has not always been the case. The original Chinatown was established a bit north by King Taksin in 1767 and was populated by the loyal Chinese ethnic group, the Teochew.

When a coup ended the rule of King Taskin, the Teochew were forced to relocate south to the swampy village already dominated by a different ethnic Chinese group, the Hokkien.

Thus, when making your way through present-day Chinatown, you’ll witness many of the historical, architectural, and cultural sites that are ethnically Hokkien. For example, the Hokkein were master blacksmiths, which explains the heaps of metal scraps and used car parts you’ll see scattered around town.

BANGKOK,THAILAND-DECEMBER 18 View of Night Life in China Town with Neon Light in Bangkok Thailand on December 18,2018 @ charnsitr | Adobe Stock

It is also pertinent to know that Chinatown may have started as a swampy shantytown but ultimately rose to become Bangkok's main commercial area (as well as seedy underground) by the 20th century. As a result, present-day Chinatown is the most historic, unchanged district in Bangkok.

However, while the rich culture and elegant colonial buildings have been well-preserved over the years, so has Chinatown's less celebrated past, as evidenced in the tiny alleyways and hidden shops which are remnants of the district's gambling houses, opium dens, and brothels.

Top Things to Do & See in Chinatown

By day, Chinatown's streets are bustling with motorbikes that zip past temples, authentic restaurants, and artisans using age-old Chinese techniques to complete their handicrafts. At night, shops close their doors and usher in an electric nighttime atmosphere filled with red Chinese lanterns, neon lights, and an abundance of street eats. In order to capture the true essence of Bangkok’s Chinatown, make sure to explore each of these must-see attractions.

So Heng Tai Mansion

Beautiful gate of The So Heng Tai Mansion in Bangkok, Thailand @ bennnn | Adobe Stock

So Heng Tai mansion is one of the last remaining Chinese houses in Bangkok, and some even say it is the oldest private residence in the entire city. A walk through the mansion’s red front doors is a blast into Bangkok’s past. It is built in traditional Hokkien architectural style with four main houses, square rooms, and a spacious courtyard.

While the original walls adorned with porcelain and teak ornaments are fascinating, a more intimate draw is what’s inside the house. Every piece of furniture serves as a living museum of precious antiques and priceless family heirlooms—including family pictures with King Rama V and Queen Sirikit.

Established by the Sol Clan who were wealthy silk traders, the mansion has never left the family lineage. Today, the Posayajinda family, a descendent of the Sol Clan, still resides there over 200 years later. While visiting, make sure to grab a drink from the onsite café located on the second floor, overlooking the diving pool in the central courtyard.

Indulge in Authentic Street Food at Yaowarat Night Market

Public place , Classic door in chinatown (Yaowarat) Road,the main street in Chinatown, once of Bangkok landmark . @ iphotothailand | Adobe Stock

Yaowarat Road by night is a feast for the senses. You’ll be immediately greeted by a frenzy of enticing aromas and jam-packed vendors offering a mixture of Chinese and Thai fare. For night owl travelers, Yaowarat market is open later than most other markets in Bangkok, with some never closing. While not an exhaustive list, the following dishes some of the best meals at Yaowarat.

Bucket List Dishes

Visit a Hidden Café in Talat Noi

Abandoned Vintage Car with Brick Walls in the Background in Talad Noi Neighbourhood @ panithi33 | Adobe Stock

There are countless local gems scattered across the classic Talat Noi neighborhood of Chinatown that you simply won’t stumble upon without guidance. Take Mother Roaster café: To get to this beloved coffee shop, you have to enter a property, navigate through heaps of scrap metal toward the staircase on the back wall before climbing to the second-floor café.

Mother Roaster

Mother Roaster @ Mother Roaster | Mother Roaster Facebook

Once inside this trendy hideaway, you’ll be surrounded by the smell of coffee beans and presented with an extensive selection of coffee. The best part? The real Mother Roaster is a 70-year-old woman who can create any coffee you’d like including drip coffees, espresso, shakerato, and even fruit coffees.

Baba Mama Kafe

Baba Mama Kafe @ Baba Mama Kafe | baba-mama-kafe.business.site

Baba Mama Kafe is another family run café that is tucked away in Chinatown but will make you feel at home. It is beautifully furnished with timber seats and stools and the menu boasts a huge selection of coffee, tea, and breakfast foods. The rose latte and a bakery selection are always a huge hit.

Wallflowers Café

Wallflowers Café @ Wallflowers Café | Wallflowers Café Facebook

Wallflowers Café is about as charming as it gets. The industrial café is hidden on the second floor above a gorgeous flower shop. The wildflowers are incorporated into the design of the café to bring a unique and beautiful aesthetic. Their specialty coffee is out of this world but wait until you try the desserts.

The store is lined with stunningly decorated cheesecakes, carrot cakes, and crème brulee.However, you must try their signature dark beer cake, even if you don’t like beer. It is utterly delicious!

Visit Wat Traimit Temple

Trimitr Temple of Thailand @ flipflop10 | Adobe Stock

The “Temple of the Golden Buddha” is a massive structure with a quirky history. At this royal temple, the first thing you’ll notice is the striking, solid gold Buddha seated on an altar and surrounded by traditional Thai golden arches. It is made of real solid gold, the largest gold Buddha on earth. It sits more than five meters high and weighs more than five and a half tons.

What’s interesting is it sat covered in plaster for centuries without a single person knowing what lay underneath. It is presumed to have been built somewhere in the 13th century and painted in plaster to prevent theft or destruction during war. Its identity was discovered by mistake in 1955 when a cable broke on the crane attempting to move it.

If you’re a history junkie, you love the exhibitions and museums located throughout the three-story temple, which further articulate the history of Chinatown and the Chinese immigrants in Bangkok. From the top floor, you’ll enjoy a refreshing breeze and a lovely view of Chinatown and the Chinatown Gate.

Chinatown Gate

The gate to chinatown in Yaowarat, Bangkok, Thailand @ Mazur Travel | Adobe Stock

The entrance to Chinatown alone is a sight worth seeing. It’s located directly next to Wat Traimit, the Golden Buddha. It has a large archway decorated in red, traditional Chinese architectural style, topped with dragons and ornate details. The Chinese inscription seen in the middle reads, “Sheng Shou Wu Jiang”, which translates to “Long Live the King” because it was built to honor King Bhumibol Adulyadej on his 72nd birthday in 1999. This is definitely a spot to stop and document your travels as a symbol of Chinatown.

Go Shopping on Sampeng Lane

Thai people or tourist walking on the Old market place in Bangkok City capital of thailand @ Sumeth | Adobe Stock

Sampeng Lane is hectic and crowded in all the best ways. The narrow alleyway is lined on both sides with vendors and shops packed in so tight that it’s hard to walk down the alleyway side by side with another person, no matter a motorbike or pushcart squeezing through. However, it’s less surprising how tight this alleyway is when you learn that it used to house opium dens and brothels back in the day.

It runs parallel to Yaowarat Road, and while Yaowarat is famous for its delicious street food night market, Sampeng is famous for its wholesale shops and clothing market. While at first you may only see chaos, there is organization behind the many stalls.

Insider tip: this is one of the cheapest places for shopping in Bangkok. The discounts are impressive and substantially lower than any mall and since they are being sold wholesale, this means you should be prepared to buy your favorite products in bulk. Popular items include silk sarongs, houseware, women’s shoes, and handicrafts.

Light Incense at Wat Mangkon Kamalwat

Interior view of Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (Wat Leng Noei Yi) in Bangkok, Thailand @ bennnn | Adobe Stock

Wat Mangkon, also known as the "Temple of the Dragon Flower", is a pillar of society in Chinatown as locals regularly attend this vast and peaceful temple. You can find the main entrance to the temple through a passageway off Charoen Krung road. You'll know you've reached your destination when you spot the curved, tiled roofs and four giant guardian statues in warrior garments surrounding the main door.

Inside the temple is a labyrinth of courtyards and passages, each filled with the smoke of thousands of incense sticks swirling about. The gold and red rooms are decorated with animal and flower motifs, and Chinese dragons house important alters and shrines dedicated to Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist deities.

At the temple's back are three pavilions, one dedicated to the Chinese goddess of compassion, one to the founder of Wat Mangkon, Phra Archan Chin Wang Samathiwat, and the last to Saint Lak Chao.

Stay at a Hipster Hotel

There is no shortage of original and eccentric Chinatown hotels in Bangkok. Whether you’re on a budget or sparing no expense, there is an accommodation to fit every lifestyle and personality. The following hotels stand out for their service, quality, and uniqueness.

Shanghai Mansion

Shanghai Mansion @ Shanghai Mansion | shanghaimansion.com

If you’re looking to indulge in a lavish hotel with a bit of character, the historic Shanghai Mansion is for you. Prior to its reputation as a high class hotel, the Shanghai Mansion was a Chinese opera venue. In keeping with the building’s roots, the ambiance resembles a 1930’s film, complete with a live jazz band on the terrace, a ballroom, and a long pond decorated with carved dragons. The rooms carry the same elegance you’d expect from an upscale hotel, including a four-poster bed and 20th century-style furnishings.

W22 by Burasari

Lobby at W22 hotel @ W22 Hotel | w22hotel.com

W22 is a cozy and hip boutique hotel located in the heart of Bangkok Chinatown. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring the city because of the contemporary, minimalist room with quality linens and homey wood finishing on the furniture. Outside your room is a breathtaking 7 story atrium. Make sure to head up to the roof at sunset to enjoy views and a cocktail.

Bangkok Bed and Bike

Bangkok Bed and Bike Hostel @ Bangkok Bed and Bike Hostel | bangkokbedandbike.com

If you love to feel the wind in your hair, look no further than Bangkok Bed and Bike. As the name suggests, the hotel will set you up with breakfast in the morning followed by a bicycle rental which you can use to explore town. The hotel staff will even take you around Chinatown, pointing out the sights and offering you a unique insight into the culture and the history from a local’s perspective.

Snap some photographs of Chinatown Street Art

One of the street paint in Charoenkrung Soi 32 @ Bangkok River Partners | bangkokriver.com

Over the last decade, street art has flourished in Bangkok’s neighborhoods, but none quite like Chinatown. The explosion of art in Chinatown’s historic neighborhoods is a Bangkok must-see so put on your walking shoes (and be prepared to sweat!).

You’ll find life-like murals on the sides of buildings depicting local life, traditional east-Asian paintings, and playful cartoons that will bring a smile to your face. While some of the art is by amateurs and locals, you’ll also find murals by higher acclaimed, international artists as well.

Insider Tip: If you are in search of street art, you’ll have no problem finding it in Chinatown. However, there are a few streets that are guaranteed to knock your socks off and these include: Trok San Chao Rong Kueak, Soi Wanit 1, and Charoenkrung Soi 28, Charoenkrung Soi 30, and Charoenkrung Soi 32.

Photography Spot: While each of these streets is laden with Instagram-worthy scenes, a popular spot is by artist Bonus TMC’s giant scowling bears that seemingly tower over the tuk tuk drivers parked below on Soi 32.

Enjoy a Drink on a Rooftop Bar

As evidenced by Yaowarat night market, Chinatown is a lively, exciting place to be when the sun goes down. While there are plenty of great bars and venues to enjoy at ground level, the rooftop bars offer a unique perspective and stunning views of Chinatown.

The Grand China Hotel Rooftop Bar

The Grand China Hotel Rooftop Bar @ The Grand China Hotel | grandchina.com

Sit back on the 25th floor of the Grand Hotel and relax to the sound of live music and enjoy Bangkok’s only revolving restaurant. As you sip on a cocktail, the entire bar will slowly rotate a complete 360 degrees. That way you can take in the views of the entire city and the Chao Phraya River from the comfort of your own table and company.

River Vibe

River Vibe Rooftop bar @ River Vibe | riverviewbkk.com

This rooftop bar is a bit off the beaten track which means you’ll need to navigate the local alleyways before uncovering River Vibe. This tranquil oasis transports guests away from the bustle of Bangkok with beautiful views of the river, great drinks, and tasty Thai food.

Wallflowers Upstairs

Wallflowers Upstairs | Wallflowers Upstairs | Wallflowers Café Facebook

The trendy bar is a local favorite because of the secret garden-like feel and rustic décor. The entire bar is enchanting because of the fairy lights, flower chandeliers, exposed brick walls, and vast amounts of plants and flowers scattered throughout. Grab a cocktail or feast on a dish while enjoying the tranquility and views.

Explore Warehouse 30’s Hipster Shops

Warehouse 30 vintage community mall in bangkok city Thailand.Warehouse 30. Abandoned World War 2-era warehouses transformed into Charoenkrung's art hub @ Sumeth | Adobe Stock

A series of abandoned WWII warehouses used to lay in the Charoen Krung area, completely unused. That is, until renowned architect Duangrit Bunnag decided to revive the area. In each of the warehouses, he was able to keep the charm–the exposed beams, steel structures, and original wood—while creating an urban complex for creatives. Once you arrive, there’s little reason to leave because Warehouse 30 has a bit of everything. Gallery Warehouses, Culinary Warehouses, Shopping Warehouses and Spa Warehouse are all in one place at Warehouse 30.

Helpful Information

Day Market Hours of Operation: The markets (such as Sampeng Market and fruit stall) are open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM and most shops operate between 8 AM and 6 PM.

Night Market Hours of Operation: There are no official hours for the Yaowarat night market, likely because it operates on the street, but you can expect stalls to begin serving food as early as 6:30 and well into the evening. While some may kick off around midnight, many are still operating in the early hours of the morning, say 2 or 3 AM.

Getting to Chinatown

Wat Mangkon MRT station @ happycreator | Adobe Stock

Bangkok’s Chinatown is reasonably central, which makes it easy to travel to. The best way to get there is to take the MRT subway. It is located by Wat Mangkon Station on the MRT Blue Line, which is just a four-minute walk from Chinatown.

MRT fares are very affordable, usually 20-30 baht from anywhere in the city. Keep in mind that the BTS (overhead Skytrain) does not directly take you to Chinatown, but it can connect to MRT. If you’re arriving in Chinatown from the airport, you can take the Airport Rail Link, which allows you to transfer to the MRT Blue Line at Makkasan Station.

If you’re far north or far south, another good option is to take the Chao Praya River Express boat to the Ratchawong Pier. It is a quick, enjoyable ride on the river, unless you get seasick that is. While taxis, buses, and tuk tuks are always available, sometimes they are not worth the headache and concern as to whether or not you’re paying a fair price.

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