In a city littered with skyscrapers and shopping malls, there is a charming and buzzing district hidden away from the fancy and glitzy lifestyle. Bangkok’s Chinatown is brimming with community life. Its charismatic old buildings add to the characteristics of the neighbourhood, the old school feel, a refreshing sight from the tall buildings. Bangkok’s Chinatown comprises mainly Charoenkrung Road and Yaowarat Road (known to locals as just Yaowarat), the latter being famous for its arrays of small shops and street food stalls. Rich in its cultural heritage and local activities, Yaowarat provides a great place to hang out for both locals and visitors alike.
From streetfood to knick-knacks, Yaowarat has it all
You can find all sorts of things near Yaowarat from street food and knick-knacks to stationery, textiles and antiques. An area to the west of Yaowarat Road, known as Sam Pheng, is where you can buy stationeries, gifts, crafts items, as well as accessories and clothing. A lot of the stores there will give you a discount if you buy in bulk since some of them supply items to stores in other parts of Bangkok.
A culinary experience awaits food lovers
If you are more interested in a culinary experience, Yaowarat will provide you a whole day of tasting and good food experience. From early morning to late evening, street food stalls adorn the road and zigzagging alleys. From fresh fruits to local delicacies, you will not be disappointed. Usually for 2 USD or less, you can try a wide variety of food, from savoury to sweets. My personal favourites are freshly hand-pressed fruit juices, especially juices from the green Thai oranges. Much sweeter and juicier than their Western counterparts, Thai oranges make for the perfect refreshing drink. They are usually sold in a small plastic bottle, straws provided.
Explore food options and unique dining experiences
There are many Chinese restaurants in the area, due to the area’s history, but if you would rather go old school and enjoy the cooling effects of revolving fans in a white neon-lit restaurant, or experience the street food dining on the pavements, you might want to opt for smaller restaurants or food stalls.
The food there is all worth the money but if you are a big fan of seafood, you should give Lek & Rut a go. Situated on the pavement next to the evening traffic of Yaowarat road, Lek & Rut offers you big variation of seafood dishes. Although pricier than the standard street food, it will offer you a unique street dining experience, especially for those travelling from outside of Asia.
If not, many noodle soup restaurants open up their doors to accommodate hungry visitors after the evening rush hour (from around 9pm onwards).
The charms of Yaowarat lies in its inhabitants
All the food and shopping aside, Yaowarat actually has a lot more to offer than just consumable goods. Yaowarat would not be what it is, without its inhabitants. The charm lies within those old buildings, its somewhat orderly-chaotic appearance and its fascinating residents. Most of them still retain some Chinese traditions, evident by the presence of several Chinese temples scattered around the area. Most shops even have Chinese names, some have signs displaying their names in both Thai and Chinese.
Tips on visiting Yaowarat
To get to Yaowarat, it is best to grab a taxi or a Tuktuk from nearby Hualamphong Railway Station. During heavy traffic flow, Hua Lamphong is best accessed via the underground train (MRT) transport system. You can get off at the MRT station with the same name, which is also the end station. From there, you can grab a taxi or a Tuktuk. Although more manoeuvrable than taxis around heavy traffics, Tuktuks’ fares tend to be higher than taxis.
A few things to keep in mind when visiting Yaowarat; it can get very warm, especially during the day so it is recommended to beat the heat with plenty of fluids and sunscreen. Also, keep in mind that like most crowded places, you should look after your belongings.
Be Sure To Visit Yaowarat!
Photogenic Yaowarat is not a place to be missed, a delicious and culturally-rich experience awaits you in the heart of Bangkok.