Like many other districts in Bangkok, Chinatown is certainly vibrant. It’s a bustling place full of market stalls packed into narrow alleys, restaurants, temples, stores and bright lights that is busy any time of the day or night. Come to Chinatown Bangkok to pick up a huge assortment of goods or to have your fill on some delectable Chinese cuisine.
How to Get to Chinatown Bangkok
You’ll find Chinatown in the Yaowarat Road area of Bangkok, in Samphanthawong district. Mainly it is centred around Sampheng Lane but it’s worth spending time exploring the many different lanes and alleys to find some real hidden gems.
Some tourists will tell you it’s difficult to get to Chinatown, but this isn’t the case. You can travel by taxi though we wouldn’t recommend this from all locations of Bangkok, traffic is usually very bad around Chinatown. The quickest way is to take the MRT and go to Hua Lamphong station. It is the last station on the MRT blue line (subway). It is only about a 10 minutes walk to Chinatown from the end station Hua Lamphong. Another recommendation is to arrive by water as the district is on the banks of the Chao Phraya River so it’s only a short walk into the heart of Chinatown from the pier. Depending on where you’re travelling from you can take the Chao Phraya Express Boat service from Saphan Taksin BTS-station or Rattanakosin. The journey offers the chance to see more of Bangkok from the river and takes about twenty minutes. From the Thonburi part of the city it’s a quick and easy hop across the river on a ferry.
A Little History on Bangkok’s Chinatown
Chinatown in Bangkok is located in one of the oldest parts of the city, though this isn’t where the district first started to grow. Originally it was on the other side of the river, in Thonburi, but the community was asked to move in 1782 to make way for the construction of the Grand Palace. Even so, this didn’t deter the Chinese community from expanding Chinatown, and it became the main centre for Chinese trading.
Top 6 Attractions in Chinatown Bangkok
The shopping and dining opportunities are probably the most obvious attractions of Chinatown though by no means the only thing to see or do. Many of the temples are also worth a look and they can provide a welcome break from the hordes of people packing in along the small market streets. Here are our top 6 attractions in Chinatown:
6 – Prison Corrections Museum – Chinatown in Bangkok is home to one of the city’s more unusual attractions. It’s not especially well known, but if you enjoy visiting places that are different to the norm, this is it. Located on the edge of Chinatown, the museum is housed within the former maximum security prison that was built in 1890. See the old prison cells and interesting exhibits, and learn about the harsh conditions that prisoners endured.
5 – China Gate – The official gateway into Chinatown is quite a new addition, constructed in 1999 to celebrate the King’s 60th birthday on the throne. It’s large and impressive and a good opportunity for photographers.
4 – Wat Traimit – While this spectacular temple should definitely be on your list of top attractions in Bangkok’s Chinatown, it strictly speaking is not part of the Chinese cultural heritage. The temple is beautiful on the outside but is visited mainly for the chance to see the largest gold Buddha in the world. It was kept hidden behind a plaster façade for many years and rediscovered when the plaster cracked some 50 years ago. Be sure to also climb to the top of Wat Traimit for a great view of China Gate.
3 – Wat Mangkol Kamalawat – If you’d like to visit a temple that is very important to the Chinese community, visit Wat Mangkol Kamalawat. Meaning Dragon Lotus Temple it is the largest and most important Chinese-Buddhist temple in Bangkok, and is a beautiful place that looks even more stunning since it was restored.
2 – Sampheng Lane and the Street Markets – When you’re fighting for space in this narrow and very crowded little lane, take a moment to consider that Sampheng Lane was originally the high street of Chinatown in Bangkok, when the community moved over here from across the river.
Not the faint of heart, Sampheng Lane will overwhelm you with its crowds, smells, noise and multitude of stores. There’s a large mishmash of goods being sold here, and over the years certain sections of the street have become more dedicated to certain items, so keep looking if you don’t find what you want at first. You should also be sure to veer off from Sampheng Lane to explore some of the other alleys and their own markets. You could spend an entire day in Chinatown Bangkok, wandering around the narrow streets browsing through all the cheap goods that are on offer.
1 – Yaowarat Road – Yaowarat Road and Chinatown are interchangeable – this is one and the same place. Visit during the day to get your bearings but be sure to come back in the evening for an amazing culinary experience. Unlike some districts in Bangkok, Chinatown is not a tourist trap – you’ll find locals seated alongside visitors from all over the world who come here to enjoy the best Chinese food in the city. This “food street” is a smorgasbord for an utterly delicious mixture of Chinese foods and seafood, where you can pick a restaurant and sit down to eat, or make your way along the street, sampling dishes from many different places including restaurants and street vendors. This is probably what Chinatown in Bangkok is most famous for, so be sure to stay into the evening and discover what all the fuss is about yourself!
So there are our top 6 attractions in Chinatown Bangkok. One thing is certain, this vibrant district is sure to entertain whatever time of day or night you visit though we’d recommend you stay for the evening to discover some of the best Chinese food around, and the bustling atmosphere that goes with it.