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Exploring Yaowarat (Chinatown)

Bangkok is a bustling basket of multi-culture. However, no district boasts a more interesting cultural landscape than Yaowarat, otherwise known as Bangkok’s Chinatown. The district is primarily home to the Thai capital’s Chinese community. Despite its rather unassuming appearance during the day, Yaowarat Road becomes a place of sizzling neon lights, traditional restaurants and sidewalk stalls once the sun goes down. Visitors could be forgiven for thinking they have stumbled into a miniature Hong Kong here. Nevertheless, Yaowarat Road is only part of this fascinating area. Behind the central heart of Chinatown meanders Phahurat Road, which houses a vibrant ethnic Indian community.

Bangkok Yaowarat (Chinatown) is nestled to the west of Silom, just 10 minutes’ drive down Rama IV Road. The other side of Yaowarat is the historic district of Rattanakosin Island. Tourists are advised to set aside several hours to see Yaowarat, as the web of alleyways and backstreets boasts an incredible array of religious structures, traditional Chinese shops, and renowned restaurants. Most of the hotels in and around Yaowarat are medium-range accommodation, yet still provide comfortable facilities and services for guests

Sights nearby

Tourists who opt to base their Bangkok holiday in Yaowarat will not be disappointed. There are numerous sites just minutes from Yaowarat Road, and with plenty of transport options available, tourists will have no trouble reaching them.

Sampeng Market
This popular lane is seen as the heart of Chinatown’s shopping culture. Sometimes referred to as Soi Wanit Neung (Soi Wanit 1), this market is a pedestrian-only laneway that offers a wide range of cheap goods. Shoes, belts, clothing, teenage jewellery and accessories, Chinese ceramics and Indian fabrics dominate the lane. Visitors can always practice their haggling skills here. Both Chinatown Hotel and Shanghai Mansion are great accommodation choices just 700 metres from the market.

Grand Palace
Just a few minutes by taxi, tuk-tuk (motorised rickshaw) or motorcycle from Yaowarat is the Grand Palace, a complex of Royal Thai temples and buildings. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is often regarded as the main attraction, but there are dozens of other magnificent structures in the complex worth exploring. The Central Court is the heart of the site, boasting the Siwalai Garden and Throne Halls. This landmark is the most revered place in Thailand, so visitors should treat the grounds with utmost respect. Strict rules apply to dress, as only part of the complex is open to visitors. Parts of the palace are still used for royal offices. The three-star New Empire Hotel is only two kilometres from the Grand Palace.

Wat Traimit
Although there are dozens of temples and shrines close to Yaowarat, Wat Traimit is one of the highlights of the area. It is home to a stunning solid-gold image of Buddha, which happens to be the largest in the world. Although the temple does not have any Chinese ties, it is still a highly respected attraction within the Chinatown district. Open 08:00 to 17:00 daily, the temple has a modest entrance fee. Don’t forget to wear proper attire when visiting, and keep noise to a minimum.

Eating and drinking and shopping nearby

Even though Yaowarat is not known for its nightlife, it is Bangkok’s best district for Chinese delicacies. Restaurants are renowned for their Chinese specialties, including the controversial shark-fin soup, delightful bird’s nest soup, and extremely fresh seafood. Unlike in other areas of Bangkok, these Chinese restaurants are relatively affordable, too. Street markets dominate the shopping culture here; these include Sampeng Lane, Khlong Thom Market and Ban Mo. Several malls also exist, such as Old Siam Plaza. Gold and fabrics are still the main products sold along Yaowarat Road.

Public transport

Yaowarat is located upon the Chao Phraya River banks, so many visitors choose to enter the area via an express boat service. Stop off at Rachawongse or Si Phraya piers to access Chinatown. The MRT train service reaches Hua Lamphong, which is also the main train station in Thailand. Buses do travel along Yaowarat Road, but only those heading to Rattanakosin Island. All other buses traverse Charoen Krung Road instead. Of course, taxis are another option. Tourists just need to be aware that traffic in this area can get congested.

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