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Best Things to Do in Chinatown

A walking guide to Bangkok Chinatown

The best things to do in Bangkok Chinatown include Yaowarat Road, eating legendary street food, shopping in local markets, and learning more about this area’s long and fascinating history. As with most Chinatowns around the world, Bangkok’s Yaowarat Road and Samphanthawong District is a riot of colour, light and sound, constantly abuzz with activity. It’s worth a visit just to soak up the atmosphere, but be sure to bring an appetite, too.

Chinatown has the distinction of being one of Bangkok’s oldest districts, as well as one of its smallest and one of its most densely populated. It’s also one of the most popular for visitors, not least for the array of unique and remarkable reasons shown below.

Wat Traimit

Wat Traimit in Bangkok Chinatown

The striking spire of Wat Traimit protects a 5-metre-tall seated Buddha statue made of solid gold. Weighing in at 5.5 tonnes, the statue dates back to the 13th century and was originally covered in plaster. Somewhat ironically, the statue’s true value was only revealed when movers accidentally dropped it, breaking away some of the plaster.

You can learn more about the statue in the temple’s museum on the third floor. On the second floor, you’ll find a 3D presentation telling the story of Chinese traders in Bangkok.

Yaowarat Road and street food

Bangkok Chinatown - Yaowarat Road

Yaowarat Road is the main street running through Bangkok’s Chinatown. The one-way road is the place to go in Bangkok for the Chinese New Year. Busy enough on any given day, it really comes to life in the evenings, when the bright neon signs on almost every building light your way to outstanding street food.

Follow your nose along the road’s 1.5 km length and down its many side streets and you’ll find a dizzying array of dishes, some unique to the area. Among the must-try eateries are Yaowarat Toast Bread (it’s more interesting than the name suggests!), Kway Chap Auan Pochana (specialising in a peppery version of the Chinese soup containing rice noodle rolls and pig innards) and T&K Seafood.

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Sampeng Lane

Sampheng Lane in Bangkok Chinatown

Sampeng Lane is essentially one giant market that dominates a narrow, covered, mostly pedestrianised (barring the occasional moped or push cart) street that runs parallel to Yaowarat Road. Like its larger neighbour, it is prone to traffic jams, but the cause here is an excellent array of goods on sale for very good prices.

The wares you can pick up here include clothes of all shapes and sizes, jewellery, makeup, toys, tourist trinkets and, of course, plenty of tasty street food. The choice of goods is perhaps a little better here than in many other markets around Bangkok because of the fact that these are mostly permanent stores, not temporary stalls.

Wat Mangkon Kamalawat

Wat Mangkon Kamalawat in Bangkok Chinatown

Wat Mangkon Kamalawat is the best of the cultural things to do in Chinatown, being Bangkok’s largest Chinese Buddhist temple. Built in 1846, the temple’s design is unmistakably Chinese. The statues of the Four Heavenly Kings at the entrance are particularly impressive, though the main Buddha statue in the ordination hall is also impressive. Effectively the religious and cultural heart of the area, it hosts several major events throughout the year, such as Chinese New Year and the famous Vegetarian Festival.

Tian Fah Foundation

Tian Fah Foundation in Chinatown, Bangkok

The highlight of the Tian Fah Foundation compound is the large and beautiful Chinese-style shrine. It used to be concealed behind a row of shophouses, making it one of Bangkok’s better-kept secrets, but the obstacle was demolished so that the shrine could properly shine.

Inside the shrine, you’ll find a stunning statue of Kuan Im, commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy, which is thought to be over 800 years old. The foundation itself is notably historical. Formed in 1902, it’s Bangkok’s oldest charitable society.

Klong Thom Market

Klong Thom Market Bangkok

Trading has been an integral part of Chinatown’s history since there was a Chinatown, and the various budget-friendly markets are an excellent display of that. Aside from Sampeng Lane and the Klong Ong Ang Canal Walking Street, there are several others, including Klong Thom Market, Talat Kao and Itsaraphap Lane.

Food is, of course, a major feature of most markets in Chinatown, but Klong Thom Market is an especially good choice if you’re looking for some bargains. Sometimes still known as Flashlight Market because it used to be so dark that you needed a light to see what you were buying, it runs every Saturday evening and is known for its excellent range of second-hand goods.

Wat Chakrawat, the crocodile temple

Wat Chakrawat, the crocodile temple in Chinatown
the crocodile temple in Chinatown

Wat Chakrawat earned its nickname from the resident population of large reptiles. The legend goes that an especially belligerent man-eating croc with a missing eye, going by the nickname Ai-bod, was being hunted by angry locals and took refuge beneath a monk’s house in the temple. The monk spared its life and built an enclosure to keep it and the locals safe, starting the temple’s association with crocodiles.

Ai-bod did finally die and his stuffed body can still be seen in the temple grounds. However, the temple now has four new reptilian residents to take his place. The other unusual highlight here is the Buddha’s shadow.

Sky Bar at Grand China Hotel Bangkok

 Sky Bar at Grand China Hotel Bangkok

The Sky Bar is located on the 23rd floor of the Grand China Hotel and offers a spectacular 360-degree view over the Chinatown skyline. Open from 3 pm until midnight every day, it’s especially impressive when the sun is setting over the Chao Phraya River.

Unusually for a rooftop bar, there are actually floors above the Sky Bar. Head up to the 25th floor to dine at Sky View 360°, which shares stunning views but adds windows and air-conditioning for your comfort, as well as a professional pianist and singer.

The Old Siam Plaza

The Old Siam Plaza in Bangkok Chinatown

The Old Siam Plaza is a unique local shopping centre located in the heart of Bangkok, near Chinatown. It is a popular destination for locals, offering a unique shopping experience with traditional Thai culture and hard-to-find traditional snacks and sweets. The plaza is housed in a charming old building that dates back to the early 1900s. The building has been restored and preserved to maintain its original architecture and charm. The exterior features a beautiful mix of Art Deco and Thai architectural styles, while the interior is decorated with Thai motifs and ornaments.

Inside the plaza, visitors will find a wide range of shops selling everything from clothing and accessories to souvenirs and traditional Thai handicrafts. Many of the shops specialize in silk, textiles, and jewellery, which are popular items among visitors to Thailand.

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Where to Eat Around Chinatown

Ong Ang Walking Street Canal

Ong Ang Canal in Bangkok

The Ong Ang Canal is a well-maintained waterway, but that doesn’t make visiting it one of the best things to do in Chinatown. However, come on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday from 4 pm to 10 pm and you’ll find the towpath packed with market stalls. The weekend walking street market runs for 1.5 km from the Damrong Sathit Bridge to Saphan Han Bridge.

As with most markets in Thailand, street food is the star of this award-winning attraction. You can expect to find everything from rice and roti dishes to grilled squid, and meatballs and plenty of local desserts and treats. Between snacks, you might fancy grabbing a bargain on toys, T-shirts and other tourist trinkets. Alternatively, you can take a selfie with the impressive street art or even rent a canoe to take a paddle on the canal itself.

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Restaurant Potong

Potong Restaurant in Bangkok Chinatown

Located in the heart of Yaowarat in Bangkok Chinatown, Restaurant Potong is a fine dining establishment that has transformed an oldThai-Chinese house into a modern and stylish space.

Phone: 082 979 3950
Address: 422 Vanich Rd. Samphanthawong, Bangkok, 10100
Price: very expensive
Reservations: required

Pompano Cafe

Pompano Cafe Bangkok

Address: 482 Maitri Chit Rd, Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100
Hours: 10 am – 7 pm (Sat- Sun: 10 am – 8 pm)
Phone: 091 704 2566

The Mustang Blu

The Mustang Blu Bangkok

Address: 721 Maitri Chit Rd, Khwaeng Pom Prap, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100
Phone: 062 293 6191
Hours: 11 am – 9 pm

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A little out of the way

Talat Noi

Talat Noi is a subdivision of Chinatown with a lot of history, having been home to ethnic Chinese communities since before Bangkok was founded in the early 14th century. As you might expect, the area’s architecture reflects that long and storied past. Even the local branch of Siam Commercial Bank has historical interest, being the oldest in the city and a very impressive (and bright yellow) mansion.

 Talad Noi in Bangkok, near Chinatown

Other highlights in Talat Noi include the Holy Rosary Church and the So Heng Tai Mansion. The neighbourhood still has its own distinctive flavour, with its own local folklore, dialect and, of course, food. Many of the less iconic buildings and lanes are decorated with remarkable street art and graffiti, making it a popular spot for teenagers and hipsters.

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So Heng Tai Mansion

So Heng Tai Mansion in Bangkok Talad Noi

So Heng Tai Mansion was built in the 19th century by Phra Aphaiwanit, a Hokkien Chinese bird’s nest tax farmer who later became a member of Thailand’s nobility. It still belongs to the same family, making it a likely candidate for the title of the oldest private residence in Bangkok.

Throughout its history, the mansion has been occasionally opened up to the public and it is certainly worth a visit, being one of the last remaining traditional Chinese houses in the city. The swimming pool, added in 2004, is a rather unique place to learn to scuba dive.

Address: 282 Soi Wanit 2, Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100
Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Closed on Monday)

Bangkok Chinatown Map

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Born in France a long long time ago, I started to travel the world early until I settled in Phuket in 1994. For the past 30 years, my passion for photography and my curiosity have taken me to every corner of Phuket, Bangkok and everywhere I could go in Thailand. My goal is to share my discoveries, photos and tips to help travellers plan their holidays by making Phuket 101 as easy as possible to use for everyone!