When KohSpot last left you on the Chinatown walking tour, you were standing at the corner of Soi Phiphaksa 2 and Plaeng Nam Road. Immediately across the street from this soi is Wat Yuan and hopefully, in your case, an old man selling khanom jeep from a cart in the entryway to the temple. He’s there from noon to 7 pm daily and looks like he should have retired 30 years ago, but we are glad that he didn’t. You can get 10 pieces for 25 baht as added fuel for you walk.
Now turn left or south and walk back to Yaowarat Road. Immediately across the street on Yaowarat is an old movie theatre in a huge dilapidated building that still has its marquee but looks like it was condemned 50 years ago and is most likely haunted. This is the Chinatown Theatre, and it still shows movies for 50 baht. Walk right in if you want a slice of amazing, but don’t expect anything in English, or cleanliness, or courtesy. Chinatown at it’s best.
Go back to Plaeng Nam Road and walk back, or north, for about 20 meters past Wat Yuan until you see a cart with a cheerful woman on your left selling plaa ram long song (45 baht). This is an odd dish that we had never seen in all of our stomping around town that includes shrimp, pork and rice in a mild gravy that is more coconut-milk based than spicey. She claims it is a 100-year-old family recipe, but we reckon half the vendors in Chinatown could make that claim so we continue on in search of the real deal.
Now the shophouse behind her cart is where a family really has been making kun chiang, or Chinese sausage, for about 100 years. It has been featured by Khun Suthon Sukphisit and you may want to get yourself a few links or watch how it’s being made before you continue as this is culinary craftsmanship perfected.
Keep walking north up to Charoen Krung Road. Just to the right of the intersection is a“sidewalk spa” with plastic chairs where you can pay 100 baht to have your face rejuvenated. The women use a white powder and string to quickly whisk away any hairs or dead skin on your face for about 20 minutes. Adherents swear to its ability to make you look younger, others simply say it hurts, but either way we salute the entrepreneur spirit of this poor man’s version of botox.
Turn left and walk for a few minutes until you hit Charoen Krung Soi 16. This is Talat Mai, a main shopping alley in Chinatown, where you can find lots of clothes, kitchen and houseware, toiletries and cooking ingredients and utensils. The emphasis is on cheap in both price and quality, and if for some reason you can’t find what you’re looking for, simply continue on down the soi back to Yaowarat Road, turn right and walk until you hit Chakkrawat Road, then turn left and the first soi on your right is an entry to Pahurat Market, an even bigger street extravaganza. The walk takes about 15 minutes, or just take a tuk-tuk if your chicken legs are starting to feel the effects of gravity.
Enough with the shopping already, KohSpot is hungry. Go back up to Charoen Krung Road and turn left, walking until you hit Thanon Mangkon. Cross the street and you will see what looks like a soup kitchen, with several people lined up single file in front of a few carts. Still more off to the side are sitting on backless plastic stools with no table, holding a plate with one hand and eating with another. This is truly Chinatown, and this is Jay Puy curry shop (open 4-9 pm). The people standing in line are getting takeaway orders, while the ones sitting are patiently waiting for their curry to be delivered so they can eat the dish nice and fresh. Grab a chair and, while the shop has a few different curries, you want to eat like a local and get the basic kaeng karii with either beef or pork (30 baht). It tastes so good you’ll understand why self-respecting Thais will eat with no table and rely on a waiter who only uses his memory to take the orders of 20-some diners.
That about wraps it up for the tour. We hope you enjoy the quirks and value of Chinatown as much as we do. Cheers to exploring a piece of Bangkok’s personality.
Location: Follow the directions in the text, if possible, but Yaowarat and Charoen Krung are your two main guideposts.
Mass transit: Hua Lamphong MRT