Offering walking tours of Bangkok without including Chinatown is like eating chips without salsa or peeing with your pants still on. Chinatown is the Grand Daddy of places in Bangkok for a walkabout and can even reach the upper tier of your trips highlights. So without further ado, let’s get started with the following provisos: one, everyone has their own favorite places to see so don’t treat this as a complete list (we encourage you to solicit information from other friends besides KohSpot), and two, you will likely get lost, as Chinatown has more tangled, byzantine, unlabelled sois than anywhere else in Bangkok. Don’t worry, getting lost is part of the fun and an inherent part of perusing the labyrinth of streets that make this city so great.
While Chinatown or Yaowarat is best known for its eateries and shopping, it might also be the epicenter of weirdness in Bangkok. Spending only half a day in Chinatown and you are guaranteed to see things you won’t find elsewhere in Thailand, inspirations for gonzo method actor Nic Cage in his preparations for Bangkok Dangerous perhaps. Such as the area around Hua Lamphong railway station, especially Maitri Chit Road, which is teaming with riffraff, carnival workers and rock bottom hookers – what’s not love!
Let’s start out from Hua Lamphong, as that’s the closest mass transit stop near Yaowarat. You should have a map with you just for orientation. Walk west, crossing the klong, to Traimit Road, which will have sightseeing signs pointing you in that direction on the corner. Wat Traimit, which houses the famed Golden Buddha, is on your right after a few minutes and is huge and gaudy and impossible to miss because of all the tourists. Go in, pay your respects, quickly find enlighenment and then leave because we’ve got some eating to do.
Continue walking in the same direction and you’ll reach a circle with two major roads to your right. These are Yaowarat and Charoen Krung Roads and will serve as you guideposts for this tour as they run parallel to each other, but in typical Chinatown fashion the sois increase as you head west on Yaowarat but decrease in the same direction on Charoen Krung.
Take Yaowarat, which is the road more to your left after you’ve turned right, or a soft right.Walk past Tian Fa Hospital on your left, which looks like a shrine, and keep going to Yaowarat Soi 9. Right at the bak soi is a kuay jab restaurant called Ran Kuay Jabb Bonay Aak. They have lots of pork dishes here, but their specialty is kuay jabb (40 baht), which comprises wide white noodles in a broth with several types of pork, including offal. Don’t fill up though, we’ve got many more appetizing surprises in store for you.
Now cross the street and backtrack a few minutes until you reach Soi Texas. There are no road signs identifying it as such, but there are shop signs in the soi labeling it after the karaoke establishment clearly visible from Yaowarat Road. Walk into the soi (turn left) and go slowly. After about 40 meters, there will be an alley on your left that looks unlabelled in either English or Thai. It’s called Soi Phiphaksa 2 and you want to walk down it.
The personal scenes you see as you walk, people wearing towels as daily attire, bouncing babies on their knees, and preparing food while rats scurry from their holes may seem odd for a road, but this alley is where people live. The whole area is great for photos and the light can be fantastic in the morning or late afternoon. Now is the time to hone those photography skills.
The soi also reputedly has fantastic food, but the stalls KohSpot was looking for close on the weekend. An odd way to run a business but this is Chinatown after all – the kingdom of curveballs.
Come back tomorrow for part II of our ChinaTown Adventure.