Chinatown: 17 Awesome Things To Do
Bangkok’s Chinatown, known locally as Yaowarat, is a bustling and culturally rich district that’s known for its vibrant streets and aromatic food stalls. Lined with colorful shop houses, glittering gold stores, and bustling markets, Chinatown is a sensory delight for both locals and visitors alike.
Name (Thai): เยาวราช
Also Known As: Yaowarat
Address: Yaowarat Road, Samphanthawong
Trip Type: cultural / historical.
Age Restrictions: none.
Dress Code: modest and conservative (for temples and shrines).
Chinatown is ideal for:
It isn’t ideal for:
Wat Traimit is undoubtedly one of the best attractions in the area. This temple is renowned worldwide for housing an impressive Golden Buddha, a solid gold statue weighing over 5 tons.
Beyond its sheer grandeur, Wat Traimit holds immense cultural and historical significance, offering visitors a chance to delve into the rich history of Thai Buddhism. Overall, the temple’s grandiose architecture creates a captivating atmosphere, making it a must-visit destination where spirituality, art, and history converge seamlessly in the heart of Chinatown.
Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, also known as Wat Leng Noei Yi, stands as a cultural gem and is a must-visit temple within Bangkok’s lively Chinatown. This magnificent temple, built in traditional Chinese architectural style, serves as a spiritual sanctuary and a cultural bridge, embodying the deep-rooted ties between Thai and Chinese communities.
As one of the largest and most significant Chinese Buddhist temples in Bangkok, it provides a tranquil oasis amid the city’s energetic streets, inviting visitors to explore its splendid halls and participate in traditional rituals.
Wat Chakrawatrachawat Woramahawihan, often referred to as the “Crocodile Temple,” is truly a unique place to visit in Chinatown. What sets this temple apart is its residents – live crocodiles that inhabit the temple’s pond. Visitors can witness these ancient reptiles up-close, creating a distinctive and unforgettable experience.
Beyond the reptilian allure, Wat Chakrawat boasts a stunning ubosot and serene courtyards, which provide an unusual juxtaposition of the sacred and the extraordinary.
One of the best off the beaten path places to visit in Chinatown is the Chow Sue Kong Shrine. Built in 1804, it’s one of the oldest Hokkien-Chinese structures in Bangkok.
Inside, an image of Qingshui Zushi (清水祖師), is enshrined. Qingshui was a Buddhist monk who lived over 1500 years ago, that was believed to have gained supernatural powers. Here, visitors can witness worshippers performing rituals for divine blessings and protection.
Pak Khlong Talat, known as the “Flower Market,” is a marketplace offering an explosion of colors and fragrances that awaken the senses. As one of Bangkok’s most famous markets, it provides a sensory overload for both locals and visitors.
Beyond its visual and aromatic charm, Pak Khlong Talat serves as a cultural crossroads, where the city’s floral and culinary traditions converge, making it an essential stop while exploring the dynamic streets of Chinatown.
Exploring the streets of Chinatown by foot is a quintessential experience when in Bangkok. It’s an immersive journey where you’ll encounter a tapestry of sights, sounds, and aromas that define this culturally rich district.
As you wander, you’ll come across an array of street food vendors, shops adorned with gold, and stalls offering a variety of goods. The harmonious integration of Thai and Chinese traditions, along with the lively atmosphere, offers an authentic glimpse into the district’s cultural diversity.
As you wander down the streets of Chinatown, you’ll eventually come across San Chao Rong Kueak, a narrow alley that’s full of colorful murals and intricate graffiti, bringing the walls to life.
These artworks depict a diverse range of subjects, from Chinese cultural motifs to eccentric characters, offering a visual narrative that reflects the neighborhoods unique blend of history and modernity. It’s a great place to snap some photos of graphic urban artworks.
Visiting the Sun Wukong Shrine in Chinatown is a temple that’s often overlooked by tourists but deeply cherished by locals. This hidden gem is a testament to the enduring influence of Chinese folklore and traditions within the Thai-Chinese community.
Dedicated to the legendary Monkey King, Sun Wukong, from the classic Chinese epic “Journey to the West,” the shrine exudes an air of mystique and reverence. With its intricate sculptures, intricate murals, and vibrant rituals performed by devoted locals, it provides an authentic insight into the folk beliefs of Chinese Buddhists.
Exploring the stalls of Phahurat Market, often referred to as Little India, is undeniably one of the most enriching attractions in Chinatown. From intricate fabrics and vibrant clothing to aromatic spices and south Asian street food, the market offers a journey that transcends borders.
Whether you’re searching for eccentric souvenirs, craving authentic Indian cuisine, or simply soaking in the market’s unique character, a shopping excursion here is an enthralling window into the diverse and multicultural essence of Bangkok, where Thai and Indian influences converge.
The Holy Rosary Church, also known as the Kalawar Church (วัดแม่พระลูกประคำ), stands as an iconic landmark in Bangkok. Constructed in 1897 by Portuguese settlers in the Gothic Revival style, the church showcases European influence that provide an idiosyncratic contrast to the dozens of Buddhist structures that adorn Chinatown.
Inside the church, visitors can admire its ornate golden arches, expansive stained glass windows, and intricately sculpted statues that depict the Virgin Mary and Jesus presenting a rosary to Saint Dominic and Saint Caterina.
Savoring the delectable shrimp dumplings at Jok One Table in Chinatown is a culinary experience not to be missed. This humble hawker stall’s extraordinary achievement of being awarded a Michelin star in 2021 is a testament to the exceptional quality of its signature dish.
Each bite of their shrimp dumplings, crafted with meticulous precision, bursts with the freshness of plump shrimp encased in delicate translucent wrappers. The symphony of flavors and textures in these dumplings is nothing short of a gastronomic masterpiece.
Navigating the crowded alleys of Sampeng Lane is an exhilarating adventure. This market offers a treasure trove of goods, from trendy fashion items and quirky souvenirs to everyday essentials. Walking through the market, its claustrophobic alleyways are alive with the energy of haggling shoppers and enthusiastic vendors.
Whether you’re hunting for peculiar trinkets or delving into the local street food scene, Sampeng Lane is a microcosm of Chinatown’s eclectic commerce culture.
The Rong Kueak Shrine is one of the most revered structures to explore in Chinatown. With a history spanning well over a century, this riverside sanctuary was constructed to house the sacred image of Hon Wong Kung. This venerated statue was a precious gift from Hakka merchants who journeyed from China to Bangkok, during the early Rattanakosin era.
Visiting the Tai Hong Kong Shrine in Chinatown offers a truly authentic experience that allows visitors to connect with the local culture on a deeper level. Unlike many touristy attractions, this shrine remains a cherished gem primarily frequented by locals.
Steeped in history and spiritual significance, it pays homage to the revered Chinese monk Luang Pu Tai Hong, known for his boundless empathy and generosity. Locals come here to seek blessings, make offerings, and pay respects to their ancestors.
Photographing the Sieng Kong Auto Shops in Chinatown offers a unique glimpse into the district’s lesser-explored urban side. Amidst the sounds of tools and engines, skilled mechanics conduct repairs using age-old techniques passed down through generations.
What makes this scene even more intriguing is the presence of used auto parts strewn across the streets, signifying its status as Bangkok’s primary destination for second-hand auto parts for over seven decades.
No trip to Chinatown can be considered complete without savoring the simple yet incredibly flavorful dish of Khao Man Gai. This Thai-Chinese comfort food consists of tender poached chicken served atop fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth, accompanied by a medley of fresh herbs and a soy-bean-based sauce.
The dish’s beauty lies in its subtlety, where every element, from the succulent chicken to the fragrant rice and its zesty sauce, harmonizes perfectly.
Dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, the Kuan Yim Shrine in Chinatown showcases traditional architecture that’s adorned with vivid hues of red and gold. Here, visitors can partake in the traditional practice of lighting fragrant incense and making offerings to the temple’s Bodhisattva.
Chinatown traces its history back to the late 18th century when King Rama I, the founder of the Chakri Dynasty, designated an area for Chinese immigrants to settle. These early Chinese settlers, mainly from the Teochew and Hokkien communities, brought with them their rich cultural traditions, businesses, and entrepreneurial spirit. Over time, Chinatown flourished as a bustling trading hub and a melting pot of Chinese, Portuguese, and Thai cultures.
During the reign of King Rama III in the 19th century, Chinatown experienced significant growth, with the construction of many of its iconic landmarks, including the ornate gate at the entrance of Yaowarat Road, which still stands as a symbol of this historic district. The area became renowned for its thriving markets, gold shops, traditional Chinese medicine stores, and, of course, its street food stalls.
Today, Chinatown remains a testament to the enduring cultural and commercial ties between Thailand and its Chinese communities, offering a glimpse into the harmonious coexistence of these two rich heritages in the heart of Bangkok
Navigating the streets of Chinatown is best accomplished by either walking or opting for the zippy convenience of a tuk-tuk.
Strolling through the high-spirited alleys allows visitors to soak in the myriad of sights, sounds, and aromas that define this dynamic district. However, for those looking to cover more ground quickly and efficiently, the ever-present tuk-tuks offer an exciting mode of transportation.
Reaching Chinatown in Bangkok is straightforward with the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. Take the metro (subway) to Hua Lamphong Station, which is located in close proximity to the starting point of Chinatown – specifically the Odeon Circle and its Chinatown Gate.
From the gate, head down Yaowarat Road (Chinatown’s most famous street) and you’ll be steps away from a variety of iconic landmarks and restaurants.
Alternatively, you can jump on a boat, head down the Chao Phraya River and disembark at Ratchawong Pier, which is approximately a 10 minute walk from the district’s center.
The best time to visit Bangkok’s Chinatown, Yaowarat, largely depends on your preferences and what you aim to experience. We recommend that you consider the following:
Daytime Exploration (Morning): If you prefer a more relaxed and less crowded experience, mornings are ideal. This is when you can explore the temples, shop in the markets, and enjoy delicious dim sum and street food. The temperature is generally cooler during these hours as well.
Evening & Nighttime: Chinatown truly comes to life in the evening and at night. The streets are alive with activity, the neon signs light up, and the aroma of street food fills the air. This is the best time for food enthusiasts and those looking for an animated vibe. Weekends tend to be even busier, creating an electrifying scene.
Festivals: To witness the splendor of Chinese festivals like Chinese New Year, the Vegetarian Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival, plan your visit around these dates. These celebrations feature parades, cultural performances, and elaborate decorations that transform Yaowarat into a buzzing spectacle.
Avoiding Crowds: If you prefer a quieter experience, it’s best to avoid major festivals and weekends. Weekdays, especially in the morning, offer a more peaceful visit with fewer tourists.
Shopping: If shopping is your main focus, the morning and early afternoon are excellent times to explore the markets when they are less crowded. However, some stalls and shops may open late afternoon to cater to evening shoppers.
Bangkok’s Chinatown, known as Yaowarat, is renowned for several distinctive attributes that make it a must-visit destination:
Culinary Paradise: Yaowarat is celebrated for its street food and traditional Chinese cuisine. Visitors flock here to salivate over mouthwatering dishes like dim sum, fresh seafood, roasted duck, and various noodle specialties. The array of flavors and aromas that permeate the air is a testament to the area’s culinary fame.
Cultural Heritage: The district is steeped in history and Chinese culture. Its ornate temples, intricate architecture, and vibrant festivals reflect the deep-rooted traditions of the Thai-Chinese community.
Shopping Hub: Chinatown is a shopper’s haven, with markets like Sampeng Lane and Phahurat Market offering an array of goods, from textiles and clothing to trinkets and accessories. It’s an excellent place to hunt for oddball souvenirs and experience the thrill of bargaining.
Festivities: The area comes alive during Chinese festivals, notably Chinese New Year, with vibrant parades, dragon dances, and elaborate decorations. These festivities draw crowds of locals and tourists alike.
Architectural Marvels: Chinatown is home to several beautifully designed temples, such as Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha) and Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (Dragon Lotus Temple). These temples boast stunning architectural details and house significant religious artifacts.
Nightlife: As the sun sets, Chinatown transforms into a nightlife destination. Street vendors continue to serve flavorsome treats, and the area’s numerous bars and restaurants offer a range of beverages and entertainment options.
Gold & Jewelry District: Yaowarat is famous for its gold shops and jewelry stores, making it a hub for those seeking exquisite jewelry pieces and gold items.
Yes, Bangkok’s Chinatown is absolutely worth visiting. It’s a culturally rich district that offers a unique blend of history, culinary delights, and bustling markets. You can explore elaborate temples, savor street food, and shop for a wide range of goods.
Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a history buff, a shopper, or someone seeking cultural experiences, Chinatown has something to offer, making it a must-visit destination in Bangkok.
Spanning a vast area of over 1.5 square kilometers in the heart of Bangkok, Chinatown is not only expansive but also holds the distinction of being the largest Chinatown in the world.