Chinatown district in Bangkok

Lying south of Dusit and Banglamphu, the Chinatown (เยาวราช) district is one of the oldest areas of Bangkok as Chinese merchants were originally moved to this area in the early 1780's when Bangkok was founded. One of the main streets of this area, Charoen Krung (translating as 'Prosperous city'), was actually Bangkok's first paved road, so it's English name, New Road, couldn't really be more inappropriate nowadays. The area has got a somewhat seedy historical reputation for large numbers of opium dens, brothels (which hung green lanterns outside, giving it the name of the Green Light district), pawnshops and a fondness for gambling. Today, gold shops and pawnshops are still very popular in Chinatown and can be found almost anywhere. Drug dealing, prostitution and gambling (all now illegal in Thailand) are also still thought to be widespread in this area, though they are not likely to be very noticeable to the average visitor.

Nevertheless, Chinatown remains a pretty interesting area to visit. With the exception of Wat Traimit, it's almost completely untouristy, though this has the downside that most people round here speak very little Golden Buddha, Wat TraimitEnglish. Though the main roads are not very dissimilar to those of other parts of Bangkok, the genuine Chinatown lies down the busy numerous smaller roads, narrow alleys and backstreets. The Chinese in Chinatown have been living in Thailand for generations, and generally consider themselves very much as Thais - most can no longer speak any Chinese.

Very close to the intersection of Charoen Krung and Yaowarat road is perhaps the only real top attraction in Chinatown, Wat Traimit (วัดไตรมิตร), the Temple of the Golden Buddha. At first glance, the 3m high Buddha image in here looks distinctly average and undeserving of the busloads of tourists that visit every day. What attracts them all however, is the remarkable fact that it's made of 5.5 tonnes of solid gold. The story behind the image is that in 1957 a large stucco Buddha image was being moved by crane during development of a port. To the horror of all concerned, the crane operator accidentally dropped the image, sending it crashing towards the ground. Instead of smashing however, the stucco covering merely cracked and in the process revealed the solid gold image hidden underneath. It is thought to have been covered like this during the early Ayuthaya or Sukhothai period, apparently to protect the image from the invading Burmese, and remained that way for several hundred years. Just north of here is Hualamphong (หัวลำโพง), Bangkok's main train station.

Though other attractions as such are thin on the ground, Chinatown is an interesting place to just wander around. A couple of Chinatown's most interesting roads are Yaowarat road (ถนนเยาวราช), leading westwards from near Wat Traimit, and Sampeng Lane (ถนนสำเพ็ง, also sometimes known as Soi Wanit), running parallel south of Yaowarat.

Busy Yaowarat road is Chinatown's main street, and has surely one of greatest concentrations of gold shops anywhere, reflecting the love of gold the Thai-Chinese are often thought to have. There's dozens of them, all dazzlingly brightly colored, and with mainly very good prices. There's also plenty of restaurants round here also, where you can get birds-nest soup, dim sum, shark fin soup and other traditional Chinese delicacies.

The narrow, crammed Sampeng Lane was previously infamous for the gang fighting and high numbers of murders that took place here. Nowadays, it's a very busy predominately pedestrian street, with the main danger being the odd motorbike that tries to get past. The street is a hive of constant commercial activity, mostly in textiles and cloth, and while it's not really a great place for buying anything, it's an interesting authentic experience that doesn't seem to have really changed in decades.

The Thieves Market, or Nakhon Kasem is slightly north of the western end of Sampeng Lane. Though legitimate today, it was so named because this was where goods stolen from houses inevitably turned up. It's now a good area for looking or buying Thai or Chinese antiques. There's quite a number of shops and reasonable range of supposedly antique and second hand goods.

Details

Entrance to Wat Traimit is 20B, it's open from 9.00am to 5.00pm everyday. The markets in general are open until the late evening. Chinatown is not far from the Ko Rattanakosin area, including the attractions there such as Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho. Banglamphu is also just a short distance north of Chinatown.

Ordinary buses 1, 7, 8, 37, 49 and 75 will take you into Chinatown, some stopping on Charoen Krung, others on Worachak road (near the Thieves Market) though the river is normally a better bet due to the consistent traffic jams round here. The Tha Ratchawong pier is just a few hundred meters from Yaowarat road and Sampeng Lane.
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Thankyou for the time and effort that has been put into this excellent website. My research on a upcomming trip to Thialand keeps comming back to your site and I have saved many pages to the memory stick.
' Joseph
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the informatoins are to the point.but only lack is the prices of things didnt mentioned here.like the cheap rate of bags and shoes and also the price of gold in chinatown.if any one can add these things,then it will be helpful for me.coz,i am planning to visit there in august'06.also want to know about hotel rate within 20$.can you help me with these things?thank you.
' farjo
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