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Chaotic and fascinating, Bangkok’s Chinatown should not be missed. Incense smoke, “wok breath” and the herbaceous scents of Chinese medicine fills the steamy air. Thick crowds of pedestrians, push carts and rumbling Vespas squeeze through back lanes packed with vendors selling textiles, gold, used car parts, stuffed animals, coffins, knock-off electronics, shark fins, oolong tea and a stupendous array of food.
Yaowarat, to use the local name, was established in 1782 when a large Chinese community was relocated to make way for the Grand Palace in Ko Rattanakosin. Hailing mainly from the Teochew, Hakka, Hokkien, Hainanese and Cantonese dialect groups, Chinese immigrants kept pouring into Bangkok into the early 20th century. Many worked as “coolies,” unloading cargo from trading junks and stocking warehouses that lined the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. Hard-working families opened shophouse businesses that are now often run by descendants of the original owners.
Today the Chinese-Thais adhere to many of their ancestors’ traditions and superstitions while also blending into the greater Thai society. Some older folks still speak (or shout) their native tongues and browse Chinese-language newspapers while sipping olieng coffee and jasmine tea along the footpaths. Colourful Chinese shrines stand hidden by crumbling mortar walls. During Chinese New Year and the Vegetarian Festival, dragons roam the streets to the crash of drums, cymbals and gongs.
Yaowarat Road is often touted as the street food centre of Bangkok -- if not the universe. Every day from before dawn until 3:00 in the morning, streetside chefs churn out a dizzying variety of foods rooted in Chinese cuisines but often with Thai twists. You might gulp some exhaust with your meal, but those Mercedes aren't queuing up for takeaway for nothing. Wet markets, teashops, pricey sit-down restaurants and medicinal drink stalls also dot Chinatown.
Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chinatown or check hotel reviews on Agoda and Booking . Hungry? Read up on where to eat on Chinatown. If you're still figuring out how to get there, you need to read up on how to get to Chinatown, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 20th April, 2016.
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