Bangkok/Yaowarat and Phahurat
Yaowarat and Phahurat (Thai: เยาวราชและพาหุรัด) is Bangkok's multicultural district, located west of Silom and southeast of Rattanakosin. Yaowarat Road is the home of Bangkok's sizeable Chinese community, while those of Indian ethnicity have congregated around Phahurat Road. By day, Yaowarat doesn't look that much different from any other part of Bangkok, though the neighbourhood feels like a big street market and there are some hidden gems waiting to be explored. But at night, the neon signs blazing with Chinese characters are turned on and crowds from the restaurants spill out onto the streets, turning the area into a miniature Hong Kong (minus the skyscrapers). Phahurat is an excellent place for buying fabrics, accessories and religious paraphernalia. A visit to the area is not complete without having some of its amazing delicacies that sell for an absolute bargain — such as bird's nest soup or some Indian curries.
Compared to the rest of the city, this district is fairly compact and can best be explored in a full-day (and night) walking tour. You'll come across street markets, shophouses, gold shops, beautiful remnants of colonial-style architecture and some interesting temples. Instead of tramping from temple to temple, this neighbourhood is mostly about catching a brief peek into commercial Bangkok as it has been the last two centuries. Rushing through won't be rewarding—take your time instead, sitting at a plastic chair and watching local traders sell their wares. As the street markets are not targeted to foreigners, you will find a wide array of products: ceramics, fabrics, gold, tacky teenager ware, ant-killer chalk, Bollywood films, ginseng roots. Who knows what you'll end up with at the end of the day. It is best to come during weekdays, as many stores close during the weekends. Also keep in mind that most shops close at 17:00 after which most of the area gets pretty much deserted (Yaowarat Road being a noteworthy exception).
Orientation in Yaowarat is even trickier than elsewhere in Bangkok. The area is filled with narrow alleys and obscure pedestrian-only routes, and is crossed by a few giant roads that feel like small highways. Finding your way around is difficult as road signs are blocked by the bulk of neon-signs and other merchandise that sellers hang up to attract customers. The perfect map for the district still has to be created, so adapt to the situation and expect to get lost often. Also take note that alleys often bear the name trok instead of the usual soi and that many have multiple names attached to them. For example, Trok Issaranuphap is often signposted as Soi Issaranuphap or as Soi 16, while Soi Phadung Dao is also known as Soi Texas.
Yaowarat is centred, as could be expected, around Yaowarat Road, a big road bursting with neon signs. North of it is Charoen Krung Road, which is also one of Bangkok's major traffic arteries. Running parallel to the south of Yaowarat Road is Sampheng Lane, which is also known as Soi Wanit 1, a narrow pedestrian-only lane with many small department stores. Crossing these three streets is the pedestrian-only Trok Issaranuphap, another interesting lane for shopping and having small snacks. Another small lane crossing Yaowarat Road is Soi Phadung Dao, the place to go when you're hungry.
Phahurat is centred around Phahurat Road, which starts immediately west of Sampheng Lane. It is crossed by Chakphet Road and Tri Phet Road, both major roads that have to cope with the immense traffic coming from the Memorial Bridge.
Yaowarat is one of the oldest Chinese communities in Thailand. The story of the Chinese in Bangkok starts in the late 1700s, when poor peasants from China's Chaozhou region (in Eastern Guangdong) moved to the Grand Palace area in Rattanakosin. They came to Siam to find work in Thonburi at the other side of the Chao Phraya River (which at that time was the capital of the country). The Chinese were requested to move outside the city walls when King Rama I set up his new capital in the Grand Palace area in 1782.
The new Chinese neighbourhood, nowadays named after Yaowarat Road, became Bangkok's main centre of commerce for the following two centuries. Formerly impoverished peasants worked their way up to become the backbone of trade in Siam. It also became known as a seedy area thriving on brothels, gambling houses and opium dens, though these activities are illegal nowadays and no longer to be found in the district. The business centre of the district moved from Sampheng Lane to Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road in 1891, when those roads were built by a decree of King Rama V.
A few years later a fire broke out, which opened the way for the construction of Phahurat Road in 1898. King Rama V named it after his daughter Phahurat Maneemai, in remembrance of her early death at the age of ten. The area used to be an enclave of Vietnamese immigrants, who had lived here since the reign of King Taksin in the late eighteenth century. Construction of the road made way for the Indian community to move in and since then, this neighbourhood evolved its own South Asian character that persists today.
As Thailand became one of Asia's emerging economies, the commercial core moved from Yaowarat and Phahurat to the Siam Square area. However, this multicultural district still shows what commercial Bangkok has been like for almost two decades.
Due to its location at the Chao Phraya River, most visitors enter Yaowarat and Phahurat using the Chao Phraya Express Boat service. A single trip from Rattanakosin or Silom takes about 20 minutes and costs around 18 baht. The most important stops are the Rachawongse and Si Phraya piers, both of which are served by all lines. Rachawongse is an ideal stop for central Yaowarat, while Si Phraya is close to the southeastern part of the district. Phahurat can best be reached using the Memorial Bridge pier (Saphan Phut), which is only attended by no-flag and orange flag lines. Other piers that could be useful are Rachini and Marine Department, both of which are only served by no-flag lines.
If you're coming from Thonburi, you can cross the river by taking a ferry. There is a ferry service from Kanlayanamit to Pak Khlong Talat, from Dindaeng to Rachawongse and from Klongsan to Si Phraya. Ferries leave about every 15 minutes for just 3 baht.
By public transit
Yaowarat and Phahurat can directly be reached by metro if you are coming from Silom, Sukhumvit or Ratchadaphisek. The only station close to the district is Hua Lamphong at the eastern side. The metro ride from Silom takes about five minutes, while the ride from Sukhumvit takes about ten minutes. Trains leave every five to ten minutes for a fare of about 16 to 41 baht. From the metro station, it is a 20 minute walk to the centre of Yaowarat.
The bus system in Bangkok is complex, but it is actually one of the cheapest ways to travel around the city. Many lines run through the district, but let's start with a warning: as Yaowarat Road is a one-way road, bus lines only use it in westwards direction (to Rattanakosin). Buses going east use Charoen Krung Road instead!
Ordinary and air-conditioned bus 25 is the most important bus route. It starts in the far southeast of Sukhumvit Road, then follows that road northwest before heading through Ratchaprasong intersection (for Siam Square), Ratchadamri Road, Silom intersection, Rama IV Road, Hualamphong Train Station and then runs right through Yaowarat Road and Phahurat Road. This route can also be taken from the other direction, then it comes from Tha Chang pier (near the Grand Palace in Rattanakosin) and takes Charoen Krung Road instead of Yaowarat Road.
From Khao San Road, catch ordinary (circular) bus 56 which runs along Tanao Road at the eastern tip of Khao San Road and then goes south through Maha Chai Road and Chakphet Road (get off after the Merry King department store for Phahurat Road and Sampheng Lane; don't miss it, as it will cross the bridge to Thonburi right after). Ordinary bus 4 comes from Silom intersection along Rama IV Road and passes Hualamphong Train Station through Yaowarat Road and then goes southwest over the Phra Pok Klao bridge to Thonburi (as with all routes, in eastwards direction Yaowarat Road is skipped in favour of Charoen Krung Road).
Yaowarat and Phahurat can easily be reached from Hualamphong Train Station, which is on the eastern border of the district. Trains come in and go to many destinations in Thailand, including Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, and Southern Thailand.
Sights abound around Yaowarat and Phahurat, but if you're looking for "must-sees", you might want to visit Rattanakosin first. While enjoying a relaxed walk through this district, you should at least incorporate a visit to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat and Wat Traimit. Other sights could be considered optional or more interesting for adventurous travellers.
- Guru Tawan Sikh Temple (คุรุดวาราศรีคุรุสิงห์สภา Gurudwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha), 565 Chakphet Rd (next to the India Emporium, south of the Phahurat Rd and Chakphet Rd intersection), ☎ . 10:00-18:00 daily. Established in 1932, this Sikh temple is the most iconic landmark of Phahurat. It is a white six-storey building with a large golden dome on top, and is the second-largest Sikh temple outside India. This temple is very important for daily life as most Indians in this neighbourhood are Sikhs. It is possible for non-Sikhs to enter, but they need to take off their shoes and cover their head with an orange cloth. The Sikh community gathers in large numbers on Sundays and during religious festivals. They serve free Indian vegetarian food in the community kitchen on these occasions. Free.
- Wat Chai Chana Songkhram (วัดชัยชนะสงคราม), 83 Chakrawat Rd (walk 150 m north along Chakrawat Rd from Yaowarat Rd), ☎ . This third-class royal temple dates from 1848, the reign of King Rama III. The temple was the project of chief commander Chao Phraya Bodindecha, who led Siam to victory in the wars against Vietnam and Cambodia. He designated his house and the surrounding land as a site for a new temple, which he called "War Victory Temple" as a commemoration to his victories. It is a relatively large temple complex with an enshrined Buddha inside the main building. Free.
- Wat Chakrawat (วัดจักรวรรดิราชาวาสวรมหาวิหาร), Chakrawat Rd (enter the compound via a small alley from Maha Chak Rd). The temple itself actually is rather small, though it does have some interesting features. To the right as you walk through the gate is a small viharn. Its outer wall is decorated in a remarkable black and gold pattern, which is unusual, as usually these decorations are found on interior walls. Most travellers like to visit this place for its serene atmosphere with crocodiles, birds, dogs, birds, and relaxed monks. Crocodiles have been living in the small pond beside the temple for about fifty years. At that time, a crocodile that was found in the Chao Phraya River was brought to this temple for the safety of Bangkok's citizens. This original crocodile can still be viewed in the glass case above the pond. Free.
- Wat Ga Buang Kim, Soi Krai (walk into the small alleys from Anawong Rd or Rachawongse Rd). Definitely off the tourist trail, this more or less deserted temple shows how local residents practise their religion. The most interesting room is the wonderfully ornamented Boonsamakan Vegetarian Hall, which is home to miniature gold characters reappearing several times in different moods and positions. Around the doorway, at the top of the stairs, you can find finely crafted ceramic figurines drawn from Chinese opera stories. Chinese opera performances are occasionally held at the other building in the temple compound. Free.
- Wat Kanikapon (วัดกณิการ์ผล, also known as Wat Mae Lao Feng), Trok Issaranuphap (at the intersection of Trok Issaranuphap and Phlap Phla Chai Rd). A short walk from the much-visited Wat Mangkon Kamalawat is Wat Kanikapon, built in the late 19th century. Certainly off the beaten path, if it is known by travellers, then it is because the temple was founded by a brothel owner. The dark green tiles decorate that the window frames bear resemblance to the green curtains used in the brothels that once thrived in Yaowarat (in Thailand, green was used to designate brothels in a similar way as red was used to designate brothels in the West). Next to the ubosot in a smaller viharn housing a Western-looking Buddha image. Free.
- Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (วัดมังกรกมลาวาส Dragon Flower Temple or วัดเล่งเน่ยยี่ Wat Leng Noei Yi), Charoen Krung Rd (at the Charoen Krung Rd and Trok Issaranuphap intersection, take the small passageway from Charoen Krung Rd), ☎ . 06:00-17:00 daily. On the list of every Yaowarat visitor, you will be amazed by the impressive multi-tiered gateway when you enter the temple. It is a Mahayana Buddhist temple, the school of Buddhism followed by most Chinese, and it has mixed with other Chinese practices like Confucianism and Taoism. It is in Southern Chinese style, built in 1871. There are plenty of statues and shrines inside. Most interesting is the part right after the second entrance. Four golden statues will greet you, each with a symbolic object: a parasol, a pagoda, a snake's head, and a mandolin. It is one of Chinatown's liveliest temples with many Thai-Chinese praying and burning incense. Free.
- Wat Pathum Khongkha (วัดปทุมคงคา), Song Wat Rd (between Sampheng Lane and Soi Wanit 2). 07:00-18:00 daily. This ancient monastery was founded in the Ayutthaya period. It was renovated during the reign of King Rama I by a rich Thai citizen, who gave the temple its current name. The main Buddhist image in the temple is in the subduing mara posture. The doors and windows are exquisitely decorated in with lacquered ornamentation in gold leaf patterns. Behind the temple is the Execution Stone, where King Rama III ordered the execution of Krommaluang Rak Ronnaret for planning a rebellion against him. The canal in front of the temple is a holy site as the ash of cremated members of the royal family and the royal elephants are scattered here. The temple has recently been completely restored, making the golden Buddha images look shinier than ever. Free.
- Wat Ratchaburana (วัดราชบูรณะหรือวัดเลียบ), Tri Phet Rd (at the Tri Phet Rd and Chakrawat Rd intersection), ☎ . 06:00-18:00 daily. This temple is at the foot of the Rama I Memorial Bridge on the Bangkok side. Built in the late Ayutthaya period by a Chinese merchant, it is otherwise known as Wat Liap and is one of the 3 principal temples of the capital which include Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Ratchapradit, and Wat Mahathat. It had been regularly restored since the reign of King Rama I through to the reign of King Rama VII, except in the sixth reign. Some of the temple's principal buildings, especially Phra Ubosot, the ordination hall, which houses mural paintings by Khrua In Khong, were badly damaged by bombing during World War II. The buildings were later restored to their good condition. Free.
- Wat Samphanthawong (วัดสัมพันธวงศารามวรวิหาร), Song Sawat Rd (north of the Song Sawat Rd and Sampheng Lane intersection). In the Ayutthaya period this temple bore the name "Wat Ko", which means "island temple", as it was surrounded by a canal flowing from the Chao Phraya River. King Rama I turned it into a royal temple in 1796. King Rama IV gave the temple its current name after Prince Samphanthawong. Inside is a statue of Mara, with rows of golden Buddhas at the back. Free.
- Wat Traimit (วัดไตรมิตรวิทยารามวรวิหาร), Tri Mit Rd (from Yaowarat Rd, take a left at the Odeon Circle), ☎ . 08:00-17:00 daily. This temple is one of the highlights of Yaowarat, but is actually not part of China's cultural heritage. It houses the Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon (พระพุทธมหาสุวรรณปฏิมากร), the world's largest solid-gold Buddha image, which originates from the Sukhothai period. It is over 3 m tall and weighs 5.5 tonnes, with an interesting history. The image was only rediscovered about 50 years ago when it dropped from a crane while being moved. This cracked the plaster exterior that was (as it's said) applied to hide the image from the invading Burmese army. There is an impressive white structure with a golden spire next to the temple, that reaches higher than many other buildings in the district. 20 baht.
- Leng Buai Ia Shrine (ศาลเจ้าเล่งบ๊วยเอี๊ยะ), Trok Issaranuphap (from Yaowarat Rd, walk north into Trok Issaranuphap and take a right). This shrine, housed in a traditionally Chinese-style building is considered to be the oldest Chinese shrine in Thailand. This claim is based on the plaque inside with a Chinese inscription that states that the shrine was built in 1658. That year corresponds to the Ayutthaya period, far before Bangkok became the capital of the country. During all these years, Chinese businessmen in the area came to the shrine for refuge and to improve the prosperity of their businesses. The roof is made of glazed coloured tiles with two ceramic-clad dragons on top. The two main columns beside the entrance also both feature a ceramic-clad dragon. Inside there is a shrine dedicated to Leng Buai Ia and his wife in the centre, a shrine dedicated to the deity Going-Wu on the left and a shrine dedicated to the Queen of Heaven on the right.
- Kwong Siew Foundation (มูลนิธิกว๋องสิว), 5/3-5/5 Charoen Krung Rd (from Yaowarat Rd, walk north through Soi Phadung Dao and take a left), ☎ . As with the other foundations and medical centres in the area, this charity also has an impressive shrine known as the Guang Dong Shrine (ปูชนียสถานมณฑลกวางตุ้ง). This 130-year old shrine was built in a traditional Chinese style and used to be a meeting place of overseas Chinese from the Guangdong region in China. It was built mostly with construction materials and Buddha images from their homeland.
- Li Thi Miew Shrine (ศาลเจ้าหลีตี่เบี้ยว), 494 Plap Phla Chai Rd (from Charoen Krung Rd, walk into Plaeng Nam Rd and follow the road on the left-hand side), ☎ . One of the larger and more open Chinese shrines in Bangkok, you'll not find many other travellers here. This Taoist temple has a large roof with plenty of smaller shrines. As typical in Chinese shrines, the roof features two dragons that play with a pearl. The building next to the temple features a large shrine, which just like the Thien Fa Foundation, is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.
- Poh Teck Tung Foundation (มูลนิธิป่อเต็กตึ๊ง), 326 Chao Kham Rob Rd (at the end of Soi Issaranuphap, pass the police station and cross the street), ☎ . 07:00-20:00 daily. This charity organisation was established by Dr Utain Techapaiboon more than 100 years ago for arranging funerals for unidentified corpses, such as accident victims. Between the foundation and the Li Thi Miew Shrine are plenty of funerary paraphernalia shops. Most interesting is the Da Feng Zu Shrine inside. It is a very lively shrine with many Thai-Chinese coming over to worship the Da Feng Zu God, make merit and get rid of their bad fortune. Many satin banners and paper offerings such as fake money are burned to ensure that the spirit of the deceased has lots of good things in the afterlife. Free.
- San Jao Sieng Kong (ศาลเจ้าเซียงกง), Soi Wanit 2 (from Soi Wanit 2 or Song Sawat Rd, walk into Soi Phanu Rangsi and follow the signs to River View Guesthouse). 06:00-18:00 daily. In one of the small sois and particularly difficult to find, this 200-year old riverbank shrine is one of the oldest Chinese shrines in the city. It is guarded by a playful rooftop terracotta dragon. One of the former owners of the shrine made money by collecting taxes on birds nest delicacies. It gets lively during the Vegetarian Festival in October, when Chinese operas and fairground games are staged. It is in the middle of the Sieng Kong Zone, a car spare parts market named after the shrine, and thus could be combined with a visit to it. Donation requested.
- Thien Fa Foundation (มูลนิธิเทียนฟ้า), Yaowarat Rd (walk towards and into Yaowarat Rd from the Odeon Circle). This is the oldest charitable society of Bangkok, founded in 1902 by Chinese immigrants. The local clinics at the site provide free medical treatment for the poor using traditional Chinese as well as modern practices. Most interesting for foreign visitors is the courtyard which boasts the Guan Yin Shrine (ปูชนียสถานเจ้าแม่กวนอิม), commonly known as the "Shrine for the Goddess of Mercy". Local visitors of the shrine follow the Mahayana school of Buddhism, which is different from the Theravada school that is dominant in Thailand. The statue of the goddess Ming, to whom the shrine is dedicated, is the highlight of the temple. The statue was carved out from a single piece of solid teak and shows Ming in the attitude of giving blessings. It was carved in China in Tang Dynasty-style and is believed to be around 800 years old. The statue has been in possession of the foundation since 1958, when it was taken out of China and placed inside the temple. The exterior's architecture is typically Chinese with an impressive roof and beautiful teak carvings of dragons and other Chinese symbols. It is particularly lively during Chinese New Year.
Museums and monuments
- Chinese shophouses, Maha Chak Rd (from Sampheng Lane, walk north into Maha Chak Rd for about 30 m, then take a left into a covered passage). Rows of stuccoed yellow Chinese shophouses are to be found far inside an alley. It's a serene and peaceful environment seemingly far away from urban life. They are typical for the area, and photogenic too, so don't miss a picture of these. Free.
- King's Birthday Celebration Arch (ประตูจีนที่วงเวียนโอเดียน) (at the Odeon Circle, the Tri Mit Rd and Charoen Krung Rd intersection). This Chinese-style ceremonial gate was built by Thais of Chinese descent to show their loyalty to King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It was officially inaugurated on his 72nd birthday on 5 December 1999. The four Chinese characters on the arch mean "Long Live The King" and are in the handwriting of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (who is fluent in Chinese). Free.
- King Rama I the Great Monument (พระบรมราชานุสาวรีย์พระบาทสมเด็จพระพุทธยอดฟ้าจุฬาโลกมหาราช), Tri Phet Rd (behind the Memorial Bridge). Built in commemoration of Bangkok's 150th anniversary celebrations in 1932, the monument is at the foot of the Great Memorial Bridge on the Bangkok side. King Rama I was the first king in the Royal House of Chakri and founder of Bangkok as the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, as Thailand was formerly known. He was born in Ayutthaya, one of Thailand's former capitals, on 20 March 1736. He ascended to the throne on 6 April 1782 and passed away 27 years later. Free.
- Samphanthawong Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์ท้องถิ่นกรุงเทพมหานคร), Song Wat Rd (inside Wat Pathum Khongkha School, enter building 2 and head upstairs), ☎ . M-F 08:00-16:00. This community museum is dedicated to the early Chinese immigrants in Bangkok. Pictures and text in Thai and English give the visitor an overview of the history of this ethnic group and their lives and contributions to Yaowarat (part of which is also called Samphanthawong District). There are pictures to see what Sampheng Lane was like about one hundred years ago. An interesting museum if you want to get a deeper understanding of the area. Free.
- Bangkok Bank Building (ธนาคารกรุงเทพ), Sampheng Lane (at the Sampheng Lane and Mangkon Rd intersection). Opposite the Tang To Kang gold shop, and quite similar to it, the Bangkok Bank Building is one of Bangkok's oldest commercial buildings. The exterior is an example of classic early Rattanakosin-style with clear European influences. The interior is heavy with hardwood panelling.
- Holy Rosary Church (วัดแม่พระลูกประคำ Wat Mae Phra Luk Prakham), 1318 Yotha Rd (from River City, walk into the small street market), ☎ . Religious services M-Sa 06:00, Su 06:15, 08:00, 10:00. Portuguese descendants of the early traders in Ayutthaya first settled at the other bank of the river in Thonburi (at the site of the Santa Cruz Church), but gradually moved to the opposite bank of the river. As the Portuguese were one of the most important trading nations in Siam, this church was built with a land grant from King Rama I in 1786, about four years after Bangkok was established as Siam's capital. As Portugal's influence overseas diminished, the Portuguese community was dispersed and the church fell into disuse. Due to the Indochina Wars of the mid-20th century, many Catholic Vietnamese and Cambodians fled to Bangkok and adopted this church as their main house of worship. Throughout its history, it has been rebuilt twice, with the present church dating from the 1890s. The cream-coloured church has a towering spire, an interesting set of European-style stained-glass windows, as well as a statue of Christ that is carried through the streets at Easter.
- Siam Commercial Bank Building (อาคารธนาคารไทยพาณิชย์ สาขาตลาดน้อย), Soi Wanit 2 (Take the passageway from Soi Wanit 2, slightly N of the Holy Rosary Church). M-F, 10:00-18:00. Instead of trying to find this Art Deco-style building on foot, it is actually best seen from the Chao Phraya Express Boat. It is the first commercial bank of Thailand run by Thais. It was designed by the Italian architect Annibale Rigotti and completed in 1904 in typical 19th century European style. Each gable is unique with delicate patterns of stucco. Free.
- Song Wat Road (ถนนทรงวาด). A century ago, this road was the centre of a rice trading industry. A stroll along the road gives a good impression of the old days with tumbled down nineteenth century-style warehouses and business houses.
- Tang To Kang Gold Shop (พิพิธภัณฑ์ทองคำห้างทองตั้งโต๊ะกัง), 345 Sampheng Lane (at the Sampheng Lane and Mangkon Rd intersection), ☎ . M-Sa 09:30-16:00. Chinatown is one of Bangkok's oldest districts and about 14% of the buildings have been designated as historical landmarks. Tang To Kang is one of them, an interesting colonial-style building and actually the oldest gold shop of Bangkok (which is difficult to believe now with so many gold shops scattered over the district). If you want to see the gold museum, you have to make an appointment two days ahead. Free.
Take the Yaowarat and Phahurat Tour, a full day walking tour around the most interesting sights, markets and restaurants of the area.
- Chalerm Krung Royal Theatre (เฉลิมกรุงรอยัลเธียเตอร์), 66 Charoen Krung Rd (next to the Old Siam Plaza), ☎ . 10:00-18:00 daily. Opened in 1933, the theatre places a heavy emphasis on Thai dramas known as "khon" — traditional Thai dances based on Thai history and legends that take about two hours. The "khon" are mostly performed during the winter months, while other performing arts (including cinema) are staged throughout the year. It is best to call first to find out about which performances are on.
- Chinese New Year (เทศกาลตรุษจีน). A great time to visit Yaowarat, when Bangkok's Chinatown goes on steroids. Yaowarat Road will be closed to traffic as street festivities, lion dances, and food fairs take place. Generally, a member of the Thai royal family comes over to celebrate among the Chinese community. Temples will be more packed than ever with many Thai-Chinese coming over to pray and burn incense. The best temples to visit this time of the year are Wat Mangkon Kamalawat and Thien Fa Foundation.
- Mooncake Festival (เทศกาลไหว้พระจันทร์). Every year around late September or early October. Also known as mid-Autumn Festival or Lantern Festival, is held. Chinese families and friends gather under the full moon to pay respect to the Goddess of the Moon. Their celebrations include the eating of mooncakes and pomelos together under the light of the bright moon. Many stores in Yaowarat sell mooncakes during the festival, so you might want to try one of these sweet cakes in all their many varieties.
- Vegetarian Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ). Ten days long, generally taking place around September-October. Many Thai-Chinese (and increasingly ethnic Thai) come over to Yaowarat during festival time to buy vegetarian products, such as vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients. Most of the action happens around Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (which is also more lively) and in the area around Talat Noi. Look for the yellow flags at the carts denoting their meat-free status. Restaurants also adapt to the tradition, substituting soy-based products for meat, even for traditional Thai dishes like tom yam. The most interesting festival dish is the yellow Hokkien-style noodles that are usually served with vegetables and mushrooms.
Typical of Yaowarat are its small crowded lanes filled with markets, that sell... well, anything you could possibly imagine. You'll stumble on items for sale as diverse as Chinese medicine, snake blood, Buddhist paraphernalia, toys, ant-killer chalk, car spare parts, typical teenager stuff and more.
Parallel to the big Yaowarat Road lies Sampheng Lane (sometimes signposted as Soi Wanit 1, 08:00-18:00 daily) which is probably the most characteristic (if tacky) shopping lane of the area. This narrow lane, at some places having a width of less than one metre, used to be a shady area thriving on brothels, gambling houses and opium dens, but has now turned into a crowded lane of endless ramshackle department stores. The lane can roughly be divided into three sections, all of them selling different kind of products at bargain rates. The lower eastern part of Sampheng Lane focuses on cheap teenager accessories, such as cheap jewellery, toys, and hair products. In the middle part, there is more of a focus on shoes, Chinese ceramics and lanterns. Indian merchants have mostly taken over the part west of Rachawongse Road, where you can find fabrics, silk and other clothing. Don't expect any quality here, just shop for fun.
Crossing Sampheng in the middle is Trok Issaranuphap, the most exotic of Yaowarat's shopping lanes. The part south of Yaowarat Road is known as Talat Kao (04:00-11:00 daily) or "Old Market", which is not an understatement as it has been up and running since the late 18th century. This market is a more down-to-earth than Sampheng and more authentic, but get here early as it closes in the early afternoon. It is largely a food market with fresh meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and other food ingredients for sale. But there are also plenty of non-food products like ant-killer chalk, Chinese medicines and ginseng roots. The part north of Yaowarat Road is known as Talat Mai (04:00-18:00 daily), which means "New Market" despite it being about one hundred years old. It has similar products as elsewhere on Trok Issaranuphap, but it has an even more exotic aura to it. Unlike Talat Kao, this market stays open till the early evening. As it is fully covered, it's a good place to sneak into if it starts raining.
Some of the smaller markets include:
- Ban Mo (บ้านหม้อ), Soi Thip Wari (side street from the Old Siam Plaza). 09:00-17:00 daily. Hundreds of shops selling electronics and home appliances. There are numerous repair shops and replacement parts on sale. Counterfeit and pornographic CDs and DVDs galore. There are few foreigners here, most visitors are Thai males looking for cheap electronics and spare parts.
- Khlong Thom Market (คลองถม) (between Luang Rd, Charoen Krung Rd, Worachak Rd and Suapa Rd). Another one of Chinatown's typical markets, and one of the largest. It is not really one market, but instead a combination of speciality stores and open-air markets. It is mostly of interest if you're looking for low-cost electronics and hardware, such as cell phones, CDs and DVDs, gadgets, household tools, toys, vehicle spare parts, some clothing and small things.
- Noi Market (ตลาดน้อย), Charoen Krung Soi 20 and 22 (Between Soi Wanit 2 and Charoen Krung Rd). This market is so off the beaten path, you may not even find your way back. Its hidden location between Soi 20 and 22 gives this market a very local atmosphere. The vendors sell fruit, vegetables, and non-food products from China. Observing daily life here is more interesting than the actual products sold. You might walk through a living room and see more of the peoples' lives at home. Nearby is the Sieng Kong Zone, which can easily be visited from here.
- Plaeng Nam Road (ถนนแปลงนาม). This small commercial road feels like a time machine set for 1914. Residents and retailers have crossed ways here for more than one hundred years. Local merchants here sell products in daily use by Chinese households, such as kitchen equipment, Chinese medicine and medicinal herbs. You can also find local shops selling traditional Chinese musical instruments, as well as lanterns and kerosene-fuelled stoves. These stores did have to adapt somewhat to changing times. The store selling Chinese musical instruments now repairs old instruments and sells equipment for use in shrines. The shops that sell lanterns and kerosene stoves now repair these items brought in by collectors. Commerce at this road never comes to a standstill as dining facilities serve food around the clock.
- Saphan Lek Market (ตลาดสะพานเหล็ก), Boriphat Rd (at the Boriphat Rd and Yaowarat Rd intersection). This cheap market on the banks of Khlong Ong Ang (คลองโอ่งอ่าง) is easily visited together with the Thieves' Market. It feels quite cramped as the shops are congregated around a very small pathway. The products for sale are toys and electronics, such as air guns, video games, camcorders, used cameras and accessories.
- Sieng Kong Zone, Soi Wanit 2 (at the Soi Wanit 2 and Soi Phanu Rangsi intersection). The oldest car spare parts market in Bangkok. Here you can get a glimpse of the daily life of the Chinese population. The locals here work in garages or repair cars on the street. You will walk by huge piles of car parts, some of them more than 3 m high. The area is named after the San Jao Sieng Kong temple.
- Thieves' Market (เวิ้งนาครเกษม Woeng Nakhon Kasem), Nakhon Kasem 1 and 2 (between Chakrawat Rd and Boriphat Rd). It is called the Thieves' Market as many of the goods sold here in the past were stolen. Now it is mostly known for its combination of garage sales, brass ware, blue-and-white porcelain, old furniture and reproduction antiques. Not too interesting for most foreigners, but it might be worth a look just to observe local commerce. Some of its visitors are drawn by the sale of all kinds of musical instruments, from guitars to flutes.
Yaowarat has been the home of gold and gem trading for a couple of centuries, and it is no wonder that some of the oldest buildings in the district are gold shops. Originally, the four "tycoon" gold shops were Seng Heng Li, Hua Seng Heng, Tung Jin Aeng, and Tang To Kang. Now there are more than 130 gold shops along Yaowarat Road alone, which is why it is known as the Golden Road. Generally, the gold is of high standard (approximately 23 karat) and most shops are a member of the Gold Merchants Association. As this district is out of the tourist eye, it is a lot safer to buy gems here than in other districts, but still be on the lookout for the gem scam. See the Stay safe section of the Bangkok page for more information about the scam and what to do once you've fallen for it. Some of the better trusted gem stores include:
- Johny's Gems, 199 Fuang Nakhon Rd (from the Burger King side of Khao San Rd, take a right into Tanao Rd and walk 20 mins), ☎ . M-Sa 09:30-18:00. Known among Bangkok's expats as one of the more trusted gem shops. It focuses mainly on rubies and emeralds and has something for all budgets. The original owner, whom the shop is named after, has since died, but the store has been taken over by his son.
Shopping in Phahurat is not rewarding for the average traveller, unless you are into Bollywood DVDs, betel nut leaves (paan) or Punjabi sweets. If you're looking for fabrics, however, Phahurat is definitely the place to be. And even if you're not specifically looking for fabrics, it is still a great adventure to visit the Phahurat Market. Besides fabrics, Phahurat is also an excellent place for buying accessories, such as bracelets, trinkets, and sandals. There are thousands of different kinds for sale, and all at a bargain, so mix and match as you wish. You'll also notice many stores selling religious paraphernalia like statues and pictures of Indian deities.
- India Emporium (อินเดีย เอ็มโพเรี่ยม), 561/77 Chakphet Rd (at the end of Yaowarat Rd, turn left into Chakphet Rd and cross Phahurat Rd), ☎ . 10:00-22:00 daily. This four-storey Indian shopping centre is a lot more modern than others in the area. It is mostly interesting for fabrics and Indian-style clothing, though they also have a good restaurant at the ground floor (which closes late at 23:00).
- Old Siam Plaza (ดิโอลด์สยามพลาซ่า), 12 Tri Phet Rd (Phahurat Rd and Tri Phet Rd intersection), ☎ . 10:00-21:00 daily. A big shopping centre in a lovely restored European-style building. It is an excellent place to fresh up after long walks as it is fully air conditioned. It has an eclectic mix of products for sale, such as branded and second-hand clothes, gadgets, electronics, handicrafts and gold. For clothes shopping, the ground store is the most interesting with plenty of cheap deals. Upstairs has some speciality wedding tailors and boutiques. Surrounding the shopping centre are stores selling weapons and ammunition, but you must have a license to buy them.
- Pak Khlong Talat (ปากคลองตลาด), Chakphet Rd. 24 hours daily. As Phahurat becomes deserted at night, Pak Khlong Talat just starts to become lively. Not having anything to do with the Indian community, this wholesale flower market is a great stroll through and a highlight in its own right. The endless piles of orchids, roses, and other flowers are an aromatic sight, and there is something to be found for any budget. There are amazingly expensive bouquets for thousands of baht, but also beautifully created roses for just 50 baht. The market is always open, but the best time to visit is around 03:00 when boats and lorries arrive with flowers from the surrounding provinces. If that is too late (or too early), visit it from 20:00 onwards when the market is beautifully illuminated and very lively.
- Phahurat Market (ตลาดพาหุรัด), Phahurat Rd (between Phahurat Rd, Tri Phet Rd and Chakphet Rd). 09:00-18:00 daily. The first task is to actually find it. It is carefully hidden and you need to walk through a couple of other stores to get into it. Once you're there, you'll definitely know though, as it is a fabrics market on steroids. Thousands of retailers of Indian descent sell fabrics in every colour, shape and pattern you could possibly imagine. Some shops specialise in custom-made wedding gifts, dresses, and souvenirs. This old market is a labyrinth of narrow lanes, barely wide enough for two people to pass each other. It is the most typical market the Indian neighbourhood has to offer and has managed to keep its unique character.
- Saphan Phut Night Market (สะพานพุทธ) (Memorial Bridge pier). Tu-Su 20:00-00:00. A visit to Pak Khlong Talat can easily be combined with the night market at the Memorial Bridge. This cramped night bazaar is a fun walk through the dark as plenty of colourful lights bright up the place. Expect nothing spectacular though, most of the products for sale are clothing, shoes and accessories, mostly for teenagers, as well as second-hand items.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
|Budget||Under 100 baht|
|Splurge||Over 500 baht|
Shark fin soup
The Chinese in Yaowarat love shark fin soup. But the environmental effects are devastating. It hinges on the brutal practice of shark finning (catching a shark, chopping off its dorsal fin, then throwing the wounded shark back into the sea to slowly die) which happens largely unseen and unregulated at sea. As the Chinese economy booms, more and more Chinese can afford to eat shark fin soup. Shark specialists estimate that annually anywhere between 38 million and 100 million sharks are only killed for their fins. It is such a large number that it has the potential of significantly altering oceanic ecosystems.
Yaowarat is a haven for foodies. It has the city's best selection of Chinese restaurants, many of which specialise in expensive delicacies like shark fin, bird's nest or fresh seafood (often still swimming in tanks near the entrance). Gather the biggest group you can, preferably with a Chinese speaker or two, and head down for some ren'ao ("hot and noisy") banqueting.
Bird's nest and the controversial shark fin soup are two of the finest ways to flaunt your wealth. Bird's nest has been a delicacy in Chinese cooking for over 400 years. It is made from the solidified saliva of swifts found deep inside limestone caves across Southeast Asia. Climbers used to risk their lives on networks of bamboo scaffolding to extract it from the highest reaches of the caves, but because of increasing demand nesting houses are now purposefully built for it. Due to its scarcity and dubious health benefits associated with it, it has gained a following among the ultra-rich in Asia, but tasting it as a newcomer it's difficult to understand what the fuss is all about.
It's better to go for the high-end seafood. While pricey, it can be enjoyed here for relatively affordable prices compared with other large cities in the world. Most seafood dishes cost around 300-500 baht per head, but crab costs more than 1,000 baht. Seafood is best ordered in the large restaurants around Yaowarat Road and Soi Phadung Dao (often known as Soi Texas). These restaurants specialise mainly in Southern Chinese fare. Dim sum is a staple and some of the restaurants are fully specialised in it. Other popular dishes are Cantonese-style roasted duck, Peking duck and abalone in oyster sauce. Forget about any sort of ambience as these restaurants serve in very noisy rooms with overly bright lighting.
Travellers on a budget might want to venture into the little side-streets and take a bite at one of the numerous hawker stalls and street restaurants. The hawker stalls here have been internationally acclaimed among food enthusiasts. The street food here is very authentic as original recipes from Chinese immigrants have been passed on for three generations. Each street restaurant specialises in one particular dish and the owners have been fine-tuning it to perfection for decades. The street food scene lights up at sunset as queues of people line up on the road waiting to be seated. Simple meals are around 50 baht per dish, which are best shared in a group. Visit a couple of these, or ask a local for advice as everyone seems to have a particular hidden favourite.
Indian curries are served in restaurants around Phahurat Road and Chakphet Road. These roads tend to be deserted after dark, so you might want to head off by taxi when dinner time is over. If all this sounds too exotic or adventurous for you, there are some tourist-friendly Western and Thai restaurants in the Old Siam Plaza. It also has some fast-food outlets and a food court for those on a budget.
- Chacha Restaurant, 458 Chakphet Rd, ☎ . Small, simple and unpretentious, it gets the job done with some fine dishes from northern India. The obvious Indian curries are present, but where this restaurant excels is at its wide array of vegetarian dishes. If you're a vegetarian (or even if you're not), you might want to try the allimatter, a spicy dish of chickpea, rice and potatoes. 65 baht.
- Chong Kee (ชองกี่), 84 Soi Sukon 1 (from the Odeon Circle, walk towards Wat Traimit and pass it, take a right into the second alley), ☎ . Tu-Su 09:30-19:00, M 09:30-14:00. Many of the eateries here specialise in one dish, and here pork satay with sweet toast is the only dish served. Forget the passable satay usually served from street carts, Chong Kee knows how to make this. The skewers here are smoky and tender, and fat cuts of pork are used. Lots of herbs and the right amount of chilis are used in the peanut sauce making it sweet as it's supposed to be. Try to avoid peak hours as those can be crowded. 60 baht.
- Kuay Jab Nai Ek, 442 Yaowarat Rd (at the main road near the intersection with Soi Phadung Dao), ☎ . 09:00-01:00 daily. One of the famous places to get kuay jab (ก๋วยจั๊บน้ำใส), a roll-like rice noodle with crispy pork belly, blood and intestines served in clear soup. Sounds delicious, doesn't it? It looks just like any other simple budget eatery, but insiders hail the freshness of the ingredients here. The locals flock to this place, so if you're coming in the early evening, you may have to wait in line. 40-50 baht.
- Nai Sow, 3/1 Maitri Chit Rd (walk north through Soi Issaranuphap, pass the police station and take the first lane right at the intersection where five roads come together), ☎ . 10:00-22:00 daily. A Thai-Chinese restaurant that has been consistently excellent for the last 40 years. It used to be run by mr. Sow at Sampheng Lane, but moved to its current location at Phlap Phla Chai intersection as his son took over business. Foreigners praise the tom yam kung, but the locals come here for pan-fried hoi tod (fried mussels with eggs). You can also try the muu sa-ded, pork rubbed with garlic. The owner does not boil the pork as other restaurants do, but grills it on a hot cooker until it is black. This place is so popular that it can be difficult to find a seat in the evening. 50 baht.
- Old Siam Plaza Food Court, 3F, Old Siam Plaza, 12 Tri Phet Rd (Phahurat Rd and Tri Phet Rd intersection), ☎ . 10:00-21:00 daily. Excellent food court with delicious Thai and Chinese dishes. It works with a coupon system. If you're still hungry afterwards, head for the first floor of the building which has an excellent choice of local sweets and desserts. 90 baht.
- Samrat, Chakphet Rd. 09:00-21:00 daily. Budget restaurant with delicious Indian curries, along with a range of desserts and drinks. 80 baht.
- Thai Charoen, 454 Charoen Krung Rd, ☎ . 09:00-19:00 daily. Chinese specialities for bargain prices. You might want to try the stuffed squid. 30 baht.
- Yen Ta Fo Je Hieng, Yaowarat Rd (Mangkon and Yaowarat Rd intersection). 09:00-18:00 daily. This simple restaurant is specialised in "yen ta fo", a Thai seafood dish best explained as rice noodles in red tofu soup. The place does not have an English sign outside, so look for the big red sign with the menu written in white Thai characters. 30 baht.
- Chiang Kii, 54 Soi Bamrungrat. 17:00-22:00 daily. This hole in the wall is known to sell some of Bangkok's most expensive rice and fish soup (khao tom plaa). It's a simple Chaozhou dish, largely forgotten in China but it has a loyal following here. The reason for the 250 baht price is the incredibly fresh fish that's used. The owners are an elderly Thai-Chinese couple who prepares each meal with care and it is possible to add ingredients to the menu if you wish. This eatery has participated in World Street Food Awards, so you're up for something. Only mid-range in price, not in ambience. 250 baht.
- China Town Scala (ภัตตาคารหูฉลามไชน่าทาวน์สกาล่า), 483-485 Yaowarat Rd (next to the Shanghai Mansion Hotel), ☎ . 10:30-02:00 daily. This is one of the more upmarket restaurants in the area. Beforehand you can choose one of the usual Chinese appetizers such as dim sum, spring rolls, or prawn crackers. The menus are in English and have pictures so you can just point to your desired dish. 300-450 baht.
- Fikeaw Yao Warat (ร้านไฟเขียว เยาวราช), 483-485 Trok Issanaruphop (just 25 meters off Yaowarat Rd). A street food restaurant with about 5 employees. Fresh cooked food. Reasonably sized portions. Special menu available on Fridays and Saturdays featuring crab and lobster barbeque. 80-300 baht.
- Hongkong Noodle (ฮ่องกง นู้ดเดิ้ล - หัวลำโพง), 513-514 Rong Muang Rd (MRT Hua Lamphong, in front of the train station), ☎ . 10:00-22:00 daily. This chain restaurant started out as a small noodles stall in Trok Issaranuphap near Yaowarat Road. Its original location had built up a reputation, but has since ceased to exist. New branches have spread all over Bangkok and it turned lot more upmarket. Its interior looks like an old Chinese tea shop. Obviously, go for their famed Hong Kong-style noodles with shrimp soup. 100-140 baht.
- Hua Seng Hong (ร้านอาหาร ฮั่ว เซ่ง ฮง), 371-373 Yaowarat Rd, ☎ . 09:00-01:00 daily. The typical messy place you would expect around Yaowarat with fresh crabs and king prawns hanging out front. Inside it is a plain long hall and it is usually packed. Order the Chinese dishes, particularly the crab is worth it. Stir-fried crab with yellow curry powder is around 1,000 baht, but you can also go for cheaper dishes like braised goosefeet or roasted duck. There's also ample choice of dim sum that will be served on multiple small plates. 100-1,000 baht.
- Nam Sing (ร้านอาหาร นำซิง), 39-47 Soi Phadung Dao (at the Yaowarat Rd and Soi Phadung Dao intersection), ☎ . 09:00-02:00 daily. A large and functional restaurant, best known for its bird nest but there's plenty of other fare on offer. Try the chili crab and pork neck. There is an English menu with pictures available. They accept Visa and MasterCard. 200-300 baht.
- Royal India Restaurant (ร้านอาหารรอแยล อินเดียน), 392/1 Chakphet Rd (opposite India Emporium), ☎ . 10:00-22:00 daily. Tucked off in a small alley in the middle of the Indian neighbourhood, this simple restaurant is a little uninspiring, but is still worth it because of its excellent Indian cuisine. Its curries won many awards over the years. You might want to try the rogan josh. 250 baht.
- Shangarila Restaurant (ร้านอาหาร เชียงการีล่า), 206 Yaowarat Rd (at the corner of Yaowarat Rd and Ratchawongse Rd), ☎ . 11:00-22:00 daily. A large banquet restaurant that resembles the typical dim sum restaurants you can find in Hong Kong. It's mostly families that come here in large groups for dim sum, seafood and other Cantonese dishes. 250-500 baht.
- Tang Jai Yoo (ภัตตาคารตั้งใจอยู่), 85-89 Yaowa Phanit Rd (from Yaowarat Rd, walk inside Yaowa Phanit Rd and take a left just into Phat Sai Rd), ☎ . 11:00-14:00, 16:30-22:00 daily. As featured in Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" television programme, this open-air restaurant is a must-try for some culinary delights. They only have Chinese Chaozhou-style seafood dishes. Their speciality is roasted baby pig skin, very crispy and delicious. When you've finished the skin, the pig will be brought back to the kitchen and its meat will be used for your main dish. 250-500 baht.
- The Canton House (เดอะ แคนตัน เฮ้าส์), 530 Yaowarat Rd (at the corner of Yaowarat Rd and Song Sawat Rd), ☎ . 11:00-22:00 daily. One of the most popular restaurants for Hong Kong-style dim sum. Good value at 19 baht a dish, but order a lot of them (five per person) to get full. The atmosphere is frenetic and overwhelming, but you wouldn't expect any different from a place in Chinatown. Service is fast and decent, and its sterile white interior looks remarkably professional for the area. 100-150 baht.
- T&K Seafood (ต๋อย & คิด ซีฟู้ด), 49-51 Soi Phadung Dao (just inside Soi Phadung Dao), ☎ . 16:30-02:00 daily. Hailed as the best barbecued seafood restaurant in Bangkok, masses of people generally stand out in front of the entrance waiting to be seated. It looks very cheap and basic by Western standards, but its great local atmosphere and delicious food make more than up for it. Try the barbecued prawns as they are the must-try here. Air-conditioned upstairs. 100-500 baht.
The daily life of the locals can best be observed at the area's remaining coffeeshops. Some of these have been passed on for generations and still have a similar noisy atmosphere as they had one hundred years ago. The Chaozhou coffee at Eiah Sae is locally famous as it is made from a secret recipe that has been in the family for four generations. If you want to go out in style, you can't go wrong with the live jazz sessions at Cotton Bar.
- Cotton Bar (คอตตอนบา์ร), 3F, Shanghai Mansion Hotel, 479-481 Yaowarat Rd (sandwiched in-between two branches of the China Town Scala restaurant), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 06:30-22:30 daily. Unlike elsewhere in Yaowarat, everything in this bar/restaurant is done with style. Its elegant 1930s Shanghai-themed decor really stands out and meals are carefully presented with attention to detail. With mains 250-300 baht, this place feels more luxurious than you pay for. Breakfast and lunch is also served. Every night from 21:00 live jazz performances are given. The Siam Swing Jazz trio gives the place a unique laid-back vibe and it's worth it to come from other parts of town to see this band. Freshly made cocktails are the house speciality, drink in style with a 007 Martini or Blue Hawaii.
- Double Dogs Tea Room, 406 Yaowarat Rd (near the Yaowarat Rd and Yaowa Phanit Rd intersection), ☎ . Tu-Th 13:00-21:00, F-Su 13:00-23:00. Tea lovers rejoice. This hidden gem has the best tea selection of Bangkok. Just picking a tea from the menu shows the wide array of varieties available. First the teas are split by country of origin and then roughly by colour. Picking a Chinese tea seems like an obvious choice, but there are also Japanese, Sri Lankan and Taiwanese varieties available. Ask the staff for a recommendation. It has a wonderfully serene atmosphere with a relaxing tune on the background, a culture shock with the happenings just outside. It is fully air conditioned. Tea packs can be bought for home use. Prices are higher than elsewhere, but that's understandable considering the high quality of the products involved. 150-200 baht.
- Eiah Sae, 101-103 Phat Sai Rd (from Yaowarat Rd, walk into Phadung Dao Rd towards the river, then a left into Phat Sai Rd, pass the China Town Hotel), ☎ . 04:00-20:00 daily. As always in Yaowarat, this coffee joint does not sell the usual latte or cappuccino. The special treat is Chaozhou coffee, a bittersweet Chinese brew. It's locally famous for its coffee beans, which are roasted and blended following a secret family recipe. This place is over 80 years old and has been in the family for four generations. This place has a real character and still serves as a meeting place for old Chinese businessmen. Its simple wooden chairs, Art Deco purple walls and old paintings on the wall give it a unique retro atmosphere. Besides coffee, you can try their traditional sweet drinks, such as nor kao (a tea and coffee mix) or heng yim (an almond-flavoured drink). 50 baht.
- Ek Teng Phu Ki (เอ็กเต็งผู่กี่), 163 Phat Sai Rd (from Yaowarat Rd, walk into Song Sawat Rd, then a right into Phat Sai Rd, pass the China Town Hotel), ☎ . 05:00-21:30 daily. Another one of those lively old joints where locals have heated discussions over a cup of coffee. A noisy atmosphere, but it's all in good fun. Coffee is a must, they also have small snacks to go with it. 50-100 baht.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||Under 1,000 baht|
|Mid-range||1,000 baht to 2,500 baht|
|Splurge||Over 2,500 baht|
Not many people spend the night in Yaowarat or Phahurat, but there are some hotels available for those who would like to explore the area in more than just one day. Yaowarat is an interesting medium-cost alternative for Khao San Road as the atmosphere is much more authentic. Many of the hotels have the same ramshackle feel as those found in the average Chinese city. Be aware that hotels along Yaowarat Road are far from public transit and traffic jams are very common.
If you need to catch one of the early trains (to Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi or beyond), it can pay to spend the night in the area around Hualamphong Station. Its location is at the meeting point of three interesting districts (Siam Square, Silom and Yaowarat) and it is served by an MRT station. There are plenty of places here that want to store your luggage for a fee.
- 238 Guesthouse, 238 Phahurat Rd (at the corner of Phahurat Rd and Charoen Krung Soi 2), ☎ . One of the few basic hotels in the Phahurat area, the 16 rooms do a decent job. There are air conditioned rooms with hot showers and fan rooms with cold showers. Additional services in the lobby, such as laundry, Wi-Fi, computer games, food and drinks. 500-700 baht.
- Broad Way Hotel, 445 Yaowarat Rd (near the White Orchid Hotel), ☎ . This budget hotel is on the second floor, as the first floor only has stairs. It has fifty rooms, but they are not in a very good condition. Some rooms have a bath and air conditioning. 300-600 baht.
- Golden Chain Hotel (โรงแรม โกลเด้นเชน), 231 Yaowarat Rd, ☎ . Very cheap hotel with 37 rooms that have a TV, refrigerator, table, bathroom and hot water. A restaurant on the ground floor. Fan 240 baht, air conditioning 470 baht, deluxe air conditioning 570 baht.
- Krung Kasem Srikung Hotel, 1860 Krung Kasem Rd (MRT Hua Lamphong), ☎ . It's not the prettiest building ever, but its clean, sizable rooms are good value. Its location is excellent, both close to Chinatown and to the MRT station to Silom. Try to get a room with an even number as the uneven ones are closer to the road and its street noise. 650 baht.
- River View Guest House, 768 Soi Phanu Rangsri (MRT Hua Lamphong exit 1 to Bangkok Center Hotel, cross the small bridge over the canal, turn left into Tri Mit Rd, pass Wat Trai Mit and turn left at the Arch into Charoen Krung Rd, walk on and turn right into Song Wat Rd, walk for a while and turn left into Soi Phanu Rangsri, then follow the signs), ☎ . This hotel is really difficult to find. It is hidden from the chaos in a filthy residential neighbourhood, but that's the charm: it feels like a serene, tranquil and village-like atmosphere, which is quite unusual in the megalopolis of Bangkok. Its roof terrace gives an excellent view over the Chao Phraya River (hence the name). But don't forget that it is a budget hotel that is aimed at backpackers, so it is very basic and not always clean. There are cheaper fan rooms and more expensive air conditioned rooms, but don't expect a lot from the cheaper rooms. 450-900 baht.
- Sri Hualamphong Hotel, 445 Rong Mueang Rd (MRT Hua Lamphong), ☎ . An old hotel, as is common this area, but this one clearly has a history behind it. It is in a distinctive Chinese style, and must have been an amazing attraction in the past. Now it's dusty and old, but still decent as a station hotel. They only have fan and cold water rooms. 250-400 baht.
- Station Hotel, 518 Rong Mueang Rd (down a small food stall soi to the left of the station when exiting the train station, look high up for the sign), ☎ . This hotel is very basic, but it's clean and in a convenient location. Air-conditioned rooms are of better quality than the fan rooms and have Western-style toilets. 250-400 baht.
- Train Inn, 428 Rong Mueang Rd (MRT Hua Lamphong), ☎ . Don't expect anything more than a budget hotel, most travellers just use it to catch an early train, as the train station is only a 3-minute walk. The hotel feels a bit claustrophobic, some rooms don't have windows, and there can be a disgusting smell. The rooms are OK and have air conditioning. The staff are polite. 450-900 baht.
- China Town Hotel (โรงแรม ไชน่าทาวน์), 526 Yaowarat Rd (Yaowarat Rd and Song Sawat Rd intersection), ☎ . A mid-range hotel with a diverse selection of rooms. Its cheapest rooms are tiny and simple, but its more upscale rooms feel more like a boutique hotel. Rooms are worn down, as this is an old hotel in need of renovation. Ask to inspect the room before booking permanently. The staff barely speak any English, but you'll get along with non-verbal communication. 1,200-4,200 baht.
- Grand China Hotel (โรงแรม แกรนด์ไชน่า), 215 Yaowarat Rd (Yaowarat Rd and Rachawongse Rd intersection), ☎ . The hotel seems a bit dated at first, but its location, good service and breakfast definitely make up for it. Also, the rooms have a nice view over the city and are spotlessly clean. To top it up, there's a panoramic rotating restaurant at the top floor that is really worth it. 2,200-4,200 baht.
- Grande Ville Hotel, 903 Maha Chai Rd (at the end of Yaowarat Rd, take a right into Maha Chai Rd), ☎ . The rooms are rather dated and not well-maintained, but at least they are clean. English is spoken. Everything requires an additional fee, such as the tiny swimming pool (50 baht) and the fitness room. Wi-Fi in the room costs 100 baht/hr. There's a bar on the roof, it serves Western and Asian dishes. Do not use the airport transfer service as hailing a taxi yourself is cheaper. 2,000-3,400 baht.
- Miramar Hotel, 777 Maha Chai Rd (Charoen Krung Rd and Maha Chai Rd intersection), ☎ . This stylish boutique hotel has an amazing contemporary design, although it does mix in some elements of historic Thai architecture. Wi-Fi is available in all the rooms, but you need to buy an access card at the lobby first. There's also a luxury restaurant and massage facilities. 3,000-5,500 baht.
- Shanghai Mansion Bangkok (โรงแรม เซี่ยงไฮ้ แมนชั่น), 479 Yaowarat Rd (sandwiched in-between two branches of the China Town Scala restaurant), ☎ . Probably the only boutique hotel in Yaowarat. It tries to give the visitor the experience of being in a 1930s Shanghai merchant's house. The rooms are designed in a colourful Chinese style with bright walls and silk lights. Breakfast is included and Wi-Fi is available. 4,000-5,500 baht.
Despite the crush of people on the street, there are not many options for public Internet access. Cotton Bar has Wi-Fi available for customers. Some of the hotels have Internet, so you could visit one of them and hope they allow non-guests to use it for a fee. There are a few Internet cafes near Hualamphong Station. Or you could just hail a taxi and surf the web in Khao San Road or Siam Square.
If you liked the street markets in Yaowarat and Phahurat, you should visit the much-larger Chatuchak Weekend Market in Phahonyothin. It is a vast market with more than 8,000 vendors under one roof. Another option is Pratunam, which has street markets all over the district. It is especially interesting for clothing.
|Routes through Yaowarat and Phahurat|
|END ←||W E||→ Silom → Phahonyothin|