Yaowarat l Photograph: Monruedee Jansuttipan

Reconnect with Your City: Experience the best of Thai and Chinese cultures at Yaowarat Chinatown

Discover a marriage between two vibrant cultures at Bangkok’s Chinatown

Time Out Bangkok in partnership with Marriott Bonvoy

Interchangeably called Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown reflects the perfect synthesis of Thai and Chinese cultures, as seen through the food at the many stalls and restaurants that line its streets and the merchandise sold from time-worn shophouses that grace its narrow alleys. 

Chinatown Bangkok’s colorful history stretches beyond its present location. The first Chinese traders arrived in Thailand in the 16th century, but it was only in the 19th that the epicenter of Thailand’s Chinese community was actually established—along Yaowarat Road, where Teochew immigrants took over commercial exchanges and put up their own businesses. While many of the larger shops and trades have moved to more central neighborhoods like Sathorn, Yaowarat’s main road and small alleys are still crowded with people trying to go about their business, be it at the local markets, mom-and-pop shops, sidewalk eateries, teahouses, or at the area’s many Chinese shrines.

Yaowarat is busy at any time of the day or night—a true embodiment of the neighborhood that never sleeps. Discover the pinnacle of Thai-Chinese fusion at this vibrant hub, whether you’re having egg noodles early in the morning, bargaining in the middle of the day at a labyrinthine market, or sipping a cold Tsingtao in the wee hours of the night.

RECOMMENDED: Catch wonderful fireworks displays at Bangkok’s best festive hotspots. Visit ‘Reconnect With Your City’ to discover more Bangkok neighborhoods.

Start your day with a hearty breakfast
On Lok Yun l Photograph: Monruedee Jansuttipan

Start your day with a hearty breakfast

Head off for a very local breakfast at Lhong Tou, known for its dim sum and claypot rice, or at On Lok Yun—a long-standing hash house near MRT Sam Yot that has been serving breakfast and coffee for generations—and order their signature French toast.

For something more filling, gobble down egg noodles with Chinese barbecued pork at Bamee Jabkang on Soi Charoenkrung 23 (near MRT Wat Mangkon), or fish ball noodle soup at Aung Peng Chung, which is tucked in one of Yaowarat’s dark alleys.

Get lost shopping at Chinatown’s Old Market
Yaowarat Old Market l Photograph: Monruedee Jansuttipan

Get lost shopping at Chinatown’s Old Market

In the heart of Yaowarat Road lies the maze-like Talat Kao or Old Market, which peddles an impressive array of foodstuff, including traditional Thai and Chinese herbs and ingredients. Over two centuries old, this chaotic trading center has been witnessing lively commotions on a daily basis, from the exchanges between shoppers and sellers to motorcycles going in and out.

This lengthy alley market also leads to other old commercial areas like the textile bazaar Phahurat, wholesale hub Sampeng, and bagatelle center Khlong Tom.

Offer a prayer for better luck and fortune
Wat Mangkorn | Photograph: Sereechai Puttes

Offer a prayer for better luck and fortune

When in Chinatown, do as the locals do—and that means paying respects to the gods. Yaowarat is home to many sacred shrines where Chinese deities hear out earnest supplications from devotees. Wat Mangkon Kamalawat is one of the most popular. A dwelling place of 58 gods, it is known for performing ceremonies based on Chinese astrology.

Thian Fa Foundation is another famous shrine, home to a beautiful statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. You also have the Thai-Chinese temple Wat Trai Mit Witthayaram Worawihan, which houses Thailand’s biggest golden Buddha image and functions as the Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center, and Wat Lokanukroh, a temple that displays Vietnamese-Chinese influences.

These places of worship bear rich histories and boast inspiring ornamentation—a bonus sight to see if you’re keen on art, culture, and architecture.

Be spoiled for choice with all the local eats
Nai Ek l Photograph: Phavitch Theeraphong

Be spoiled for choice with all the local eats

When the sun goes down, both sides of Yaowarat Road are awash in neon lights as countless street food carts and mom-and-pop restaurants come alive to feed hungry locals and tourists who know the area as one of Bangkok’s best food destinations. Queues in front of shops are a usual sight, as are diners hunkered down on makeshift tables set along the sidewalk or small alleys that branch out from the main street.

There are many good eateries to choose from, but high praise goes to Guay Chub Auan Phochana, a legendary food cart that specializes in rolled noodles in hot peppery soup. We’re also fans of the crispy pork and braised pork knuckles at Nai Ek, and so is every meat lover in Bangkok—regulars know that you have come early to get a table. Krua Phornlamai, which serves stir-fried dishes on a sizzling plate, is also on our list, as are Michelin-recognized Nai Mong Hoi Tod for its oyster pancake. If you’re feeling peckish, you can always grab a stick of grilled squid from the many food stalls that dot Yaowarat Road. 

Chinatown’s culinary scene also boasts options beyond street fare. One Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant Potong has made its home in one of the area’s back streets. The elegant establishment is helmed by chef Pam Pichaya, whose Thai-Chinese background is manifested through a tasting menu that includes more than 20 courses. 

Don’t leave Yaowarat before sampling the colorful glutinous rice balls and sago cantaloupe in coconut milk at Sweettime or the famed green mango with sweet fish sauce dip at Jeh Praew.

Discover the creative cocktail scene at Soi Nana
Independence Bar l Photograph: Tanisorn Vongsoontorn

Discover the creative cocktail scene at Soi Nana

Chinatown is known for its culinary offerings, but in the last few years, it also gained a reputation for having some of the coolest bars and nightspots in Bangkok, mostly centered in and around Soi Nana. Not to be confused with Nana on Sukhumvit Road, Chinatown’s bar strip is situated only a few minutes' walk from Yaowarat Road.

Many of these drinkeries take up space in old shophouses and converted multi-level residences, including gin bar Teens of Thailand, wine-focused establishment Independence Bar, and the controversial TAX Bar, which incorporates house-made drinking vinegar in its cocktails. 

For an exotic Thai experience in stylish surroundings, come to Tep Bar, where you can sip creative drinks infused with local spirits, such as the herbal yadong (aka Thai whiskey) while listening to hypnotic traditional Thai music. Ba Hao, on the other hand, honors its locale by serving modern Chinese bar bites and drinks. 

A more youthful vibe can be found at rooftop bar Wallflowers Upstairs. Innovative tipples may not be the highlight here, but the view overlooking Chinatown plus entertaining live music more than make up for the lack of Thai herbs and fancy ingredients in your drink.

Relax and recharge for more city adventures
Guest Room, Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers I Photograph: Courtesy Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers

Relax and recharge for more city adventures

Yaowarat is undoubtedly exciting, but it can be too hectic of a place to stay. When you’ve had your fill of street food and bargain shopping, come back to the comforting embrace of Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers, a riverside hotel that’s just a short walk from Chinatown. This long-standing hotel embodies true Thai hospitality, from the thoughtful service, to the replica of the Emerald Buddha in the lobby, to guest rooms that feature elements reminiscent of the kingdom’s rich culture. 

Photograph: Courtesy Le Méridien Bangkok

If you want more centrally located accommodations that are still a quick taxi ride to Chinatown, consider Le Méridien Bangkok or Bangkok Marriott The Surawongse on Surawong Road.

For more than a decade, Le Méridien Bangkok has loomed over Surawong Road. The chic hotel has recently unveiled a new look inspired by contemporary Thai art and culture. A head-turning dog sculpture called I-Jud welcomes guests at the lobby, while interiors inspired by Thai poet Sunthorn Phu’s works are featured at the newly furnished guest rooms. The dining outlets, however, are influenced by global cuisines. You have American-style grilling house Rolling Ribs Brew Bar & BBQ, caffeine haven Latitude 13°, and mid-century-inspired drinkery Tempo Bar. Come summertime to experience ‘Au Soleil’, Le Méridien’s programme that invites guests to allure the joie de vivre of endless summertime through outdoor activities — imagine a loungy afternoon with a glass of Champagne and a scoop of sweet-and-sour sorbet, or lazy hours enjoying enriching treatments for skin rejuvenation at SPA by Le Méridien.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Marriott The Surawongse is a great choice near Yaowarat, located as it is between the old town-slash-creative district of Charoenkrung and the commercial and party hub of Sathorn. The hotel pushes the boundaries of world-class hospitality by combining traditional services with modern sensibilities, as seen in its timelessly designed rooms and the memorable guest experiences offered at its dining outlets. Recharge in your room before enjoying Chinese-inspired cocktails and nibbles at Yao Rooftop, Charoenkrung’s highest rooftop venue. Or put together an event or a business meeting in one of the hotel’s spacious meeting rooms, which can host small parties as well as gatherings for up to a thousand attendees. 

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