I would like to visit Bangkok Chinatown. Where should I go and what should I visit?
Reply from Thailand Info
Chinatown in Bangkok is a really interesting and diverse part of the city. There is so much to see you could spend several days there.
Use Bangkok Train Station As A Starting Point
A good starting point for a day trip to China Town is to take the MRT (metro) to Hua Lamphong which is Bangkok’s main train station. From there I suggest you set out on foot for a walking tour.
Location of Bangkok Train Station
The first destination on our recommended walking tour is Wat Traimit. This is a small temple with a very large gold Buddha statute (the world’s largest made from 5.5 tonnes of gold). The story is that the statue was originally located in the old capital of Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya was often under attack from foreign invaders (Burmese and Cambodian) and at some point the statue got covered in a layer of plaster to conceal its worth. In 1955 major rebuilding works were taking place to the temple and the statue got dropped revealing to the Abbot the massive deposit of gold inside.
Getting to Wat Traimit
To get to Wat Traimit leave the front of the station and turn right over the canal, which takes you in the general direction of Chinatown. Once over the canal follow the Tri Mit Road towards the river. The temple is down a side street on your right about 150 metres down the road.
Location of Wat Traimit
Once you have been to Wat Traimit the second destination on our walking tour is Sampeng Lane. This road is marked on maps as Soi Wanit 1. This narrow long street is the cultural and commercial centre of China Town. It is a bustling market and a bit intense if you aren’t used to Asia. There are lots of shops and restaurants, but it is also the best place to soak up the atmosphere and see the ‘real’ Chinatown not the ‘Tourist’ version.
History of Sampeng Lane
Sampeng Lane is where the first Chinese settlers to Bangkok set up home, with a permanent community appearing in the 1700s. At the time Thai people didn’t so much live on the land as in boats along the marshy banks of the river. They often traded from boats which is where the tradition of the floating markets came from. The Chinese, however, lead the way in colonising this part of the city with houses built on the banks of the Chao Phraya river.
By the 1800s Sampeng Lane became a notorious centre of vice and prostitution. Even now the phrase ‘visiting Sampeng Lane’ is a Thai eupemism for visiting a prostitute. The opium dens, gambling houses and brothels are now gone (well most of them) but it is still a hub for the Chinese Thai community.
Getting to Sampeng Lane
To get to Sampeng Lane from Wat Traimit, carry on down the road until you get to the roundabout, take the fourth road (Phatum Khong Kha Alley) and follow it to the Song Sawat Road where you turn left. Take the first major right hand turn you come to on Song Sawat Road (Wat Samphanthawong Alley) until you get to Soi Wanit 1 which is Sampeng Lane.
Finding Your Way Around Sampeng Lane Market
Our advice is now simply to follow the Sampeng Lane and explore the side streets whenever you feel like a break from the thronging masses shopping.
Getting Back to Bangkok Train Station from Sampeng Lane
Its gets tiring after a while and the best thing to do when you had enough to is to turn left or right when you get to main road intersecting with Sampeng Lane and flag down a tuk-tuk or taxi to take you back to Hua Lamphong Train station. If you are having trouble communicating with the driver try either ‘sat tanee rot fai‘ (which means ‘train station’ in Thai) or just ‘bai MRT‘ (which means ‘go to the metro’).