Bangkok, Thailand




Yaowrat is the home of Bangkok's sizable Chinese community and one of the oldest in Thailand. The story of the Chinese in Bangkok began in the late 1700s, when poor peasants from China's Chaozhou region began to settle in Rattanakosin. Many came to Siam to find work in Thonburi, situated on the other side of the Chao Phraya River. The Chinese were later requested to move outside Rattanakosin when King Rama I, in 1782, set to establish the Grand Palace and Rattanakosin as the new capital. Many of the Chinese resettled in the area now known as Yaowarat, which is today Bangkok's own Chinatown.

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The Chinese neighbourhood of Yaowarat was  Bangkok's main centre of commerce for the following two centuries. Formerly impoverished peasants had worked their way up to become the backbone of trade in Siam. It was 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. Modern-day Yaowarat now covers a large area centring around Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road. Occupying the area are small streets and alleys, home to shops and street vendors selling various merchandise.

Bustling Yaowarat by Globetrotter

Compared to the rest of the city, Yaowarat is fairly compact and can be explored in a full-day (and night) walking tour. 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. You'll come across street markets, shop houses, gold shops, beautiful remnants of colonial-style architecture and some interesting temples. At night, neon signs blaze with Chinese characters and restaurants spill out onto the streets, turning the area into a miniature Hong Kong but minus the skyscrapers.

Bright neon signs in Yaowarat by Jacob Siverskog

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 thoroughfare. Running parallel to the south of Yaowarat Road is Sampeng Lane, which is also known as Soi Wanit 1, a narrow pedestrian-only lane with many small department stores. Crossing these streets is the pedestrian-only Trok Issaranuphap, an interesting lane for shopping and having small snacks. Another small lane crossing Yaowarat Road is Soi Phadung Dao, the place to go when you get hungry.

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