The Chinatown of Bangkok
12.12.2015 - 12.12.2015 32 °C
Yaowarat is the Chinatown of Bangkok and its very unique because this is the district within Bangkok that has different characteristics from other Bangkok's districts. The Chinese in Thailand has blended into the Thai society for as long as 200 years ago. Though the Thai Chinese is still regarded as minority in the Thai population demographic, it has played major role in shaping Thailand's economic growth over the years. Today, Thailand is rapidly growing and transformed into a developed country, leading its other counterparts in the Indochina region. There are some few interesting things to do and take note while walking through Yaowarat. The main activities in Yaowarat focused along the Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road, which are parallel against each other. If you come to Yaowarat from the Chao Phraya river, the pier to get down would be the Ratchawong pier and exiting from the pier, you would come to the Ratchawong Road, which would come to intersect with Yaowarat Road and then Charoen Krung Road. When you see the goldsmith shops which were crowded with customers, you know you have arrived at Yaowarat Road. Yaowarat is the place for Thais to purchase gold accessories from rings, bracelets, ear rings to necklace.
A gold shop in Yaowarat
Yaowarat Road is always busy and congested
Many Thais like to buy gold as form of investments as well as for speculations. There are dozens of goldsmith shops along Yaowarat and Charoen Krung Road and mostly are crowded with customers though not all enjoy the same rate of popularity. Some shops still maintained its olden days structure without any renovations done and still without air-conditioned. For Thais, gold is not only an investment tool but represents some kind of status within its society and level of wealth among the Thai society. There are many gold shops within Thailand not just in Bangkok or Yaowarat but Chinatown is the best place among all or well preferred by Thais when purchasing gold items and accessories. Therefore, gold shops are very special to Yaowarat, which means if there isn't a gold shop, it isn't Yaowarat. Traffic in Yaowarat is as chaotic, busy and noisy as ever. During the day, the big and oversize signboards mostly red and yellow coloured along Yaowarat Road are one of the iconic item to be well-noticed in Chinatown of Bangkok.
SHOPS ALONG CHAROEN KRUNG ROAD, YAOWARAT
During the night, these signboards turned into bright neon lighted boards so bright that you would feel like being in probably another city due not only to the bright lights but the many Chinese characters reflected from the signboards. Other than gold shops, there are many Chinese medical shops which operate within next to each other or 2 or 3 shops away. These shops have many other items available other than Chinese medicines including herbs and ointments , snacks, candies, dry food and many other provisional items.
Some of the best thing to do while on walking tour during night time in Yaowarat is to savour some best Chinese speciality such as kway chap (thick flat noodles in peppery soup mix with roast pork, pork meat and other pork intestines). I did mentioned before previously that the Isaan kway chap is a different version from Bangkok's version. The Isaan's kway chap has flavour and similarity with the Vietnamese "bun" which either mixed with deep-fry fish cakes, snails or the pork sausages, meatballs and pork ribs. The noodles used in Isaan kway chap is a tiny long noodle (rice vermicelli) and mixed with pork ribs. The soup of Isaan kway chap is not peppery thus not spicy. The Bangkok version of kway chap is spicy due to the peppery flavour broth. But what makes this Bangkok kway chap special is the tasty roast pork. Though soaked under the broth, the flavour of the roast pork remained despite overcome by the watery broth. Remember also that I wrote about the roast pork available at Or Tor Gor Market? Thailand has one of the best roast pork available within the South East Asia region from what I had observed and tasted. You can never missed kway chap stalls when touring Yaowarat as the best kway chap vendors located along the main Yaowarat Road with set-up of chairs and tables on the shops' five foot walkways. I had a try of kway chap on 2 different vendors. The one along the main Yaowarat Road was said to be famous and well-known among locals and tourists but not quite sure about that. That was the second I try out. The first one I got a taste from was a push cart kway chap vendor which located on the left side of Soi Yaowarat 11 where I found out were much tastier than the one at Yaowarat Road. Firstly, the broth was much more flavourful with lots of pepper, secondly, it was more generous in its add-on dish, more roast pork and pork meat (I avoided the intestines). Anyhow, its up to individual's taste buds. Overall, both shops still served good kway chap and worth the money spent for a dish distinctive to Yaowarat and Bangkok.
KWAY CHAP EXCURSIONS AT YAOWARAT, BANGKOK
After dinner, its best to have some Chinese "kung fu" tea and savour some desserts which also located along the Yaowarat Road. There was a new Chinese "kung-fu" tea shop I guess has just opened quite recently in Yaowarat and this is yet another new things to do when in Yaowarat as it is very rare to have such tea shops in Bangkok. Even in Chinatown like Yaowarat, it was never before such establishments available though tea drinking is very much a Chinese culture. So, I found such rare opportunity something to cherish about. There are several tea drinking package available and for as low as < THB 200, you get a basic tea package which include, a traditional Chinese pot of tea with the selection of tea leaves chosen, hot water pot and plate of snacks. It was one of the unique tea drinking experience in Bangkok which is quite common in country like Taiwan.
After tea, I head back to walk along Yaowarat Road and this time, its for the popular toast bun which is unique to Yaowarat. This Yaowarat toast bun is being served with selections of sweet pastes including chocolates and peanuts. I had tried this out when in Yaowarat about 8 years ago but did not actually wrote about this distinctive dessert experience. The push cart stall was located just in front of a local government bank and basically, people would queue in front of the stall to have their orders taken. On a usual day, the queue was said to be quite long as the night gets late as most customers were here to have late night snacks. There are also selection of bread available. Most people would purchase the toast buns for take away but you still can have it fresh from the grill as there were some tables and chairs available for dining along the small five foot walkways in front of the bank. The bread with the fillings were sweet, flavourful, tasty, fresh and the bread well grilled. There were many coffee shops within the South East Asia region such as Singapore and Malaysia serving such toast bread but my opinion is that they still cannot beat this one in Yaowarat. To add up some further great experience to this toast bread snacks, order the Thai milk tea or coffee from the stall next door. The tea and coffee beverage has equal quality as that of the bread stall. Its aromatic and delicious with strong tea flavour for the milk tea and perfect to topped it with the toast bread.