Bangkok’s Chinatown: A Guide to the Red & Gold Maze

Explore the world-famous allure of Yaowarat with this map of the best places to sip, savour and shop

Words & Photos: Kankanit Wichiantanon

Entering Yaowarat can be like tumbling down a neon-lit rabbit hole – the bustling street of bright red and gold neon signs is intoxicating, much like the allure of an exquisite bottle of Baijiu.

Bangkok’s vibrant Chinatown is a spirited fusion of restaurants, cafés, bars, street vendors, and shops that peddle everything from gold to groceries and garments. It’s easy to lose oneself in the labyrinthine charm of Chinatown, especially if you’re a foodie who can’t resist traditional Chinese delights and street fare.

Yaowarat Road is reportedly home to Thailand’s biggest Chinese community. Its history goes back to the reign of King Rama I (1782-1809) when Thailand and China began trading via the Chao Phraya River’s Ratchawong Pier. The legacy of trade continued a century later under King Rama V, who boosted commerce by constructing roads – one of which was named Yaowarat.

The present-day Yaowarat Road hosts a variety of shops and food stalls on either side, drawing frequent visits from locals and globetrotters. Whether you’re seeking food, drinks, clothes, fresh produce or Chinese imports, you will find them here.

Yaowarat takes centre stage during festivities, especially Chinese New Year and the Vegetarian Festival. The area is also home to grand temples serving different communities, including the Chinese Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (Wat Leng Noei Yi), Wat Traimit Withayaram Worawihan, where a Golden Buddha statue is enshrined, and the Kuan Yim Shrine, where the Goddess of Mercy watches over the Thian Fah Foundation Hospital.

From breakfast venues that open at dawn to markets and shops brimming with goodies, all-day restaurants offering tempting lunch and dinner options and food stalls that come alive at nightfall, Yaowarat is a one-stop destination unto itself.

Sip, Savour, Shop

Here’s our sip, savour and shop guide to the finest corners of this neon maze of red and gold

widdershins yaowarat

Hidden behind a floor- to-ceiling bookcase in the Laoteng restaurant, this speakeasy-themed bar captivates you with its mystery. Yaowarat Rd., Samphanthawong, Bangkok; +66 (0) 95 987 9239; www.facebook.com/widdershinsyaowarat

TAX Bar Bangkok

Created by Niks Anuman-Rajadhon, the genius behind the famous Teens of Thailand and Asia Today Bar, this hip joint offers meticulously crafted vinegar-spiked cocktails. Their house- made vinegar, extracted from alcohol by-products, elevates mixology to a whole new level. The quirky, unorthodox interior creates unique cocktail moments to delight both your eyes and taste buds. 695-697 Maitri Chit Rd., Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok; +66 (0) 61 917 9719; www.facebook.com/taxbarbkk

River View Bar Bangkok
River View Bar

Perched up on the 23rd floor of the Grand China Hotel, the River View Bar serves finely crafted drinks set against a breathtaking view of the capital. A perfect break from the crowds at street level. Feeling peckish? Head up two floors to enjoy delectable fare with the city at your feet at Sky View 360°. Grand China Bangkok; 215 Yaowarat Rd., Samphanthawong, Bangkok; +66 (0) 2224 9977; www.grandchina.com



Moo Satay Plaengnam
Moo Satay Plaengnam

Your quest for cookbook-perfect satay will be fulfilled at Moo Satay Plaengnam. The skewers of perfectly marinated pork are grilled over a charcoal fire until they turn glossy and golden. The succulent meat is served with a lusciously nutty peanut sauce and cucumber relish. This place is wildly popular and has just three or four tables, so going early is recommended. 64 Plaeng Nam Road, Samphanthawong, Bangkok; +66 (0) 86 548 4628

Deksomboon Shop
Deksomboon Shop

This shop is a haven for sodium addicts. It not only carries condiments such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, and soybean paste, but also presents surprises like

Black Soy Sauce Soft Serve Ice Cream. 426 Yaowarat Rd., Samphanthawong, Bangkok; +66 (0) 99 286 5709; deksomboonshop.com

Nong Guy & Nong Gao & Nong Gus Grilled Squid
Nong Guy & Nong Gao & Nong Gus Grilled Squid

Choose your favourite part of the squid and send it to be grilled, drenched in a fiery chilli dipping sauce and served. Yum! 414-416 Yaowarat Rd., Chakkrawat, Bangkok; +66 (0) 81 301 9950

Lhong Tou Café Yaowarat
Lhong Tou Café Yaowarat

This contemporary Chinese café is a boon to Instagrammers and also comes brimming with umami-packed dishes. We recommend their all-day Chinese Breakfast Set, which includes salted egg yolks, dried shredded pork, Chinese pork sausage, stir-fried pickled turnip and shiitake mushroom, pickled cabbage, and more. Other enticing sets are the “Best of Luck” Dim Sum Set and the Emperor Porridge Set. Don’t miss the Golden Shrimp, Spicy Mala Shrimp Dumplings, Whole Wheat Veggie Bun, and our favourite, the ooey-gooey Salted Egg Lava Bun. 538 Yaowarat Rd., Samphanthawong, Bangkok; +66 (0) 64 935 6499; www.facebook.com/LhongTouYaowarat



Guang Hok Kee
Guang Hok Kee

Chinese sausage – the fat- speckled, crimson-hued, sweet- salty meat product – is a true delight for devotees of Chinese cuisine. Guang Hok Kee in the heart of Yaowarat proudly holds the title of the original artisan in the area, crafting Chaozhou Chinese sausages from scratch since 1957. 26 Plaengnam Road, Samphanthawong, Bangkok; +66 (0) 2 221 0266, www. facebook.com/guanghokkee

Yaowarat Hang Heng Lee
Yaowarat Hang Heng Lee

Since 1966, this shop has been a go-to spot for porcelain products, Feng Shui charms and a selection of Chinese tea sets and tea-making paraphernalia sold at attractive prices. 229 Yaowarat Road, Samphanthawong, Bangkok; +66 (0) 2 221 5152; www.facebook.com/yaowarajhunghenglee

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