Bangkok’s Chinatown is also called Yaowarat, for one of the main roads that snakes through the district. It’s one of the oldest parts of Bangkok, settled in the late 18th century when Chinese traders were moved from the space that became the Grand Palace when Rama I ordered it built. I’ve heard it’s also the largest Chinatown in the world, but I haven’t been able to verify this detail. It is huge – including Chao Phraya River on the south, criss-crossed by Yaowarat, Charoen Krung, Mungkorn, Songwat, Songsawat, and Chakkrawat Roads. The Sam Peng Market is the centerpiece along Yaowarat Road.
In or out of the market, Chinatown is filled with fascinating shops, temples, restaurants and homes, and walking through the cramped streets offers much to see.
We visited three temples while we were in Chinatown for Lunar New Year, first stopping at Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (“Dragon Lotus Temple”) or the old name: Wat Leng Noei Yi. This temple is an unusual Mahayana Buddhist temple – most Thais follow Theravada Buddhism. It was a centerpiece for the Lunar New Year celebrations as people burned incense and prayed to the Buddha for blessings in the new year. The second temple we saw is Wat Traimit, famous for its giant golden Buddha. We didn’t go inside, but we did see the distinctive white and gold exterior. Our final temple was a spontaneous visit to a small shrine near Kwong Siew Hospital.
Title quote: Lonely Planet Thailand, 3rd edition Sept 2014, p61