Bangkok's Chinatown Market: What to See and Buy from Yaowarat!

Bangkok’s Chinatown Market: What to See and Buy from Yaowarat!

With so many things to see and do here, here’s a guide to this bustling area!

Founded in 1782, Bangkok’s Chinatown has grown from a small Teochew Chinese immigrant enclave to one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. The area is also known as Yaowarat to the locals, as it surrounds its main artery on Yaowarat road before branching off to different smaller streets such as the historic Sampheng neighbourhood – now known as Soi Wanit 1 – and Song Wat – which runs along the vibrant Chao Phraya River.

bangkok chinatown market

Image credit: arcibald

Chinatown Bangkok’s market is jam-packed and bustling with activity all year round! With countless traders operating stalls by the street, exciting street performances and colourful street art, the ever-present festive atmosphere is a must-see when in Bangkok! The sheer amount of things happening may be daunting for a first-timer, so here’s a list of the top ten things to buy in the busy Chinatown market:

Savour some sweet Thai mangoes

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One of the most popular fruits enjoyed in Thailand, the sweetness of the Thai mango is simply like no other. Top quality fresh mangoes are sold in food markets along Yaowarat, at really affordable and competitive prices. The mangoes are also made into desserts such as mango sticky rice or even eaten raw with a dried chilli and salt mix. A must-try when visiting Bangkok!

Slurp on Tom Yum pork noodles

bangkok chinatown market

Image credit: Gregg Tavares

This sumptuous hot and sour noodle is a staple on any food tour of Bangkok’s Chinatown. The distinctly Thai soup noodle is served with crushed peanuts and thinly sliced pork that melts in your mouth. The tom yum broth, bursting with lemongrass and other herby flavours, is guaranteed to pack a punch!

Catch a film in an ancient cinema

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Step back in time and visit Chinatown Rama, a vintage cinema tucked away in Yaowarat that’s over 70 years old. The last privately owned movie theatre in Bangkok screens old Chinese films for just 60 baht (~S$2.60) per ticket! With an auditorium reminiscent of the architecture of old opera theatre, catching a film here will definitely be an interesting experience for the 21st-century eye.

Try some fried insects

bangkok chinatown market

Image credit: Nora Morgan

For the daring and adventurous, tantalise your taste buds with some fried insects from the street food markets in Yaowarat! Ranging from crickets to mealworms and even cockroaches, these insects are considered local delicacies and it isn’t out of the ordinary to munch on them.

Invest in gold

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With over 130 gold shops along Yaowarat road, gold shops are simply in abundance in Chinatown! This makes it the best area to compare the rates of gold sold to ensure you get the best value for the lowest prices.

Eat some delicious grilled squid

Image credit: Jonathan Lin

Another must-try dish to eat is the tasty grilled giant squid, also sold along the streets of Chinatown. The fresh seafood is skewered on sticks and grilled on the spot to ensure the utmost freshness with a delicious char. For those who can take the spice, be sure to add some chilli sauce to the grilled squid!

Buy colourful fresh flowers

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Pak Klong Talad, also known as the Bangkok Flower Market, is a wholesale and retail fresh flower market and the largest of its kind in Bangkok. There, you can find all sorts of flowers cultivated and grown from different regions of Thailand! Though the market is open 24/7, visiting between 3-4am lets you experience the market in full action – that’s when the traders arrive daily to sell the freshly stocked plants. 

Get your caffe boran coffee fix

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Jumpstart your day with some traditional Thai coffee brewed in a cotton bag “sock” filter. Translated to ancient coffee, the caffe boran is known for its thick texture, thanks to its roasting process which involves ingredients such as brown rice and sugar. 

Munch on traditional baked goods

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Walking down the streets of Bangkok’s Chinatown, you’re bound to run into a quaint bakery or two. These shops sell traditional baked goods featuring unique local flavours that’ll make for a light snack for your travels. A favourite of both locals and tourists alike is the Yaowarat toasted bread, a buttered toast with condensed milk or custard filling – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside!

Feast on fresh seafood

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Chinatown’s the place to find the best seafood in Bangkok! From fresh cockles to scallops, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Part of the experience is the simplicity of eating on the street itself by the main roads of the market. 

Image credit: Waranont (Joe)

There’s bound to be something amazing to experience in every nook and cranny of Bangkok’s Chinatown Market. Besides these top purchases, there are also plenty of other things to do in the market as well! For a panoramic view of the Chinatown and the city skyline, be sure to visit the revolving Grand China Princess rooftop bar restaurant. W

With all these exciting things to do, Chinatown Bangkok’s market should definitely be on the itinerary of your next Bangkok trip.

Also read: 17 Must Buy Things in Bangkok

About Author

Stephanie Lauw
Stephanie Lauw

Stephanie is an English literature and film student who has succumbed to the occupational hazard of over-analysing her favourite TV shows. She enjoys theatre and music, and dabbles with both by writing bad plays and experimenting with her band. Her current dream is to island hop the filming locations of all the seasons of Survivor.