After our visit to the world famous Wat Arun, Foong and I went to another place that for me is both new and familiar. It is new because this place is located outside of my home country. It is familiar because it is very similar to that one place in Manila that I see almost everyday.
From Wat Arun, we rode another orange flag Chao Phraya River Express boat and went down the Rajchawongsee (Ratchawong) Pier at the end of Ratchawong Road. We followed Ratchawong Road until we reached a street that obviously is an enclave of the Chinese. It is obvious because Chinese letters dominate the skyline. Aside from that, things that are definitely Chinese are everywhere including the clothes hanging from the street shops.
|Chinese clothes for sale in time for the New Year.|
I am definitely in a Chinatown, particularly Bangkok Chinatown.
The current Chinatown in Bangkok is the place where Chinese immigrants transferred after King Rama I ordered them to move from the west bank of Chao Phraya River to give way for the palace complex that is being built during the time. Bangkok Chinatown includes Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road,* and even included the River City Complex and the Kalawar Church.** The River City Complex is the area where Chinese junks berth in the past.
Of the many places in Bangkok Chinatown, the most popular is the Yaowarat Road. Many Thai-Chinese businessmen placed their shops along Yaowarat Road because it resembles the dragon's curvy body.*
Whatever is present in Bangkok Chinatown is also present in Binondo Chinatown in Manila. This is the reason why I said that Bangkok Chinatown is somewhat familiar even thought it was my first time to visit the place.
The two Chinatowns have lucky charms for sale on the sidewalk:
Even the waving-cat lucky charm looks the same with what we have in the Philippines. I suspect that manufacturers of lucky charms follow some standard. It is also possible that most of these lucky charms were imported from mainland China, that's why they look the same.
I was delighted to see that Bangkok Chinatown has castañas (chestnut) being roasted on the sidewalk. We also have castañas in Binondo. The only difference is that their castañas is cooked using a machine.
I actually haven't tasted castañas even if I see it a lot of times when I walk along Ongpin Street of Binondo. I know the smell but I didn't know its flavor.
One of the difference between the Chinatowns of Thailand and the Philippines is the streets. I noticed that the vendors in Bangkok Chinatown keep to the areas assigned to them. They don't hog the street to the detriment of passing vehicles and pedestrians. For Binondo Chinatown, just look at Divisoria and you'll see how orderly we, Filipinos, are.
In fairness, Bangkok Chinatown seems to cover a wider area than our Chinatown. That's why they can afford to have wide streets that can accommodate street vendors, vehicles and pedestrians. Binondo Chinatown don't have such luxury. Ongpin Street, which is the main road of Binondo Chinatown has just two lanes and is severely restricted by street vendors and parked vehicles.
By the way, it is Bangkok Chinatown where I bought the pomegranate fruit juice that I featured in an earlier blog post.
Like Binondo Chinatown the Chinatown in Bangkok is likewise a mecca for Chinese food. This place has plenty of tea shops, Chinese restaurants, and side street food vendors. Both tourists and Thais visit Yaowarat Road for the food.
We did some foodtripping here. We ate both merienda and dinner at this place. I will talk about it in the next blog posts.
Bangkok Chinatown is also alive during the night. Many restaurants only open in the evening, like the restaurant where we had our dinner. Vendors, street sellers are everywhere to sell their wares to both tourists and locals. Yes, even Mr. Balloon-man is busy during the night.
Bangkok Chinatown, particularly Yaowarat Road, is another interesting place in Thailand. It is good to note that this Chinatown is not that different from our Binondo Chinatown. Tourists must visit Yaowarat Road, especially after a gruelling day of touring Bangkok, to enjoy the great food that this place has to offer.
*”Yaowarat Road” in Wikipedia.
**”A Walking Tour In Chinatown: An Old Place With A New Look” by Dararai in Thaiways