Bangkok has a historic Chinatown in a district called Yaowarat where Chinese immigrants have lived since the late 18th century. There’s also a “Little India” nearby. However I may have picked the wrong day to visit, since when I went on Sunday, many of the shops were closed and the neighborhood was very quiet. As with the “Chinatown” in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, the Chinese influence isn’t that physically apparent, but rather understated. There are many gold shops, that being something a lot of Chinese and Indians like, and restaurants, but a lot of the area is a bit rundown.
While we missed out on experiencing the bustling character of the area, the highlight was several unique temples. While none of them were Chinese, it was unique to see such temples within such a dense urban neighborhood.
Wat Traimit features the world’s largest seated Buddha at 5 meters. The Buddha sits in a hall on the top level of an impressive gold-topped building that also features a small museum about Yaowarat’s Chinatown and the Chinese immigration on the lower levels.
The world’s largest seated Buddha, located on the top floor of Wat Traimit
Wat Samphanthawongsaram Worawiharn was another nice temple, despite its long unwieldy name. A “third grade royal temple” that was granted royal status in 1795, it features a main hall with several golden Buddha statues, a teak house and a few small pavilions.
We then walked through an enclosed market lane wedged between buildings. There were many stalls and shops in the lane, though the market looked as if it was still getting ready for the night.
While doing a little bit of research online, I’d heard of a temple with crocodiles inside. After going to Wat Traimit and Wat Worawaiharn, then walking through the market, we neared the river. I feared we’d miss the crocodile temple but then I saw a temple to the side. As we walked to it, a guy saw us and said “crocodile!” so that was that. Wat Chakkawat Rachawat was a tree-lined complex with a large hall with a Buddha. It also has crocodiles – several of them, with one being very massive. You can see it below but the photo doesn’t do it any justice.
Besides the crocodiles, the temple features several distinctive domed stupas and buildings with different styles.
We then left Yaowarat by boat on the Chrao Praya river for Khao San Road where my friend and the other people were staying.
Earlier that day, I had met up with my friend, one of the mainlanders I’d met back in HCMC, in Chatuchak Market. It’s a large market that sells everything from clothes to souvenirs to food and even weapons which you’ll see in the photos below.
That weapons stall was filled with knives, cutlasses, brass knuckles, ninja stars and even a taser which worked. It shows how relaxed Bangkok is that one can sell so many deadly implements in full view. The vendor allowed us to hold them and pose, as well as use the taser (though not on a person of course).
The market is big and consists of several sections that sell different things. One can easily get lost in it. Actually, I’d arrived early and at the scheduled exit, I saw my friend walking towards me with a security guard who had led him to the location. We walked around and then bumped into the other mainlanders who my friend was staying with. They had all come over together from Cambodia.
Yes, these are all real.
The gate to Chinatown
Most of the neighborhood was laidback like this.
A bank with elaborate Chinese dragons and Thai garuda (half-man, half-bird and the country’s royal emblem)
Chinese arriving in Bangkok in the 19th century, in a photo displayed in the mini musuem inside Wat Traimit.
Inside Wat Samphanthawongsaram Worawiharn’s main hall
One of Wat Chakkawat’s smaller crocodiles
Pavilion inside Wat Chakkawat’s grounds