While not normally listed in the top attractions of Bangkok, China Town is well worth a visit. If you’re heading to Chiang Mai (or anywhere else in the country) via train, a walk around China Town is a great way to kill time waiting for your departure.
Bags can be left in the train station for about 40 Thai Baht per bag. There are no actual lockers, just a large room where bags are stored. This can seem a little off-putting at first, but don’t worry, the desk is always manned and there is a security guard at the station who monitors the area too so it’s relatively safe.
From the railway station, you walk about five minutes until you reach a large street that is chock-full of neon-signs with Chinese characters. You might even spot a large golden stupor towering about the rest of the buildings. You have arrived.
The main street, Yaowarat Road, is lined wacky and wonderful shops including snack stores (think dried durian, boiled-egg flavoured chips etc.), gold dealers (which attract massive crowds), cafes selling shark fin meals, textile stores and last but certainly not least – a market.
What’s so special about a market in Thailand, you ask. The country is full of markets. You can’t walk more than four blocks in Thailand without falling over someone selling something on the side of the road.
Well…this one is special. It is a cut above the rest in sheer size, chaos and confusion. It is the wilder, smaller cousin of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (see Turkey – Part 6 – Grand Bazaar) but with more pungent smells and moving food stalls. Oh, and with a scorching sun. No shade for the shoppers in Bangkok.
This is a market of dragon fruit and durian, sizzling fritters and caramelized bananas. It’s stiflingly hot under the Bangkok sun in any case and when you’re squashed into a slow-moving queue of market-goers trundling past red-hot woks, it becomes an inferno. But the market is extremely lively and colourful and there is something new to see on every corner.
We tired ourselves out after about 30 minutes in the thick of it and spent the next 30 minutes looking for somewhere to rest. Be warned. There are no benches and no western-style cafes where you can sit and put your feet up nearby. There is one Starbucks that you can enter if your conscience and wallet allow. Ours didn’t. And we compromised and found a clean-ish flight of stairs where we could recoup.
Despite being overwhelmingly…overwhelming…the market is absolutely fantastic for fruit, street food, clothes and souvenirs. The locals are always friendly and love selling you their delicious treats, especially if you buy durian – then you’ll even attract stares of disbelief and surprised smiles from passers-by. You might even hear them whispering about the ‘foreigners eating durian’.
If you have the time and the stamina, it really is worth a visit.