Bangkok’s Chinatown (Yaowarat) is a very busy and active place both day and night, 7 days a week all through the year…. even during Chinese New Year. In Thailand, both Christmas and Chinese New Year are not declared as public holidays. Unlike Chinatown of most countries where it gets quiet around Chinese New Year, Yaowarat is really busy and active during the festival season.
Update 2023: With borders now opening up, Yaowarat, is now abuzz with activities and visitors both day and night.
It is a growing trend that Malaysians and Singaporeans Chinese are choosing to travel overseas during Chinese New Year. Chinese businesses in both these countries would be quiet during the festival. Many choose to travel to Thailand. If you love to have the CNY festive feel and are traveling to Bangkok, make sure you go to Bangkok Chinatown.
In the day time, if you turn off from the main road, you would encounter the marketplace that sells a lot of supplies and food from China which is useful for Chinese and vegetarian cooking. As it approaches evening, the market place would start to close down and the main road would be filled with a different set of hawker stalls that start to open in front of shops.
The road is literally congested both day and night. At night, place comes alive with lights and colours. I have passed by the place at 10pm and night and there are still many people and a lot of shops are still open.
Mainly you would find restaurant, shops and roadside stalls that serves Chinese food like dim sum, noodles, duck, dumplings, bak chang, Chinese dessert (tong shui). The secret to good food is being patient and willing to go for stores which you see having long queue because these stores are so well known that people come all over the world to try out the food. Since you are already here, why not wait and try out food that people are talking about?
The famous kway chap (koay chap), Nak Eik roll noodles stall is located here as well often with long queue:
Then there is the famous Yaowarat toasted bread which people will queue up for:
If you love to have Chinese desserts, there are many shops and the pricing is not expensive:
There are also healthy juice for those who are health conscious:
At the same time, you can buy some foodstuff or souveniors back home. One of the shop I usually visit if I wish to buy back souvenior items is the shop below. There are a few identical shop with the Mr Piggie logo but the one I go to is where the owner is able to speak in many Chinese dialects, including Cantonese and Mandarin. I would usually speak Cantonese to him when I see him:
His shop sells prepacked meat floss, dry food stuff, balm and ointment and host of other stuff that I would buy back and distribute to friends.
If you are looking to buy Thai ointment (for massage, muscle soreness or arthritic pain), you can also visit Lim Soon Heng Natural Medicine that sells these items in bulk:
If you are not sure of what to use for a certain condition, you can ask the shop assistant or the owners at the counter as to what to get. I really want to say that in terms of pain relief especially for arthritic pain, Thailand is a place where you can find a lot of really good ointments at a very cheap price. If it can help with pain management, then you or your loved ones can reduce the medication that had to be taken to relief the condition.
I used to have an Indian ex colleague who would request me to help him buy a particular brand of ointment by the dozen because he sleeps much better if he rubs a little of the ointment under his nose when he sleeps at night.
As you walk along, there are many roadside peddlers selling gift items, fruits, Chinese souveniors and snacks. If you love grilled squid, there are grilled roadside squid as per below:
My suggestion if you love to look at supplier items and you are in the area on a weekday, proceed to Sampeng first to take a look at backlane stores that sells all sorts of supplies like bags, gift items, craft items, clothes, etc. Then when it is nearing evening as the shops in Sampeng is closing down, take a cab to Yaowarat. At night it is not so hot and many shops still stay open.
Happy holidays and enjoy!