This evening I had the opportunity to participate in the Urban Adventures Chinatown tour in Bangkok. Can you believe that I’ve never been to Chinatown in Bangkok? It doesn’t seem natural! I’ve spent so much time in this city, yet Chinatown has eluded me! Okay, Chinatown has not eluded me, I’ve just been too busy or too lazy to go. There, I said it. We can move on now.
Ah, Chinatown and the nightmarkets. This is something I have been looking forward to.
Our group meeting point was at the Viengtai Hotel, near Khao San Road. As it happens, our group consisted of myself and my guide, Joe.
It was late afternoon, and Bangkok is hot. I can handle the heat, but some time to time I have to give my forehead a wipe. I don’t like looking as though I’m melting. It’s really not that attractive. Although I have a general disdain for Khao San Road, I put my feelings aside and chatted with Joe as we walked towards the Phra Arthit Pier on the Cha Phraya River.
The water taxi on the Cha Phraya River is another first for me, and as we navigate down the bobbing pier, I wonder why it has taken me so long to do this. The sky is a little hazy, and there are ferries, long boats, and speed long boats on the river.
As I sit in the boat, my eyes dance over the scenes around me. I can’t help using my camera, and I’m immediately grateful that I decided to use my 70mm – 200mm zoom lens.
When the taxi arrives at the dock for Chinatown, Joe helps me onto the pier and reminds me to keep my bag in front of me. Chinatown is famous for pickpockets. The narrow market aisle is their playground, and neglectful tourists are their targets. Due to a few different projects, I’m working on this year I have my Lomography camera inside my bag, as well as my wallet, and another lens. Foolish. Yep, probably. This just means that I used the big camera around my neck the most, and I always had a free hand resting on the top of my bag as I walked.
Chinatown is old, okay, many parts of Bangkok are old. At one time the Chinese population lived where the Grand Palace now stands. When King Rama V built the palace, he asked them to move to what is now known as Chinatown (if I’ve mixed up my facts, please tell me).
At first, the street seems normal, like any other street in Bangkok. There are old buildings, with intricate woodwork scattered about. But it doesn’t last long. When we arrive at the market, the aisle becomes very small, and there are stalls and people everywhere. It’s what I imagine the Kasbah looking like.
We are surrounded by shops and stalls selling all kinds of cheap goods. In a way it reminds me of walking through a gigantic dollar store. If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs, then this is definitely the place to go. There are a ton of things to choose from. When we cross the street and walk into the food market area, I perk up. I’m not a big shopper, and having just returned to Thailand, I’m not looking to start collecting souvenirs.
In my opinion food markets are a hub of culture. I could spend all day walking through a food market, looking at local flavours and foods, and watching the locals interact with one another. This is probably one of my favourite things to do, and as I continually stopped to take photos, I hoped that Joe didn’t mind.
One of the best things about this tour through Urban Adventures is time. They give you plenty of time to wander the streets of Chinatown, to explore and experience the history and the culture.
When you’ve had your fill of Chinatown it’s time to start walking to the flower market. It’s a little ways away from Chinatown, so wearing good shoes is important. Don’t break in new shoes, or wear flip flops. Trust me. Good shoes are very important on this tour!
The flower market is open 24/7, and almost always busy. This is the place where many different cultures come to purchase their flowers, whether their for the home, car, temple etc. As we walk around the stalls my eyes are captivated by the colours. I love colour. I love seeing the bags of deep yellows, bright purples, and luscious reds. We walk past roses, orchids [my favourite flower], lotus blossoms and more. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, I am simply fascinated. I do the same thing at the Wararot Market in Chiang Mai.
We spend a lot of time at the flower market, before hopping into a tuk tuk and heading back to Chinatown to eat dinner, and explore the Nightmarkets. As I said before, this is the perfect tour for anyone who wants to do a little shopping, some exploration, and some eating!
I love the fact that as a tourist in Bangkok, I felt like I was truly exploring with locals on this tour. Sure, there were other tourists around, but not many. There are so many areas of Bangkok that seems to be overrun with tourists and travellers alike, it’s nice to explore areas that have more locals. It’s something I endeavour to do in each place that I go throughout my travels.
If the idea of going to Chinatown, solo, is a little scary, think about doing this tour with Urban Adventures. It’s definitely worth the money, and if you’re into food, culture and a little bit of shopping, you’ll have fun.
Tips for the Tour
- Wear good shoes. There is a lot of walking on this tour, and good shoes is very, very important. Don’t think cute, think functional!
- Consider wearing a money belt under your clothing, and carrying your camera around your neck, leave you bag at the hostel or hotel. It’s easier if you don’t have to worry about where your bag is sitting on your body as you navigate through the aisles.
- Remember to fully charge your camera battery before heading out for the tour.
- If it’s hot out ladies, don’t wear a long skirt. Consider capri pants. Think comfort, not cute.
For more information on this tour, visit the Urban Adventures website.