Saturday, July 25, 2009

Good Morning Old Bangkok 4:
Explore the heart of Chinatown

Today I invite you for a Walking Tour to Chinatown. With this Google Map you won't get lost.

If you ask a Taxi driver to take you to Chinatown, you will usually arrive in Yaowarat road ถนน เยาวราช. And by night you see, what you usually think is Chinatown: a street full of neon lights:



And the street will be full of goldsmith shops, vendors selling Chinese herbal medicine and restaurants with sharkfin soup and birds nests. After this you may think: all a little bit like Chinatown everywhere in the world. Not much to discover. What a big error! If you want to see Chinatowns heart beating, you better decide for a walk in the morning. Too hot? Well, there is always a shady side of the small streets. You may arrive by boat on Chao Phraya River at Tha Si Phraya Pier (สี่พระยา, Number 3). Red lamps in Chinese design show you the way to Soi Wanit 2 วานิช 2:



Soon the first tree gives some shade and you pass the back side of Holy Rosary Church หรือวัดแม่พระลูกประคำ:



it is also known as Galvar Church and has been built 1786 by the Portuguese in neogothic style on the banks of Chao Phraya. A group of priests had to flee from Ayutthaya after the Burmese war. King Rama I permitted them to construct the first church. The building with its cross-shaped form, that you see today, dates from 1891 to 1897:



Read more about the church by tour-bangkok-legacies.com or have a look inside and one more look.

Just around the corner you find a small square with mobile fruit vendors:



You are now on the back side of an Art Deco style building from the Italian architekt Annibale Rigotti: the first bank of Thailand, Talad Not branch of Siam Commercial Bank, built in 1910. See picture by ^_^

We move further on Soi Wanit 2 and pass old houses:





On our right hand we pass the sois with Noi Market ตลาดน้อย, where you find shops dealing with parts of old cars and other old metal.


Picture by LucasvdVelden

If we turn into Soi Charoenkrung 20, we will see Wat Yuan Talad Noi วัดหย่วนตลาดน้อย, also called Wat Uphai Ratbamrung วัดอุภัยราชบำรุง, which was built by Vietnamese immigrants during the reign of King Rama I. King Rama IV and King Rama V have done a renovation. You see a more than hundred years old tree in front of the temple, Phra Sri Maha Bodhi.


Picture by nowan.diaryis.com

King Rama V donated the sprout, soil and water to grow it. See this youtube-video.

We turn back to Soi Wanit 2 and now approach Wat Pathum Khong Kha, วัดปทุมคงคาราชวรวิหาร a temple built during the Ayutthaya era and restored during the reign of King Rama I. The cloisters on the inner walls around the temple are lined with golden Buddhas. The ubosot (ordination hall) is made of brick and houses an image of Buddha called Phra Buddha Mahajanaka in the posture of subduing Mara. Mural paintings on the east wall show Buddha's victory over Mara. Behind the Wiharn you find a sone: the Thaen Hin Paraharn Kabot. Here Krommaluang Rak Ronnaret was executed after he had planned a rebellion against King Rama III, in 1848.




Picture by kumpunpra.com

See more pictures in this gallery and the beautiful gallery of Pattamawadee.

Would you like to learn more about the history of Chinatown? Then you turn to Tri Mit Road and got to Wat Traimit Wittayaram วัดไตรมิตรวิทยาราม. Enter the gramd stupa, Phra Maha Mondop:

Picture by hko_s


On the second floor you find the Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Centre, a museum. Here you walk through a huge model of a red Chinese junk and reach a pier at the old Chinese Shrine and then stroll through the replica of Sampheng market in the reign of King Rama III. Or you doscover a big model of Yaowarat Road during its most flourishing days in 1947. Read more about the museum.

Wat Traimit itself is famous for its giant Buddha image made from gold - more than 5 tons of gold! The image, Phra Buddha Maha Suwan Patimakorn, is 3 metres high and the largest golden Buddha image in the world.


Picture by Da

It has been created seven hundred years ago and stayed first in Wat Mahathat in Sukothai. To protect it from enemies, the gold was hidden. It was covered with black laquer and plaster. In 1935 King Rama I let it take to Wat Traimit. Nowbody knew about the gold inside. But in 1955 the image was moved with ropes. Suddenly the ropes broke, the image fell to earth - and the plaster broke and the gold wasdiscovered. Read more about Wat Traimit.

The ordination hall:


Picture by superciliousness


In front of Wat Traimit you discover the shrine of the Golden Shine Foundation. The building is a mix of Chinese style (dragon colums) and Thai style (the archway):

Picture by hko_s



From Wat Traimit you just cross Yaowarat Road to Thian Fah มูลนิธิเทียนฟ้า Hospital with its Guan Yin Shrine:


Picture by hkgalbert

As asienfan.wordpress.com reports, five groups of Chinese immigrants lived in Bangkok in the 19th century: Dtaejiu, Hokkien (Fujian), Hakka, Chinese from Hainan and from Guangdong. They created the Thian Fah Foundation to build a hospital, that opened in 1905. Here traditional Chinese medicine was practised and is still practised today. For the poor treatment was free of charge. Thian Fah was a Chinese deity. And a shrine was built too. Inside you find the golden statue of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy. In Chinese folk mythology Thian Fah and Guan Yin are identic.

Picture by hko_s

Inside the pavilion you also discover colourful paintings, that you can see on asienfan.wordpress.com. See more pictures by Max Richard.

Now let's walk back on Tri Mit Road ตรีมิตร towards Wat Pathum Kongkha and move on on Songwat Road ทรงวาด, the old rice trading center with business houses and warehouses from the 19th century - see some painted impressions.





Soon on our left we have a possibility to go to Chao Phraya River and have a look at Wat Zhi Zhen Ge on the other side:



Back on Song Wat Road:





Where Trok Saphan Yuan joins Song Wat Road:





Suddenly at our right we think we see a Chinese temple:



But this is not a temple, this is Peijing School, as the playing children show:



See also these impressions of Songwat Road

Next impression: another old house along Songwat Road:



Now we turn into Ratchawong Road ถนนราชวงศ์:



Soon we turn into a small soi on our left and we will discover this temple inside the buildings:





We go through this door and the door on the other side, turn right into another soi and now come to the most famous soi of Chinatown: Soi Samphaeng ถนนสำเพ็ง.





Soi Samphaeng, covered with a glass roof, is bustling with people shopping here, bargain hunters love it. And it was the birth place of Chinatown around 1782, when King Rama 1 moved the Royal Palace from Thonburi to the east side of the Chao Phraya River. The Chinese settlers, the Taechiu, hat to leave this place and move several kilometres downstream , outside the city wall if the new capital. That's how Samphaeng was founded. During the second half of the nineteenth century many Taechiu workers were imported from China by junks, that's how Chinatown grew. Soi Sampheng had the dubious honour of having most of the opium dens, gambling houses and brothels in Bangkok after the Taechiu had been closed out of better businesses by the Thai state for a long time. But today this is history (red more about this history) and Soi Samphaeng is a thriving commercial aera.





On our left we find Wat Chakkrawat วัดจักรวรรดิราชาวาส วรมหาวิหาร (old name: Wat Sam Pluem วัดสามปลื้ม). The ubosot is all white.


Picture by dhammathai.org

Inside the Ubosot: The image of Phra Nak:


Picture by Hdamm

Take care of you, there is a Crocodile:


Picture by Julita & Wojtek

The crocodiles are in two ponds. Read more about this Wat on thailandforvistors.com and see the gallery by krashcraft.


Picture by drehscheibe-bangkok.com

If you walk further on Soi Samphaeng and cross Chakkrawat Road, you will enter into Trok Hua Met. If you turn left, you will reach the Chaiya Mongkol Shrine. If you turn right into Soi Yaowarat 33 you enther Saphan Han สะพานหัน Market, a labyrinth of alleys crammed with stalls selling food, clothing, ladies lingerie, fabrics, food, gold and watches. Read more about this market on tour-bangkok-legacies.com and see a gallery by mayom.

Then we leave Soi Yaowarat 33 to the North and cross Yaowarat Road. Next station is the Nakhon Kasem Marketตลาดนครเกษม in the sois between Yaowarat and Charoen Krung Road. See ohne of the sois from upstairs:


Picture by suz & trev

And inside the market:


This place used to be called thieves market. Nowadays you find here imitation antiques, old furniture as well as bookshops and instruments for music. See the wunderful fotogallery by euroschmau.

If you are looking for electrical appliances, you will find them on Khlong Thom Market ตลาดคลองถม. From Saturday 5 pm to Sunday early evening you will also discover secondhand goods.

On Charoen Krung road we walk on to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat วัดมังกรกมลาวาส, by the Chinese known as Wat Leng Noei Yee วัดเล่งเน่ยย (Dragon Flower Temple). This temple is the heart of the Chinese New Year as well as the Vegetarian Festival. Built in the reign of King Rama V in 1871 it was the largest Mahayana temple in Thailand. Inside you find not less than 58 gods, whom you can ask for blessings. "When you look up the word atmosphere in the dictionary it seems there should surely be a picture of this place! Wood carved lattice work, black lacquer doors and red cement posts hold up wood beamed roofs that fade into shadow. The entire compound is lit primarily by oil lanterns kept continually full by devotees", writes mytripjournal.com, where you find a good descrption.


Picture by leong


Picture by Irena


Picture by suchinko.com

Have a look inside through the lens of JET_BKK and see also Eric_e_Hayward's photostream. And then there is a great Photostream about customs on Chinese New Year by Valeska Gehrmann and a great glossary of Chinese customs. And here is a background about Chinese New Year.

On Mangkon Road you pass old houses and food stalls:


Picture by leong


Then you turn into Yommarat Sukhum Road, where you find Wat Kanikaphon วัดคณิกาผล:


Picture by chai_981


Picture by TAR

Wat Kanikaphon was built by a brothel owner, who wanted to atone for her past. So ist also known as Wat Mae Lao Feng. Read more about the history of prostitution in Bangkok.

Some steps further, opposite Plubplachai Police Station, you discover the shrine of Poh Tek Tung Foundation
, a large taoist shrine. This institution was founded in 1909 by Chinese immigrants. The walked through the streets, collected corpes and buried them for free. Today the foundation collects victims at road crashes, fires or the injured at crime scenes, as gerrypopplestone describes.


Offering of Joss-Sticks at Poh Tek Tung Shrine, picture by gerrypopplestone.

Now we turn back to Trok Itsaranuphap พระยาอิสรานุภาพ, where we find Talad Kao Market ตลาดเก่า: A paradise for our stomachs and noses: cooked and uncooked food, fresh fish and seafood.
The Hong Kong noodles shop (number 136) is famous for the wheat-and-egg noodle soup.


Picture by sgame


Picture by Ange

See a photostream by euroschmau, a photostream by David Pratt

We turn into Charoen Krung Road and walk to the 130 years old Guang Dong Shrine, built by the Kwong Siew Foundation. See the gallery by randu

Now we walk along Thanon Plaeng Nam ถนนแปลงนาม, a street filled with old two-storey row shophouses - a mix of Chinese and Western styles. The buildings belong to the Royal Crown Property Bureau. That's the reason, why they have survived, notes Bangkok Post in an article about the attractions that this food paradise offers hungry visitors. A lot of marvellous pictures about this street has thailantern.com. In Thanon Plaeng Nam you find for example Kun Chiang, Chinese style sausage (picture and story by Austin Bush, and Khanom Cheep, Chinese steamed dumplings. In Soi Phiphaksaa 2 (off Thanon Plaeng Nam) you discover Jay Joo, a Chinese restaurant. In Soi Phiphaksaa 1 you find a shop with clear-broth beef noodle (see details by Weekend Magazine). More restaurants are described by A Snackers Guide To Bangkok Street Food. Also well worth trying is a Hainan Restaurant (read an article by Bangkok Post about the influence of the Chinese from Hainan on restaurants in Bangkok).

At our right we pass Wat Mongkhon Samakhon วัดมงคลสมาคม, a temple built by the vietnamese in Bangkok:



Picture by hmamahahma

Now we turn into Yaowarat Road and then into Songsawat Road, where we arrive at Wat Li Thi Miew ศาลเจ้าหลีตี่เบี้ยว


Laughing Buddha, picture by gerrypopplestone
See the photostream by Euroschmau

Some more steps and you will see Wat Sampanthawong วัดสัมพันธวงศ์, founded in the 13th century and renovated in 1796 by King Rama I and later by King Rama IV in the late 18th century. The Ubosot (Ordination Hall) has a Buddha image in the subduing Mara pose.




Pictures by tum1624

See photostream by Gerry Gantt



Chinatown Arch:


Picture by superciliousness


More about Chinatown: Article "Lost inside of Chinatown with the New Year munchies - you’ll need the map" by The Nation




Discover more in Bangkok:
Your Guide to Bangkok


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1 comment:

Bangkok Vanguards said...

nice China Town tour!! I know most of those building I love to roam China town it's like a journey back in time! Good work! :)