My initial experience with Chinatown, Bangkok was, to be honest, a little intimidating. Naive and alone in the city, I had taken it upon myself to explore the sprawling municipally upon instinct. That is, on foot. In the calming light of day this of course was a perfect idea, but as darkness sets in my almost always accurate internal compass tends to skew irretrievably. So there I was, unwordly enough to assume that Thai taxi drivers would recognise the decidedly English term Chinatown and wandering around dark backstreets alone. Fifteen minutes in and I was confronted with a feeling that I really didn’t like. I was scared. And frustrated. Each poorly lit street, plagued with somewhat shady characters and dilapidated warehouses seemingly led into another just like it, evoking the harrowing sensation of moving in circles. This can’t be Chinatown. This can’t be Chinatown. Distress overcame me completely. I cursed Thailand, I cursed Lonely Planet, I cursed quitting everything that was warm and familiar to set out into the world alone. And then, like a mirage in a desert, amidst the cursing and the brisk walking and the-trying-very-hard-not to-cry-with-anguish, there it was.
Unmistakeably. Chinatown was big and bright and neon-lit as I could have ever imagined it to be – overflowing with people and tuk tuk’s and lanterns and food stalls spilling out onto the road and writing that I couldn’t read. There I was, Alice in AmazingChinesefoodWonderland, falling gleefully and voluntarily into a rabbit hole full of giant shining slabs of crispy barbecue pork and clear broths afloat with fish dumplings. (and noodles and goodness knows what else but oh my word does it ever taste delicious) There were soft fried ducks cheeks and quail egg buns and lychee ice-cream and gargantuan crabs and durian and sticky rice and the whirlwind of it all nearly made me forget how tricky this place was to find. Basically, you should be like me and go very hungry. You should also be unlike me and find out that Chinatown is referred to as ‘Yaowarat’ before you set out blindly into the dark.
Yaowarat Road, Sampthanthawong District
(Big bright street in the middle of nowhere)