Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bangkok's Chinatown: Guns, Gems, Leather, and Lace (And Also A Dead Guy)

Today, Julia, myself, and a new friend Lasia went on a colorful ride through Chinatown/Phra Sumen area. Totally different ride to last week's, despite the similarities in blog nomenclature.

Bangkok's Chinatown is probably the densest neighborhood in the city, home to many of Thailand's most prosperous members of the mainland Chinese diaspora that has called the Kingdom home for at least a couple hundred years or more. According to Wikipedia, land prices are high and there is a lot of old Chinese immigrant money here. This is the place to go for major Chinese holidays, as they are celebrated with abandon here. It's vibrant, bright, and full of merchants, as it is a huge trading center for Thai Chinese. It centers around Charoen Krung and Yaowarat streets, and there's a section/side street zone for different kinds of merchandise. We saw fabric stores. Lace stores. Jewelry stores. Thanon Burapha, in case you're in the market, is the place to go for a huge assortment of firearms. Another street was full of leather and furniture shops. In fact, Lasia took us on a bit of a side detour to see the leather workshop of a friend of hers who's just getting started designing functional leather totes. Very cool: DWNTWN

It is also full of cars. Traffic is intense, and nobody I know likes to drive there because, while it's easy to get in, it is all but impossible to get out. For a bike, this just means a little extra care, though. Obviously, you are free to ride between cars and escape the torture of being stuck in small metal cages for hours between stoplights.

Oh yeah, and most surprisingly of all, we saw a corpse. On a stretcher, being wheeled down a back soi. It took us a few moments to register, but when we did, we dismounted, and exited the zone with maximum discretion.

Photos! (Full Picasa)

Straight past that monument to the left is Talad Saphan Put. And of course, Saphan Put, if you wanted to go to Thonburi.

And then we rode accidentally into a group of dining pigeons

Holy pigeon pig-out 
Khlong Rop Krung...

...legacy of Rama I

Thanon Songwat
Cafe Samsara, hidden gem, probably my favorite restaurant in Bangkok

It's REALLY tucked back in there. View of the river, great homemade ginger soda and lotus chips.

It just looked so Chinese!

River City, from the non-river side. This is right across from the Millenium Hilton

Frieze on the wall of a wealthy Chinese family's house

Julia, photographing a cute dog next to the blessing tree. This tree is old and full of spirits-the cloth warns you not to cut it down. I think.

Because even spirits need a cold one sometimes
Florian's leather shop DWNTWN

Thanon Yaowarat. So China, so crazy.

Map time. So, I don't really recommend our route, as it was super confusing and we did some rather dangerous stuff that I do not endorse due to general confusedness about where we were going, but we had a heck of a great time, and the pictures rock. So for the map, I am only going to put some pins to generally outline where we were, and leave route planning up to you! I do recommend Chinatown-it's amazing and you will see things that will probably, um, expand your horizons. Be warned, though, if you ride there, and don't have a back soi route in mind, you will need to be a strong urban cyclist. That means, you act like traffic and ride at roughly the speed of traffic. You and a motorcycle are the same thing. If you are at all hesitant, if you don't take the lane or the split between the lanes, you could get  unbelievably inconvenienced or maybe squished. But don't let it scare you off! Just watch out and be bold.

View Guns, gems, leather, and lace in a larger map


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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your bicycle experience in Bangkok! I really love it! You still around in Bangkok?
    Would love to cycle with you guys!

    Best regards,


  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Great article!
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    Marcel and Denise

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