With so many different areas of Bangkok, I really struggled with where to stay. I was adamant that the trip would be fairly relaxed with no firm plans other than starting in Bangkok and then moving onto Krabi, so I looked at the different neighbourhoods of Bangkok and decided Chinatown looked like it would suit me best. The promise of street food sellers lining the streets, colourful buildings and bustling streets screamed ‘authentic Bangkok’ to me and it did not disappoint. With a bit of digging, I found some perfect spots for sight seeing, food and drink. Here are my favourites.
I chose to stay at the award winning Shanghai Mansion Hotel with its quirky decor, vintage style Shanghai theme and exquisite service. It was a welcome sight to be greeted by a cold flannel and drink after a long flight. Some of the rooms, like mine, don’t have windows but this is made up for with pretty coloured glass features and draping. Whilst the lack of windows was welcomed to quickly get rid of jet lag, it felt strange to have no clue what time of day it was without looking at a clock. It also lacked some ventilation and the plumbing throughout Thailand is certainly not the best. The cleaners did their best to combat this but some days, it was still a little on the smelly side. That said, this hotel is stunning, impressively quiet despite the chaos of the street and the comfy bed saw me fight jet lag quicker than I ever have before. Their breakfast is also tasty with a great selection of traditional and European options. I paid around £50 per night which is a bargain for both Bangkok and a hotel of this calibre.
Shanghai Mansion Red Rose Bar
I didn’t eat in the hotel’s bar but the Red Rose does have some cracking yet affordable cocktails. My first taste of Thai coconut was here in the form of a cocktail made with coconut water making it lighter without the heavy cream you may have expected. The whole thing is served with a spoon to eat the tender flesh once the liquid has gone, delicious.
You will find some of the city’s best street food sellers in Chinatown and the choice is overwhelming. I would definitely recommend the Pad Thai with a sprinkle of sugar and crushed peanuts as well as the Thai donuts with condensed milk for dipping. The best thing about eating out this way is the food is right there, on your doorstep. You don’t need to make a reservation or worry about sitting alone, just rock up and they’ll cook up your order for you to eat as you walk.
Wat Traimit or ‘Temple of the Golden Buddha’ is within walking distance of Shanghai Mansion and is one of my favourite temples in Bangkok. You’ll find a solid gold buddha, said to be the biggest in the world, and intricate detailing to the temple that I spent ages staring at in awe. Granted it isn’t the grandest of temples, but I loved the welcome feel I got here and being blessed by one of the monks is a memory that will stay with me forever.
This Chinese temple is virtually opposite Wat Traimit so worth a visit if you are already in the area. The detailing on the building is so beautiful and the people there worshipping, so friendly.
Teens of Thailand
Whilst doing some research on the area I noticed a bar in the Top 50 Asian Bars and knew I had to tick another off my list. In a list dominated by the big players of Singapore, Teens of Thailand is unassuming but boy, do they know how to make a drink! Ignore the slightly dodgy sounding name, these guys know gin and this is one of the only gin bars in Bangkok. The menu changes regularly so specials are chalked up onto the board of this prohibition style speakeasy. Drinks are delicately infused with local spices to give them the edge over your generic cocktail, this kept me happy for quite some time.
Tep Bar also serves up cocktails using local spices yet with a more traditional finish. With a local thai band playing, we enjoyed slightly medicinal tasting cocktails served in golden glassware with frothing tops. A really chilled out place with the relaxing tinkle of a Thai xylophone for company.
You wouldn’t be blamed for walking passed Pijiu and thinking it a hotel lobby. This craft ale bar only has five tables yet a well stocked fridge full of local ales and those from further afield. The owner is welcoming and friendly as well as being happy to recommend the perfect ale for your taste. It is on the same street as Teens of Thailand, it is well worth a stop in for a beer adventure.
El Chiringuito is a great pit stop for snacks when street food just won’t cut it. The Spanish restaurant offers tapas style dishes and flatbreads to take the edge of hunger in the most satisfying way. Reclaimed dark wooden furniture feels like classic Spain and the food echoes that well. The Patatas Bravas were as food as any I have tried in Spain.
With a red hue radiating around the place, Ba Hao feels a little like walking into a Chinese red light district. One of the owners hails from culinary training at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok so you can expect fragrant oriental dishes designed to be paired with alcohol. Naturally, the cocktail menu has a delightful oriental theme to compliment the overall theme of, not only the bar but the area.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Chinatown and would definitely stay in this area again when visiting Bangkok. If you can stand the heat and humidity, most of the sights are walking distance. If not, like me, you can also jump either a tuk tuk or taxi for a fraction of the cost you would expect to pay at home. Exploration at its finest.