Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Chinatown (唐人街) @ Bangkok, Thailand

The first thing that comes to people’s mind when you mention Chinatown in Bangkok is the wide array of food (for example Nam Sing and T&K Seafood)!

Chinese eats any living things with its back to the sky (as the saying goes) and its all time favourites are shark’s fin and bird’s nest soup, dishes commonly found in Bangkok Chinatown at much more economical prices.

Night-time has always been mistakenly thought amongst tourists as the only period to visit Chinatown and it’s purely for food.

Basically, nothing else in Chinatown is worthy of another mention….. except for maybe this lady selling a huge bunch of helium balloons (reminded me of the movie: Up).

However, Chinatown in Bangkok is more than just food and it’s more than just the night time!

There are many old buildings you can never find in Singapore, given their likely safety issues and the jittery feeling that warns you it’s not just humans living in those unmaintained dwellings.

My mind wandered to the first ‘story’ of this Thai horror movie, 4bia (Phobia) when I noticed this; the story on mobile phone if any of you still remembers.

You know a place has retained its charm if you manage to find a wet/dry market that is filled with locals. Fancy buying a live chicken and take pleasure in plucking out the feathers, slitting its throat and having fresh fried poultry for lunch?

Or you need any dried products to enhance the flavour of that bland soup of yours? Get your choice of sun-dried cuttlefish, fish maw and maybe some gingko to improve that memory of yours!

Feeling tired and hungry? Get your stomach filled in this mixed-vegetables-meat-rice stall that still adopt the old school display.

Are you on a diet to reduce that weight gain? Get yourself some Thai salad with that horrible nose-stinging smell that I detest!

There is even a walkway filled with aunties offering face threading services!! Though this can be found in Singapore, it’s the first time I saw so many people offering it in the same location.

As with any Chinatown, you can find traditional pastries used for birthdays and weddings. Yes, I know you can still find such shops in the lion city! However, it’s still pretty rare to find one that sticks to the designs back in my childhood.

The day time (as contrary to the night) is in fact an equally busy period for the lengthy wholesale market located along the lane parallel to the main road (Yaowarat or Yawaraj road) I mentioned frequently in my recent posts.

This lane, known as Sampeng Lane, is such a well hidden gem; you don’t see a lot of trigger-happy tourists! And the items for sale were at times, even cheaper than Chatuchak market!

Remember, it is a wholesale market so the more you buy, the higher your bargaining power! Like these strands of shimmering crystals that were way cheaper if you buy a dozen instead of one.

Do take your time to explore around and note that good (and at times, outdated) buys are usually dumped right outside the store.

Buttons of all shapes and sizes! I found a button that was almost as big as my palm!

Coin and hand phone pouches that looked so right for ladies yet totally wrong on men!

Rolls of colourful fabrics you can buy! In meters obviously!

My favourite ‘type’ of shop in Sampeng Lane since there were easily 3-4 such shops! Usually 4-5 stories high, they stock a lot of products and give wholesale price when you purchase more than 3 items of the same product category/item.

Since Halloween was around the corner when I visited Bangkok, quite a few shops were selling Halloween related party materials. I am not sure what the pricing was but I remember buying a huge bag of balloons (for sculpting) for less than S$4.00.

T-shirts are available but you will get better designs in places like Platinum Mall for the same price.

Watches that can give Swatch a run for their money! I am not comfortable in buying electronic products at very cheap price! Give me Kenneth Cole anytime!!

As you might have realized by now, Sampeng Lane has loads of accessories for sale and there are many shops selling bling bling necklaces, earrings, bangles, shoes, bags etc etc!

The range of products in Sampeng Lane is not as wide as the world famous Chatuchak (seriously, no one can beat Chatuchak for its one-stop convenience) but it is memorable enough for me to plan my stay in Chinatown whenever I am in Bangkok.

Given my zero knowledge on the pitchy Thai language, you might have wondered how I manage to haggle the price with the stall owners in Chinatown.

Charm aside, it’s my cannot-make-it grasp on the Hokkien dialect, similar to the Teochew dialect used by the older generation of Thai Chinese!

Truth is; bringing my mom along was a good choice since she speaks Teochew!

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