Flower Market to Chinatown, Bangkok

Flower Market to Chinatown (Self Guided), Bangkok

One of the shopping capitals of the world, Bangkok is a city where you can buy almost anything, provided you know where to find it. And if shopping spree is high on your agenda, then the local markets are the best place to go.

Vibrant atmosphere, smiling faces, plus the staggering variety of unique things on offer, including wealth of delicious street food and snacks – there's nothing you can possibly dislike about Bangkok markets. They are inseparable part of the capital's daily life, and as such are equally enjoyed by both locals and tourists. Many of the markets operate from around 18:00 till midnight, when the temperatures are more pleasant.

In addition to those already present, there are new markets popping up every year, which in turn prompts the question – Which ones are the best? Well, here are some ideas:

Pak Khlong Talat – the vivid and colorful Flower Market open 24 hours, busiest before dawn when boats and trucks arrive with flowers from all over Thailand; a lovely and vibrant place to visit, full of colors and sweet smells;

Old Siam Plaza – a shopping arcade on the edge of Chinatown, home to the largest collection of silk shops with the best prices and varieties of silk on offer;

Phahurat Market (Little India) – a brimful of textiles, custom-made garments, curtains and sundry Indian merchandise, additional to a proliferation of typical Indian snacks and meals available in the top-floor food court;

Talat Kao Market – Bangkok's oldest market overflowing with a smorgasbord of local culture, still preserving many ancient traditions, such as the morning lantern-hanging ceremony.

Even if you're not a big shopper, walking around the stalls is as much fun just looking at the strange, unique, useful, and sometimes un-useful things on sale. To experience firsthand the traditional side of Bangkok's shopping and eating options, feel the real flavor of the multicultural communities along the labyrinth of streets, take this self-guided walk.
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Flower Market to Chinatown Map

Guide Name: Flower Market to Chinatown
Guide Location: Thailand » Bangkok (See other walking tours in Bangkok)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: valery
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Pak Khlong Talat (Flower Market)
  • Old Siam Plaza
  • Phahurat Market – Little India
  • Talat Kao Market
  • Yaowarat Road
Pak Khlong Talat (Flower Market)

1) Pak Khlong Talat (Flower Market)

The delightful riverside market of Pak Khlong Talat is a primary place for buying flowers in Bangkok and a "place of symbolic value" to the locals. Other than flowers here you can also find plenty of fruit and vegetables, plus herbs and spices in innumerable varieties and quantities. Open 24 hours a day, Pak Khlong Talat is particularly busy before dawn, when boats and trucks laden with the extensive produce selection arrive from various parts of the country – especially flowers, brought from the areas with cooler temperatures needed for flower growing.

Initially, back in the early 19th century, this site on the outskirts of Bangkok was a floating market, which was then turned into a fish market. Eventually, it was converted to today's produce market, which has existed for over 60 years. At some point, the market's focus shifted from produce to flowers and everything related to that.

Although documented in numerous guidebooks, the Pak Khlong Talat market still sees very few foreign tourists, which is a shame, considering this is a wonderful place to stroll around and find every imaginable flower under the sun up for sale at extraordinarily low prices. Also, if you crave afternoon tea, you'll find it here – right in the middle of the market – which is a class in its own right! There are heaps of places to eat and explore in the streets surrounding the market as well. Sometimes, however, the stench of the streets overpowers the amazing scents of the flowers, which may be somewhat disappointing. Still, do come here to enjoy pretty flowers in their variety and, perhaps, take some truly great close-up photos. Stallholders are only too willing to talk and let you take the shots.

Why You Should Visit:
Open round the clock, a nice mixture of smells, colors, and local people that activates all the senses.

Make sure you also try the river walk adjacent to the rear of the market.
Old Siam Plaza

2) Old Siam Plaza

The largest collection of silk shops with the best prices can be found in this shopping arcade at the edge of Chinatown. All the varieties are on offer – plain, striped, printed, raw, ikat – and you can be sure they are real silk. There are plenty of small shops selling Thai-made women's clothing, comfortable tunics and festive dresses – some with very reasonable prices – but also many options for gold jewelry, lace and fabric, electronics, and even guns as you go further up the floors.

Serving a good range of inexpensive Thai and Chinese dishes, the top-floor food court is in line with the nicer ones in Bangkok, but of special interest here is the traditional-themed food festival that permanently dominates the ground floor. Stalls with delicious ready-to-eat glazed fruits and sweets are worth sampling at least once – most made right before your eyes, others beautifully packaged. There's also a Dairy Queen inside, so if scorched a bit in the Thai heat, stop by for an Arctic Rush float, since that usually works wonders.

Overall, there is nothing slick or technical about this mall, but rather a fascinating slice of Thai life!
Phahurat Market – Little India

3) Phahurat Market – Little India

Uninitiated visitors to Phahurat need to keep two landmarks in mind: one is the golden-domed Sikh Temple (referred to as Wat Sikh by the Thais) and the other is the India Emporium – a brimful of textiles, custom-made garments, curtains and sundry Indian merchandise, additional to a proliferation of typical Indian snacks and meals available in the top-floor food court. You can get a brilliant array of dishes and beverages like lassi (the Indian version of milkshakes) at a fraction of the prices charged by the trendier restaurants in Bangkok – highly recommended if you want to sample Indian food (you only have to get a token booklet of paper money to pay and then they'll refund you what's left afterward).

Some claim that Phahurat is the biggest textile market in Bangkok. The shops are located in a virtual maze and it is not quite easy to keep your bearing as you walk around. The walk, however, is worth it as you never know what's going to turn up at the next corner – it may be a flower outlet, a snack stall, or a ready-made garment shop; an amazing experience, really! Adjacent to the India Emporium, along Chakkraphet Road, you will find another concentration of Indian vendors selling sweets, savories, prayer items, sarees, etc., as well as provision shops specializing in Indian produce.

In short, if you're feeling adventurous, you will be amazed by the wide variety of merchandise, eateries, snack shops and sundries required in Indian homes.
Talat Kao Market

4) Talat Kao Market

This Thai-Chinese trading community is Bangkok's oldest market, continuously operating since the beginning of the King Rama V reign (1868 – 1910). The wooden houses lining the alley vividly reflect the old times.

The name originates from a 9-room house that was reportedly built by certain Mr. Hong who moved here after selling off his rafting boat parking and established a river-based trading post in the area. He called the market "Talat Kao Hong" after his house's original name.

Not long after, he built a 5-story watchtower – 4 meters wide by 4 meters long – designated to prevent theft and killings in the neighborhood, widespread at the time. During Work World II, the tower served as an observation post against enemy bombers, signaling air-raid alarms. Presently, this is one of the key local landmarks.

The alley-way is quite small – not longer than two blocks; and narrow – in some places there is barely enough space for two people to squeeze past one another, and that’s when no one stops to make a purchase. Add to this an occasional motor bike making deliveries and it can get very cramped, particularly on holidays; so one should always be prepared for a bit of jostling.

The market is full of fresh seafood of all varieties, including fish, shrimp, prawns, and some things that you might not recognize, such as sea cucumbers. There’s also many vendors with dried foods such as red dates, dried persimmons, dried fish and dried fish stomach. Of course, there is also prepared food: from the delectable kanom krok (grilled coconut-rice hotcakes) to "dim sum" (tender bite-sized morsels), curries, traditional noodles topped with sauce, and other authentic Thai or Chinese dishes and desserts like Chan Ub or Pia.

And since it’s a Chinese market, you will find succulent roast duck and duck noodles too, plus, on festive occasions, whole roast pigs being sold.
Yaowarat Road

5) Yaowarat Road

Once a poultry farm, this one-way street is now the heart of Chinatown's (and Thailand's) gold trade, with over 100 dealers of the precious metal, their shops painted gold and bright red for good luck and flaunting glittering displays of bracelets and necklaces. More often than not, gold is sold here by the bàht (equivalent to 15 grams, or about half an ounce), with daily prices scrawled on the windows.

Chaotic as it may seem, Yaowarat Road serves as the central artery to a network of street markets twisting down side alleys, and as you stroll further toward the intersection of Ratchawong Road, you will get a good feel for the pulse, energy and of course the smells of Chinatown.

There are always plenty of things to satisfy tourists' tastes – from dried fruit and nuts to chintzy talismans and accouterments for Chinese festivals. Each evening the street gets even busier as food stalls and vendors occupy every inch of space available, while the forest of neon signs makes it look in places much like a Hong Kong thoroughfare.

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