My friend had already done one of these tours with Expique so I checked out their website and found this walking tour around Chinatown. I have never been to Chinatown in Bangkok before so I thought this would be a nice introduction. I had images of Chinatown having large streets with countless bars and restaurants- a bit like Chinatown in London, but we didn’t even hit the commercial area. Instead we meandered through the back streets for over two hours and learned a little bit of history.
I met the rest of the group at River City Mall, a short motorbike taxi ride away from Suphan Taksin BTS. We were given a short introduction to the tour by Simon, who runs Expique, and then we were on our way.
The first port of call was the Holy Rosary Church, also known as the Kalawar Church. The location of the church is on land granted to the Portuguese by King Rama l. During 1891-1898 the church was renovated and neo-gothic style towering spires were added. The interior has Romanesque stained- glass windows and a gilded stucco ceiling.
Then we visited the Siam Commercial Bank. The Talad Noi branch of SCB is housed in a building that is 103 years old. King Rama V was very interested in architecture from abroad, so he commissioned Italian architect, Annibale Rigotti, to design this building and it was constructed between 1906-1910. Interestingly, Siam Commercial was actually the third bank to be opened here. In 1888 HSBC started the first bank and printed the country’s first bank notes. Chartered Bank (Standard Chartered) followed in 1894. It was Prince Mahisara Rachaharuthai that started the first Thai bank in 1904. Siam Commercial was curiously called the “Book Club” before its name was changed in 1906.
We continued onwards strolling along the back streets of Talad Noi (little market). We saw people in the community going about their daily business. We passed workshops of metal workers, and bakers; we saw people’s houses, and Chinese temples. We came across a doorway with red gates, and walls painted blue, with pictures on either side of the door. This house is over 200 years old and one of the families still lives there. We had a peek inside and all we could see was a swimming pool in the middle of the yard where people from a nearby hotel go to practise scuba diving. A case of old meets new!
I had just finished saying that I wondered whether any tourists come this way when we came across a hotel. The River View Guest House appeared from nowhere. We went up to the roof top for splendid views across the Chao Phraya River.
We stayed there a while and had a drink to quench our thirst while taking in the views. From our vantage point we saw a building to the right of the roof top bar. I was told it was a restaurant called Nang Gin Kui– a unique private dining experience in an architect’s apartment. You can enjoy a 15 course dinner either as part of a group or a more intimate dinner for two in the heart of Chinatown.
After a while it started to rain so we donned our ponchos, kindly provided by Expique, and we returned to street level to continue our tour.
The Vegetarian Festival was happening on that day and we went to a covered area where all the people were dressed in white and there were huge incense sticks burning, and drums thumping out music.
We learned that the Vegetarian Festival has happened twice during 2014 which happens every 182 years. We were invited into a replica Chinese house to have a look and we got treated to some kids dressed up as a dragon.
We continued through the streets and tried the delicious food on offer.
Another temple and a visit to a rice making shop before the rain started pelting down again.
We sheltered under a tin roof for a bit then made our way to the last location- the Chinese gateway that is located at the bottom of Yarowat Road-the commercial part of Chinatown.
From here the tour ends but you are free to wander at your heart’s content. For me I had to dash off to Thai lessons. All in all I thought the tour was excellent. It gave some interesting information about some of Thailand’s history. And you will visit places that you will probably have never been to nor are likely to go on your own. I would definitely recommend Expique and I will be going on one of their other tours sometime soon.
Visit Expique website for details of their Bangkok Walking Tours
46 Soi Sathorn 9, Yannawa, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120
Tel: +66 (0) 85 873 3308