The Chinese community in Bangkok first settled east of the Chao Phraya River in 1782. They were later moved by King Rama I when he relocated the capital city. This area became known as the official Chinatown of Bangkok.
Talad Noi is an area that sits amongst Bangkok’s Chinatown. Though Yaowarat Road remains Chinatown’s most prized possession, Talad Noi is just as unique and (thankfully) less crowded with locals and tourists alike. Visitors will start their journey of this neighborhood at Hua Lamphong, the main train station in the city.
Wat Traimit is on the way to Talad Noi from the train station. Those visitors who have yet to lay eyes on the Golden Buddha at this temple should make a quick pit stop here before continuing to Talad Noi. The Sukhothai-style Buddha weighs about 5.5 tons and is a magnificent sight, even for those tourists who consider themselves “templed out.” There is a ฿40 (US$1.16) entrance fee to see the Buddha.
Chinese culture is still deeply rooted in the everyday lives of those who reside here. From the architecture to the food, one will find that their heritage shines through in many different ways.
Visitors should make a quick pit stop at Chùa Khánh Vân, a small temple found on the outskirts of the neighborhood. On maps, it shows up as Wat Uphai Ratbamrung.
Piles upon piles of seemingly useless junk lines the roads in Sarn Chao Sieng Kong, otherwise known as the Sieng Kong Zone, found in Talad Noi. This stretch of road is home to an abundance of old car parts; indeed, it’s the largest area in the city known for selling these used relics.
Forgotten cars and Vespas are found amongst the parts, patiently waiting to be fixed but will probably be left there to rot. The area is incredibly fascinating and laid-back, with some workers not even bothering to wear safety glasses as they take to their welding.
Wat Pathumkongka temple sits just adjacent to Sarn Chao Sieng Kong. Gold-colored Buddhas adorn its rectangular exterior, and a number of glistening white stupas occupies its grounds. The two main structures are tall and glistening in Bangkok’s sun, with striking and colorful rooftops.
The most street art one sees in Bangkok is a hodgepodge of graffiti, and Talad Noi has an entire quaint alleyway spotted with this artwork. Pass under the archway that says Trok San Chao Rong Kueak, and explorers will stumble upon some Chinese street art. From a black bicycle to an umbrella, visitors will definitely want to pause their explorations for a photograph or two.
It is down this alleyway that visitors will also come across Hon Wong Kung Shrine. It sits right along the river’s edge, and during the day, it seems abandoned. It is bright red in color, with gold Chinese writing and faded murals making up its exterior.
The alleyways and sois (streets) in Talad Noi exude Chinese charm. Visitors will find several Chinese confectionery shops, which are brimming with seemingly strange yet delicious treats. Many Chinese people believe that sweetness equals happiness, thus the number of traditional Chinese bakeries found in this area.
The Siam Commercial Bank sits just adjacent to the street filled with Chinese eats and street vendors. It is one of the oldest banks in Thailand and opened in the early 1900s. Set on emerald green grounds and sitting next to the river, this bank is certainly one of the most picturesque in the city.
There once was a large Roman Catholic Portuguese community living in Talad Noi after the city of Ayutthaya fell. They built a church here after King Rama I gave them land during the Rattanakosin period. The church, called the Kalawario at the time, was completed in 1787. The Portuguese slowly began to move out of this area, however, and it became mostly used by the Chinese community who resided here.
The Kalawar Church today, however, is not the same one built in 1787—the old one burnt down. A new one was constructed in 1897 during the King Rama V era and is still here today. It is made up of gothic architecture and decorated with colorful, stained-glass windows. The church on the map is listed as the Holy Rosary Church.
From the far-off Wat Arun to the Kalawar Church, River Vibe Restaurant and Bar in Talad Noi has some pretty incredible views of the capital. This restaurant is one of the best places in the area to stop for a bite to eat or a riverside cocktail. The décor is homely at best, but the restaurant makes up for its lack of luxury dining with its charm and delicious food. The lunch and dinner menu is chock full of Thai and European dishes for relatively reasonable prices. The pomelo salad with shrimp and this incredible view will only cost customers ฿150 (US$4.35).
After exploring this area on foot and in Bangkok’s unforgiving heat, one of the best ways to end a day in Talad Noi is by stopping by River City Bangkok. This shopping arena features classic and good quality Thai souvenirs, unlike what visitors will find at many of the markets in town. It is indoors and chilly, with air conditioning cooling explorers off after a long day in the sun. Those who still want to check out Talad Noi but refuse to do so on foot should look into the Co Van Kessel Bangkok Tours in this area. The employees are all super friendly and well informed about the area.