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Shopping Bangkok’s Chinatown Market for Souvenirs

If you haven’t had enough of Bangkok’s spectacular markets (see my two posts on Chatuchak here and here), consider visiting a slightly different Thai market– in Bangkok’s Chinatown. While it might not seem obvious to visit Chinatown in Thailand, Chinatown is very much a part of the local Thai culture. I’ve visited Chinatowns in New York, San Francisco, London and Yokohama, so why not Bangkok? Afterall, Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the largest in the world, dating back to 1782 when Chinese merchants settlers started selling their wares here.

Bangkok Chinatown

When in Bangkok…visit Chinatown– an unexpected must see market. Head to Trok Issaranuphap lane for the most photogenic and bustling portion of Chinatown.

What I loved most about Bangkok’s Chinatown is the sense of place. Wandering Bangkok’s Chinatown is a sensory experience– narrow alleyways, steaming pots and colorful exotic fruits make the area a photographer’s dream. Street vendors will tempt you with dumplings, noodles and other Chinese specialties. And for bargain shoppers seeking interesting but incredibly cheap souvenirs, Chinatown is the place to go.

What Souvenirs to Buy in Bangkok’s Chinatown

My souvenir guide is just a sampling based on a quick walk through– there are so many vendors here it would be impossible to list them all. Head to Trok Issaranuphap. This ancient lane feels like a time warp and is perfect for shopping and photography.

Beads, Necklaces, Bracelets and other Baubles

We saw several vendor shops and stalls selling strings of beads (ready to be crafted into necklaces or bracelets, along with ready-made costume jewelry.

string beads chinatown bangkok

This bead shop was among the busiest I saw in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

Trok Issaranuphap lane in Bangkok's Chinatown.

Shopping for fun baubles, so cheap you can buy them in multiples for souvenirs. (Trok Issaranuphap lane in Bangkok’s Chinatown.)

Hair Combs

I find Asian countries always have the best hair accessories– I loved the sparkly display of hair pins here.

chinese hair combs pins bangkok

I am naturally drawn to glittery objects. These hair combs and pins are fun, cheap accessories.

Durian

In many Southeast Asian countries you’ll be able to find that controversial fruit, Durian. The odor has been said to be so obnoxious that eating the fruit it banned on some countries’ public transportation systems.

I’ve read the flavor of durian described as innocuously as “cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, ” while or as horrendously asĀ  sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray and used surgical swabs. As someone with a weak stomach and a long memory for unpleasant flavors, I decided to skip the taste test.

But if you’d like to bring back Durian to try with friends back home, packaged is the way to go. I actually brought home innocently packaged Durian stuffed cookies for a friend and did not tell them of the contents. My friend nearly wretched but her husband munched them down, unaware and unconcerned.

Durian Bangkok Chinatown Trok Issaranuphap

You’ve heard of it and seen it featured on all those travel shows– the one and only Durian fruit, packaged for easy transport.

Pink Century Eggs

These pink eggs are supposedly Thai, but a twist on the original Chinese version of century old eggs. The eggs are preserved (I’ve read that originally they were preserved in horse urine but are now preserved using more innocuous elements like lime, clay, salt, and rice hulls). Despite my exhaustive googling, I still can’t really figure out why they are pink (presumably they are colored this way and not laid by pink hens).

Thai pink century eggs chinese market bangkok preserved eggs

From what I can gather, Thai Pink Century eggs are actually Chinese in origin. They are supposedly black inside (but I cannot personally verify this).

Good Luck Novelty Items

I couldn’t tell you what precisely all the assorted items mean (wrapped gold coins, etc) but many of them have a symbolic meaning, mostly designating some kind of good luck. The hanging toy cars, I’m not so sure.

Chinese market Bangkok good luck items vendors

Many items here were for good luck.

bangkok souvenir shopping

What to Eat in Bangkok’s Chinatown: a Photo tour

We had a spectacular lunch ready for us at a nearby hotel, so we didn’t have the chance to sample the delicious offerings here but the scents were heavenly.

Bangkok Chinatown fruit vendor

In Bangkok’s Chinatown, you’ll see tables of colorful fruits piled high and artfully arranged.

Bangkok Chinatown cooking food snacks chinese

Come hungry because the scents wafting from the vendors will drive you insane.

soup chinatown bangkok

The giant bowls of soup were so tempting.

Bangkok Chinatown Trok Issaranuphap

Unlike other markets where vendors might be gruff and discourage photos, in Chinatown photos are encouraged.

Bangkok Chinatown Trok Issaranuphap fish vendor

Fish vendor on Trok Issaranuphap in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

Tasty sweets on Trok Issaranuphap lane in Bangkok's Chinatown.

Tasty sweets on Trok Issaranuphap lane in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

chinatown coconut ice cream vendor

Coconut ice cream vendor

Chinatown bangkok old alley ancient

But my favorite part of Bangkok’s Chinatown was just wandering some of the old back alleys.

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Have you been to Bangkok’s Chinatown? What city has your favorite Chinatown?

 

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