Yaowarat and Phahurat
Yaowarat and Phahurat is Bangkok’s multicultural district, located west of Silom and southeast of Rattanakosin. Yaowarat Road is the home of Bangkok’s sizable Chinese community, while those of Indian ethnicity have congregated around Phahurat Road.
Compared to the rest of the city, this district is fairly compact and can best be explored in a full-day (and night) walking tour. You’ll come across street markets, shop houses, gold shops, beautiful remnants of colonial-style architecture and some interesting temples. Instead of tramping from temple to temple, this neighbourhood is mostly about catching a brief peek into commercial Bangkok as it has been the last two centuries. Rushing through won’t be rewarding—take your time instead, sitting at a plastic chair and watching local traders sell their wares. As the street markets are not targeted to foreigners, you will find a wide array of products: ceramics, fabrics, gold, tacky teenager ware, ant-killer chalk, Bollywood movies, ginseng roots. Who knows what you’ll end up with at the end of the day. It is best to come during weekdays, as many stores close during the weekends. Also keep in mind that most shops close at 17:00 after which most of the area gets pretty much deserted (Yaowarat Road being a noteworthy exception).
Guru Tawan Sikh Temple, 565 Chakphet Rd (next to the India Emporium mall, south of the Pahurat Rd and Chakphet Rd intersection). Established in 1932, this Sikh temple is the most iconic landmark of Phahurat. It is a white six-storey building with a large golden dome on top, and is the second-largest Sikh temple outside India. This temple is very important for daily life as most Indians in this neighbourhood are Sikhs. It is possible for non-Sikhs to enter, but they need to take off their shoes and cover their head with an orange cloth. The Sikh community gathers in large numbers on Sundays and during religious festivals. They serve free Indian vegetarian food in the community kitchen on these occasions. Free.
Typical for Yaowarat are its small crowded lanes filled with markets, that sell… well, anything you could possibly imagine. You’ll stumble on items for sale as diverse as Chinese medicine, snake blood, Buddhist paraphernalia, toys, ant-killer chalk, car spare parts, typical teenager stuff and more. Parallel to the big Yaowarat Road lies Sampeng Lane (sometimes signposted as Soi Wanit 1, 08:00-18:00 daily) which is probably the most characteristic (if tacky) shopping lane of the area. This narrow lane, at some places having a width of less than one metre, used to be a shady area thriving on brothels, gambling houses and opium dens, but has now turned into a crowded lane of endless ramshackle department stores. The lane can roughly be divided into three sections, all of them selling different kind of products at bargain rates. The lower eastern part of Sampeng Lane focuses on cheap teenager accessories, such as cheap jewellery, toys, and hair products. In the middle part, there is more of a focus on shoes, Chinese ceramics and lanterns. Indian merchants have mostly taken over the part west of Rachawongse Road, where you can find fabrics, silk and other clothing. Don’t expect high quality here, just shop for the heck of it.
Yaowarat and Phahurat can directly be reached by metro if you are coming from Silom, Sukhumvit or Ratchadaphisek. The only station close to the district is Hua Lamphong at the eastern side. The metro ride from Silom takes about five minutes, while the ride from Sukhumvit takes about ten minutes. Trains leave every five to ten minutes for a fare of about 16 to 41 baht. From the metro station, it is a 20 minute walk to the centre of Yaowarat.
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