Well, if you noticed, I ended our IconSiam travelogue quite abruptly – our initial plan for post-IconSiam visit was to pop over to Bangkok Chinatown. I mean, that was easy, since Chinatown was literally just across Chao Phraya, so we could just take a Grab there.
Except that the Grab took more than an hour (and 3 bookings on 2 accounts) to arrive at Millennium Hilton Bangkok (where we camped at as there was aircon and sofa).
Darn Bangkok jam!
And our cute (not the literal sense) driver missed the exit after crossing the Saphan Phut Bridge, so we ended up back on the IconSiam side of the river, spent some more time in the jam to try to cross the river via Phra Pokklao Bridge, before we were finally on our way to our dinner place: Krua Apsorn.
Eat Your Fill at Krua Apsorn on Bangkok Chinatown Fringe
Situated off the fringe of Bangkok Chinatown, Krua Apsorn was the superstar of Thai eateries, having been featured on numerous shows and magazines. I read somewhere that the Thai royal family liked the dishes made by the chef, which also contributed to its stardom.
The restaurant itself was far from the impression I had. If I hadn’t read about it prior to the trip, I would just walked past the shopfront not knowing the better!
Stepping through the metal-framed glass door, we were transported to the 1970s, a scene that I had only seen in old Hong Kong movies. The plain white laminated table top, with black metal framed chairs harked back to the good old days of simple lifestyle.
As there was no crowd, we were free to seat ourselves at a 6-seater table and ordered our dinner from a simple laminated menu. However, we just ordered what the restaurant was famous for: Crab Omelette (Kai foo boo (ไข่ฟูปู)), Green Curry, Thai Milk Tea and a plate of their heart-shaped rice.
The omelette came in the shape of an overturned bowl; the parsley planted at the top of the dome made it look like a cartoon apple wannabe. The dome was not for show – it was filled with fluffy egg and (supposedly) crab. I said supposedly, because I couldn’t really taste the crab.
The Green Curry, on the other hand, was a silent killer, just like the Green Curry Fried Rice I had at B-Story Cafe. It made me thank my stars that we ordered the rice to tone down the heat from the chilli! The small bowl also contained plenty of chicken chunks (along with a lot of nonsense stuff that I did not know the names of).
Queuing Up for Pad Thai Enroute to Chinatown
Our next stop was to Thipsamai Pad Thai, just a few blocks from Krua Apsorn, for… Pad Thai (what else?).
It was a short walk through a quaint Thai urban neighbourhood. We walked past an open square/sports field in front on a government building, which reminded me of the square just beside Boston Public Library, except that the former was more rugged, with less concrete and interestingly void of crowd.
We also walked through quiet streets in between 2-storey buildings that reminded me of Singapore Chinatown, though the lack of activity made it felt more like I was walking through a FIBUA village.
We could already see the snaking queue from across the street, which we estimated to be more than 50 pax. After inspecting the queue and the speed of the workers, we decided the ROI was not worth it and abandoned this part of dinner (we were real full from Krua Apsorn anyways).
Pump Up Your Adrenaline by Trekking Through Shady Streets to Bangkok Chinatown
From there, it was a 30-45 minute trek through some more (human) quiet but (car) busy neighbourhoods to Bangkok Chinatown.
Oh well, on Google Maps, it looked like a short walk away.
At one point, we decided to cut through a street from the main road to the hospital just off Chinatown. The street was totally “local” with shop items and trucks filling up the sides of the road; we had to either walk on the road or on the building sidewalk that was hidden from all the activities on the road and dark from the creeping sunset.
It didn’t help that someone started walking behind us; we didn’t dare to scrutinise who that was, except that it was a young disheveled man who just didn’t overtake us even when we slowed down. It was only when we reached the busy junction across the hospital that the man left us and we shared our (paranoid) fear with each other!
From the hospital, it was another walk through narrow, crowded streets to the main Bangkok Chinatown. By then, nightfall had arrived.
Brush Shoulders with Tonnes of Strangers in Bangkok Chinatown
There was this sense of familiarity mixed with strangeness when I finally set food on Bangkok’s Chinatown for the first time.
The buildings and urban layout was decidedly different from what I knew from hanging around Siam and was more of a resemblance to Singapore’s Chinatown, with 2 rows of low-rise shophouses lining a narrow road.
The only difference from Singapore was that the crowd on the sidewalk was more hectic and disorderly in Bangkok and it was over there that my sense of insecurity heightened. To be frank, I had been avoiding places with high risks of pickpockets in my travels, so I got a little uncomfortable when I unexpectedly found myself in such a situation.
The postcard shots of Bangkok’s Chinatown were always on the main Yaowarat Road. The road itself was busy with cars while the sidewalks were packed with people and our vision bombarded with lights from the shops.
Skip over to Charoen Krung Road and the tone changed totally. Cars seemed to pass by more slowly, while fewer people were vying for the sidewalks, so much so that peddlers could set up their wares a la Sungei Road style selling a range of stuff from handphones to art pieces. The road was so dark that those peddlers were all equipped with strong LED lights to help interested passerby with scrutinising the stuff!
And yet, I knew that was still Chinatown, from the strong Chinese style of architect and store front designs, to the distantly familiar accents of the locals mixed with some Southern Chinese dialects.
I thought that just by being present in Chinatown was a worthy experience in itself!
Pay Big Bucks for Bird’s Nest in a Low Cost Setting
We planned a few eating stops along Chinatown, but somehow we either could not find a place to sit or the place (like the famous toast) was closed. We ended up in a Bird’s Nest store (which was plentiful in Chinatown, by the way) to escape from the heat.
That was also my first time having Bird’s Nest in such a traditional setting in Burapa Bird’s Nest. Everyone was cramped in a small, Hong Kong cafe-style space, which was brightly lit compared to the streets outside.
The staff showed us a few pots of Bird’s Nest and explained to us the differences – something like what a sommelier would do for diners looking to pair their meals with wines.
To me, it was a brand new experience so it didn’t matter that we chose the most expensive or cheapest option – we chose the latter, because well, we didn’t have much cash on us (yes, they only accept cash payment!).
After our Bird’s Nest feast (OK, we just had a bowl each, so it was nothing like a feast), we started our night stroll towards Rama IV bridge, where a cluster of hipster cafes could be found.
Enroute, we passed by the prominent Chinatown Gate and The Golden Buddha Temple. From afar, we could hear the chanting prayers from the temple, even though the temple looked like everyone inside had turned in.
In stark contrast, the Chinatown Gate stood firmly in the middle of a huge roundabout across the temple entrance, it up by perhaps a 1000 watts of flood lights, as though the management was afraid that tourists would miss out such an imposing structure.
We turned into a dark lane from the roundabout and started looking for our hipster cafes. Alas! By the time we were there, it was almost 7pm and most of the cafes were about to close – it would be difficult for us to do hopping in half an hour, so we decided to drop in to one that addressed our biological needs the most: Scoopp (ice cream parlour)!
Nov Tip: The hipster cafes close early, so plan for them at the start of your Chinatown trip; based on the online reviews, they served great breakfast and coffee, which would make a fantastic start to a day trip!
Escape from Bangkok Heat in Scoopp Ice Cream Parlour
The choices spread across 3 display cases, which made it a most nerve-wrecking experience for someone like me who has difficulties in making choices. I ended up with a Thai Milk Tea and Mocha combo, which was like the Thai equivalent of Yuan Yang!
I could have been very tired from the long day of walking, so much so I couldn’t differentiate the flavours from each other. That being said, the texture of them ice creams were rich and smooth, which was a good complement to the waffle cone that didn’t lose its crispiness from soaking in the melted ice cream.
After cooling ourselves down, we went back out into the heat and started our walk across the now-closed facades of hipster cafes, and up onto the bridge to cross the river (it’s a canal if we compare it with Chao Phraya). On the way, we walked past Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway Station, which actually looked like Nuremberg’s train station from afar and in the twilight.
Our main destination was Hua Lamphong MRT station, where we dropped off at Sukhumvit station near our hotel.
And that, concluded our night out at Chinatown, Bangkok! If you enjoyed this post, do give a thumbs up and subscribe to my blog for more travelogues!
Or, if you can’t wait to read my new travelogues on Bangkok, you can read up on some inspiration on how I found hipster cafes in Bangkok that were near the BTS stations. Check out my reviews of various hotels in Bangkok, like Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok or Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 for ideas on where to stay in Bangkok.
Till then, safe travels!
How to Get There
Krua Apsorn ครัวอัปษร
169 Dinso Rd, บวรนิเวศ, Khet Phra Nakhon,
Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand
+66 80 550 0310
Thipsamai Pad Thai ทิพย์สมัย ผัดไทยประตูผี
313 315 Maha Chai Rd, Khwaeng Samran Rat,
Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand
+66 2 226 6666
Burapa Bird’s Nest
524 Phlap Phla Chai Rd, Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai,
Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand
+66 2 221 7334
23-8-9 Sukon 1 Alley, Khwaeng Talat Noi,
Khet Samphanthawong, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand
+66 81 655 7849