A visit to Chinatown on your tour of Bangkok is obligatory, this area in Bangkok is packed with narrow side streets, each side street stuffed with Chinese stalls selling their wares. The place is overflowing with colour and sights and smells, not all of them good ones. The main thing to do in Chinatown is, soak up the atmosphere, eat and shop.
The whole place is a Jackie Chan movie set, not surprising since this is where he lived till he was 9. In the center you'll find the most touristy shopping streets, selling bracelets and tourist hats, but wander away and you're into the Chinese part, full of restaurants selling shark fins aimed at rich Chinese, and wholesalers selling bulk garlic in 25kg sacks, and rice in huge 100kg sacks. Even a street that seems to be nothing but bulk fish stomachs.
Wholesale is common there, everything is dirt cheap, but cheaper if bought by the dozen. Take a look at these enamel rings, she sells them by-the-box.
Chinese food is everywhere, traditional Chinese dishes mixed in with Thai ones. Language barriers stop me asking many of the Chinese speaking vendors what they're selling, but no matter, just looking is enough. There's plenty of easy to recognise foods too, so you won't go hungry.
See the China Food entry in my life blog for a list of many more foods to watch out for in Chinatown.
Shiny enamel bracelets, hair clips, plenty of things for me to buy. This is also the place to buy your Chinese tea, and dried Chrysanthemum and Jasmin flowers. In China they burn paper possessions with their dead, you'll see lots of shops selling paper mobile phones, and cars, and shirts, something you won't see in the rest of Bangkok. (See Chinese Paper Funeral Possessions for more depth on this.)
To get there, take the Skytrain (BTS) to the Saphan Thaksin stop, then catch the express boat upstream to Ratchawong Express Boat Pier. You can take a Taxi, but the streets are narrow and busy and it will take a few hours! The express boat adds some extra fun to the visit.
If you buy a ticket at the stall it costs about 25 Baht, on the boat it was only 14 Baht, but the tourist stall will speak English, but the boat conductor will not, so you may prefer to spend the extra money.
While you're at Ratchawong pier, why not feed the fish?
Chinatown itself is the area marked below on the map, it has no definite edges, but the further from the centre, the less Chinese influence there is.
View Appon's Thai Travel in a larger map