From hipster-magnet cafes and glitzy bars to generations-old street food institutions, there’s a lot going on in one of Bangkok’s oldest neighborhoods.
When you think of Chinatown, the first thing that likely comes to mind is the intense, bustling Yaowarat. But venture out to Soi Nana and Talad Noi, the historical neighborhood’s quieter side, and you’ll be swept away by the indie cafes, street eats, art spaces, and crumbling shophouses-turned-cocktail bars. Grab your camera and follow our hacks to spending an awesome day in Talad Noi and Chinatown.
So Heng Tai Mansion
Walking past River City and the Thai Fish Sauce Factory (Squid Brand), you can’t miss street artist Jayoto’s towering yellow mural, featuring colorful Talad Noi locals and cats.
After taking a few snaps for the ’gram, continue straight down narrow Wanit Soi 2, passing the mini roundabout outside the Gothic Revival Holy Rosary Church, until you see cozy local cafe Blacksmith. Head there for local light bites like kanom pia moo dang (Chinese pastry with barbecued pork filling; B25) and an espresso (B35). While it’s early, make your way down Soi Flaet Sap Sin to check out Patina, a red-hot 200-year-old Chinese colonial house-turned-cafe, where you can order a butter croissant (B90) to go with a creamy dirty coffee (B120).
Across the road, Soi San Chao Rong Kueak is lined with a photo exhibition, as well as colorful street art that references the area’s Thai-Chinese heritage. Walk past the old-school mom-and-pop shops still doing business here and you’ll reach another local hotspot, Mother Roaster.
Located amid Talad Noi’s auto parts shops, this cafe run by a septuagenarian barista, known for her meticulous hand drip coffee (B100 for local beans/B120 for imported), helped fuel the recent surge in Bangkok’s cafe culture.
The area isn’t all murals and coffee shops, though. Nearby, you’ll find some of the district’s historical sites, like the faded Chinese Rong Kuak Shrine, built in the early Rattanakosin era, and So Heng Tai Mansion, a beautiful, 19th-century Chinese courtyard house built by Hokkien magnate Phra Aphaiwanit. Today, it operates as a museum and diving school—students learn by plunging into a pool built in the courtyard.
Khao Na Gai Soot Boran
Talad Noi has an abundance of seriously good street food. Hit up Guay Tiew Ped Teen Saphan Pitthaya Sathian in Soi Rong Nam Khang for braised duck noodles (B50) or Jay Poo Yum Yai at the Wanit Soi 2 mini roundabout for spicy yum woon sen (glass noodle salad, B50), before exploring more options down the soi towards Soi San Chao Rong Kueak: Jay Nid Talad Noi Gao Lao Luead Moo (B50 for guay jub, rice noodle soup with pork intestine and crispy pork belly), Khao Na Gai Soot Boran (B40 for chicken with gravy over rice), Khao Gang Jay Oui (B70 for stir-fried crispy pork belly with kale).
Closer to Charoenkrung, don’t miss the loaded crab meat fried rice (B80) at Khao Pad Poo Talad Noi or the flavorful guay tiew lord (steamed rice noodles with tofu, dried shrimp, and braised pork, B35) at Guay Tiew Lord Song Krueng Jay Tae. Before embarking on a feast in street food mecca Yaowarat, stroll towards Song Wat Road and Tri Mit Road for more awesome eats.
River City Bangkok
Over the past decade, Talad Noi has been rebranded as the creative district, and that has manifested in the neighborhood’s awesome art spaces. RCB Galleria at riverside mall River City aspires to bring world-class exhibitions to Bangkok. Funky gallery-slash-bar Speedy Grandma in Charoenkrung Soi 24 exhibits avant-garde mixed media work. Sprawling, multi-purpose art hub ATT 19 in Charoenkrung Soi 30 has revitalized a heritage building with modern and classic art, antiques, and an on-site restaurant.
Atta Gallery, Aurum Gallery, and 333 Anywhere, meanwhile, have brought art to the fore at industrial-chic complex Warehouse 30, which also houses vintage shop Horse Unit and hip multi-label store 30_6.
The cafe boom has registered here, too. Hit up A Coffee Roaster by Li-bra-ry at Warehouse 30, or make your way toward Charoenkrung Soi 31 for refreshing caffeinated concoctions from grab-and go kiosk Envies and hand-brewed coffee from Danish roastery La Cabra. After refueling, you can explore more of the area’s rich, multifaceted religious history as you head towards Yaowarat.
The Holy Rosary Church reflects the district’s 18th-century Catholic Portuguese settlers, while Wat U Phai Rat Bamrung, Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha), and Wat Pathumkhongkha speak to its Thai-Chinese Buddhist legacy. There are also tons of strikingly gorgeous architectural gems here, including The Mustang Blu, the former bank and massage parlor-turned-boutique hotel.
To witness the better side of gentrification, check out the revamped street market along Khlong Ong Ang, where you can score street food and snaps of murals.
When evening falls, the neighborhood sheds its slow motion way of life and becomes one of Bangkok’s coolest places to wine and dine. For authentic Thai flavors in a bold, Chinese-retro setting, check out Charmgang Curry Shop in Nakhon Kasem Soi 5. If you’re feeling adventurous, go for modern Thai dining at hipster hangout spots 80/20, soon-to-open Samlor, and Dag (try the grilled ox tongue rice bowl topped with runny onsen egg).
Classy international restaurants can also be found within the labyrinth of these narrow sois. Those include Japanese izakaya Jua in Charoenkrung Soi 28 and kaiseki spot Mad Beef in Charoenkrung Soi 30; neon-drenched Chinese bar and restaurant Ba Hao in Soi Nana; and hideaway Vietnamese fine dining venture Hybe Songwat in Trok Saphan Yuan. Newly opened Contento, meanwhile, bridges Italian and international fare with striking, antique-filled interiors.
The nightlife scene offers an intoxicating mix of seriously cool cocktail bars, craft beer joints, and live music spots. Most of it is centered on Soi Nana.
Start at El Chiringuito for Spanish gin Xoriguer and tapas, followed by Tep Bar for potent cocktails mixed with Thai fruits, herbs, and spices. Gin bar Teens of Thailand offers refreshing cocktails that go beyond your average G&T, while ToT’s sister bar Asia Today is all about Thai ingredient-driven concoctions. Wallflowers is all about gorgeous photo ops and Hong Kong-cool Ba Hao does an awesome classic Negroni with a Chinese twist, but if you’re a beer drinker, don’t miss Pijiu for its quality craft beers, or keep it simple with cold local brews at 23 Bar & Gallery.
To cap the night, venture to Rei Bangkok, a futuristic-looking cocktail bar on Khao Lam Road, or Foojohn Jazz Club on the corner of Charoenkrung Soi 31 for live jazz.
Image: The Mustang Blu
The area is home to an eclectic selection of Airbnbs and guesthouses. Three of the most attractive can be found on or near Soi Nana—The Mustang Blu (from B3,500/night), the aforementioned Ba Hao (from B2,600/night), and Baan Yok (from B850/night), a rental located above El Chiringuito. (Read more about those three here.)
Closer to the riverside, boutique hideaway Loy La Long (currently from B2,000/night) offers tucked-away tranquility, while Pieces Cafe and Bed (from B1,600/night) offers vintage vibes off Soi Songwat. Want to stay in the thick of it? Shanghai Mansion (currently from B800/night) lies in the middle of the scrum on Yaowarat.
Story and photos by Dhipkawee Sriyananda Selley