Bangkok: Chinatown Market Street food

We explored ChinaTown at night, when it's converted into a giant street food extravaganza.  What a treat of sights, smells and tastes!

What’s not to love about cheap street food, humidity and carnival barkers? Not much!

We walked from our hotel to the BTS Skytrain station S7, Krung Thon Buri and rode to station S6, Saphan Taksin. We had already purchased our BTS metro cards, so we sailed through the turnstiles like we knew what we were doing! We transferred from S6 to the Chao Phraya Express River Boat and exited the river boat at N5, Ratchavongse. Once we arrived at Ratchavongse we exited the river boat station and hit the street.

We were immediately hit up by a Tuk-Tuk driver telling us that the market was closed today but he would take us somewhere else to shop. “Really?” Noelle poked me and I realized he was fibbing. Some of the lies I just don’t understand. We walked, sweating like hogs, to the Chinatown Street food market.

So many food options-so many people

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this was pure craziness. The food market officially opens at 6:30 PM each evening.

We arrived around 7:30 and it was in full swing. One lane of traffic is closed and the food vendors are lined up on the street. Hundreds of food vendors. Hundreds of merchant shops on each side of street open to hawk their wares too.

Scorpion anyone?

I wasn’t in the mood to play the scorpion dining game. I was hungry and wanted real food. We had left the hotel thinking that our trek would be relatively short, but the train/boat/walk had taken about 90 minutes. I was hangry.

Rotisserie Fish

Sometimes I’m so hungry that everything looks good and everything looks bad. We opted for something simple to get the ball rolling, an order of port pot stickers or gyoza. We stood on the street corner and wolfed down three each. They were so good we didn’t take any pictures!

So far during our time in Bangkok I’m finding that I’m often hungry. We eat a meal in our hotel room in the morning, usually yogurt, granola and a cup of coffee. Lunch consists of street food, today we had Pad Thai for 50B. Dinner has been a mixture of street food and restaurants. I think the food portion is reasonably sized, but I’m a hearty eater. So, needless to say, I’m hungry a lot. It’s good for me to drop a few pounds, but boy, I’m getting powerfully hungry in the late afternoon.

Delicious looking pomegranate
Chestnuts surprised us with their appearance here at the market. Maybe it’s the Europeans who love them?

There are so many languages being spoken in the market. Aside from the obligatory Thai and English, I’m guessing that French is a major tourist language at the market. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but maybe French wasn’t it! After spending last spring, summer and fall hiking in close proximity to so many Germans, I guess I’m surprised that I’m not hearing more German.

Speaking of languages, my Thai speaking skill set officially stinks. I just start mentally transitioning into my low-novice level Japanese. Not so helpful at all. I’m just working on the basics; Hello=Sa wat dii krup and Phom hiew mak=I am very hungry. Maybe I should flip the order..


We saw Pomelo, the fruit we tried the other evening on the night market tour. It was better with chili powder and sugar. We’re quite familiar with Jack Fruit from our six month stint as plant based eaters. (It was a long six months.) Noelle enjoys it quite a bit and I don’t mind it either, provided I’m eating it as a fruit and not as a meat substitute.

Cooking on the street

There’s boiling pots of water, vats of boiling oil and bubbling caldrons of God only knows what, all over the place. Paying attention to my foot placement (size 14 (inch) or 48 (cm)) is very important for me. I don’t want to knock over anything, especially something boiling!

(Plus, on a completely unrelated topic, I’m finding there are some VERY short folks here. Short like they fall under my “line of sight” radar. Short like if I walk around a corner and they’re walking around the same corner traveling in the opposite direction, I’m going to literally knock them flying backwards. These are the plights of a tall man. The shop awnings of the street of the last hotel we stayed at were about one foot shorter than me. Narrow street, cars, motorcycles, vans and taxi’s literally zooming up and down the street have me very nervous about stepping into the roadway without looking in each direction four or five times. The traffic is traveling in the opposite direction of what I’m accustomed to, so that adds another layer of anxiety. So, short awning plus a fear of the street traffic have resulted in at least one head bonk. The shop owner loved it and laughed deliciously out loud.)

I’m calling a fowl on this picture

I’m trying to work my way up towards really enjoying duck. So far I’m still not loving it. I’ve tried it several times in Bangkok and each time it’s been a bit greasy.

Fresh off the grill

There’s literally a different food option in every single direction that we turn. It’s a complete cacophony of sight, sound and smell. Burnt sugar mixed with coconut, fried chicken interspersed with grilled corn, car horns blaring intermingled with food vendors barking, Tuk-Tuk drivers calling potential clients overlaid with fish frying in hot oil. It’s completely overwhelming to our senses. It’s too much noise, too many smells, it’s too many people.

We found our way down a side street and passed a French restaurant barker. He told us that he’d see us soon when we came back…and he was correct.

Pork and skin

I ordered pork and fried pork skin. It was really more like small nibbles of pork with bigger pieces of fat attached. It wasn’t really what I thought I was ordering, but it was ok with rice and a very cold beer. Would I order it again? Nope.

The barker was fun to watch while we ate dinner. I think he was reasonably fluent in French, German, English and Thai. If you’ve seen one good barker you’ve seen them all. Laughing, cajoling, commiserating, pouty and enticing.

So, what’s our overall take away on the market? It was incredibly crowded and loud. The food wasn’t any better than food we’ve eaten elsewhere in Bangkok. The huge selection of food was incredible. We’d go again. (…and we already have!)

We explored ChinaTown at night, when it's converted into a giant street food extravaganza.  What a treat of sights, smells and tastes!


  1. Anonymous

    Ducking and eating duck! Yes. I had a Thai roommate years ago. She said that she could eat / make any food from her homeland that she missed. But what she missed most of all was Lychee fruit. You can get it canned in the US and it’s OK like peeled grapes. But according to her the Lychee fruit is the most delectable of all fruits & foods but must be eaten fresh to enjoy. Please find some and try it. I am curious what an american palate impression is. For me Thailand is all about trying Lychee fruit and going to the beach – many of the best in the world are there. And I don’t even like the beach that much.

    • mcgarveysan

      Ok, we’re now in search of Lychee fruit at an outdoor market!

  2. Gregory Fast

    I am enjoying your travelogue! It doesn’t make me want to go there, though…

  3. Vfat

    Constantly ducking awnings – and sometimes failing! – would get old. It’s a funny image.

    • mcgarveysan

      It’s just a nervous feeling…waiting for the head crack. Today Noelle almost fell off a curb and the shop owner laughed out loud!


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