Dragon Road – postcards from Bangkok’s Chinatown and its street food paradise

Bangkok’s Chinatown is a gallery of gastronomy – a humble playground of hawker food that, in recent years, has finally won the attention of Michelin awards. The colour, light and movement of this delicious marketplace is a photographer’s dream.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown. What it's like on the Dragon Road

Flames leap from busy grills and savoury smoke fills what little space the crowd leaves – the homogenous mass squeezing down the shining street as it inspects each delectable stall in turn.

First a barrow with glazed roasted ducks dangling like orange candles. Next a donut trolley that fries then grills then fills the donuts with chocolate*.

Next soup, next curry, next grilled prawns.

Next a cart hung with sheets of crispy crackly pork belly where the vendor hacks chunks off with a huge knife and serves the pork with an unctuous sauce over rice and a gooey egg.

Check out our video glance of Yaowarat:

Click here to watch the video on YouTube.

There are shops piled high with teas, mushrooms, seafood and even the legendary durian.

And round one nondescript corner into an alley, we find the ‘musical chairs curry shop’ Jek Pui Curry. Lining one wall, a bank of stoves bubble and steam with various pots.

At the back of the eatery, you pull up a stool in the alley and wait for your pick of curries. It’s a local favourite and for good reason.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - roast duck

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - Michelin tuktuk

For an excellent list of 5 places to eat in Yaowarat, check out this article from the Tourism Thailand website.

*This particular stall, run by a father and his sons, is where, so far, two Michelin Plates have landed – awarded “where inspectors have discovered quality food” – for their ‘Yaowarat toast’.

How to get to Yaowarat

Known locally as Yaowarat after the main street it’s on, Chinatown winds through the western part of Bangkok, close to the Chao Phraya River. Locals also call Yaowarat Road ‘Dragon Road’ as it bends and flexes its way through the city much like the mythical beast.

Confusingly, Yaowarat means ‘young king’ – from when King Rama V named it after his son Crown Prince Maha Vajirunhis. The actual Dragon Road (Mangkon Road) runs perpendicular to Yaowarat.

This small street is home to Wat Mangkon – the Dragon Temple; the most sacred Chinese Buddhist temple in the country.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - Wat Mangkon the Dragon Temple

You’ll also find the MRT station Wat Mangkon here. This is the best option for getting to Chinatown, as you not only avoid the terrible traffic, you also get to walk past the temple and visit if you have time.

The station itself is also worth exploring.

Decorated to look like its eponymous temple, the station also has interactive murals and trompe l’œil style exhibits you can have a lot of fun with.

Following Mangkon Road south, it drops you in the heart of Chinatown, emerging from this quiet(ish) backstreet into the blazing lights, rich, vibrant colours, and tempest of aromas and movement of Yoawarat.

It is a thrill to the senses.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - street life

Life on Yaowarat is a constantly moving picture of light and colour

Yaowarat proffers the promise of rewards for the inquisitive gallivanting gourmand; the travelling foodie and the foodie traveller alike.

Of course, you’re guaranteed sumptuous food, but the risk of something challenging or unexpected arriving on your plate makes the experience all the more exciting.

Postcards from Yaowarat – Bangkok’s Chinatown

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - door to the Dragon Road

Door to the Dragon Road

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - mushrooms

This shop in Yaowarat sells an incredible range of mushrooms

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - durian

Huge piles of spiky stinky durian loom from another shop. This fruit has a reputation, but in truth it’s very tasty.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - fruit stall

A local picks through a Yaowarat shop laden with all kinds of colourful fruit

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - motorcycle taxi

A motorcycle taxi driver takes a break amidst the noise and chaos of Yaowarat’s streets. He’s even slipped his shoes off.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - Chinese fried dough

This man stretches dough out into long sausages, cut it into pieces while his son fries the dough into delicious donuts. In the stall next door, another son grills the doughnuts and covers them in your choice of rich sauce – from chocolate to pandan.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - Michelin plate

Michelin began a new food award in 2018 – the Michelin Plate. This donut stall has two plates so far and surely more to come.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - hard life

It’s a tough life working the braziers of Yaowarat. Most stalls are open all night until dawn.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown -

This chef carefully balances flavours to craft a bowl soup traditional to central China

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown

You’re lucky to get a table at this soup restaurant in the heart of Yaowarat. But it’s worth the wait

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - pork belly

Great sheets of puffy crispy pork belly hang from the roof of this cart. They hack chunks off with a huge knife and serve the crackling with a soft egg and a sweet, spicy barbecue style sauce

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - floating tuktuk

Floating tuktuk

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - narrow streets and packed tuktuks

As night falls on Yaowarat, police narrow this five-lane road down to two for hungry pedestrians and new arrivals in packed tuktuks.

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - musical chairs curry

Known as the musical chairs curry joint, Jek Pui Curry takes up a little alley with its red stools

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - Jek Pui Curry

Jek Pui Curry has so many food options – just make sure you get extra Chinese sausage. And watch out for the chilli sauce in the nearby caddies. It’s hot!

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - fresh noodles

Fresh noodles made to order at White Dragon Noodle – a Yaowarat institution

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - seafood skewers and satay

Seafood skewers and satay

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - old and new

Old and new – a fun ‘squidcat’ sign in front of one of the oldest restaurants in Chinatown

Yoawarat - Bangkok Chinatown - Christina

Yaowarat is one of the most exiting and interesting parts to Bangkok. The number of times we’ve been to this incredible city, but we’ve always been put off by people telling us it’s always too busy and the traffic’s appalling… but it’s worth it.

We were here just before the Covid-19 pandemic locked the whole world down, so crowds were much smaller than usual.

For more stories from our travels to Thailand, here’s a selection from our library.

You might also like:

Our travel guide to Thailand’s forgotten capital

The secrets of Pak Khlong Talat – Bangkok’s flower markets

A Bangkok oasis – Hua Chang Heritage Hotel

We travelled to Thailand as guests of the Thailand Tourism Board.

Be first to comment