Pak Khlong Talat and Chinatown

After a full day at Ayutthaya, I was ready for a quiet day on Wednesday. After a sleep in, Victoria and I went to a shopping centre called Terminal 21. Each floor is themed like a different country, and the signs above the escalators are like airport boarding gates. We checked out the theme on each floor, and stopped in at an impressive Rome themed toilet. I bought a tshirt and a funky bow tie, and we had lunch in the food court. It was a nice lazy way to start the day!

From there we went back to the apartment and just relaxed. I went for a swim and sat by the pool, then later in the afternoon Victoria went to work. Around 5pm I set off to find Pak Khlong Talat (Flower Market) which is near Chinatown. We then planned to have dinner in Chinatown.

Wat Traimit, home of the Golden Buddha
Wat Traimit, home of the Golden Buddha

I caught the train to Hua Lamphong, which is at one end of the Chinatown strip. It’s also close to Wat Traimit where the Golden Buddha is housed. Apparently it’s the largest solid gold statue in the world, but the temple had just closed when I arrived. I wandered around the outside for a bit, then made my way towards Chinatown.

Chinese style temple
Chinese style temple

Along the way I passed a Chinese temple where a very friendly man told me to go in and take photos, then started to tell me about the temple. He then moved on to other sights nearby, as well as some shops I should visit. He wrote done the name of a shop then asked if I needed a ride there. He was about to hail a tuk tuk, when I told him I wasn’t interested right now, but could look it up later. Beware of friendly people!

I continued on towards the main drag, where food stalls were starting to set up. Since they were still setting up, and I was coming back here with Victoria, I didn’t really want to meander down the road. The footpath was crowded with people putting up tables and chairs, and wheeling carts with food, cooking equipment and everything else required to set up a temporary restaurant on the side fo the road. I slipped down a side street, then followed parallel to the main road to avoid the chaos. It was a little eery walking along there, particularly as it started to get dark.

At the end of that road, the main road turned the corner and they merged and I walked into a market which was being set up. They were getting ready to sell what appeared to be counterfeit shoes and clothes.  Someone let off a few fire crackers which made me, and a lot of other people, jump. Again, there were people hurrying everywhere putting up tents and hanging out their wares. I walked along in the gutter with a couple of other pedestrians, and the traffic crawled along beside us.

An elaborate krathong shaped like a dragon
An elaborate krathong shaped like a dragon

Finally I came out at the flower market, which, by comparison, was bright and busy with shoppers. I spent the next 45 minutes just walking along with the crowd taking in the chaos. There were people everywhere – school groups buying snacks; stall holders making flower arrangements; men trying to squeeze through the crowd with trolleys stacked above their head with flowers. It was the day before Loi Krathong, and people were buying their krathong in celebration of the festivities to come. Krathong are flower arrangements made on bamboo or styrofoam bases, which are released carrying candles on the river or lakes during the Loi Krathong festival.

Bags of marigolds
Bags of marigolds

The most common flower appeared to be yellow marigolds, with bags of them being carted around. As you can see in the photo above, right next to all the stalls was the road with traffic racing by. In fact, half the stalls were on the road. On one side of the footpath were shops with flower stalls set up out front, and on the other the side of the road had been taken over by the market. The atmosphere was very exciting.

The market felt massive, but it probably only ran for a few hundred metres along the road. Behind the shops was a large covered area, set up like a typical market. I walked through, but it was much less busy, mostly occupied by workers preparing flower arrangements or packing flowers into bags and styrofoam boxes filled with ice to keep them fresh.

As I came out the other end, the market thinned out and food stalls started popping up between flower stalls. I was starting to feel hungry, and knowing how far I had to go to get back to the train station where I was meeting Victoria, I stopped for a corn cup. It was a cup of corn kernals, mixed with butter, sugar and salt – amazing!

Corn cups!
Corn cups!

After that, I battled back through the flower crowds, and started the walk back to Chinatown. After a few minutes I realised just how far I had to go and decided to go for a tuk tuk ride. I’d turned down so many offers from tuk tuk drivers throughout my holiday, that it was time to give it a go. The driver named his price, I offered about a third of that, he laughed and I started to walk away so we settled on half his original price. I’m not sure if it was a good deal or not, but I was happy just for the ride anyway. In the end, it took about 20 minutes. There was a lot of traffic, and most of the streets were one way which meant he couldn’t go directly the way I was walking. It was a little scary at times as he zapped in and out of the traffic, but definitely worth it!

Bright lights lining the main strip through Chinatown
Bright lights lining the main strip through Chinatown

I found Victoria at the station, and we headed back to Chinatown. The road had transformed from when I was there earlier. All the stalls were set up, with tables and chairs tucked under awnings, and food carts lining the road. Bright neon signs lit up the street, advertising shops and markets. We stopped at a rather large looking ‘restaurant’ on the corner of an intersection. The specialty in Chinatown is seafood, but neither of us were very adventurous. We had fried rice with soft shell crab, stir fried prawns and stir fried morning glory. Beside us, a Chinese couple had five dishes, consisting of a whole fish served above a tealight to keep hot, lobster and prawns – they gave us a friendly smile as their more exotic meal came out next to our friend rice and morning glory.

Dinner at Chinatown
Dinner at Chinatown.

There were activities planned throughout the week leading up to Loi Krathong, and we had hoped to check out something after dinner. We walked to the river looking for the ferry, but the only boat available was shuttling people across the river. The public ferry along the river had stopped for the night. It was starting to get complicated and it was going to be hard work getting anywhere. It was also close to 10pm and from what we could tell in the brochure most events were wrapping up between 10 and 11 so we decided to head home. It had been an enjoyable afternoon anyway, and although it was a quieter and more relaxing day, I’d definitely seen a lot!

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