Bang Rak is a neighbourhood in Bangkok that’s just south of the city’s main business and tourist areas beside the Chao Phraya River. (You can find some great articles on Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River at Momentum Travel).The neighborhood’s proximity to the city centre and river view has attracted many of Bangkok’s upscale hotels.
The area is also well-known as home to Bangkok’s centuries-old Chinatown.
What is less well-known is that the area is also home to a walking street lined with shops, food stalls, and auto parts recyclers who stack their parts in giant piles along the alleyway, as well as some of Bangkok’s most historic temples, and street art created by some of the best artists in the world.
Here’s what I found during my 48-hours in Bang Rak.
Here’s a video summarizing my exploration of Bang Rak. Keep scrolling down for a map of the places I visited and a photoessay of the things that I found.
Bang Rak Exploration Video
Bang Rak Exploration Map
If you’re looking for a map of the street art I saw, one can be found on the BukRuk Festival website.
Home Base: The Royal Orchid Sheraton
I stayed at the Royal Orchid Sheraton hotel on the Chao Phraya River. I was lucky that I was invited there by Starwood Hotels, because that helped me to get some amazing shots of the view from the roof (taking photos through the window is just not acceptable to me).
I was also lucky because it’s perfectly located for exploring Bang Rak. The Royal Orchid Sheraton sits right beside a pier where both a river taxi (takes you along the river) and river ferry (takes you across the river)and the entrance to the Walking Street to China Town.
Of course, it’s also a very nice hotel. But I assume that you’re familiar with the Sheraton brand and already know that.
Here are a few photos of the hotel and its view.
Crossing the River to Knack Market
Knack Market is a gathering of local food vendors, musicians, and artesian and boutique shops, that takes place on the last weekend of each month in The Jam Factory, which is a unique creative space directly opposite the Royal Orchid Sheraton across the Chao Phraya River. Getting there requires only a short inexpensive ferry ride across the river from the River City Pier.
For Knack Market dozens and dozens of specialty food stands and and other artists and people selling unique products set up stands. Bangkok is known for having great street food, and rightly so. But I’ve never seen better food stalls in Thailand than in the Knack Market. I ate most of what you see below.
They have the usual assortment of Thai street food, but also a ton of other unique creations you won’t find many other places. The steak I had was amazing. I didn’t get to try the grilled cheese (pictured below), but only because I was too full by the time I found it.
Mix that with outdoors seating and two stages for live music, and you have a great place to chill out on a Sunday evening.
Strolling Walking Street
My favorite way to explore a new place is on foot. When you walk you see so many things that you wouldn’t notice otherwise.
I also love Chinese culture. I lived in Taiwan for many years so, to me, neon signs written in Chinese and Chinese food and temples make me feel right at home. So, I was stoked to learn that the Walking Street to China Town starts right beside the Royal Orchid Sheraton. The walk is less than one kilometer and is a very pleasant.
Walking Street starts with a section of lots of shops and food stalls. After that, the tourist businesses taper off and it’s taken over by mechanic shops recycling parts, that have giant piles of junk parts piled outside in the alley. It’s really something to see.
I also found one of the nicest temples I’ve seen in Bangkok, Wat Samphanthawongsaram Worawihan (pictured below). It’s one of the older temples in the city and has been beautifully maintained. I wandered the temple and grounds for the better part of an hour taking photos and didn’t see another person the entire time.
Temples and Delicacies in Chinatown
I was very excited to see Bangkok’s centuries-old Chinatown. It took me about 30 minutes to walk there. The streets could easily have been those in Taipei, Hong Kong, or Shanghai.
I’m not sure where I first heard this, but somebody had told me that you could find bird’s nest soup in Bangkok’s Chinatown, something I’d never heard of in any other place I’d visited.
I’d been fascinated with bird’s nest soup since I first read about the men who climb dangerous ladders hundreds of feet up cave walls to harvest the nests in National Geographic as a child. So, I was determined to find and try some.
In all my travels in China, Taiwan, and Malaysia I’ve never seen bird’s nest soup but, it turns out, Bangkok’s Chinatown inexplicably has tons of restaurants that serve bird’s nest soup. (I’ve marked off a restaurant on the map above that’s in an area with several restaurants that serve bird’s nest soup.)
So, I found a place that serves this elusive delicacy and ordered one.
It was pretty underwhelming. The soup had a jelly-like texture and was more-or-less bland except for a slight sweetness.
No matter how much time I spend around Chinese-influenced cultures, I will probably never completely understand Chinese food.
Afterward I wandered the streets in search of Chinese temples and architecture. I was not disappointed.
Art Hunting in Bang Rak and Talat Noi
During my visit I was asking the hotel employees about things to do in the area. They told me about the Bukruk Urban Arts Festival, which invites urban artists from around the world to decorate the walls of Bang Rak and the neighboring Talat Noi neighborhood.
So, on my second day I loaded the map from Bukruk.com on my phone and went art hunting. I discovered that there was a lot more street art in the area than just the murals listed on the map. My guess is that the art created for the festival attracted local artists to the area to show off their own work. So the streets and alleys are rich with artwork.
Here is what I found during my expedition.
Traditional Thai Dinner and Dance at Thara Thong
I returned to the Royal Orchid that night to try the food in the Thara Thong Thai Restaurant and to check out their traditional Thai dance show.
I ordered a whole bunch of dishes, from curries to vegetables to some dumpling-type things. I’m not much of a foodie, but I have definitely eaten my share of Thai food and this was as good as anything I’d eaten in the country and the spiciness was very well attuned to my Western palate (a lot of Thai food is too spicy for the average Westerner).
The dining room has a raised floor with sunken areas beneath the tables for your legs, so you can have the feeling of sitting on the floor without the discomfort of actually sitting on the floor. Three dances performed an elegant Thai dance at the end of the small dining room to the quiet clang of traditional Thai music.
It was a fitting end to my visit to Bang Rak.
Do you have any Bangkok travel tips?