Chinatown

12 08 2017

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After a few weeks at the trusty Nice Palace, my boyfriend arrived in town and we decided to relocate to Chinatown for a different Bangkok flavor. We had chosen an airbnb above a tapas bar (!) in a hundred-year-old Chinese shophouse on Soi Nana, the newly hip and happening core of ‘cool’ Chinatown, where old buildings have been turned into cocktail bars ( Tep, Teens of Thailand) and art spaces (Cho Why) and a sprinkling of flat-white-serving Melbourne inspired cafes had opened. I was worried – was Chinatown about to be gentrified? Wasn’t “hipsterfication,” afterall, essentially homogenization? Didn’t all these “cool” cafes look pretty much…the same? Chinatown already character and soul. It didn’t need a new one.

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As it turns out though, my worries were premature. On long, loping nocturnal wanderings it quickly became clear that this cool and farang-friendly “new” Chinatown was confined to almost a single block, while the old untamed Chinatown stretched on for miles – miles of tangled alleyways and sleeping cats, chillis drying in the sun, motorbikes roaring through tiny lanes, dusty shops fragrant with herbs, Monkey King shrines, bubbling woks and vendors selling camphor wood and sea slugs, monkfruits, spices and herbs I couldn’t identify, with shoppers haggling in Teochew.

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And street food. Visiting Chinatown with a Chinese person was a new experience: my boyfriend knew exactly what he wanted to eat. We had beef and duck noodles by day and at night, along a brightly lit Yaowarat thronged with festival-like crowds, grazed on chestnuts and pineapples, whole coconuts which has somehow had their husks removed to leave only a juicy white orb, and in the decayed foyer of a porno movie theatre, slurped on pigs tongue noodles.

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This was the Chinatown we had come for.

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