Bangkok’s Chinatown, also known as “Yaowarat” by locals, represents an iconic and historical destination where the rich heritage of Sino-Thais can still be experienced. The Chinese quarters, offers visitors a unique chance to “travel back in time” and experience the retro-chic charm of old world Bangkok!
The area is a bustling commercial neighborhood and popular tourist hotspot, especially at night when Yaowarat Road transforms into an open air foodie paradise; offering a huge selection of street foods and famous eateries. Chinatown is also home to a number of Sino-Thai families, many of whom have lived in the area for generations!
This heritage has been preserved and has escaped Bangkok’s citywide urban regeneration, due to a combination of absence of Mass Transit options (MRT or BTS) and the scarce availability of developable land plots.
This is why, the recent completion of MRT Wat Mangkon an extension of the MRT Blue Line, has reinvigorated investment interest. The new underground station’s direct connection to Central Bangkok, undoubtedly represents an “agent of change” for Yaowarat. With both commercial and residential developers prospecting for development opportunities.
To date, the biggest entrant is the TCC Group that acquired a 14-rai plot of land for 4.5 billion baht in 2012. The group is in the process of redeveloping the area into a mix of “modernized traditional” shophouses and a shopping complex.
Another notable move is by Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS), a leading Thai healthcare operator, that recently acquired and renovated the old Union Bank of Bangkok building; it is now a 59-bed facility, the Samitivej Chinatown Hospital.
The residents of Chinatown and preservationists, are bracing for the inevitable modernization of the area. With many locals voicing their concerns and worries, that gentrification will destroy generations of culture and heritage.
However, this beloved centre of Sino-Thai culture is likely to maintain its charm as restricted land supply is very likely to continue to act as a natural bottleneck, impeding mass regeneration.
Managing heritage and modernization, will inevitably be a delicate balancing act for any potential developers making forays in this iconic location!