I spend a lot of time in Bangkok, it’s one of my homes and somewhere I grew up. This is a super fast growing city, I leave town for a month only to come back to a new mega mall popping up almost overnight. The sad story is with such fast growth, the things I most love about this town are being cast aside. A couple years back, the famous Dalat Rot Fai (probably my all time favourite vintage market to this day) was cleared out and knocked down. They moved to a new space, which feels like a kind of Disneyland version of the old one. My other favourite thieves market in Klong Thom is also slowly being pushed out (to mine and many other passionate junk scourers’ horror). I suppose this is what happens with life, but a part of me can’t help but feel sad about it.
This is Bang Rak, a spot near the Chao Praya river where my mum spent her childhood. It’s quite a Chinese neighbourhood, and shophouses here have been selling the same wares day in, day out for generations. It’s where I hunt for enamel dining-ware, wet market supplies, heritage brand t-shirts, custom made leather shoes (also a slowly dying trade), and bespoke suits. The main drag, Charoen Krung Rd (at Sapan Taksin BTS station) is a dusty, grimy street that flows non-stop with locals going about their business, some European tourists here and there snapping away with map in hand, and a bunch of uncles hanging out sipping herbal tea, talking Thai politics. My favourite congee joint is here, and also one of my favourite indian diners (it’s real close to the Indian temple ‘Wat Kak’). It’s quite the hang out for a gal like me.
One thing I like to do when I come on a hunting and gathering mission here is to stop by a Chinese herb shop for a spot of cold tea. Just rock up, choose your tonic may it be chrysanthemum, bael fruit, longan, or a grassy herbal tea, and pause for a cooling minute to take in this wonderfully chaotic space. It can be overwhelming if you’re in a hot fuss so I recommend only going to Bang Rak when you’re in a calmer state of being. It’s my daytime, non-alcoholic answer to a whiskey bar. You’ll find these joints through neighbouring Chinatown too, I recommend a little exploration. ‘Just for a spot of sweet romance in the middle of the day.