Last stretch of 'True' chinatown could vanish
Plaeng Nam Road embodies all of the Chinese culture that has taken root and grown here in the past, but modern development threatens to destroy it if compromises aren't made
Anyone who wants to understand Bangkok's past should take a journey down Plaeng Nam Road, a 200m-long street running between Yaowarat and Charoen Krung Road that is packed with the remnants and colour of earlier eras. But before entering this evocative world, it is important to have an overall view of the city's Chinatown. Although every part of it is important and has its special character, it is the area alongside the Chao Phraya River by Ratchawong Road, with its wharves and warehouses, that was the original financial, commercial, and entertainment centre of the Chinese community in Bangkok. There were Chinese opera theatres, tea houses and legal card-playing venues, as well as Thailand's first topless dancing clubs. On Suea Pa Road there were luxurious Chinese restaurants with big bands and dancing.
BIG TROUBLE IN . . . : This page and opposite, Plaeng Nam Road preserves the Chinatown of the past.
Behind the buildings lining the roads were residences and shrines. There were both Chinese-style compounds and homes whose style combined Chinese and Western features. The grounds of the compound reflected the status of the people who lived there, but that was a relatively minor feature. Much more important were the many wooden rooms and other structures that were joined to form rows. These were connected by walkways that made a web-like network. This environment was extremely crowded, and the walkways were so narrow that when passing someone coming the other way it was necessary to tilt one's head to avoid collisions.
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