FRV visits Bangkok’s Chinatown & Shanghai Mansion
Bangkok’s Chinatown was first developed by King Rama V at the beginning of the last century. He was a forward thinking king and saw the benefits of having Chinese immigrants living and doing commerce in the one area. The area is also home to the old royal part of the city, with museums and temples scattered all over, but the most interesting thing for foodies today is the street food, which can be found on every lane and sidewalk.
One lane of interest is Sempang, which crosses from one side of Chinatown to the other. The sometimes very narrow road offers all kinds of Chinese food and mostly Chinese-made goods at inexpensive prices and is open from early morning till 5.30pm, although the buzz is constant all over Chinatown all day and night. Thais call the area Yurawat, and on Yurawat Road is the hotel I stayed for two nights, Shanghai Mansion.
Shanghai Mansion Hotel lies right in the thick of things on the main thoroughfare, and after renovations a few years ago the hotel could be considered a tribute to modern Chinese cool. There’s a jazz bar/restaurant out the front with live music six nights a week, which serves modern Chinese cuisine. The interiors are almost deconstructed and reds and greys dominate the décor with paintings and etchings depicting scenes from Shanghai from the ‘30s dotted around most walls. My room, the superior suite, was large and well appointed with period-style furnishings and a glorious, central freestanding bathtub that I couldn’t resist filling to the brim and jumping in. The building was built in the ‘30s too and was once a Chinese opera house, a small shopping mall and residences before being redeveloped into a hotel around eight years ago. You couldn’t find a hotel any more central for a discovery trip around this old part of Bangkok, and there is plenty to discover, let me assure you.
Shanghai Mansion isn’t five star by any means but it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s designed and built from the ‘30s so forget electronic key cards and doors fitting like gloves, this is a period piece with all its charms. But the bathrooms, piping hot water, Wi-Fi and flat screen TV, etc., all work a treat. Breakfast is good enough, but not exactly in your five star category, but having a walk out on the street to find breakfast one morning I could only find local snacks and drinks, not a decent coffee in sight. A simple 400 baht sorts out breakfast if you didn’t include it in your booking.
Chinatown is a great spot to enjoy old-world Bangkok, and Shanghai Mansion is a fun hotel to use as a base. Put your walking shoes on, take a stroll and discover what the area has to say.