From a legendary 60-year-old braised goose stall and an authentic Hakka hole-in-the-wall to emerging hip businesses, there’s a side of Chinatown that retains and extends its charm.
Soi Song Wat, a historic road in the capital’s old town, is also a lesser-known hidden gem great for foodies and arts and culture fiends. The road’s name, which literally means “drawn by the king,” was built during the reign of King Rama V, who ordered the road’s construction (it’s said that the king himself wrote the line with a pencil on the map).
The century-old road runs along the Chao Phraya River for one kilometer and contains a mix of old and new — from colonial-style shophouses, street food stalls and long-standing restaurants to modern hostels, minimalist cafes, and laid-back bars. It can be reached from MRT Sam Yot or MRT Wat Mangkon.
We’ve gathered a list comprising 23 places to visit once you’re in Soi Songwat.
Legendary food stalls
There’s a little stall with an aunty on the corner of Songwat’s entrance that serves affordable, unique shumai. Over 80 years, the dumpling cart has been passed through family hands to a 4th generation owner where she blends pork, shrimps, and fried egg into her dumplings. Priced at THB4 for pork and THB5 for shrimp fillings, these dumplings are perfect to start your morning stroll through the Songwat streets.
Ratchawong Road, Khwaeng Chakkrawat, Khet Samphanthawong. Open daily 10.30am-8.30pm. Tel. 089-133-0640
Urai Braised Goose Noodle
Regardless of how much money you make, your chances of tasting this delicious goose palo during the weekend are zero if you arrive without a reservation. This 60-year-old restaurant has secured a top place among locals for one of the best Chinese goose spots in Bangkok—with its lashings of fat and savory aromatic meats. The small plate of braised goose will set you back THB120, but according to local tips, the half-sized portion of the whole goose (THB800) is better for sharing with 4-5 people. Dip that juicy fresh meat into the spicy and sour sauce for the full experience.
935 Songwat Road., Sampanthawong. Open daily 10am-1pm. Tel. 02-221-4413
Wooden Barrel Guay Jab
Entering A Nia Keng alley, you’ll find one of the best guay jab rolled noodle spots in Bangkok hidden between the floral murals and metal carts along the trail. Sixty years ago, the original owner learned how to keep his noodles fresh and springy by putting them into a wooden bucket, hence the name. Order a bowl of guay jab (THB80) with crispy pork belly, pork intestines, and hearts and innards of your choice.
A Nia Keng Alley. Open Mon-Fri 9am-2pm. Tel. 084-468-1898
If you continue your journey from Wooden Barrel Guay Jab, walk past the A Nia Keng Shrine; you’ll find this authentic Hakka restaurant on the first soi to your left. Originally the place was run by a 90-ish-year-old amah who moved to Songwat 20 years ago and passed the robe to her daughter-in-law, serving their unique khao mak Hakka noodles (THB250), notable for its pinkish hue from the red yeast, which she claims to be healthy for digestion.
376 Soi Maitri Wanit, Chakkrawat, Samphanthawong. Open daily 11am-6pm. Tel. 02-226-2525
Gu Long Bao
Digging through our memory banks, this long-standing Teochew bao stall has been molding salapao for over 100 years. This OG stall may not have been part of Songwat’s streets at first, but the family’s main kitchen always has been, and four generations have passed on the art of bao-making. Known for its yellow-tinted flour from mixing sweet potatoes inside the dough, the steamed bun features a variety of fillings, ranging from warm, delicious pork and salted eggs to the housemade sweet taro. As of last year, Gu Long Bao has officially joined the Songwat community with its new, youthful-looking branch.
Songwat Road. Open daily 9am-5pm. Tel. 095-797-5747
Ask any local you meet in Songwat about their favorite food stalls; this 80-year-old fishball noodle stall is likely at the top of their list. Try their classic dry noodle (THB60): a tang from jig chow (sour black soy sauce) encompasses the bouncing deliciousness of the fish balls and Chinese fish sausage. The fish dumpling in the bowl may seem dull, but delights await inside.
Songwat Road. Open daily 3pm-5pm.
Noo-ri Chestnut Ice Cream
Twenty years ago, the daughter of Yaowarat’s long-serving chestnut business found a way for people to enjoy kao lat in the most intriguing way: Instead of roasting them by flame, freeze them and turn them into irresistible ice cream toppings. Order a bowl of coconut milk ice cream (starting at THB40) topped with frozen chestnut, the latter of which provides nutty toffee-like taste profiles. There’s also an adult option (THB90) where they blend vodka into the making as well.
206 Saphan Yuan Road. Open daily 8am-5pm Tel. 081-647-8826
E-ga Food Lab
Don’t let the name fool you. The venue may have the word lab in the name, but E-ga doesn’t put you through a culinary rollercoaster of foams, bubbles, and gels. Instead, the venue simply takes the concept where you can taste homey dishes unique to different regions across the country. On our last visit, we tried the deep-fried redtail catfish sourced from Kanchanaburi served with thick molasses-like dipping sauce; the crisp skins when dipped into the sauce are beautifully simple and straightforward. The menu also includes some no-brainer dishes like kaprow which arrives with egg-cellent kai dow.
829 Song Wat Rd, Chakkrawat, Samphanthawong. Open Mon-Tue 10am-10pm; Thu-Sun 10am-10pm. Tel. 081-565-2028
It’s a cafe that doesn’t serve coffee. What do they serve then? The venue specializes in fruit and vegetable-based concoctions made specifically from Thai ingredients you may not know. Maiyarap, or the sensitive plant, for example, is turned into a refreshing beverage (THB105). At F.V., you are also encouraged to try some of their rare-find treats—from the late Thai cuisine specialist Srisamorn Kongphan — which will be rotating throughout the seasons.
827 Song Wat Rd, Khwaeng Chakkrawat, Samphanthawong. Open daily 10am-7pm. Tel. 081-866-0533
Breathing new life into a crumbling two-storey shophouse in Songwat, this hipster magnet drew people of all ages when it first opened late last year, with crowds as thick as the broth they braise each morning. Try the emperor braised beef noodle (THB250), the most lavish option on offer featuring a medley of braised beef, beef balls, sliced tenderloins, tendons, and beef tongues — all topped with sweet chili oil and crisp garlic – and add patongo dough to wipe up the soup.
Song Wat Road. Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm. Tel. 063-830-6335
A few steps from the aforementioned beef spot is a cafe that captures Thai-Chinese culinary history through tart-making. Believing them to be a perfect blank canvas where she can reimagine traditional dishes and desserts, the owner Ornong “Art” Prasarnphanich hops on this idea to deliver creative tarts for her customers.
The Going Banana (THB75), for example, takes on the concept of Thai kluay buad shee by filling her tarts with banana and salted egg yolk and topped with banana brulee to match the flavor. There’s also an omakase tart experience for THB315, starting off with mung bean dumpling stuffed with coconut mousse to duck palo using real duck fat to enhance the flavors.
947 Song Wat Road. Open Tue-Sun 10am-5pm. Tel. 094-659-6653
We Didn’t Land on Moon Since 1987
After capturing loyal fanbases in the north for 9 years, the popular bar from Chiang Mai landed on Songwat’s quiet streets. The place is decorated with the owner’s various memorabilia, with hand painted pictures, random photographs, and personal letters. Drink-wise, this spot offers classic drinks like mojitos, long islands, and gin & tonics for THB150-THB260.
2, 7 Song Wat Road. Tel. 085-499-6245
A historic building that once belonged to celebrity chef Pitchaya “Pam” Utarntham’s great grandfather has been transformed into her culinary space with a flying banner celebrating the long history of Thai-Chinese cuisine. With its judicious mix of rustic and contemporary design where each essential property of the building undergoes acupunctural changes, the place is renowned for its aesthetics.
Her 20-course experience boasts hyperlocal ingredients through networks of fishers and local suppliers, from toddy palm lollipop to Suratthani black squid oysters. Among other accolades, Potong also won one Michelin star the year of the restaurant’s opening.
422 Vanich. Sampanthawong. Open Thu-Mon 5pm-11pm. Tel. 082-979-3950
One thing that always impresses at this Chinese-themed bar perched atop Potong is its unlimited, evolving growth potential. The bar boasts at least 14-16 pages to a menu divided into specific taste profiles, and one day you may find those old drinks have been swapped for a new batch with the same numbers. At Opium, there’s a promise of good food which we rarely find at bars in Bangkok, like the wild kiss (THB350), grilled pork tongue skewers with caramelized exteriors saturated and tenderized with perilla seeds and finished with tangy sauce, giving each cube satisfying flavors.
422 Vanich. Sampanthawong. Open Thu-Mon 5pm-11pm. Tel. 082-979-3950
Offering a more laid-back riverside hangout to the five-star hotels, this playful Songwat hostel has something for everyone. Climbing the staircase to the 4th floor, you’ll find the hip cafe Woodbrook and hostel bar Barbon where you can either order a cup of coffee or beer to enjoy the breezy riverside hangout spot on large cushions. There’s a dormitory bedroom as well as a private space of your choice.
If hostels are not for your liking, why not book a whole house for yourself? At Baan Songwat, you get four bedrooms that come with a spacious living room perfect for any family or large party who are planning to explore this side of the city. The place is also close to the public transport like MRT Wat Mangkorn within an 8-minute walk.
Just a stone’s throw from the bustling side of Songwat, you’ll find this cool-looking, raw-concrete hostel located in the quiet Soi Vanich in Sampeng, boasting over 6-storey-high cafes and a rooftop Rise Bar.
Nestled in a narrow alley in Songwat’s street, this delightful hostel has added a little dose of cuteness to the neighborhood. A play on the word Pieces (translated as special in Thai), the hostel aims to ensure a special experience for any visitors who arrive here. At the entrance, you’ll be greeted by the tiny cafe selling pastries and sweet delectables, which require advanced bookings.
Mesa in Spanish means table, and like any other table its main function is to foster collaboration and esprit de corps for creative minds. Inspired by the time she spent teaching and visiting Chinatown, the owner Myriam Rueda hopes MESA 312 can be a cultural hive where people can exchange ideas through dialogue and collaboration. The studio also dubs as her Spanish language teaching center, so head there if you need your español brushed up.
Luang Kocha Itsahak Mosque
Named after a Malaysian nobleman who acted as an interpreter for King Rama V, this mosque is one of the few European-style colonial mosques in Thailand. Despite its status as a private property, Luang Kocha Itsahuk Mosque is also open to the public who wish to partake in the religious customs here. The spot is also connected to a cemetery teeming with lush greenery.
A Nia Shrine
Nestled inside an alley of the same name, this little shrine offers a dose of peace amidst the bustling backdrop of the community. Legend has it that during the influx of Chinese immigrants to the area in the reign of King Rama V, the community was crowded with households and was prone to fires. In order to ward off the ominous flame, people erected a shrine to honor Guan Yin as a way to ensure the community’s safety. The shrine is also notable for the peculiar position of its incense holders as they are all in reverse — a ritual to deter bad luck.
Play Art House
Walking past the faded facades of architecture along Songwat’s streets, you’ll notice this cheerfully blue art space that stands out from the crowd. Formerly used as the owner’s family storage for footwear, Play Art House embodies the owners’ love and passion for art and exhibitions, curating artwork from both old and young emerging faces on the scene.
With curving roofs, carved tiled walls, and decorated beams, you might mistake this Chinese tutorial school for a temple as both of its interior and exterior are beautiful enough to qualify as such. Unlike other prep-schools that boast their numbers of high-achieving students, Pei-ing prides itself on its large pools of chao sua (business magnate) alumni, with some notable names like Utan Techapaibul, founder of the rescue foundation Poh Tek Tung; Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, Thai Beverage’s founder; and many others.