Celebrating an Unforgettable Chinese New Year in Chinatown Bangkok

After a fun-filled few days exploring Bangkok from my happy home on Khao San road, I had been waffling nonstop on how/when/if I’d get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. When I asked my hostel front desk about train tickets they said all the sleepers were booked for a couple days because of Chinese New Year. This seemed a little weird, even for high season, so I decided to drag myself across town to the station to ask in person and book something once and for all.

Except that didn’t happen.

Instead, as my trusty 15 Baht orange flag river taxi lurched up to the Ratchawongse Pier (N5) and hordes of happy looking people dressed in red started to get off, I followed them. I couldn’t pass up Chinatown on Chinese New Year, not in Bangkok, and not when it was right there, calling my name! Chiang Mai could wait.
I walked East, away from the river and into the heart of Chinatown. I heard it before I saw it—drumming, sharp pops of firecrackers, and the sizzling of rows of street food. The main area of the celebrations, and several side streets, was decorated with red Chinese lanterns and red banners.
There were stalls lining every inch of the sidewalks. Some sold New Year decorations…

… but most sold FOOD! Oh, the street food. It was paradise, if you like cheap, delicious, food that you’re not quite sure how to pronounce or even what it is until you take a bite. I have written about Southeast Asian street food before, but today was really something special.

Even better, though, was the energy.

Everyone was happy and celebrating: locals, tourists, families, shopkeepers, dumpling fry-ers, even the sweaty, heavily clothed teenagers operating the giant dancing dragon heads. You can’t not smile being in a gigantic crowd where everyone else is smiling! I don’t know much about how it’s celebrated in China (though from Chinese friends, I’ve heard it should indeed involve a lot of food), but it must be amazing.

After simply wandering for a few hours it was time to head back and pray my hostel bed was available for another night. The good vibes absorbed today were enough to keep me chipper for days.
This was definitely one of the my memorable afternoons in Thailand so far. I’m so happy it happened largely on a whim to get off a boat at the last minute. Gotta love the spontaneity of travel!

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