One of my favourite parts of Bangkok is its Indian neighbourhood, known as “Little India”. This hidden jewel in Bangkok’s crown is full of gorgeous food, interesting sights, and a real impression of what it’s like to walk down an Indian street.
Bangkok’s Indian community first settled in the Phahurat area soon after King Rama I ordered its construction in 1898. The area has expanded over the years, and now merges into the southwestern edge of Chinatown.
The soi, or lane, known as “Little India” runs parallel to Phahurat Road. Read on for photos galore, and details of how to get there.
Out into the street I go. It’s time to soak up the spectacle of this part of town. Wandering through the lane, there are so many things to look at. It’s interesting to see how Indian and Thai culture blend a little bit here. Indian food stalls serve
Thai curries to Indian residents. Shop doors feature different written languages, for the understanding of all.
A man makes these chewy snacks which turn your mouth, and your saliva, bright red. The experience will set you back about 5 Baht, and it’s like nothing else. Try one!
A beautiful gurdawara, or Sikh temple, sits a little way down the soi. This is said to be the largest gurdwara outside India, and is built of opulent white marble.
If you’re lucky, you may find that your visit coincides with some special occasion in the temple’s calendar, as I was when I took the pictures above.
Visitors to the temple are made very welcome, and there is usually someone there to show you around – an interesting way to spend a little time.
Remember to remove your shoes and cover your head when you go any higher than the ground floor; the customary yellow headscarves are provided for this.
Little India also holds some exotic treasures for fans of browsing and shopping.
Wandering into one establishment, I am soon the proud owner of 3 CDs of beautiful Indian music (80 Baht each) and a bottle of heady rose perfume oil from Mumbai (300 Baht). Walking further, I also pick up a red beaded necklace for 100 Baht, some Burmese cooking ingredients, some natural Neem soap, a rolling pin (50 Baht), some curry pastes, and a box of saffron (70 Baht).
So that gives you an idea of what this area of Bangkok is like. I hope you will give it a try.
In fact, it’s possible to approach the Indian district from the westernmost end of Chinatown’s chaotic Sampeng Lane; from there, turn left onto Chakraphet Road, cross the footbridge, and go left along the pavement. A few minutes along on your right is the entrance to Little India.
However, to avoid the crush of Sampeng, and for a more peaceful journey along the river, here is the route I always take. The journey begins at river-taxi pier 13 (Banglamphu) on Phra Arthit Road.
Take a boat that is heading down the river: if you look to your right from the pier, you can see them approaching under the Rama VIII Bridge with its golden suspension cables. Get on a boat with an orange or yellow flag.
Orange-flagged boats charge 13 Baht per person, while on the yellow-flagged “Tourist Boat” you pay 18 Baht. Do observe the pier numbers as you make your way down the river. The numbers are on blue-and-white signs on the platforms. Look out for pier number 6: Memorial Bridge.
You can see the green Memorial Bridge as you are floating along. On the Tourist Boat, the helpful guide will announce (in English) when you are about to reach your stop, so get ready to get off. Cross the road in front of you, and you will see a huge, ornate Thai Buddhist temple, with its adjacent white spire. Walk towards it and go to your right.
Keeping the temple on your left, walk along and you will soon be in the busy Chakraphet/ Chakphet (the spelling varies) Road.
Now you’re on the home strait. Pass the Chinese temple on your left, continue along Chakphet Road, and look out for the Royal India restaurant on the other side the road. And before you know it, you’ll be at the entrance to the Little India soi (lane). Look out for the “India Emporium” shopping mall that’s being built, and you’ll know you’ve found your destination. Phew! Happy exploring!
About the author: Liz Clayton
Liz Clayton has been living in Thailand for 2 and a half years. Her first year was spent in Bangkok, last year she worked in Prachinburi province near Isaan, and now she is back in Bangkok for a few more years.
She enjoys looking for new places – finding the little hideaways which aren’t on the usual backpacker trail.
Fortunately, she is passing what she finds onto KhaoSanRoad.com visitors.