Tag - indian neighbourhood

The Good Stuff: A Passage to Little India

Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand

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.

On entering the lane, you’ll find food stalls selling hot snacks; while posters of Hindu gods sit alongside a child’s bicycle. The sights and sounds of India are everywhere, as locals go about their daily business. I arrive at lunchtime, and that only means one thing: time for lunch! There’s one place I go to eat every time I visit Little India: Punjab Sweets.

This fantastic restaurant is a real treat. TV programmes stop every 3 minutes for advertising: Fair and Lovely face cream, Indian Oil, Bharti Life Insurance, Belmonte Academy of Style, and Reliance Mobile Telephones (only 999 Rupees). There are a couple of dishes I like to order when I go there: chhole batore (a plate of chickpea curry, potato curry and lime pickle, served with puffed-up fried Indian bread), and samosa chana (chickpea curry with 2 crunchy, hot samosas). I’m taken right back to my memories of street-side eating in Delhi, and I wash these delectable treats down with a glass of hot, sweet masala chai. This is way better than any expensive Indian restaurant food; plus, it’s totally authentic, and so easy on the pocket as well: my fantastic lunch set me back a mere 70 Baht. Icy-cold drinking water (in a jug on your table, safe to drink) is free of charge, too, so you can really cool down from the heat of the street.

I’m tempted to stay even longer at Punjab Sweets, as the sweets themselves have caught my eye. They’re quite beautiful. The gulab jamun (sweet fried dough balls in rosewater syrup) nestle under edible silver leaf; the ras malai (milk curds flavoured with cardamom and saffron) also grab my attention. But alas, every time I come here l enjoy my chhole batore and samosas far too much to have room for any of these delicacies. Punjab Sweets also stocks an extensive range of spices and cooking ingredients, if you want to try your hand at making a real curry.

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.

Getting there:

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.