Chinatown, and Flower Market, Bangkok ThailandBangkok's Chinatown started as a Chinese trading community around 1782. It was nothing more than wilderness when the land was granted by the king of Siam, His Royal Highness Taksin, but it quickly grew as the city grew. It's now perhaps the largest Chinatown in the world, a maze of alleys and narrow passageways with thousands of different vendors with practically anything you could possibly want, all easily carried by a single person. Negotiation is expected; even if you think it's cheap, you're still most likely being overcharged.
Food is readily available, and it's all genuine, legit, local food. You will have a hard time finding anything western, and that was just fine by me. The smells were a mix of what you might expect in a very cramped and tropical environment with limited sanitation. This is where people shop daily for their needs.
The ArrivalI took the subway (do not take a tuk- tuk or a random cab) into the Hua Lumpong station which is by the main train station in Bangkok (you can now take the subway directly into Chinatown at the Wat Mangkon station). I made my way through a horde of buskers and tuk tuk touts, and met my friend Venus who was to show me the area. She's ethnic Chinese and works fulltime for a Japanese bank and part-time for a nice florist shop in Bangkok so she was very well versed in the ways of this part of the city.
Each general type of good has an 'area'. Finding those areas is quite the task but the process will help you discover more, and trust me when I tell you that compass directions were given no consideration when this area developed. GPS probably won't work well. You can always orient by getting out to a major street, and trying to find Yaowarat Street (marked by lots of Chinese banners) then GPS will start to be accurate again.
Beware, I found a pirate cell tower in the area that doesn't seem to connect outside of itself at all. I don't know the repercussions of the connection, but check your phone to see you are on the provider you expect.
The Flower MarketVenus got us another taxi and we went to the Yodpiman flower market near the west edge of Chinatown. There are stands and stalls, not just in the main building but all over the area. Prices are quite cheap, but they are in bulk. If you don't mind having a few dozen flowers of a type in your room, I'd get a few different varieties.
SummaryThese markets are very local legit. A great escape from the combination of high-end shopping and low-end female companionship offered elsewhere in the city. You can spend days here, and it's close enough to the Wat Phra temple and Royal Palace to walk.
It's super safe, I've never even seen or heard of pickpockets in the area. Doesn't mean they are not there, but it's rare. Do not take a tuk tuk anywhere in Bangkok, 99% are a scam and not worth the hassle. Also, do not pick up a cab outside your hotel or at a popular waiting spot. They will be just as bad. Ask your hotel to get you a cab instead. Flag down one driving by when it's time to go back. Never say it's your first time in Bangkok to the driver.