Chinatown in Bangkok, like many neighborhoods, is going through drastic changes. The area around Yaowarat Road saw its heyday in the first half of the 1900s. After peaking as the beating heart of the Chinese community in Thailand’s capital, Chinatown went through a slow decline and many of the new generation Thai Chinese opted for more modern and developed parts of town. Aside Yaowarat Road, many streets gradually fell quiet through the passing decades, especially after dark with many of the shophouses shuttering and emptying out. However, the tides are turning again with open-minded Bangkokians seeing the classic neighborhood with new eyes.
In 2014, when Soi Nana in Chinatown was a still sleepy street, a group of individuals saw a corner shophouse and its potential. Deciding to act before it could become another commercial business, the group rented the building and turned it into something rarely seen: a project space for independent programs focused on collaborations and production both on-site and beyond. The space is named Cho Why, which pays homage to the neighborhood and is a play on the Chinese name for old-style convenience stores and corner-shops. Cho Why was the spark for its immediate neighborhood and initiated Soi Nana’s ascendance to become one of Bangkok’s more unique go-to nightlife spot began.
Cho Why’s game changing presence has encouraged Bangkokians to come visit old Chinatown and see the power of retrofitting old spaces. Over the next few years, funky bars, breweries, hostels, art residencies, studios, and more have followed Cho Why and opened in Soi Nana. As a result, the new diversity has injected life back into this small street. Be sure to pay this street a visit at night and experience the variety of establishments. If you are lucky, you might find a jumble trail going on.