Along the river, in an area sandwiched between Chinatown and Bang Rak, stands a charismatic neighborhood that is living through its golden years. Talat Noi, meaning “little market”, doesn’t look like much at first glance with its crumbling buildings, older population, and gritty streets. But all this belies its unique character and one that is hardly found anywhere else in the capital. One needs to look and probe a little more to truly appreciate it for what it is.
Today, quaint shophouses line the tiny winding streets of Talat Noi. These shophouses’ elegant decay takes a while to sink in as they are often obscured by machine shops that occupy their ground floors and rusting metallic shutters. These are architectural treasures from a different era, when Chinese merchants began to settle here during early Rattakosin. And none is more of an obvious heritage than So Heng Tai mansion, one of the last Hokkien styled residential compound that exists in the country.
Many residents still live in these shophouses, apparently unaffected by the rest of Bangkok, and carry on their trade passed on from generation to generation. For this very reason, its famous food vendors such as Ped Toon Jao Tha and Kanom Gui Chai Talat Noi continue on strong and draw Bangkokians to the neighborhood as a street eat gastronomic hub. Cultural rituals and events, such as the October Vegetarian Festival or prayers at the many shrines, are still commonly practiced and strongly celebrated.
While Talat Noi currently seems frozen in time, forces of modern times are slowly seeping into the area. Art is slowly arriving from the adjacent Creative District in the form of street art, which was part of the BUKRUK festival. Hostels are popping up, knowing full well that the neighborhood is a hotbed of stories of days gone by. The end result from the old mixing with new is as intriguing as a neighborhood can get in these changing times and warrants a trip of discovery by all.