Thailand often presents a very homogeneous image of what a Thai is and as such, the country is held as one of the most ethnically harmonized in Southeast Asia. This is due to historically strong government policy toward assimilation that includes firmly discouraged use of the ethnic labels in favor of the one category: “Thai.” In recent years, there has been a cultural resurgence among the various ethnic groups and rising interest to share how each have contributed to Thailand’s current state. For the Thai-Chinese, their story is being told in Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center.
A small but powerfully engaging museum, Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center is located on the second floor of Wat Traimit or Temple of the Golden Buddha. Your journey starts off with presentation that has you peering into a living room where a Thai-Chinese grandfather begins to tell his grandchild about Chinatown’s origins. His reminiscence sets an intimate tone that piques your curiosity. From there, you are well on your way to discover more.
The museum is well curated and easy to navigate: you always go down a single route and never get lost. Utilizing multimedia methods to great effect, the museum shows you the Chinese immigration to Thailand, the challenges they faced, the benefits they reaped, and their contributions to building the nation. Life sized exhibits transports one back in time to experience the Chinese’s arduous journey in junk boats and a day in their life back in old Bangkok. The museum is a great springboard into exploration of Chinatown on foot. The context gives you a stronger sense of appreciation of the surrounding neighborhood.