“A Day in the Life… ” Yaowarat (Chinatown), Bangkok

“Try to focus on one thing – it could be one colour, one idea, any one thing, really,” instructed our photo-tour guide Gavin Gough. “Don’t just wander around taking pictures of everything!”

B&W Young thai man eating noodles

Young Thai Eating Breakfast, Yaowarat

Now, I have enormous respect for Gavin, Bangkok-based travel photographer and teacher extraordinaire, but I was about to head into Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, for the morning with a small group of other aspiring photographers. Trying to follow the advice to ‘focus’ in this richly textured neigbourhood, seemed an impossible task! For me, being in Chinatown with a camera is a bit like being a kid in a candy store. The environment is a sensory feast: chaotic colours are piled on top of each other in narrow shops and in bins on any available pavement; the heat and humidity are pervasive, accentuating the humming energy and the somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere; the noise of machinery combines with chatter and barter in several languages; shoppers jostle with tourists, giving way to motorcycles and coolies with over-laden trolleys. I do feel the impulse to photograph everything!

Luckily for me, the first exercise Gavin gave us was to shoot some black and white frames with a wide angle to try to draw attention to one thing. This exercise quieted my humming senses, and my target for the day came to the forefront: I decided that that I would focus on the people .

So, here are a few of the people of Bangkok’s Chinatown, going about their daily business.

Back of a thai male in a bright pink motorcycle taxi vest

Motorcycle taxi drivers in their candy colours wait for customers.

Thai man in army pants lying on hessian bags, talking on the phone

A labourer at the peanut- and rice-seller's shop takes five.

Sino-Thai male standing in his shop office

Proud owner surveying his domain ~ He offered us delicious samples of his peanuts, rice and fruit.

Thai man hoisting 50 pound hessian sack

Break time is over ~ and the labourer is back to work moving peanuts.

Thai man in the back of a delivery truck, delivering 50 pound hessian bags.

Smiling while he works: another labourer moving more peanuts.

Three smiling thai children

Three children of local shop-keepers pause from their colouring to give me big smiles.

Crush of people in the narrow roads in Bangkok

In the Madding Crowd ~ People Everywhere!

Large Chinese Lady luck statue

An enormous Lady Luck welcomes you into the area.

Tired Thai man behind bags of fruit for sale

It might be early morning, but some workers have had long nights!

Thai woman selling crabs in Chinatown, Bangkok

It's hard to stay engaged when you have no customers!

Elderly Chinese-Thai woman in shop doorway

A matriarch keeps an eye on proceedings.

Two thai men chop and clean fish

Cleaning fresh fish for sale, Yaowarat

Hands in black rubber gloves scale fish

Scaling the fish, Yaowarat

Woman in red bagging yellow loquat

Bagging Loquat (Japanese medlar, Nispero) for desserts.

White haired lady sorting fried chicken wings

I asked this woman selling chicken feet how long she'd been working in the markets... I didn't want to do the impolite thing and ask her age!

White haired lady sorting fried chicken wings

Sixty years, she told me. She started work as a young girl, bagging spices.

Young man in white hat and apron behind a row of hanging barbecued ducks

A young man looks out between the birds at the Chinese duck noodle shop

Having reached the end of Chinatown, we climbed in a tuk tuk for the short ride back to the pier.

Nightfall over Wat Arun

The Sun has Set, Wat Arun, Bangkok

Text: Happy TravelsLater that evening as we had drinks watching the darkness descend over Wat Arun, I couldn’t help but think about the variety of people, activities and occupations in that one small area in Yaowarat. Our daily lives are all so different, but with a little bit of work, they can all fit together.

Where ever you are, whatever you are doing, happy travels!



  • Guava - July 14, 2011 - 10:34 pm

    Love this series, some really tremendous environmental portraits. I have booked a few nights at a hotel in Chinatown, as each time I visit it never seems long enough.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - July 15, 2011 - 11:46 am

      Hi Guava! Thanks so much for your comments. Chinatown is, indeed a feast!ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - July 14, 2011 - 11:17 pm

    Perhaps it’s me but two things stand out in these pictures, the older women who are so poised and the smiles. A quick walk around Liverpool wouldn’t bring such a thought of joy as you work, yet these hard working humble people seem to make the most and best of everything they do, which is something to be admired. Thank as always for sharing your travels, love it!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - July 15, 2011 - 2:04 pm

      Too right, Signe! People work long and hard, often under uncomfortable and/or unsafe conditions – and usually with a smile and good humour!ReplyCancel

  • gabe - July 14, 2011 - 11:35 pm

    Lovely work sweetie. Love the smiles even after ten years in Bangkok they always seem genuine.ReplyCancel

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