Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street in Bangkok’s bustling Chinatown district reopened this month to the delight of locals and visitors alike, who are once again enjoying balmy evenings at what is the newest of the city’s walking streets.
Not far from Khao San Road and the Chao Phraya River, Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street is easily reached on a two-three-minute stroll from the Sam Yot MRT station. The Station is one of four stations added to the MRT subway network in 2019 and which makes exploring the Old City and Chinatown neighbourhood easier than ever.
The Walking Street takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 16.00 – 22.00 Hrs. and stretches 1.5 km along both sides of a beautified section of Khlong Ong Ang between the Damrong Sathit Bridge and Saphan Han Bridge. It was originally opened late last year and after subsequently being suspended as part of the city’s COVID-19 control measures, it was opened again in early March.
Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street is not your average walking street however, with much restoration work and plenty of thought on creating an inviting and characterful urban recreational area having gone into its development.
It is a joy to casually stroll along the paved footpaths, perusing the stalls that sell various items from T-shirts, dresses and shoes to kids toys, plants, accessories and floral decorations all the while taking in the excited, energetic orchestra of sounds – children laughing, buskers playing music, the banter between seller and buyer and, of course, the sizzle of hot grills and clanking of woks.
Yes, as one would expect, Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street offers plenty of delicious food to enjoy ranging from rice and roti dishes to grilled squid, meatballs and Thai sweets. Many will happily munch on their chosen morsel as they continue meandering along the footpath, while others opt for a sit-down meal at the many dining tables positioned along the canal-side.
Taking selfies is another popular activity here, whether it is with the boldly illuminated canal itself as a backdrop or the striking graffiti art reflecting the mixed ethnic character of the area that adorns the walls in between the resident shophouses. A watchful eye kept along the multistorey shophouses will also reveal tiny alleyways decorated with fluorescent lighting and glowing Chinese lanterns that make for interestingly unique photo opps.
For those who feel inclined, there is even a stall offering henna body painting as well as hair extensions, dreadlocks and corn-rows. Another vendor will draw your portrait as you wait. Canoes, too, can be taken on a leisurely paddle up and down the canal for a different viewpoint of the Walking Street and – let’s face it – what amounts to a rather unique waterborne opportunity in Bangkok.
Despite the Thai capital having a network of lengthy canals, the experience on offer at Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street is somewhat of a novelty. Here, people can relax alongside a picturesque waterway reminiscent of Dutch canals and stalls – surf, eat and drink, people watch and overall enjoy a memorable evening. It is an ideal choice for families, romantic couples, groups of friends, and single adventurers of all ages alike.
Khlong Ong Ang on which the Walking Street is located has a long history. It was constructed in the 1780s by King Rama I the Great soon after the establishment of Bangkok as the new capital and in its early days was a busy lifeline of trade and travel with boats offloading goods brought from the countryside and the canal being known for a pottery market – the name Ong Ang means pottery.
More recently, a restoration and beautification project by city authorities saw the area transformed from a crowded enclave of hawker stalls and a polluted waterway into the recreational oasis of today that is the Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street. The canal water was cleaned, the canal banks paved with concrete and the historical bridges renovated.
The landscape improvement project undertaken at Khlong Ong Ang was recognised with the presentation to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s City Planning and Urban Development Department of a UN-Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific’s 2020 Asian Townscape Award. A visit to Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening is evidence of why.
*Due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, international travel is discouraged at the moment. However, this article is meant to serve as an inspiration for future trips to Thailand once the pandemic has come to an end.