The area has been a Chinese community since the early days of Bangkok. Originally living in what is now the Phra Nakhon District, they were relocated here when the capital was set up. The narrow Sampheng Lane (สำเพ็ง, now called Wanit I Road, วานิช 1) was the district’s main street until Yaowarat Road was constructed in 1892 during the reign of King Chulalongkorn. Sam Peng is depicted on the back of series 15 20 baht banknotes, to commemorate an important Post-World War II visit by young king Rama VIII (accompanied a pace behind by HM’s brother, Prince Bhumibol, with his ever-present camera.) Nowadays, Yaowarat Road remains the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown.
The area now in the Samphanthawong District was once three separate amphoes, Samphanthawong, Sam Yaek, and Chakkrawat established on 15 October 1915 where old districts were overhauled and replaced by 25 new districts to cover inner part of Bangkok. Amphoe Sam Yaek and Amphoe Chakkrawat were later merged into Amphoe Samphanthawong. The amphoe became Khet Samphanthawong in 1972. It is believed that the name Samphanthawong was derived from Wat Samphanthawongsaram, the temple near the district office when it was first built. Now the district office has moved to Yotha Road in Talat Noi Sub-district.
Yaowarat Road (เยาวราช) is about 1.5 km in length. Along both sides, gold shops and all kinds of Chinese restaurants: noodle, rice, dim sum, bird’s nest soup can be found. More shops, especially those selling fruit and Chinese traditional medicine, can be found in the small lanes branching off the main road. A gate was built to celebrate King Bhumibol‘s 72nd birthday. It is on Odeon Circle (named after a cinema that once stood nearby) at one start of Yaowarat Road.
Wat Traimit (วัดไตรมิตรวิทยารามวรวิหาร) is known for its giant Buddha image made from solid gold and weighing about 5.5 tonnes. The gold was hidden under plaster for centuries until being rediscovered in 1954.
Chó͘-su-kong Shrine (ศาลเจ้าโจวซือก๋ง), a shrine to Qingshui, an oldest Hoklo‘s shrine in Thailand, located in Talat Noi, used to organize the largest Chinese Vegetarian Food Festival in the country.
The most famous Chinese temple in the area, Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (วัดมังกรกมลาวาส), popularly known as Wat Leng Noei Yi (วัดเล่งเน่ยยี่), lies just outside Samphanthawong boundary in the neighboring Pom Prap Sattru PhaiDistrict.
There are other places of historic interest in Samphanthawong. Wat Mae Phra Luk Prakham (วัดแม่พระลูกประคำ) or Holy Rosary Church, on the bank of Chao Phraya River, is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Bangkok. It is more widely known by its older name Wat Kalawar (วัดกาลหว่าร์), named after Calvary. It was first built in 1787 during King Rama I period by settlers who migrated from Ayuthaya when the city was lost to Burma. The current building was constructed in 1890.
There are numerous markets around Samphanthawong. There are many shops and stalls along Yaowarat, Sampheng (now Wanit 1), and Charoen Krung Roads, especially at night and during weekends. Saphan Lek, the older name of the bridge crossing Khlong Ong Ang canal on Charoen Krung Road, is a narrow strip along both sides of Khlong Ong Ang with lots of small shops selling goods. Nearby is Woeng Nakhon Khasem (เวิ้งนาครเขษม) or “thieves market”. The Khlong Thom Market (in Pom Prap Sattru Phai District), once a famous market for low cost goods and electronics, is a large area of several blocks on the opposite side of Charoen Krung Road. The small lanes inside the blocks were fully packed with stalls operating on Saturday nights till Sunday mornings, but it is now closed as part of pavement cleanup campaign in March 2015.
Chinese Vegetarian Food Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ) (1st to 9th day of 9th lunar month) is a nine-day period when many Chinese practice vegetarianism and dress in white. All over Yaowarat Road, vegetarian food stalls with yellow flags and the Chinese character 齋 in red can be seen. Some foods look like meat but are made from soybeans.
Jump up^“Banknotes, Series 15”. Banknotes > History and Series of Banknotes >. Bank of Thailand. March 3, 2003. Retrieved March 3, 2012. Back — The portrait of HM the King Ananda Mahidoll [sic] with the picture of HM proceeding to visit people at Sam Peng and Illustration of Rama VII Brid[g]e