Chinatowns can be found in many of the world’s major cities. They are such a part of the very fabric of the cities they’re in and when you mention Chinatown, it conjures up certain thoughts and images that are common whichever corner of the globe you find one. Chinatowns are a mass of restaurants whose aromas waft into the street and tempt you in, (despite the odd looking glossy red ducks hanging in the window), dark and dusty shops purveying medicines made from all manner of weird and wonderful things, food markets selling all a vast array of deliciousness and of course the gambling dens. Be in any of the global Chinatowns for the Chinese New Year and experience an electric vibe, massive firework displays and over the top parades. To help you choose a Chinatown to experience the mystery and romance here is a list of 7 Best Global Chinatowns.
1. New York
New York is home to the biggest community of Chinese people, bar the huge communities in Asia. With more than 150 000 Chinese people living in the New York neighborhoods, be prepared to be whisked away to the sights and sounds of exotic Asia. Meander down the winding, narrow streets and listen to the shouts and calls in Vietnamese and Cantonese, whilst walking past the fish mongers, as they prepare fresh fish and ripe persimmons for the day, roasted pigs on display in butchers windows, and not to forget Lee Kum Kee Sparerib Sauce for sale as well. Buy chopsticks, rice-paper lanterns and real Chinese silk slippers at the markets in New York’s Chinatown.
Who would have thought that just a few streets away from Leicester Square in London, England, would bring you right into the heart of China. Lisle and Gerrard Streets are the pinnacle street hub for the vibrant Chinese community here. Unbelievable Asian supermarkets, authentic and world class Chinese restaurants, all line the streets, along with strings of red lanterns. The Chinese Gate /Arch at the beginning of Gerrard Street is one of the most iconic sights in the city. The Chinese quarter literally comes alive during the Chinese New year, and in and among festivities are food market stalls along the way in this buzzing Chinatown.
Bustling market places, crooked alleyways, tiny cobbled roads and going strong since 1782, this priceless and authentic Chinatown experience is a sight to behold. Dishes never before heard of in Thailand are served by Chinese people speaking in dialects rarely heard anywhere else in the world, and if you can stand the horrendous backlog of slow moving traffic, it will be worth every minute spent in the car. Catch a train in, if your patience can’t take it and take a quick walk down from Hualamphong Station.
4. San Francisco
This legendary Chinatown has been going for over 150 lively and interesting years. 41 twisty alleyways and tiny roads make up the 22 blocks of the San Francisco Chinatown. Mahjong games are still played outdoors in the park, under the swaying trees of Spofford Alley at dusk, while happy hour and some of the region’s best dim sum, are enjoyed at restaurants all throughout the area.
Cantonese disco music blares from boom boxes all throughout the Dixon St area in Sydney, the gateway to the soul of Chinatown. Skinny pedestrian streets wind in and out of the cool, breezy mall, under the watchful eye of the foreboding ornate dragon gates, at the entrance to the area, complete with ornamental lions whose job is to keep all the bad spirits away. The 3rd Chinatown of Sydney, this one dates back as far as the 1920’s.
6. Kuala Lumpur
Tightly packed markets, overcrowded and chaotic, the winding streets of Kuala Lumpurs Chinatown, is a delight for the senses. The smells of authentic Chinese cooking filling the streets, the noise of bikes, and children and vendors shouting, advertising their wares, is an astounding experience that is not to be missed. Beautiful temples, and quaint shop houses adorn the streets shaking slightly with the lively chaos that continues late into the night.
Maybe an unlikely candidate to having a bustling and lively Chinese community, Toronto’s Chinatown, takes the scenery to another level, and you can be forgiven in thinking they have arrived in Little Saigon or Bangkok itself. A true cultural experience, canto-pop beats emanating from cars and boom boxes, excellent Chinese restaurants, buskers, side walk reflexologists and traditional healing shops selling things like shriveled squid and ginseng by the bag full.
Whenever you go to Chinatown, you will experience something completely new and unbelievable. Expect lively and busy, a pressure-cooker level of sounds, sights and gorgeous fresh food smells. Friendly people, exotic experiences and the romance and mystery surrounding the culture and the religion, makes visitors continue to return again and again to anyone of the 7 Best Global Chinatowns.
Which Chinatown will be your favorite?
Top Photo Credit: Stephskimo