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A trip to Chinatown

world Updated: Mar 03, 2013 15:10 IST
Rupali Dean
Rupali Dean
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

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There seems to be at least one Chinatown in every country. As you take a walk through these ethnic enclaves, taking in the unique sights that define Chinese culture, you feel the bonhomie with colourful festivals held throughout the year — the largest being the month-long celebration of the Chinese New Year.

The parades are awe-inspiring with people dressed up as dragons, and streets decorated with colourful lighting. We take you through the top Chinatowns in the world.

MACAU
To enjoy the aroma of Chinese tea, ginseng and herbal eggs as you admire the architecture, go on a morning walk tour. It’s fun to stroll through the colourful market and trace the history of Chinese immigrants. An artful balance between the past and future accounts for this Chinatown’s allure. Modern Macanese cuisine, founded by the Portuguese and cooked by the Chinese, is fusion at its best!

Hot Fact:The site of a Portuguese settlement in 1557, Macau was the first European outpost in the Far East and a vital port for trade between China and the West.

SINGAPORE
The Chinatown here is interestingly called Ox Cart Water, owing to the fact that ox-drawn carts were used to transport water in the past in this area. The architecture here is Victorian with red rooftops. The food street has around 100 hawker stands, selling seafood in particular. It is also a great place to buy inexpensive souvenirs — ranging from fashion goods to electronic gear. Not to miss are three restored shop houses showcasing the rich local heritage and serving as a repository for memories. This Chinatown is also the cleanest in the world.

Hot Fact: By 1827, the Chinese became the largest ethnic group in Singapore.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Situated on Little Bourke Street, this distinctive area is only a few steps away from the hotel Rydges Melbourne’s front door. It is famed for being the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world. There are several other Asian shops too, apart from Chinese, on the street and inside the plazas. A dragon lines the outside of the Chinese Museum. For a minimal payment, you can catch a glimpse of the city’s rich Chinese heritage. The longest dancing dragon in the world (measuring over 60 metres), and a few other artefacts are definitely worth seeing.
Hot Fact: This one dates back to the gold rush days of the 1850s.

TORONTO, CANADA
Greater Toronto houses around six Chinatowns. However, the oldest and the largest (in North America) is located between the Kensington Market and the city’s entertainment district. As you walk through Spadina south of college amidst the city’s bustle of colours and people, its buzzing,
narrow streets lined with vibrant billboards, posters, restaurants and many stores it’s like being in China itself.
Hot Fact: The first Chinese person on record in Toronto opened a laundry service in 1878.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Situated on Little Bourke Street, this distinctive area is only a few steps away from the hotel Rydges Melbourne’s front door. It is famed for being the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world. There are several other Asian shops too, apart from Chinese, on the street and inside the plazas. A dragon lines the outside of the Chinese Museum. For a minimal payment, you can catch a glimpse of the city’s rich Chinese heritage. The longest dancing dragon in the world (measuring over 60 metres), and a few other artefacts are definitely worth seeing.
Hot Fact: This one dates back to the gold rush days of the 1850s.

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN
Yokohama boasts of the largest Chinatown in Japan. It is also one of the largest in the world. Begin your tour by taking a peek into the China museum, which sells a lot of merchandise. However, for food, go kiosk hopping in the many bylanes that are filled with ‘sheng jian bao’ (juicy dumplings) or dine in one of the many restaurants serving Cantonese cuisine. While strolling along, do check out the other colourful and exotic shops overflowing with Chinese goods, books, souvenirs and even Chinese medicines.
Hot Fact: Yokohama began welcoming Chinese residents in 1859.