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A trip to Chinatown

As the Chinese celebrate their New Year with month-long festivities, we take you on a journey to top Chinatowns across the world.

travel Updated: Feb 23, 2013 13:16 IST
Rupali Dean

As the Chinese celebrate their New Year with month-long festivities, we take you on a journey to top Chinatowns across the world.

There seems to be at least one Chinatown in every country. As you take a walk through these ethnic enclaves, inhaling the unique flavours that define Chinese culture so beautifully, you also feel the bonhomie with colourful festivals being held throughout the year — the largest of these 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, and tell you what you must not miss out on in each of them.

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 very 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 from — ranging from fashion goods to electronic gear. Not to miss are the three restored shop houses, showcasing rich 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.

The Chinatown in Singapore during the Chinese New Year

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.

A restaurant in the oldest and largest Chinatown in Greater Toronto.

To enjoy the aroma of Chinese tea, ginseng and herbal eggs as you admire the architecture, a great idea is to 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.

A Chinese temple in Macau.

Melbourne, Australia
Situated on little Bourke Street, this distinctive area is only a few steps away from 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 amount, one 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.

Souvenirs on display at the Chinatown in Melbourne

Yokohama, Japan
Yokohama boasts of the largest Chinatown in Japan and also one of the largest in the world. A great idea to begin your tour is to take a peek into the China museum, which sells a lot of Chinese merchandise. However, for food a better idea is to 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.