Chinese New Year is not just for Chinese communities. In fact, it has become a well-celebrated international occasion across the globe, with the non-Chinese partaking in the festivities and even conforming to traditions believed to bring about good luck. The best place to welcome the beginning of the lunar year, also known as the Year of the Fire Rooster, is none other than the vibrant neighbourhood of Chinatown, which brings a little piece of the populous country in every city it has been established. Read on to get a taste of Chinese culture in some of the most recognized Chinatowns in Asia.
Being pre-dominantly Chinese in population, Singapore has managed to maintain its ancient Chinese quarters, which is now better known as Chinatown. The historic neighbourhood, which is located mainly along the streets of Pagoda and Smith, has narrow streets overflowing with traditional shops and hawker stalls. Aside from restaurants and bars serving authentic cuisine, the area is also where you can purchase souvenirs and traditional Chinese medicine, pay respects at Hindu and Chinese temples, or spend a night at one of the boutique hotels.
The largest Chinatown in Asia can be found in Japan, particularly in Yokohama, which evolved from a fishing village into a major city. Popular among expats, the Yokohama Chinatown was established after its port was opened to international trade. The area is best known for hundreds of Chinese-owned shops, including restaurants offering authentic cuisine that has been modified using a touch of Japanese flavours. Such specialties include Peking duck, steamed pork buns, and ramen, to name a few.
The Philippines boasts of having the oldest Chinatown in the world, which is locally referred to as Binondo and is located within the bustling streets of Manila. The historic district has served as a centre for trade and industry for centuries, with its narrow alleys being dominated by businesses owned by Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs. While it is situated near heritage sites like Intramuros and Rizal Park, Binondo is frequented for its local eateries that are guaranteed to taste exceptionally good. In recent times, however, high-rise residential developments and shopping malls have shared the spotlight with historical buildings.
The largest Chinese community in Thailand resides in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown that was named after the road it stands on. The vibrant neighbourhood is comprised of narrow lanes and is devoid of traffic, making it an ideal route for walking. Yaowarat is considered as the country’s largest centre of gold trade, as well as the site of numerous temples and shrines that are busiest during festivals. Bangkok’s Chinatown is lined with market stalls selling Chinese herbs and fruits in the morning, but transforms into street food heaven serving fried noodles and desserts at night.
Tagged as the “place that never sleeps,” Malaysia’s Chinatown is the colourful Petaling Street. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, whose Oriental roots stand out in contrast to the glamorous neighbourhoods of Kuala Lumpur. Petaling Street, which is considered as the business district of the Cantonese-speaking community in the Malaysian capital, is every bargain hunter’s paradise. The lively night market is brimming with stalls selling imitation goods, jewellery items, and Chinese herbs.