- Apr. 9, 2014 - NEW YORK --
It all started back in the mid 1800s, when Chinese businessman Ah Ken set up a cigar store on Mott Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. More and more Chinese immigrants began settling in the area and establishing stores, restaurants and other businesses. Today Manhattan’s Chinatown, which now has close to 100,000 residents, has a bustling energy that makes it a very exciting place to spend some time on your trip to New York. The sound of Mandarin, Min and Cantonese conversations in the streets, the exotic pagoda style buildings and the bilingual signs in English and Chinese characters give you the feeling that you have traveled to a far off Asian country.Landmarks
One of the best known area landmarks is Chatham Square where the Kimlau Memorial Arch commemorates the Chinese servicemen who gave their lives defending freedom and democracy. Chinatown’s answer to MOMA is called MOCA, the Museum of Chinese in America, where you can learn about the history and culture of ethnic Chinese in the United States. To meet and mingle with the locals, a jaunt to Columbus Park, one of the largest neighborhood green spaces and a major gathering place for residents, is recommended. Arrive early in the morning when devotees of the ancient Chinese art of tai chi are practicing their graceful movements, or come in the afternoon to watch lively groups play mahjong and other table games … and maybe even have your fortune told.Shopping
Come prepared to shop till you drop. Chinatown merchants offer great deals on Handbag, jewelry, sunglasses and similar fashion accessories. Or look for traditional Chinese housewares such as woks, intricately decorated teapots or ginger jars, chopsticks of wood or ivory and all kinds of intriguing gadgets. Don’t be too shy to bargain – it’s par for the course here, as long as both sides approach the negotiations with goodwill. Be aware, though, that some “designer”
items are actually counterfeit. If a purchase seems too good to be true, it probably is.Food
A whole article – or book – could be written about Chinatown’s wonderful food. The neighborhood food markets sell an amazing variety of seafood – most of it live! – such as crabs, lobsters and fish of every description;
meat; exotic fresh produce like dragon fruit and bok choy; Asian condiments and seasonings; and a tantalizing array of baked goods. Try a sweet bun filled with red bean curd if you are feeling adventurous, with coconut if you’re in a more cautious mood. If you are staying in accommodation with kitchen facilities, you might want to purchase the ingredients to whip up a quick and delicious stir fry. Otherwise you can sample many Chinatown restaurants for lunch or dinner. A particularly delightful experience is dim sum, a brunch like meal often available on weekends only, where servers pass by your table pushing carts laden with a vast assortment of dishes for you to choose from.