Gong Xi Fa Cai! I loving living abroad because we are exposed to so many new cultural holidays and traditions. I lived in Hawaii for university and Chinese New Year was a big deal. When I was a kindergarten teacher in Hawaii we had a whole unit on CNY, that’s even where I learned how to say Gong Xi Fa Cai! The celebration was massive in Honolulu with dragon dancers, fireworks and red envelopes. I am just learning how Chinese culture is still heavily imbedded within Filipino Culture as well. Since the new year is heading our way I wanted to take the boys to Binondo, aka Chinatown, which is also supposedly the oldest Chinatown in the world!
I was feeling brave and hungry for adventure but wanted to skip traffic so we took the Pasig Water Ferry to Escolta and then walked to Binondo. You can read about our experience with the ferry here. My goal was to beat the crowd and not go on the actual holiday but a few Saturdays in advance. We missed the holiday crowd but that is about the only crowd we missed, it was a thick day for people and car traffic. I wouldn’t recommend going on a Saturday but we did still have a good time.
First stop, New Po-Heng Lumpia House. Walking down this dark familiar alley sparked the excitement of my first visit years ago. This has rightfully earned one of the hot spots on the Binondo Food Tour. The fresh lumpia is divine with its opposite flavors and texture of the stir fried veggies with the crunchy sweet peanut topping. The space is open and relatively clean with ample seating. This particular visit it sunk in how very Chinese Chinatown is, go figure! During our visit the owner was on the phone and she spoke only in extremely loud Chinese for a good 20 minutes, it was fascinating!
After lumpia we went in search of the food stalls in Chinatown Walk at Lucky Chinatown Mall. A friend posted a photo of her eating dumplings and it looked like she was actually in China! I had to go. The fried chicken was to die for. The chicken is marinated and then deep fried whole! No batter or anything on the outside. I brought home a whole chicken to have for dinner that night on top of the meal we had for lunch. The food in Chinatown overall seemed quite a bit cheaper. There are many vendors selling different items for you to choose. The seating can be tight so you may have to wait a few minutes.
This was so rad to see. McDonald’s written in Chinese characters in Manila. I love this city!
I had visited Ongpin Street two years previously and was mesmerized by all the gold and red. I wanted to get my hands on some CNY decor and that I did. The walk from Lucky Chinatown Mall to Ongpin Street with a double stroller was a bold move, not wise but we did it. I was literally in traffic in a stroller between cars, motorcycles and delivery trucks. Never again! Until next year… Did I miss any big must see and do in Chinatown? If so, please let me know in comments.
We took the water ferry to Intramuros and then walked across the bridge into Chinatown. I recommend exiting the ferry at the Escolta exit instead, it puts you right on the street to Chinatown.
We got our cultural experience, delicious food (I am now craving that chicken) plus red and gold decor for Chinese New Year to welcome prosperity. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
If you are feeling adventurous here is the link for the events welcoming the year of the rooster in Binondo.