select - Chinatowns

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No society celebrates New Year more heartily than the Chinese, with 15 days of fireworks, dancing lions, dragon boat races, laser illuminations, red lanterns, and the din of a million firecrackers. This February 3 ushers in the Year of the Rabbit. But at any time, the world’s Chinatowns are worth seeking out for their rich heritage and culture.

 


London

The origins of London’s Chinatown are hazy, but it really got started as a tourist destination after the Second World War, when British soldiers returned from the Far East with a newly acquired taste for oriental food. For decades, Chinatown dished up Anglo-Chinese meals to undiscerning customers, but in recent years restaurants have improved enormously, with bright young chefs creating increasingly authentic fare. While few Chinese actually live here, many come to shop and eat. Sunday morning dim sum is busiest; you’ll have to shout your order in the hubbub. Supermarkets also offer an eclectic range of goodies: freezers full of shrimp balls and dumplings, giant tanks brimming with live king crabs and oysters, and shelves fragrant with steamed buns. Along Gerrard Street, kitsch telephone boxes that resemble mini-pagodas are something of a landmark.


WHY
Food, glorious food: London's Chinatown has everything from cheap eats to refined dining.


WHERE
You’ll find Chinatown near Leicester Square and centred on Lisle Street and pedestrian Gerrard Street.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways flies from Doha to London five times a day.
 

 


Melbourne

The Chinese were among the first ethnic groups to arrive in Australia, lured by the gold rushes of the 1850s. Melbourne lays claim to the oldest Chinatown in the Western world, although there are very few historical buildings left in this downtown precinct. Nevertheless, behind its ornamental gates, Chinatown is a lively place full of excellent restaurants – yum cha on weekend mornings is especially popular – and interesting food shops selling everything from beancurd and bok choi to wok-fried snow crab. The Museum of Chinese-Australian History is well worth a visit. The delightful little museum has a re-creation of a gold-rush era town, including a cookshop, temple, and a Cantonese opera theatre. The museum also houses Dai Loong, the huge dragon that dances around the streets during the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations.


WHY
Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Melbourne, Chinatown offers some of the city’s best dining.


WHERE
Centred around Little Bourke Street between its intersections with Swanston and Spring Streets in the centre of Melbourne.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Melbourne.
 

 


Paris

Europe’s largest Chinatown is really more of a ‘Vietnam-town’, with other Southeast Asians and Chinese joining the dense population along Avenue Choisy and Avenue d’Ivry. This isn’t the prettiest of Chinatowns, but the shopping is excellent. Puzzle over birds’ nests, sacks of soybeans, salted plums, and dehydrated fungus. If you don’t know what a starfruit or zirzat are, delight your tastebuds by trying these tropical fruits.


WHY
No tourist trap, Paris’s Chinatown is an everyday suburb in which to browse the shops.


WHERE
The 13th arrondissement is home to the quartier chinois; take the metro to Tolbiac and emerge in the middle of the action.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways flies from Doha to Paris twice a day.

 


New York

The largest Chinatown in the Americas is home to around 125,000 Chinese immigrants, as well as Vietnamese, Filipinos, and Burmese. This is a prime destination for shopping and eating, with some 200 restaurants offering a range of regional Chinese cuisine – try Suzhou and Hunanese if you haven’t already. (Many New Yorkers also come here for take-out meals.) Then shop for made-in-China toys, jewellery, sunglasses, leather goods, watches, and DVDs, though you might have to beware of dubious provenance. Those with an eye for quality can check out the more upmarket antiques stores. For a real flavour of the home country, however, the shopping along East Broadway is the most authentic in Chinatown. Eventually, you will end up in Chatham Square, where there is a memorial arch to the Chinese-Americans killed in the Second World War.


WHY
Made famous in many a movie and sitcom, this Chinatown has an authentic lived-in atmosphere.


WHERE
Head down to Lower Manhattan around Mott Street and find Chinatown between Little Italy and the Lower East Side.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to New York.
 

 


Singapore

Despite the fact that the vast majority of its population is ethnic Chinese, Singapore nonetheless has a distinctive Chinatown. The Chinatown Heritage Centre traces the early occupants of the area through lives of opium addiction, gambling, secret societies, and odd festivals. These days, you can amble down China Street for traditional Chinese medicines, souvenirs, and knick-knacks, or dine in the open air along busy Food Street (officially Smith Street). The top sight is Thian Hock Keng Temple, where guardians with scimitars and angry eyes goggle at you as you step over the threshold. Inside, candles and incense burners throw shadowy light onto carvings and sculptures. At the back of the temple, visitors place lighted cigarettes into the outstretched hands of two statues known as the Gambling Brothers in the hope they’ll influence lucky lottery numbers.


WHY
Urban redevelopment has produced a chic neighbourhood that combines Chinese tradition with the latest in nightlife.


WHERE
Chinatown is in the Outram District, which includes Tanjong Pagar and Telok Ayer, renowned for their bar and restaurant scenes.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Singapore.
 

 


Bangkok

Bangkok’s Chinese population moved into the Sampeng district in the early 18th century. Today, Chinatown is best known for its bargain textiles, gold shops, and pharmacies supplying traditional Chinese medicines. The liveliest street market is along Sampeng Lane for food, leather goods, silk, jewellery, clothing, vegetables, and much more. Come during the week; there isn’t as much happening on weekends and in the evenings.


WHY
Shop ’til you drop: Bangkok’s Chinatown is particularly noted for its quality, bargain-priced silks and textiles.


WHERE
Chinatown lies along Yaowarat Road, marked by giant ceremonial gates, and the alleys that run off it towards the river.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways flies from Doha to Bangkok three times a day.

 


Kuala Lumpur

Most visitors to Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown spend their time – and especially their evenings – along Petaling Street, which for decades has been host to a street market offering knock-off sunglasses, souvenirs, CDs, DVDs, watches, and designer fashions at basement prices. But Chinatown also has a major wet market redolent with the spices and tropical fruits of Southeast Asia and open-air eating at street stands: dine on coconut rice, spicy laksa curries, skewered chicken, and bean-paste desserts. Chinatown dates from the 1860s, but its distinctive shop houses mostly originated in the late 19th century and are slowly being refurbished. Also of note is Chan See Shu Yuen Temple, with its elaborate roof, woodcarvings, and statues relating to Chinese mythology – some rather unaccountably wearing Western-style top hats in a nod to Kuala Lumpur’s British colonial influences.


WHY
Street eats and cheap goods bring people flocking to this Chinatown, especially in the evenings.


WHERE
Chinatown is based on and around Petaling Street near the intersection with major road Jalan Sultan in downtown Kuala Lumpur.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Kuala Lumpur.
 

 


Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires’ Chinatown is unusual in being located in one of the city’s posher suburbs. Founded in the 1980s by the Taiwanese, it became home to waves of Japanese and Korean immigrants. Each ethnic group has its own restaurants and shops, giving Chinatown a distinct pan-Asian flavour. On Sundays, the streets are crowded with locals out to enjoy a walk and spend time at the crafts fair and cafés. Many restaurants also have windows through which you can buy takeaway food, which ranges from sushi and fried noodles to sesame biscuits. The many vegetarian restaurants will bring a smile to the face of anyone trying to avoid Argentina’s love affair with beef. Chinese New Year sees a parade through the district, with dragon dances through the streets and colourful decorations on shop façades.


WHY
A very energetic vibe makes this district the place to be for an Asian-themed stroll, especially on Sundays.


WHERE
Find Chinatown in the well-heeled northern suburb of Belgrano, near the intersection of Arribeños and Mendoza Streets.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Buenos Aires.
 

 


Sao Paulo

Japanese immigrants came to São Paulo in the 1890s and have since been joined by Chinese, Indonesians, and Koreans in the district of Liberdade. São Paulo now has more Japanese than any other city outside Japan; the Museum of Japanese Immigration provides a fascinating insight into this immigrant group. On Sundays, the area hosts a lively fair offering a variety of Asian handicrafts and foods.


WHY
Primarily a ‘Japan-town’, this is one of the few places in the world boasting a large Japanese immigrant community.


WHERE

Take the metro to Liberdade station and you’ll find Chinatown spreading around Rua Galvão Bueno.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to São Paulo.

 
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