Chinatown Manila

Entrance to Manila's Chinatown district

Entrance to Manila's Chinatown district

One of the largest and oldest in the world, Manila’s Chinatown in the bustling district of Binondo is a must-see when exploring the heady capital. Manila’s Chinatown offers everything from the sought after tastes of Chinese cuisine and rare delicacies to the unique ambiance of a authentic Chinese community.

Manila’s Chinatown is located just off the Jones Bridge and can be reached by taking the train to Carriedo Station or via the water bus that runs across the Pasig River, stopping by Escolta, near Jones Bridge, which is the main access point to the district. Hop on a horse driven carriage or calesa or an archetypal jeepney and soak in the unique ‘Tsinoy’ (Chinese-Filipino) culture.

Kuang Kong

This Buddhist temple offers a glimpse of the Filipino-Chinese Roots. Fortune telling is also popular on site. Also worth visiting is the Seng Guan Temple, which is more frequently visited by patrons who do their offerings during lunar calendar celebrations. (1176 Narra, Manila, Metro Manila, tel: +63 2 252 0792)

Ongpin and Carvajal Streets

One of the major shopping streets in town, the Ongpin Street is lined with numerous Chinese groceries, restaurants, bakeshops, as well as herbal stores and other street side kiosks selling all sorts of trinkets and good luck charms. Carvajal Street is famous for its shops that sell fresh produce as well as its eateries and food chains, noodle houses and other snack shacks. Head out to the Arranque Market, famous for exotic food like pigeons, snakes, frogs and rabbits, among others. Seafood in the area is also worth a taste.

Insider’s tip:
If you want an insightful walking tour into Chinatown, try the Old Manila Walks Tour. The Chinatown tour takes you through Plaza Calderon dela Barca, the Santo Cristo de Longos Shrine, Ongpin Street, and Carvajal Alley Market, among other attractions. The walking tours take about four hours, and involves some eating along the way.

Binondo Church

Binondo Church dates from the 1500s

Binondo Church dates from the 1500s

Among the must see landmarks in the Chinatown is 16th century Bindondo Church, which is among the oldest in Manila. Impressive painted ceilings and a massive altar are just some of the best features of this glorious place of worship. The church is also home to the Santo Cristo de Longos, a crucified image of Christ that was found in the old well in Longos, now displayed in a glass covered niche by the building’s side entrance. Upfront the church is the Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, which is a good spot for people watching. (Paredes St, Plaza Calderon de la Barca, Binondo, Manila, tel: +63 2 242 4041)

Restaurants and hawker stalls

Chinatown is also best known for its variety of delicacies, from the delicioushopia or mooncake to the tasty tikoy or sticky rice cake, its wide selection of dim sums, and other dishes such as Kiampong, Machang, Mami and Hakaw. Food stalls and restaurants can be found in almost every corner, but nothing beats the Estero Fast Food block, which you can probably find with your nose – just follow the smell of oriental spices.

The original Estero is a row of nondescript eateries located along the river (hence, the name ‘estero’, which is the local term for ‘estuary’). Everything here is dirt cheap but delicious. Expect to pay only Php100 (roughly US$3) per person. Order specialties like fried rice, fish fillets with black beans, and pork in salt & pepper, to name a few. (Near Ongpin St., Quiapo, Manila. Stalls typically open before lunch, close at 14:00 and open again by 18:00).

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