6 Chinatowns You Have To Visit Around The World
Big news: we’re recently announced our newest location. The team is getting to work on ASAI Bangkok Chinatown and we can’t wait for you to explore the neighbourhood with us. We think Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the best on the planet but, in the interest of balance, we’ve rounded up a few more across the globe that we think are worth exploring too. So, let’s dive in to our top 6 must-visit Chinatowns around the world.
We’ll start local. Here in Bangkok, the action is centered around meandering Yaowarat Road, which has been the centre of trade and commerce for the Chinese community since they moved there 200 years ago. Step off the main drag and duck into side sois to find gold and jewellery stores in characterful old shophouses, bustling wholesale clothes and flower markets and ancient temples, including Wat Traimit, which is home to a five-and-a-half-ton solid gold Buddha statue. Come at night when the neon signs light up and the street food starts to sizzle.
San Francisco, United States
Since the arrival of the first Chinese settlers in San Francisco in the late 19th Century, they’ve been emigrating thick and fast. Now they’re so interwoven in the fabric of the city that the mayor is American Chinese. Established in 1848, San Fran’s Chinatown is the oldest in North America and the largest outside Asia. Beyond the southern gateway at the junction of Grant Avenue and Bush Street, you’ll find lamp posts carved with dragons in front of shops selling herbal medicine, porcelain and fabrics, plus temples, theaters and a LOT of restaurants.
Established in 1594, Binondo enjoys the distinction of being the world’s oldest Chinatown. Developed by the Spanish as a settlement for incoming Catholic Chinese, it became the centre of trade in Manila. At its heart, Binondo Church is home to the Santo Cristo de Longos, which supposedly restored speech to a mute when he discovered the relic in the 16th Century. Start your explorations at Umbrella Alley and sample your way up the row of street food stalls. Burn some incense at Kuang Kong Temple and find the answers to your most burning questions.
London, United Kingdom
England and China have a long and complicated history including opium wars and 150 years of British rule in Hong Kong. Though Chinese sailors have settled in London since the 18th Century, Chinatown didn’t really kick off until just after the Second World War when soldiers who served in Asia came home with a taste for the food. Until then, the centre of operations had been Limehouse, but in the 1950s, the Chinese community moved Chinatown to its current location in London’s bustling centre, sandwiched between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, its two ends marked by iconic red gates and surrounded by westend theatres. Go for the food, stay for the speakeasies.
New York, United States
There’s more than one Chinatown in New York City but the one you’re probably thinking of is the biggest, located in Lower Manhattan, home to more than 100,000 residents and packed with tiny restaurants and markets. When a ban on immigration to the West Coast sent an influx of Chinese settlers to the Eastern Seaboard in the 1870s, they headed for the city, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that NYC’s Chinatown started growing so big it nearly eclipsed Little Italy next door.
Since the Victorian gold rush when traders sailed from Hong Kong to the southern hemisphere’s new world, the Chinese community has congregated in Melbourne’s city centre, setting up shop in Little Bourke Street. Explore Chinatown during Chinese New Year or during the springtime Asian food festival to experience the best of this bustling hub, packed with historic buildings, home to restaurants, groceries and herbal medicine shops.