I’ve been to Chinatown in San Francisco and Singapore, but (embarrassingly enough) not to the one in my own country. So when Gabby asked me if I wanted to come along to a walking tour of the Manila Chinatown, I immediately said yes. The tour was described to me as “a lot of eating” – I thought they were joking, but it turned out to be entirely true.
The tour is called the Big Binondo Food Wok – a walking tour of the Binondo Chinatown, which took about 4 hours. Led by Anson of Old Manila Walks, our small group (game geeks Gabby, Ryan, Chris, Mike, and I, plus a visiting Fil-Chinese family) started from Binondo Church and made our way through Plaza Calderon dela Barca, Ongpin Street, Carjaval Alley Market, and more. Anson treated us to a history lesson: that our Chinatown is the oldest (or second oldest, as it’s contested) in the world; that Binondo was built outside Intramuros during the Spanish era to provide commerce to the walled city without posing a military threat; that the entire place was bombed during World War II and a few buildings were still standing to this day; etc. He also shared the stories of Ongpin, San Lorenzo Ruiz, and other important figures.
Along the way, we stopped at five food places – and let me tell you, you have NOT had Chinese food unless you’ve eaten at Binondo. I’m a big fan of Good Earth and Hap Chan and all the other Chinese restaurants in urban Manila, but the freshly made Chinese food at that tour was something else. We had two kinds of dumplings, salty rice, fishball soup, iced coffee, fried siopao, an egg hard-boiled in tea leaves, authentic Chinese lumpia, and some more street food of which I can’t remember the names. But the dumplings were my favorite. I could have eaten those forever, if only I wasn’t trying to be so polite 😀
The tour itself wasn’t too tiring as we walked down the same group of streets, taking plenty of rest stops. And our tour guide was more than happy to indulge us in special shopping requests or, in the case of food, a second helping. I highly recommend the tour to both locals and visitors, and the price (P6,000 for a group of six) was worth it. I wouldn’t mind doing it again at all, though if I did, I would change two things: first, I would bring a bottle of water. And second, I would ask for a second/third/fourth helping of dumplings. Mmmm…
More pics of the Big Binondo Food Wok are here.