Chinatown New York is the world's biggest Chinatown, and also the biggest population of Chinese outside of China. Having mentioned this, you won't be too surprised when I tell you that you'll feel more like in China than in New York when you walk around there! Chinese shops line the streets, Asian mothers accompany their children to school, Chinese signs are everywhere (and you sometimes have trouble finding an English translation!), McDonald's looks for waiters who are fluent in Chinese, English and Spanish... As I had to get up early every morning when I was in New York, I could experience the daily work routines of Chinatown - in the morning, all the shops get their deliveries, fruits and vegetables are unloaded from numerous trucks, men and women set up their food stalls, the air smells sour and sweet, like rotten garbage, exhaust fumes, male sweat, and then suddenly like fresh spring rolls or fried chicken. It's really an experience to go there early in the morning. I usually came back at night to see Chinatown's million lights make the streets shine bright yellow, pink and blue while many of the food stalls were still selling hot meals to passers-by. Chinatown is a place that you have to experience with all your senses, and it makes sense to come back several times if you've got the time.
Check out my Chinatown travelogue for more impressions!
I always tell people that Montreal doesn't have a Chinatown, it has a Chinastreet. But New York City's Chinatown definitely deserves its title - even if people will generally point you in the direction of Mott and Canal St., with over 200,000 Chinese Americans living in Manhattan, NYC's Chinatown now covers most of the Lower East Side and has become North America's biggest Chinatown. While it was fun to walk through the less busy streets and try to pretend for a while that I'd traveled to another continent, Canal Street soon brought me back to reality. That's where most of the shops that sell cheap sunglasses, perfumes and what not are located, and the place was just swarming with people so we quickly moved on to another neighborhood, but not before having stopped by McDonald's to see what the menu looked like in Mandarin!
Since my first trip to the area over 30 years ago, much has changed. It used to be a neighborhood that held Chinese and kept close touch to the culture of the race. it now has a little of that and a lot of dirty looking and feeling streets. Chinese are generally neat people, so I do not get the reason for the lack of effort to keep the streets and vending shops clean. They have taken over the old Little Italy area almost completely. What a shame. I would be concerned in buying food at streetside vendors boothes, or get fresh seafood; maybe just me?
Chinatown has cut out a fairly large slice for itself in the heart of New York. It was amazing to see how you can go from Little Italy on one block to Chinatown on the next block , from pasta places to a fish market in a matter of moments. Chinatown is very cool because if you have never been to the Orient then this the place to get a feel for it. There are shops selling everything from fish to soup to vegetables and almost every shop is written in Cantonese or Mandarin (not sure which one) but I am assuming Cantonese. The vibe is up tempo and English is only spoken by the tourists or when you try to buy something giving this entire area a very unique feel. You can wander around for a few hours and get lost because this area has a lot of offer. Great fun !!
China town in New York is a famous tourist attraction for those tourists who love shopping in a way of bargaining buys. (like me :-) for sometime), as well as the special destination of the Chinese immigrants and among other nationalities.
It is located on the lower east side of Manhattan, from here you can experience the economics and culture of the Chinese communities in New York, famous in shopping from top to toe clothing needs, jewelries, bags and many more.
If you are tired and hungry from shopping many restaurants can be found around, the streets are crowded so busy with a lot of vendors.
Shopping in Chinatown was a very interesting experience. The real deal we found was designer perfumes at a very low cost. Lots of haggling was involved but I ended up only paying $20-25 for my favorite perfumes.
Going to China town was an experience. In New York City, it consisted mostly of about 100 different stores, ALL identical. They all seemed to have the same purses, bags, jewelry and watches in each them. You will probably find a lot of good deals, since you are expected to bargain with the shop owners. Sometimes they're very generous and other times they'll refuse to reduce the price to you, but the best thing to do is be as demanding as possiple. If they don't think you'll buy it otherwise, they will probably offer a discount. This is also the benefit of having so many similar stores; if you can't get the item you want at a reasonable price in one, you're bound to find it somewhere else.
There is also lots of great food in the area; mostly Asian. There were a few Vietemese restaurants and butcher shops where we saw fried ducks (with still their heads and beaks) hanging in the window.. eww. The Vietemese restaurant we ate at was amazing though. Theres also lots of fruit being sold outdoors, such as white mangos and Chinese pears. Its great. Definitely try to make it out here for an afternoon or something!
One of the things that amazed me about New York is that different districts have a distinct identity. This was especially true in Chinatown. The fantastic fresh food was mouthwatering and the fresh fish something that I cannot say that I have seen so much in a high street before. A friend of mine goes to New York regularly and insists on eating in Chinatown all of the time as it is such good value. Take time to wander around and take in the atmosphere. We went to the Lower East Side Tennement Museum nearby.
Ahhh.. Chinatown, always a good place to visit in any city. There is always something happening there. And so it was over here in New York. A lot of street vendors, many restaurants with dirt cheap food, a McDonald's with its name in chinese characters, fresh vegetables, fresh fish. Oh and of course fortune tellers and a lot of shops you can place a bet. What would a Chinatown be without these last two? There was also a bonus and that came in the form of a modelshoot in one of the smaller streets in the area. Make sure to check it all out here and head into Little Italy.
Canal Street is the main place giving the name to ChinaTown. I don't know whether all people there are Chinese or from other Asian countries, however they only sell fake itemes and imitations.
If you want the cheapest loosy T-Shirt with I Love NY, that's the place. If you want any imitation of famous brand, that's the place. Don't forget that they might arrest you if you come back to Europe with fake brands.
Everybody is selling the same fake items, there is no typical shop, better or worse.
Chinatown, with its roughly 100,000 Chinese-Americans, is the largest concentration of Chinese in the entire Western Hemisphere! This area, founded in the late 1870s, is a great place to try Asian restaurants, pick up some fruit or fish at the Chinese markets, or find some unique gifts. The main shopping areas are along Canal Street, while the side streets certainly offer some interesting spots to eat, shop, and sightsee, including the area's numerous Buddhist temples.
Also close by is the Little Italy neighborhood which is centered on Mulberry Street.
Walk down Broadway from Soho...shop for jeans or shoes along the way...there are good deals to be had. Suddenly, there you are! Canal Street. Chinatown. Don't worry, you'll know when you get there, suddenly everything changes. It is another world, one filled with hundreds of tiny shops and street hawkers. There are fresh vegetable shops and meat shops, fish stores, strange herbs from the orient. There are purses, jewelry, scarves, belts. Feel free to bargain. Every few steps you will be accosted by someone offering to sell you name brand purses and perfumes at discount prices. I think thy want you to follow them somewhere private to show you their wares. I did not do this but I still got some killer Christmas gifts at unbelievable prices.
I am glad I went here, so i could say i had been and experienced this. It was fascinated to see a ring-fenced chinese community like this. There are similar, albeit smaller, korean and japenese communities nearby.
If you arent in chinese food, there is not much to do apart from admire this cultural curiosity.
A word of warning - whilst most of the inhabitants get on with their lives, me and my friend were accosted by a group of chinese fellows asking for our opinions on the Iraq situation and got very threatening - this was in the afternoon. if this happens, just ignore and keep walking, they turned their attention elsewhere
There are actually 3 Chinatowns in NYC! One in lower Manhattan, another in Queens and another in Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Chinatown is pretty much residential and not of much interest. (I haven't visited but that is what I heard)
The Manhattan one - the other posters have described it - its interesting, it's historic, it's dirty (but has cleaned up a lot in recent years), it's touristy with touristy traps (ugh), it's generally inexpensive and while the restaurant tastes tend toward Cantonese style and "chinese cooking according to American taste", there are many authentic restaurants from Huan, Vietnamese, etc. But you have to dig for them. I doubt if you see the authentic ones if you're on a tour bus - I see where they stop [heh].
The Queens Chinatown (last stop of # 7 train in Queens and by many buses) is expanding rapidly, horizontally and well as vertically. Restaurants and stores abound. Since the stores don't cater much to tourists, you can find a lot more Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, etc restaurants with authentic food that is not "watered down"/"MSGed"/otherwise rendered for supposed tastes. You easily find stores selling imported furniture, books, DVDS, CDS, art, jewelry, and doodads well beyond what you would find in Manhattan's Chinatown, since most of the customers are from the native lands. Well, you might have problems finding those silly non-authentic souvenirs - you know the junk only the tourists buy - and fake name brand is not as prevalent as in Manhattan. If you're tired of this type of cooking, go a bit North and you're in little India. A little further there is a nice Botanic Garden.
So if you consider "Chow Mein" the perfect Chinese food and like to play with paper umbrellas, "Chinese finger trap" toys, don't mind the stereotypes and like fake Guccis, the Manhattan Chinatown is more than enough for you. If you want authentic tastes and doodads, do visit Flushing (or take the time to explore the Manhattan one in depth).
This little museum is a partly restored tenement building. A lot of work still needs to be done, but it is amazing!
No fancy reconstruction, displays or anything of the kind. The building is still rather run down, but this just reinforces the feeling of what life must have been like in 1863. It is focused on researching and retelling the stories of the original occupants of the building: a wife whose husband disapears and must make ends meet by sewing, an Irish immigrant family of 6 that live in just two rooms (a parlour/kitchen and a bedroom, with only one window), a Lithuanian family and so on.
It is dark, crowded and hot - just imagine how it must have been with children running around, a central bathroom, smoke and soot - and over 7000 people lived in this building over its 70 years of existance! At the same time, it was an improvement for many families: some children were able to go to school for the first time.
The visit is a guided tour, with very small groups (10 people at the most, Spanish guides available), with a very knowledgeable guide. If you can't visit it, drop by their wonderful site: www.tenement.org, where all the stories are told, lots of great pictures and research material.