Lower Manhattan's Columbus Park, once a refuge for immigrant Italian laborers, is now a central meeting place for Chinese residents of "Chinatown" which it borders on the west side located at the intersection of Mulberry and Bayard Streets.
The original statue of Christopher Columbus has long been removed to Central Park. And the
pavilion built in 1897 was originally with gold dragons, but the dragons are gone along with the walls, and the open air building is now painted a politically correct beige.
But on summer afternoons the park is overcrowded with Chinese. In front of the pavilion, two singers perform Chinese opera reading from the music sheets as a group of seated instrumentalists accompany them on traditional instruments. The tables in the park are filled with older Chinese women playing mah jongg and men playing dominoes. A most interesting detour from the tumult of Chinatown and Little Italy.
I may have walked past it a hundred times, but I never noticed until yesterday. Just east of Broadway and north of Canal, Howard Street borders Chinatown, the southern tip of Greenwich Village and the western edge of Little Italy in a no-mans land of neighborhoods, on a short industrial street only two blocks long. I?ve been coming to Howard Street since I first moved to New York, to visit a cobbler whose family has been making shoes there for about one hundred years and every decade or so I buy a pair. (More on that another day) This little bakery is easy to miss but difficult to forget. Coffee and a warm delicious red bean bun is one dollar.
This is for the adventurous! "A Ji Ichiban" means very delicous or something like that in Japanese, and is a store with uncountable bins of asian candies and snacks. There are samples at each bin, so snack away!
The munchies range from pedestrian fruit jellies and candies to dried cuttle fish and meat jerkies. More adventurous snacks include sweetened dried roses. I actually bought some to take home; they sort of have a crunchy jelly-like consistency, and taste faintly of roses, a definitely different treat. My other favorites included the lemon dried ginger and the salted plums.
Location: 37 Mott Street in Chinatown
An excellent tourist initiative in NYC is the Big Apple Greeters organisation. They are New Yorkers who volunteer to show visitors around an area/neighborhood. They are vetted and there is absolutely no charge and they are not trying to sell anything. Prior to your visit you tell them where you are interested in seeing and they try to match you with a greeter. When we visited we asked to see Chinatown. Our greeter called for us at our hotel and then spent almost four hours showing us around Chinatown - the real Chinatown, the restaurants the locals used, the markets, little hidden treasures we would never have found. He also showed us how the subway worked, which helped us get familar with it a lot quicker than on our own. . It was a great start to our first visit to New York and we saw so much we would not have found on our own. It was also nice to meet a New Yorker and who was so generous with his time and gave us a warm welcome and instant insider knowledge. You dont have to be a first time visitor to New York to request time with a greeter. I can't understand why more cities dont follow this initiative - highly recommended!
As always, there are many street vendors in Chinatown. One thing I did't see before is the vendors who will write your English name in Chinese calligraphy for a few bucks. They seem to be everywhere these days. Lots of them are untrained, so be careful whom you deal with. It's better to bring someone who reads Chinese with you so that you don't bring home something not really artistic.
If you need your haircut while in NYC, head to Chinatown to Doyers Street which is a little alley between Pell Street and Bowery. Loads of places to cut hair for $7.00, no appointment necessary. Especially great if you have straight, thin hair like mine-it's their speciality.
Chinatown is home to about everything so if you're looking for that must-have fake Rolex, the bag of ginseng or cheap clothing-this is the place. Wander the streets and peek inside the many shops. You can easily spend an entire day here as long as you don't mind crowds. It is always crowded.
Chinatown at the South of Canal Street. At the end of this street, a catholic church lost in this Asian area. I remember to have bought an illegal video tape (Scary Movie II) at an old Chinese woman in Canal Street. After the events of the WTC, I saw at the French TV, the same woman (I'm sure) selling US flag in the street. She is a good seller.
Most people are afraid to just wander around the neighborhoods....there is a danger in over-planning. NYC is a fairly safe place to be for the most part -- pick a neighborhood and just walk around without a plan. If it starts to look seedy, turn around and go back the way you came! SoHo, the Village, Chinatown, and Little Italy are all wonderful for this.
Bowery Bank. This used to be a seedy part of lower Manhattan, full of drunks, bums, lowlifes and my friend Alec lived right across the street from here. Used to sit up on the roof drinking Sapporos and looking at the street life opposite. Recently the area has been annexed to Chinatown.
Beautiful large fish in a market in Chinatown. It's nice to see what there are selling in the many shops.
Go inside a fishmarket in Chinatown. It's great to see, all that fish, the people. It can be crowdie, but what do you expect; You're in Chinatown!!