There was a time when I'd take the Light Railway Transit (LRT) from Baclaran Station up to Carriedo Station to get to Binondo. This was the most convenient and fastest way to avoid the traffic along Taft Avenue.
Binondo is Manila's Chinatown, and it is also the oldest Chinatown in the world, having been established in 1594, older than any Chinese enclave established outside China.
And what I love about this place is the food: the hopia and the ma-chang, are two of my favorites! Hopia is a favorite snack because it's yummy, very filling and of course, cheap! It's easy to bring with you, too.
Ma-chang, on the other hand, is a meal unto itself. Flavored sticky rice with a few bits of chicken, pork and chestnut in it.
(Charme is a store for Chinese good luck charms and a lot more!)
But on my visit today to Binondo, it's not just about hopia and ma-chang, it's about the sightseeing, food-tasting and discovery of the corners of Binondo I haven't seen before. And thanks to our friend Marlu, who organized this tour, and another friend Diana, a Binondo local and who knows everything there is to know about Manila's Chinatown, we got to roam, eat, taste, enjoy and relaxed around this interesting corner of the metropolis for a day.
And as we roamed around almost every street in Binondo, we were able to enjoy the different Chinese dishes, most of which are specialties from different parts of China introduced into the Philippines by Chinese immigrants who came into the country centuries ago.
We had noodles, dumplings and lumpia, which were all savory and definitely deserve a second visit someday! I think I remember which streets to turn right to, or to turn left to, depending on the craving. Since Binondo is a small area, navigating around it is easy. And almost every corner, there's a good Chinese restaurant worth trying.
For me, the photographs of these restaurants and their dishes would just remind me which Chinese restaurant to visit next time, although now, seeing the food while I write this blog is already encouraging me to plan a return trip. Ha-ha-ha!
(Salazar Bakery has the best hopia in town!)
(The New Po-Heng Lumpia House has the best lumpia this side of Manila!)
(Marlu and Chinatown's ube colored firetruck! So, unique and chic!)
(My favoreeeeeet! Ma-chang!)
(Diana guiding her tourist friends after
enjoying another meal at a noodle house!)
The day of touring Binondo ended with a needed foot massage at Beijing Liang Zi Foot Spa at the Peace Hotel. With hours of walking, our tired feet deserved a break and a massage! Although the cost of the massage is cheaper than the ones in other parts of Manila, the quality of the massage and service is as good or even better!
Before we left Binondo, we said a little prayer of thanks and blessing at the Binondo Church, or the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz. According to Wikipedia, this church was originally built in 1596, but its original structures were destroyed during the British Bombardment and the Second World War.
And walking around the streets of Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world, we have literally walked through 422 years of history. Just like my friends, I am grateful and very lucky that, because the Chinese immigrants and their present-day descendants have successfully preserved their culture (and recipes!) over the past four centuries, we were able to enjoy the cuisines, snacks and the Chinese heritage of Binondo today.
My grandmother was Chinese and I never knew her. But today, thanks to Diana, I once again re-connected with my Chinese heritage even at least through noodles, dumpling, ma-chang, and of course, hopia. :-)