Photo of 'Welcome to Manila Chinatown'

On Sunday, Simon and I ventured out of our Rockwell bubble-in-a-bubble and headed to China Town in old Manila.

The roads were blissfully quiet and we even managed to get to 80kph at one point!  We drove North from Makati through San Andres, past the Manila City Hall and into Binondo (where China Town is).  The quality of taxi drivers in Manila can be quite hit & miss.  It is a big, sprawling city and it is quite common to get into a taxi, explain where you want to go and then be met with a blank stare.  The taxi driver we had on Sunday definitely knew his way around – he drove on main roads where required, but also took us on a number of rat runs eventually depositing us on the main road through China Town.

Manila’s China Town is the original China Town, established in 1594.  The main street running through China Town is Ongpin Street.  Branching off from Ongpin Street are a number of side streets, mostly all with Spanish-sounding names.  A reminder of Manila’s past.  And an odd contradiction.

Photo of Friendship arch at Manila Chinatown entrance
Friendship arch at Manila’s chinatown

To enter China Town you pass through ‘Friendship Arch’.  It’s not as big, colourful or as intricate as the arches you may have seen at other China Town locations throughout the world, but the view I caught on camera is typically ‘Manila’.  Look out for the jeepney!

More about jeepneys to come in a separate post…

China Town is full of shops selling Chinese medicine, jewellery and trinkets.  There were also a number of fruit carts laden with everything from the familiar broccoli, carrots & mangoes to more exotic delights of mangosteens and some unidentified herbs which are apparently suitable for curing all sorts of ailments.  When the carts were not laden with fruit and veg, they were used as beds to catch an afternoon siesta.

Photo of chicken noodle soup
Chicken noodle soup at Ling Nam Noodle Factory

For lunch we decided to try somewhere called Ling Nam Noodle Factory.  We were delighted to be the only Caucasians in the joint until we opened the Lonely Planet to plan our next move, only to find that this very restaurant was listed in there.  Still, it was a delicious meal of fresh noodles in a chicken broth.

Walking around China Town did make us feel a bit more like we are in Asia.  Whilst I’m sure it was not as busy as it might be on a normal day, there was a lot of traffic, quite a lot of people and not much space to walk around as entrepreneurs had set up stalls on any free space they could to pedal their wares.

Traffic consisted of cars, mopeds, tricycles (of the motor and push variety) and horse & carts.  And it was quite dirty.  There were open drains, some of which were covered by makeshift wooden structures, some piles of rubbish and a very dirty canal.  The endless exhaust fumes make you feel like you are breathing very thick air.

From China Town we headed over to the famous Quiapo Church.  According to the Lonely Planet, the market area around the church is the bit that’s really worth the visit.

Photo of Quiapo Church
Quiapo Church

The Lonely Planet wasn’t wrong when it said “The action is particularly feverish at weekends, when the half of the population not in malls is shopping here.”  It was heaving.

People come here to sell and buy almost anything.  We saw clothes, shoes, toiletries, moth balls, plastic cockroaches, household goods, lotions & potions to name a few.

My personal favourite was the multi-coloured chicks on offer.  Haven’t you always wanted a bright pink little chick?  Or perhaps blue is more your colour?

Photo of variously coloured baby chicks
Coloured chicks for sale near Quiapo Church

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *