Archive for Chinatown

Bangkok – a walk in the old town

Posted in Bangkok, Central Region, Pathum Wan, Phra Nakhon, Samphanthawong, Thailand with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2019 by gannet39

Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of an architecture buff, not least because it’s a good excuse for a long walk. Below I describe one that could easily take a whole day, or two if you break it up and include Wat Pho which I’ve given its own post. However I start with a couple of places, Hua Lamphong Station and the Scala Cinema, which could be destinations in their own right, even if just to catch a train or see a film. My map with everything on is here.

Hua Lamphong Station was built in an Italian Neo-Renaissance-style in 1910.

The architect was Turin-born Mario Tamagno who was responsible for a few other major buildings in Bangkok.

The Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof in Germany was a prototype.

The station is scheduled to be closed in 2021, after which it will become a museum. You can click on these photos to enlarge them.

Another favourite building is the Scala Cinema in a back street off Siam Square in Pathum Wan.

It has a Modernist shell with Art Deco interior decorations.

Back in Siam Square the Skytrain tracks bring you back to brutal modern times.

Also known as the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) the Skytrain was opened in late 1999. I presume that an underground system wasn’t feasible due to the river flooding regularly.

The first road to be built in Bangkok was the Charoen Krung Road in 1861. Ironcially, the English name for the road is New Road. It stretches from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace and continues for 8.5 km to Dao Khanong. The first few kilometers in the old town make for a good walk as there are quite a few historical buildings along its route. After seeing Wat Pho (see next post), a logical starting point would be Saranrom Park.

The park was originally part of a palace built by Rama IV in 1866 but he died before it was completed. The basic layout of the park remains today is as it was designed by Rama IV. A couple of examples of traditional house architecture can seen be inside. The park is now used as a training school for city gardeners.

There’s a bit of neo-classical around the outside of the park.

Fairly soon after starting you’ll cross the first canal ring, Lod Canal or Asadang Canal.

Fairly soon after that you come to the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre www.salachalermkrung.com. The cinema was opened in in 1932 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Bangkok but nowadays it hosts performances of classical Thai dance.

The modernist building isn’t particularly exciting although it does have a few nice features inside.

A show about Hanuman the monkey god was on when I went.

Of more interest to me was the Art Nouveau exterior of the cafe next to the theatre.

I tend to wander of the path a lot, to go and look at architecture that catches my eye. From here I deviated from the route and headed south along Ti Thong towards the Old Siam Shopping Centre which has a few interesting buildings around it. Not sure what style you’d call these. Thai Deco perhaps.

There are a few more easily recognisable Art Deco buildings dotted around.

There’s this lovely piece of Brutalism just over the road from the shopping centre.

From here you could deviate even further south to Little India but I wouldn’t bother as there’s not much to see, unless you fancy a curry for lunch at Royal India (see my Eating in Phra Nakhon post).

After you cross over the second canal ring, Banglamplu-Ong Ang Canal, you are in Samphanthawong, the location of Bangkok’s Chinatown.

I came across this Chinese temple somewhere around here.

Chinatown’s central street Yaowarat Road runs parallel to Charoen Krung Road to the south. The streets seemed a bit narrower and more chaotic here. A bit of dereliction seems to be creeping in as well.

I did brieftly consider staying in Chinatown but was quite glad I didn’t as its a bit full on. I looked at two hotels, Loy La Long www.loylalong.com; a cool little hostel in a choice location on the river, and the more luxurious Shanghai Mansion Bangkok www.shanghaimansion.com on the frenetic Yaowarat Road, both good in their own ways.

I enjoyed checking out all the street vendors along Yaowarat Road.

From here it’s just a short stroll to Hua Lamphong Station which is where this post started.

Back to Wat Pho for the next post though!

New York – Manhattan – Chinatown & Little Italy

Posted in Chinatown, Little Italy, Manhattan, United States of America with tags , on January 20, 2017 by gannet39

I’m a sucker for Cha Siu Bao, so whenever I’m in a city with a large Chinese community, I head immediately to the nearest bakery.

I tried two while I was here. The Guardian says that the buns at Mei Lai Wah at 64 Bayard St are the best in Chinatown and I couldn’t disagree. It was one of the best I’ve ever tasted (A) and a steal at just $1. The bun from the Tai Pan Bakery www.taipanbakeryonline.com at 194 Canal St, were okay, but not quite as good (B).

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For Cantonese food, check out…

Jing Fong (Intermediate A) 20 Elizabeth St, jingfongny.com

I came here with Karen & Tom for Dim Sum. As you can see it’s a huge place.

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The Dim Sum is very good. Amongst many things we had Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce…

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…Turnip Cake…

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…Steamed Rice in a Lotus Leaf…

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and Shrimp Noodle Dumplings.

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The ‘Pheonix Claws’ were good too.

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Little Italy stopped being a residential area for Italian Americans a long time ago and it’s slowly being subsumed into Chinatown, its neighbour just to the south. There are a fair few Italian restaurants left though. After our Dim Sum we went to Caffe Palermo www.caffepalermo.com at 148 Mulberry St for some decadent Cannoli.

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There are heaps of other good places of course, both Italian and Chinese, this is just my brief experience.

Manila – Binondo – Noodle Off in Chinatown

Posted in Binondo, Manila, Philippines with tags , , , , on February 4, 2013 by gannet39

Most Filipinos are of Malay, Indian or Chinese descent and needless to say the Chinese community have made a huge contribution to the development of the nation, despite centuries of oppression under Spanish rule.

Welcome to noodleville
Chinatown is a gloriously hectic sprawl of shops and restaurants, with Ongin St running through the middle of it all.

Shop auspiciously

 

Although I was on holiday after four weeks of working in China and eating only Chinese food, I still felt a need for a noodle fix so I headed to Ongpin St.

Chasing the dragon
My hunger got the better of me on the way though and I couldn’t pass the Salazar Bakery (779-785 Ongpin St, near the corner of S. Padilla St) without popping in for a preliminary Char Siu Bun, called an Asado Roll here. Pork buns tate best when they are  hot. This one was good but it could have been better if it were fresh out of the oven (B).

Asado roll
So where does the best noodle soup in Chinatown? I decided to compare two famous old school places mentioned by Lonely Planet. There are other places to be sure but I reckoned on these being the best. Please let me know if I’m wrong.


Ling Nam Wonton Parlour & Noodle Factory
(Intermediate C+), 616 T.Alonzo St

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Not really a factory production line, just one guy making noodles in the front and another packing them ready for sale once they’re dried.

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There’s a separate kitchen for preparing the soups. All the staff were friendly and happy to let me take photos.

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Other than noodles and wontons, there doesn’t seem to be much else on the menu, which doesn’t mention that you can also get dumplings from the big bamboo steamers in the window. The Shumai looked good but I was here for one thing only.

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There are two kinds of soup broth on offer, beef or chicken. I went for the beef hoping for a stronger flavour, but sadly this was lacking and I found the soup as a whole to be quite bland. The addition of their unusual chilli sauce helped but not much. The actual chunks of beef were ok and the noodles where fine, of medium thickness, quite similar to ramen.

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So, unfortunately I couldn’t score them highly (C+). That’s not to say their other dishes aren’t better though, I was judging them on just one thing. I’ll get the wontons next time I go. My opinion wasn’t helped by the fact you can’t buy beer here. Soft drinks or hot tea do not go well with noodle soup as far as I’m concerned.

MXT Tea House (Intermediate B+), 965 Ongpin St

In the line of duty I walked a few more doors down on Onegin St to this equally venerable and run down shop. They are more of a restaurant than the previous place with an extensive menu offering all kinds of delicacies.

To create a level playing field I ordered the beef noodle soup again (I can eat a lot of this stuff) but here they give you a choice of two kinds of noodles. I had the vermicelli style noodles which are much thinner than ramen.

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The broth here was the winner for me though. It has a much deeper flavour and the chunks of actual beef were tastier too. You also get a bowl of roasted garlic flakes and they have the traditional chilli oil which, when you add both, takes it up yet another level. No doubt about it, Hap Chan is the winner (B+).

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The fact they had an offer on for three beers for the price of two also helped it for me. This is the best place for lovers of noodle soup in my opinion though I’m happy to be told I’m wrong.

I really enjoyed walking around Chinatown. There is plenty more to see and taste besides these noodle shops. Take a lead from the nuns and check out the buns.

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