There is a Chinatown in every major city around the globe, marking the footprint of the Chinese diaspora, says CNNGo magazine Wednesday.
CNNGo has drawn up a list of the world’s best Chinatowns where one can find the most colorful Lunar New Year parades, fireworks, lion dances as well as good food.
Four on the list are in Asia-Pacific, two in the Americas and one each from the United Kingdom, Africa and the Caribbean.
Havana, Cuba – Known as Barrio Chino, Havana’s Chinatown used to be Latin America’s largest Chinatown in the 1840s when Chinese labor workers or coolies were brought in to work on sugar plantations. At one point in time, there were up to 50,000 Chinese in Cuba before they left for the United States after Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959. Today some 150 native Cuban-Chinese remain on the island. A four-sheet Chinese language newspaper, Kwong Wah Po, continues to be printed on a 110-year-old handset printing press.
Kolkata, India – The Chinese immigrants, mostly from South China, came to this city to escape war during the early 19th century. One can still find Taoist temples in pockets of the city. Chinese food is still a very popular cuisine in Kolkata where one can find localized items such as vegetable Manchurian, chilli chicken and dim sum sold in bamboo baskets.
Bangkok, Thailand – Bangkok’s Chinatown, also known as Yaowarat, resembles Hong Kong from the 1960s. Once again, food is one of the main attractions here where one can sign up for food tours. Bangkok Food Tours, for instance, offers a ‘Chinatown Foodie’ tour of seven restaurants.
Manila, Philippines – Established in the 1590s by the Spanish as a settlement for Catholic Chinese, Manila’s Chinatown, also known as Binondo, is the oldest in the world. Carvajal Street, also known as Umbrella Alley, is where some of the best Chinese street food can be savored.
Johannesburg, South Africa – Home to the largest community of ethnic Chinese on continental Africa, Johannesburg saw the arrival of the Chinese immigrants during the 19th century when they came to work in the gold mines of the Transvaal. There are two Chinatowns in the city – the first is in the historic Commissioner Street where the early migrants arrived a century ago and the second is in the eastern suburb of Cyrildene where many of the new Mandarin-speaking immigrants have settled today. The Chinese restaurants in Cyrildene offer a very wide range of cuisine ranging from Shanghainese to Sichuan.
Melbourne, Australia – The Chinese first arrived in Melbourne to make their fortunes during the gold rush in the 1850s. Look out for the quarter’s historic three-storey brick buildings which house many Chinese restaurants, groceries and medical centers. Every year, Melbourne’s Chinatown hosts one of the world’s biggest dragon floats which require some 200 persons to operate.
Vancouver, Canada – Many former Hong Kongers emigrated to Vancouver post-1997 when the territory of Hong Kong was returned to mainland China. Today, up to 50 percent of the population in the Chinatown area of Richmond are ethnic Chinese. However, things are changing: in recent times, increasing numbers of Canadian-born Chinese are reportedly moving back to Hong Kong and China in search of better job prospects.
San Francisco, United States – The Chinese community have been around San Francisco for the past 150 years and they are an integral part of the city today. During the 1880s, Chinatown was one of the most rundown areas, filled with opium dens and brothels. San Francisco’s Chinatown is very well-known for having restaurants that serve tasty Cantonese cuisine.
London, England – London’s Chinatown is the largest in Europe and attracts up to 300,000 people during the annual Lunar New Year celebrations. The ethnic Chinese community is mostly made up of Hong Kongers who opened the area’s numerous restaurants because of cheap rent and short leases. Look out for the quarter’s eclectic mix of Chinese restaurants, tea houses, medicine halls and supermarkets.