Saturday, January 24, 2009

One Afternoon In Chinatown

It was a nice and sunny day today (tad bit chilly though, around -3C), so we decided to head down to Chinatown to get into the Chinese New Year mood. We took the PATH to the city and then the subway to Chinatown. There is no way were we going to drive into Chinatown today, the last weekend before Chinese New Year...that place was packed with people everywhere! We got off at the Canal St station and WHAM! We were greeted with the lovely sights and sounds of Chinatown :P You know you are in Chinatown when....

Yup, even the Burger King and Starbucks have Chinese characters and looks Chinese!!

You can basically get anything you want in Chinatown. From scarfs to pirated DVDs to fake handbags. The fake handbag sellers were extra hardworking today. They were everywhere! At every crossroads, street corners, alleyways..they will whisper "Handbag? cheap handbag..veli nice...Coach, LV, Gucci...?" and show you photo albums of their merchandise.

Chinatown was bustling with activity today. People we busy buying things in preparation for Chinese New Year. The fresh seafood shop was so packed with people, we couldn't even go into the shop to take a look. I had to zoom in from a distance to take this photo.

It must have been one of the busier times of the year for fruits and flowers stalls. Tons of fresh bamboos, peonies, pussy willows...all kinds of Chinese New Year flowers for sale.

There were new stock of flowers constantly coming in. The moment the new stock arrives, it will be bought up by customers within the first 15 minutes or so. People were just buying and buying and buying!

I just love the smells of Chinatown. It's a mixture of freshly made pastries and buns from the Hong Kong style bakeries to freshly roasted duck and pork hanging from the store windows. One whole Peking duck for $25...not too bad at all!

There were also a lot of shops selling all kinds of Chinese New Year decorations. I just love this particular shop, you can see the various types of 'hong bao' for sale! They are just so cute and nice. $1 for a pack! The little girl was staring at that particular hong bao for the longest time. She must be dreaming of all the money she will be collecting, come Monday.

I just love how there is a mixture of everything in Chinatown. This shop sells traditional Chinese winter wear and I love NY t shirts. All on the same rack! :P

There is also an information centre right in the heart of Chinatown. If you are in Chinatown and need to look for something but you don't know where to go, just head to the bright red information centre under the big dragon. It's one of our favorite places in Chinatown. We have asked countless questions like "Where is the nearest Malaysian restaurant? Where can we get good dim sum? Is there a Malaysian grocery store here? How do we get to the nearest PATH station?". If they gave out loyalty cards, I think we would have racked up enough points to do anything we want!

After a long afternoon of walking around Chinatown, just soaking in all the sights, sounds and smells...we headed to Singapore Cafe for dinner. Don't be fooled by the name, it's actually run by Malaysians and it serves Malaysian food. Well, I guess Singapore food is pretty close to Malaysian food. We talked to the owner for a bit and found out that he has been living in the States for about 30 years but he is originally from Penang. The waitress (we think she is his wife) says that she used to stay in SS23! Wow, what a small world! They were pretty excited to learn that I grew up in Penang and my parents live in D'sara Jaya. I will write more about the food in Singapore Cafe in my next post.

I asked the Uncle from Singapore Cafe if there is a Malaysian grocery store nearby and he pointed us two blocks up from his restaurant. I have actually heard about this place but never got around to finding it. Asia Market Corp is relatively small compared to the other asian grocery stores, but you can find all kinds of Malaysian groceries there! It somewhat reminds me of our 'kedai runcit' back home. You can get things like fresh durian fruits to durian ice cream, five different types of kaya to choose from, aik cheong coffee to milo, all kinds of maggi noodles and different types of perencah to make curries....heck, they even have assam laksa noodles and paste! I was so impressed with this little shop. I can go on and on and on about what else they have in that shop..haha. Oh, I even managed to buy tambun biscuits there!!!

Overall, we had a great time in Chinatown today. Yes, it was a bit cold to be walking around in the outdoors but it was worth it. It somehow made spending Chinese New Year away from home a little bit easier. We will be going back to Chinatown on the 1st day of CNY to watch the lion and dragon dance troupes perform as well as the lighting of firecrackers to usher in the Chinese New Year!!

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