Food and Heritage in Binondo
Did you know that one of the world’s oldest Chinatowns can be found in Manila? If you’re curious about how it looks like, then TripGuru suggests a trip to Binondo. Located across the Pasig River from Intramuros, Binondo remains one of the top downtown districts of Manila. Unlike other Chinatowns around the world, it has not been gentrified to the point of becoming artificial; Binondo is a Chinatown in its rawest form, with many establishments still operating after generations.
These include New Toho Food Center (Panciteria Antigua) near the corner of Tomas Pinpin and Dasmarinas streets, first opened in 1866 and considered as the oldest still-operating restaurant in Manila. With other restaurants in the area such as Sincerity, sister establishments Wai Ying and Ying Ying, Dong Bei, Tasty Dumplings, Sa Lido, Quick Snack, Chuan Kee and Café Mezzanine, and the row of eateries along the Estero (canal), the district has earned a reputation as the gastronomic center of the metropolis. Don’t forget to take home some hopia (sweet pastries with mung bean filling) for the 3 top bakeries in the area: Eng Bee Tin, Polland, and Ho-Land. Meanwhile, fans of heritage buildings can saunter over to Escolta Street, a smaller version of Shanghai’s Bund. Check out its two pocket-sized museums, the Calvo Museum, and the First United Building Community Museum.
And yes, walking is the best way to get around the district. Vehicular traffic can be very heavy in Binondo; many of the above mentioned restaurants are hole-in-the-wall affairs that can be easily missed when driving around in a car. However, if you’re looking for an old-school way for sightseeing, renting a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage). And to help you get around, it’s best to grab a copy of the Big Binondo Food Wok map at the Bahay Tsinoy museum in Intramuros.
Since commuting and walking is the best way to get to the area, the fastest way to get to Binondo would be to ride the LRT Line 1 and disembark at Carriedo Station. From there, it’s just a short walk to Escolta and Ongpin Streets. Another option would be to take the LRT Line 2, disembark at Recto Station, and then ride a jeepney to Sta. Cruz—getting down at either Escolta or Ongpin as well. And if you have time to burn, go on a leisurely ferry ride to Escolta from Guadalupe Ferry Station. For the best times to visit the area, Chinese New Year is a good time to experience a festive mood, though be prepared for the crowds. If you’d prefer a quieter visit, weekend mornings are ideal.