Ushering the Water Dragon New Year with a BANG!!! My ever adventurous stomach led me to the streets of the ‘oldest’ China town in the world ---- Binondo! I actually divided this trip into two. Yes, I was that serious in being able to explore it when Chinese New Year (CNY) comes that I had a sort of ‘pre-trip’ trip (yes, it’s a preparation trip prior to the actual trip, I got confused there too for a while). This adventure is also perhaps one of those I had an extensive amount of research. I remember spending almost 3 hours straight scouring the web for information, especially a very useful map (I’ll have a separate mention on this later). So how did I arrive in China town on that memorable 23rd of January, 2012? Let me walk you through it (literally).
THE FASCINATION (Fixation actually) OVER BINONDO
I have been hearing and reading a lot of good comments on how food-tripping in Binondo is one of the ‘must-experience’ for any food blogger out there. Yes, that includes you my dear readers (and fellow bloggers) from the other parts of the world. The famous Anthony Bourdain once walked these busy streets in search of the best entrée the place has to offer. And enjoy he did. The final punch that nailed me to deciding that I would have to go there came when a brod-fraternity of mine wrote a status on his social media how much he enjoyed a recent food trip there. And he was way younger than I am!
So a plan came to me that I need to be there the soonest, and what best time to visit but on one of the Chinese culture’s most festive event.
Armed with almost a month’s worth of staggered researching, I thought that I needed to have two separate trips in order to ensure the success of my CNY trip target. One will be the preparatory trip so I know which places to go and to somehow familiarize myself with the streets and alley ways (these are the spots for the best eat out joints). The first trip was scheduled December 30, a holiday here in the Philippines (hey, I’m starting to like this whole writing for foreigners too)and it will be the perfect opportunity for me to finally complete my already ‘late’ Christmas gift shopping.
FIRST DIP (TRIP) TO BINONDO
I have actually been to Binondo in the past (courtesy of official business trips from my previous work), but more often than not through a private vehicle and only stops at two places --- a Chinese resto (which I will elaborate later) and that store very famous for Chinese pastries and delicacies. So exploring and feeling this China town in it in its full glory can’t really be considered as valid.
For this first trip, I was willing to ‘make mistakes’ as its main purpose is to immerse myself in the place and explore as much I could in order for me to get the details necessary to seamlessly plan my CNY trip --- which from here on shall be referred to as the ‘main trip’.
The start of this adventure led me to the Philippine Rabbit Bus station (photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rabbitexplorer3/4052644554/) and boarded the ‘Avenida’ buses (don’t worry, they pass by and stop over at the Dau Terminal too, I just wanted to make sure I get to choose my seat so I went in for the main terminal). Ticket price is at PhP180 for a very decent air-conditioned bus trip (this is an end-to-end point trip by the way so it is easier, AND that meant I can sleep through the whole trip, YEY!). From there, you can walk or ride the pedicabs at PhP 50-60 going to straight to the streets of Binondo.
The clock’s hands were around 9 a.m.-ish (not really sure) when we got there (it’s less than 2-hours trip) and my breakfast routine is starting to kick-in as it grumbled its influence in every brain cells I have (or had, due to hunger). But the greater challenge was finding THE place we wanted to eat. Armed with my not so detailed Map and crossing my fingers that my map-reading skills were at their all-time best, my friend and I walked the streets of Binondo (take note, looking bored all the time to remove any suspicions that we were figuratively lost and literally not familiar with the place).
Below were the first maps I had (very crude but hey thanks to googlemaps for this). The initial plan though was to have a ONE MAP that shall rule the world, err… the trip. But I can’t find any at that time.
REALIZATIONS FROM THE FIRST TRIP:
BINONDO (Or Ongpin) IS BUSY 1ST THING IN THE MORNING. Yep, the streets were already bustling with lots of people. As in from peddlers to residents, to shoppers. The street is 2/3 full by my standards of a stampede-waiting-to-happened.
THERE ARE ‘TWO’ ARCS. The one near to Sta. Cruz Church and the other was nearer Plaza Ruiz (this was the one with the Welcome to Binondo China Town, marker was); the former had the ‘Arc of Goodwill’ sign in it. Ehe it was the same Ongpin street though so no sweat.
NO ONE WOULD GO HUNGRY IN BINONDO. Unless you don’t like Chinese cuisine, you won’t go hungry. Although we were initially walking like broken compasses, there are many places to eat.
THE MAIN STREETS ARE SUPERB, BUT… I think this is very common on every ‘<insert-country>-town’ kind there is in the world. The main streets have good offerings but it is the alleyways and smaller streets branching out from the main that hide hidden gems. From the many blogs I read about China town, the commonly used phrase was ‘hole in a whole treasure trove’. So do you get the picture?
The itinerary for the day focused on two things: (1) Getting lost (ehe), and discovering the streets and where to find what in Binondo; and (2) thrift-shopping at Divisoria (may have to have a separate article one of these days). Of the four target areas to eat and try, we only managed to go to ONE. For many reasons such as, we were tired from aimlessly walking, we were VERY HUNGRY and maybe the fact that THAT ONE resto we saw already fed us like kings. I am referring to WAI YING RESTAURANT. Yes, the ever famous one.
WAI YING was the resto I mentioned in the introduction of this blog post. I have already visited this place while I was still part of TIPCO and it took me to finish the entire meal before having that realization (déjà vu confirmation, anyone?) that I was here before.
The restaurant is rather simplistic at the front and is relatively narrow. The right side is the area for the duck display, the holding area for the steaming dimsums, the coffee brewing and the cashier. The left side, on the other hand, is a single row of about six or seven (let me check on this on my next visit) of four to five seater tables. They have second floor though ---- I think, ehe. The resto is already packed when we came in and were just lucky that a patron is already on his way out. During the entire meal, they even had people standing waiting for a table to be freed-up so it must really be this good.
The menu is also very simple and easy to read. Thanks to the Filipino-Chinese friendship forged by history, the entries were familiar enough to confuse me on which to order (I wanted many, but my stomach wouldn’t able to handle them all). I was able to take pictures of the actual menu (see below) that are discernable for you dear readers who will be visiting soon (plus you can budget your trip, yey!).
So what did we (VERY hungry travelers) ordered? I had Roasted Duck Rice while a friend had Curry Beef Brisket Rice at PhP 130 and 120 respectively. For our side dishes, we had Hakaw (70), Century Egg Siomai (70), Shark’s Fin Dumpling (65) and Kutchai Dumpling (60). For the drinks, I had water, my friend had Lemon Coke (50) and for dessert, Coffee Jelly each (60).
OTHER PLACES TO SEE
|Arc of Goodwill near Sta.Cruz church|
|Welcome arc --- Main Street Ongpin|
|One of the many firetrucks that line Ongpin|