Exploring bits of the oldest Chinatown in the world, Binondo Manila

SONY DSCMy mom used to always bring me here when I was still very little and my dad worked at the big bank in front of the fountain in Carriedo. This Chinatown in Binondo is known the oldest Chinatown in the world, established in 1594 during the Spanish colonial period. Everytime I come here it feels like a fusion of the Chinese and the Philippine community. I used to come here every week during my breaks in La Salle. I’d take a train to Carriedo and walk around Binondo street or a jeepney to Divisoria where I would buy things that I could sell to my classmates. They have everything you need here in Binondo and everything is just so cheap that sometimes you’ll wonder if what they’re doing is illegal.

So I went here to look around to try some of their featured restaurants along Ongpin street and also for something I could possibly start a business from. If you’re considering on reselling things, I think Binondo is the place to go to. Anything from fake ID’s or fake Diplomas, branded glasses, alcohol, earrings, shoes, beads, cloth anything and everything you could find here.

1. Bakers Fair hopia

1 box Php 120, 4pcs Php 24

Mongo hopia from Bakers fair has always been my favorite kind of hopia. I love it because it comes in a diced shape and hot off the grill if you buy them here! Php 120 for one box

2. Shanghai Fried Siopao

It used to be Php 16 for one siopao but not it is priced at Php 18 for one siopao.

My mom used to take me here when I was small to get their siopao. I really love fried siopao because of the crispy bottom of the siopao. Get this fresh and hot off the grill with the hopia and eat it while walking along the streets of Binondo.

3. Cafe Mezzanine

Near binondo church just along Ongpin street, try their wintermelon drink.

Cafe mezzanine is a famous Cafe here in Binondo and was featured in CCN’s must go places. There are a lot of people here so come during off hours. A part of the restaurant’s income goes to Binondo’s fire department, whose iconic purple truck  is parked beside the Binondo Church. Try their Wintermelon drink for Php 39. The restaurant next to it, Eng bee tin is also a famous hopia store but I still prefer the Bakers Fair hopia.

4. Sincerity Restaurant

Php 350 for the whole chicken and Php 99 for the Sincerity fried rice.

Yuchengko st. Corner Ongpin, From Cafe Mezzanine turn right and go straight. You will see this restaurant to the right. We got the Sincerity whole fried chicken for only Php 350, and the Sincerity fried rice for Php 99. The chicken was good and even could have been good for 4 people. I loved it, flavored well inside and out for the price of 350 and a whole chicken it was like eating at Sunrise Buckets except for it wasn’t just wings.

1. Do not bring a car coming here not unless you have your own driver. It took me 3 hours to get here by car because of the heavy traffic from the jeepneys. I parked in Lucky Chinatown mall where the parking seemed safest. (Usually I would take the train going here or a jeepney. If not I would park at the nearest train satiation connected to a mall then take the train coming here)

2. Bring a bottle of water, or just buy a lot of drinks while walking around

3. Do not bring a big bag or at least always watch your belongings

4. Come here with someone who knows the area. It is not nice to waste time walking and getting lost around Binondo because you really could get lost and people will take advantage of that.

5. Research about the places you want to go to and map it out. I suggest that you do this on a notebook. You wouldn’t want to bring out your phone here in Binondo. One blink and your phone could possibly be gone.

6. Do not bring a wallet when you come here or wear any fancy jewelry. (Please remove your earrings, necklaces and any other valuables)

7. Cleanest bathrooms are at Lucky Chinatown mall. You just have to pay Php 10

8. There are so many ATM machines here that you will not need to worry about money except losing money. Be very careful with your money.

9. It is also not clean at all here! Nothing has changed, it is still one of most unclean districts manila but the food here is good.

10. Of course lastly, ENJOY and take some pictures if you can! ( but be careful with your camera )

When all else fails just look for the big church and the rotunda with the fountain and you’ll easily spot Ongpin Street at the side of Binondo Church. If you walk along that street you will see all the above mentioned food places. There is also a lot more you could visit and try. Do not limit yourself to the places i mentioned about, There are also good dumpling places along Yuchengko street and also the Presidents Restaurant If I recall correctly, the last time I ate there it was really good. Discover and go around and do your research of the place. It is like a piece of downtown China in Manila.

How to get here: There are trains that go to Divisoria from around Manila. You may also opt to take the LRT1 train to Carriedo maybe or a train to Recto station riding the LRT2. Either way you will not know where to go unless you ask around or have someone with you who knows the place. Maps are a bit useless until you get the hang of the area. You’ll have to memorize it by heart.

BUDGET PER PERSON: Eating here is really cheap, we probably just spent less than 500 per person. If you are a lot I’m pretty sure that you will be spending less than that. Unless you plan to go shopping for school supplies for something, but even for that you will not need much money.

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