We celebrated Raphael's third birthday in Binondo because his birth date, February 10, coincided with the Chinese New Year of the Water Snake this year 2013.
It was a different kind of gimmick because we now have Ramada Hotel, an international standard hotel in the heart of Binondo, where you can stay overnight, enjoy the yummy treats of Binondo, and take advantage of the shopping deals at Divisoria in a more leisurely manner.
The Hotel was also the best place to experience the Chinese New Year countdown, watch the fireworks and feel the authentic vibe of the new year around the oldest Chinatown in the world.
Here's a photo essay of our Discover Binondo Birthday Gimmik with the Family:
This is the first time I really felt the Chinese New Year Celebrations. My wife's family celebrates it and this is the only time that I appreciate it. We treated it like the Jan. 1 New Year and celebrating it in Binondo makes it more special. It was my first time in Binondo during this celebration and I avoided it in the past because I don't know what to do in Binondo or what to expect. There is that occasional fear of pick pockets and feeling of being an outsider trying-hard-to-celebrate-the-New-Year that prevented me from experiencing the Binondo Chinese New Year!
We had fun chasing the dragons/lions all around China Town. The photo opportunity is quite different because there is no organized schedules and the happenings are organized by the shop owners. What happens is, each store prepares something for the lions --- it could be candies or lucky coins to eat and sometimes beer to drink. They court the lions to dance and bring good luck to the store. The end of the dance is usually culminated by fireworks. Before the lion leaves, they get the angpao containing cash usually hooked high above the store's entrance. It is quite an experience to see these dragons and lions do this ritual all over China Town.
Tips in celebrating Chinese New Year in Binondo. (I'm putting this as a mental note for next year)
1. Bring Ear Plugs! The fireworks are so loud that it can damage your ear drums specially if you are near taking the photos.
2. Follow the dragons/lions. There is no set schedule on when the dragons/lions appear so the best way to find out is to follow the group of dragons/lions.
3. 10am and 4pm festivities on the eve of Chinese New Year. Usually most of the lions appear during this time. I'm glad that this year's CNY falls on a saturday.
4. Go on a Food Trip. You should bring someone with you who would know where to eat in Binondo. After joining Ivan's Big Binondo Food Wok, somehow I can say that I know my way around Binondo's culinary secrets.
5. Celebrate it with friends and family. Binondo will remain a mystery to most of us and it is quite an experience to explore it with family and friends. I'll try to organize something next year.
It was nice bumping into Sidney of Sari Sari Store, Ivan Henares of IvanAboutTown, and SenorEnrique of WishYouWereHere. Check out their post on the Chinese New Year @ Binondo:
I've always wanted to explore the culinary secrets of Binondo. I always knew that Binondo has a lot to offer aside from the all time favorite Eng Bee Tin Hopia stop, or eating in the exotic Estero, or grabing a quick chinese fix from your chinese fast food chain like tasty dumpling or the usual President chinese meal. This tour is also not about the original Diao Eng Chay (popularly known as DEC) store or the famous Quan Yin Chay Vegetarian in Binondo. I got curious with the Big Binondo Bowl streetwalk tour by Ivan ManDy ever since Marketman's Binondo Food Tour post last Sept. 2005. There are a lot of articles already written about this tour and the background story about Ivan's streetwalks which I will not attempt to duplicate. What I like about this tour is that you can see and feel Ivan's advocacy on the Filipino - Chinese's rich history. At the risk of divulging the entire tour, I'll just give you a glimpse of the tour, the food stops, and try to compress the 4 hour streetwalk into one blog post. Hopefully it would also have the same effect that after reading through this post, you will say "So when is the next tour?"
Binondo is Manila's Chinatown. As you passby Jones bridge into the plaza leading to the Chinatown welcome archway, you get transported into a different world. Ever since I was a kid, my mom used to bring me to Escolta during her PNB days and I've never understood and get to appreciate what Chinatown really is. The history behind it, the culture, and the oddities have always been a mystery to me. I've always been fascinated by Binondo but at the same time scared because of the horror stories that can happen with you in this place.
Thank you to Ivan ManDy, the self proclaimed Street Walker in Old Manila, who passionately organized the Big Binondo Bowl walking tours to show people what Binondo really is. You would completely feel safe when you are with Ivan in Binondo. Who wouldn't be, since Ivan seems to know half of the people in Chinatown. It is like going into a college campus where he would say hi to most of the people walking in the streets. I was always afraid to bring my huge camera with me in Binondo but during the tour, I really took the opportunity to shoot and shoot. The Big Binondo Bowl started as an architectural/ cultural tour of Old Manila but it got popularized into a culinary tour of Binondo.
Each of the Binondo scenes below have interesting stories to tell. I would not attempt to tell it since only Ivan can do justice to the stories. Check this out...