It is said that any city in the world without a Chinatown is not a city at all. Well, it could arguably be true. Because the Chinese are pioneers in almost any major city in our region and their contribution to our society is indispensable.
For those who’d like to find the best Chinese food, the best bargain, gold, traditional medicine and just about anything that we can't live without – here are the Chinatowns of Southeast Asia…
Thailand’s Chinatown is Yaowarat District of Bangkok. It came from the name of the major road that runs through it – Thanon Yaowarat. This road was built like a dragon’s curvy body by King Rama V in 1891. It is next to Bangkok’s Little India.
How to get there? Take the Subway to Hua Lamphong station, take exit to Wat Trimitr Road (location of the Golden Buddha) and it will lead you to the area. Bus routes 1, 4, 7, 25, 53, 501.
Phuket was founded by Chinese merchants. There is a Chinatown along Phang Nga Road.
The Cholon District of Saigon is Vietnam’s Chinatown established in the 1770s. Our Chinese brothers here speak Cantonese. It is a huge area consisting of Districts 5 and 6. Major roads like Nguyễn Trãi and Trần Hưng Đạo run through here. The main market is Bình Tây which is actually on District 6 but is only 1 block away from District 5. Get on a moto or a taxi to get there. This is their official website. Top that! Ha!
Tayote Tan in Yangon is Burma’s Chinatown. The words mean “Chinese Roads” or "residences” in Burmese. Tayote Tan’s area is 1/5th of the city center and it’s lay-out dates back to the British expansion of the city in the 1850s.
The Philippines’ Chinatown is Binondo District in Manila. It is one of the oldest Chinatowns in Asia. Binondo was established in the 1670s although records show that there are already a Chinese community living here before the Spanish came in the 1570s. Binondo was the center for commerce during the American colonial era mainly because the Chinese were known to be experts in trading and finance. Major roads like Escolta Avenue and Ongpin Street runs through here.
Street 136 in Phnom Penh is the center of Cambodia’s Chinatown area. Chinese settlers came here in the 1400s. A lot of mainland Chinese immigrated to Cambodia in the past decades and it it is said that some Cambodian cities started as Chinese settlements. Next to Phsar Thmei.
"Pecinan” means Chinatown in Indonesian. The Glodok District is considered to be Jakarta’s Chinatown along Pancoran Street. There are also a large number of Chinese population on Gajah Mada Street.
Other Indonesian Chinatowns are Gang Semawis and Jalan Pekojan in Semarang. There are also numerous Chinese Indonesians in Surabaya, Medan (Hokkien majority), Pontianak (TeoCheow majority), Singkawang (Hakka majority, almost 70% of city population).
Laos’ Chinatown is a small stretch of businesses along Samsenthai Road in Vientiane.
Petaling Street (Jalan Petaling) in Kuala Lumpur is the center of Malaysia’s Chinatown. KL Chinese community is predominantly Cantonese speaking. Petaling Street is mainly a night market – a long stretch of covered road with stalls selling bags, shoes, clothes and a lot more. How to get there? Take Star MRT and get off Pudu Station or Putra LRT get off Pasar Seni Station.
The biggest Chinatown in the world is in Penang. Chinese here mainly speaks Hokkien. There is also a Chinatown in Malacca along Jonker Street which is a great night market.
Although Singapore is predominantly Chinese, they also have a Chinatown called Niú chē shǔi (牛車水) by the locals (of course it is preferably called as Chinatown). This is one of the major tourist attraction of the Lion City. Main roads like Telok Ayer Street run through here. How to get there? Take MRT to Chinatown or Outram Park.
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