Monday, December 03, 2007


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.

I can't imagine a city without a Chinatown.


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재미 said...

I love Chinatown! Stuff there's cheap and good, but it aint as popular with teens compared to orchard road. Whenever i go there, i see a lot of old people.

Side note: There's this bi girl who's into me.

curbside_puppet said...

haha! the smell of tikoy (sticky rice eaten during the chinese new year) and sio mai is the best!

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

@ Jae Mi...that's the charm of Chinatown! The old but experienced people. They got a lot of stories to tell. They give character to Chinatown, agree?

@ Curb...appetizing, innit?

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

Wait a sec, Jae Mi...did you say a bi-girl is into you? Whoa! That's cool.

Sis, you have to bear in mind that her, being bi, has nothing to do with her as a person. It's all about the character, not the gender or sexual orientation.

I wouldn't say I would encourage it, but if she deserves to be treated nice as a person...give it to her. sis has grown up! =)

Hanifa said...

Nice article! Very Bisean. Nothing can catch up with this blog when it comes to SE Asia. Congratulations again!

재미 said...

Being Bi is based on character???? I had no idea at all!
Anyway, i treat her like how i usually treat my other female friends. She's pretty nice and we get along rather well! (save for how she made me her 'Human Pet' on facebook and labelled me 'My Love' as in , HER love.)

Anonymous said...

FOR HANIFA: you're so effing right! i guess it's quite difficult to make another blog that tackles southeast asian affairs because that would make it very close to copying Bi.S.E.A.N's contents.
I hope though that Bi.S.E.A.N would become more mainstream in the future and make it possible to unite the young SEAsians.
I know Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore can help you become more visible, not just online though. Although I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Disney won't really become too much of an advocate though. (Do you want BiSEAN to become High School Musical?!?!?!).
MTV's good though.

curbside_puppet said...

err, autobahnned and Curbside Puppet is the same person, FYI. sorry.

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

Thanks for the kind words Hanifa and Curb. I'm all crimson.

@ Jae, it's not just about the character. My point was, her being a bisexual has nothing to do with her as a person. We love somebody for their character...not sexual orientation. You got me nervous there, sis.

MischMensch said...

OMG I did not know Penang's Chinatown is the biggest! I am from Penang! How gay.... Lol

manila streetwaker said...

Oh yeah, Chinatowns are one of the most fascinating parts of any city, especially in SEA, you can really how the immigrant community settled and finally blended with their host societies to form unique bi-cultural quarters. I find Chinatowns in SEAsia to be more natural as opposed to their Western counterparts.

Sofia for BiSEAN said...

Thanks for the first comment ManilaStreetWalker...much appreciated.

Bruneian said...

Where's Brunei? Oh yea... we dont have a city..

danyhael said...

@ 재미, i love chinatowns too. you could buy tons of smuggled foods like rare fruits and stuff. oh and cheap (i-dunno-how-did-they-make-it) chinese foods. to be fair, foods in chinese town tastes much better than those in the hotels or expensive chinese restaurants.

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