Follow the locals. Chinatown has its share of tourist traps, but you can trust the locals to know where to eat well and cheaply
Manhattan Chinatown is home to one of the densest enclaves of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Allegedly it all began with one man in the 1840s: Ah Ken. As the first Chinese person to permanently migrate there, he set up a successful cigar store on Park Row using the profits he earned as a landlord of a small boarding house, renting out bunks to the earliest Chinese immigrants. From such modest beginnings, Chinatown became what it is today.
Worlds within worlds
Chinatown is overwhelming — in a good way. Everyone seems to move twice as fast here, you hear more Chinese than English, and even the street signs are in Chinese. The buildings are mainly cramped tenements from about a hundred years ago, and their competing neon signs crowd overhead like a jungle canopy, flashing like fireworks. Wander the streets, in a daze, and try not to buy too many knick-knacks, live eels or square watermelons. Then, when you’ve had enough, hop over to Little Italy for a bit of the old world.
Not what it used to be (thankfully)
Columbus Park, the only park in Chinatown, was built on what was once the centre of the notorious Five Point neighbourhood. During the 19th century, this was the most dangerous ghetto area of immigrant New York, and was the starring locale in Martin Scorsese’s film “Gangs of New York”. It’s rather safer these days, you’ll be glad to hear: more tai-chi than butchery.
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