Catching the dragon fever

Binondo in the heart of Manila is the place to be to welcome the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. The world’s oldest Chinatown may be smaller compared to its more modern counterparts in other parts of the world, but on the days nearing the Chinese New Year, this bustling business and cultural district never fails to pack them in.

Interestingly, the larger part of the huge crowd that trooped to Binondo last weekend to welcome the year of the water dragon are non-Chinese.  Eager Pinoy shoppers and camera-toting foreigners moved cheek by jowl checking the interesting and colorful array of goods and chasing the tail of the dragon as it danced through the narrow streets. Just goes to show that smaller and older places can be, well…more fun!

Charms, food, and other items (including plants!)  that purportedly bring good luck were the main draws. Cash registers going ka-ching competed with the rattling of the drums and the crackling sounds of firecrackers. Business was so good, and for this good fortune, shop owners and other vendors have the Philippine president (who is part Chinese on the Cojuangco side) to thank for declaring the Chinese New Year as a non-working holiday for the first time in the country.

Baubles, bangles, and beads were aplenty

Golden symbols of luck and prosperity

Round and orange or yellow fruits sold briskly

Sweet and sticky nian gao or tikoy in different colors and flavors

Golden grains… and auspicious plants

The long queue for Eng Bee Tin’s famous hopia and tikoy

Somehow I anticipated this scenario at Eng Bee Tin, so I got my stock of hopia and peanuts earlier from another less-crowded outlet outside Chinatown 😉 . In another food store, I saw a long line of customers who I learned were waiting for the next batch of freshly cooked ‘fried siopao.’ I marked that place for my next visit to Ongpin.

All that walking around and repeated attempts (with little success) to get good shots of the dragon didn’t give us much time to discover a new place to enjoy Chinese food. The hubby and I had to settle for some old haunts—the reliable Ling Nam for our fill of wanton beef mami and Delicioso Restaurant for our to-go orders of special miki bihon and chami noodles.

Overall, an afternoon well spent on imbibing positive energy. Binondo will always be my kind of town, no matter what time of the year it is.

***


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