Four ladies decided to brave Manila’s Chinatown in Binondo, said to be the oldest Chinatown in the world that was established in 1594, for the Chinese New Year festivities. Some friends forewarned us that Binondo would be crowded and we have to stay away from firecrackers.
But it was really our day. The first day of the Year of the Wooden Horse was a good beginning for us. It started when we met at the Resorts World Manila in Newport. Two of my friends were already members of Resorts World I had to apply for membership to avail of its benefits. I found the counter without any queue and got on with the application in a matter of minutes.
As we waited for our other companions, we had the luxury of enjoying the Chinese New Year decors at the plaza. Booths were in place, a stage was erected for performances, and a lucky tree on one side. Three corners of the plaza had Chinese arcs that complete the Chinese New Year feel.
From Resorts World, we proceeded to Lucky Chinatown where a program was already starting when we arrived. TV crews and some media were also around to cover the happenings. What caught our attention inside the mall was the wooden horse wall that was made of chopsticks.
Outside Lucky Chinatown, people were lined up to avail of the free tikoy or Nian Gao, a sticky cake. We walked towards Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz, named after the first Filipino saint, at Quintin Paredes St. and saw floats being readied for the parade. Throngs of people in red shirts dot Binondo’s streets.
642 Yunchengco St.
A long line of people is found outside a small and narrow store, called Dong Bei. Known for its delicious dumplings. We could see the dumplings being prepared from the glass panel. The cramped hole-in-the-wall exuded with Chinese authenticity, the reason of the people patiently waiting outside the street for an available table inside the eatery.
Since we were already famished and couldn’t wait in line, we proceeded towards Ongpin St. for another dumpling store. But not before we stopped for some squid balls from a street vendor we spotted in one corner.
611 Norberto Ty St.
We were surprised to find a closed stall where Tasty Dumplings should be located. A tarpaulin outside pointed us to 611 Norberto Ty St., formerly Condesa St., which is just at the other side of Binondo Church.
What a surprise it was that there was no line outside the small eatery. There were families outside and children playing but they didn’t seem to be queuing to get in so we went straight inside the restaurant. A server immediately told us that there was a table for four since one table was being bussed.
Our original plan of trying small portions of food as we planned this adventure to be a food trip was thrown out of the window. We immediately ordered a lot of food – pork chop rice, fried dumplings, hong ma, bread, braised beef noodles, and so much more. Not to mention the soothing winter melon drink which was served warm topped with ice. Their specialties were indeed delectable as reviewed by many sites. The pork chop was tasty since it had a certain tang to it. We dipped the silver roll bread on the sweet-taste hong ma sauce and placed the soft beef on the bread and had our fill. Rice, noodles, bread – it was carb overload!
In the middle of our lunch, more people have been waiting outside and some of them already were slowly making their way inside to make sure they get a table.
After our sumptuous lunch, we made our way to Quintin Paredes St. to find this famous lumpia house. But as we found a candy vendor near the statue of roman Ongpin outside Binondo Church, we again stopped for some sweets.
New Po-Heng Lumpia House
531 Quintin Paredes St.
We bumped into a friend along Quintin Paredes St. and she told us that her husband and companions were inside New Po-Heng lining up for lumpia, which is a Filipino spring roll. We went inside the unassuming building into an eatery at the end of the hall. Though it was an old building, what I liked about New Po-Heng was that there was an open patio inside the restaurant with a fountain at the middle.
Customers could see how the lumpia was being prepared. I wanted to take some photos but because there was a long line and people were crowding, I decided to step out at the streets for some fresh air. Aside from that, we were still full from our feast of a lunch. But one of my companions wanted to get the lumpia. Good thing that our friends we met there who were already in the queue offered to buy her share of lumpia so she didn’t have to line up. Lucky girl!
Carvajal is a small alley from Quintin Paredes St. to Yuchengco St. There are many fruit stands and stores inside Carvajal St. My companion was able to buy cherries for P1,000 a kilo (about US$22 per kilo).
Also inside Carvajal St. is Quick Snack, known for its affordable and delectable offerings of lumpia, noodles, tofu, and other Chinese and Asian delicacies.
At the end of the alley, along Yuchengco St. is the store Ho-land hopia and bakery which was selling Chinese pastries. On the other corner is a nameless store that displayed different kinds of pickles, nuts and other Chinese sweets and food.
We joined the flow of humanity at Ongpin St. towards the Ongpin South bridge to Sabino Padilla St. We passed through the President’s Restaurant and the eateries along the estero or creek before we came to the point where loud drumbeats could be heard and people were cheering at the dancing dragons in the parade.
G/F Binondo Suites
801 Ongpin St. corner Sabino Padilla St.
Wanting to have some hot and cold beverages after our walk, we crossed the street to Café Chino at the Binondo Suites Manila. There were no available tables inside so we proceeded to its second floor, at their KTV area where we rested and waited to be entertained by the servers. The glass windows gave us a good vantage point of the festivities outside.
Various colors of dancing tigers and dragons paraded in that intersection. Then I caught a glimpse of a familiar crown. It was Miss International Bea Rose Santiago on a float and with her were Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno greeting the crowd. Horse-driven carriages followed carrying some beauties and a float of a golden horse followed behind.
We couldn’t be happier that we were at the right place at the right time as we sat comfortably in an air-conditioned room watching the attractions below. It was also a blessing that the waiters couldn’t attend immediately to us because it gave us more time to let the parade finish.
11/88 Shopping Mall
Regina Regente St. corner Felipe II St.
From Café Chino, we walked along Sabino Padilla St. and turned at Soler St. towards Regina Regente St. The 168 Towers and 999 Mall could be spotted as we traversed the street. We were going towards the shopping area of Binondo. We were supposed to go back to Lucky Chinatown but as we saw 11/88 building, one of our friends who frequented the place, offered to bring us to the stall inside where she usually buys her dresses.
We excitedly tried different designs and shopped until they were closing. We got great discounts and enjoyed our experience fitting through all the dresses we picked. Yet, the experience got us exhausted and hungry once more.
We went to Lucky Chinatown, next to 11/88, planning to go back to Resorts World where we would have dinner and watch a movie. But because of the influx of people, we could only ride the 8:30pm trip, still two hours away. We had our names listed for the shuttle and went around Lucky Chinatown mall to look for a good restaurant to have dinner. As we learned that a fireworks display was scheduled at 7:00pm, we tried to find a restaurant inside that would give us a good view of the skyline. Since we couldn’t get what we were looking for, we decided to dine outside at the annex building.
We lined up at Mann Hann and waited outside, enjoying the attractions at the walkway in between the two buildings of Lucky Chinatown Mall and its annex. Chinese lanterns light up the whole stretch, food stalls were selling food, Chinese tricycles were available for photo opportunity and people were writing their New Year wishes on a wall. Others were also gathered around a posterity tree and some paid their respects to the image of Buddha at the end of the Lucky Chinatown Walk.
As we were seated outside the restaurant waiting for our turn, we were fortunate to witness the fireworks display. It was short but it still got the people excited.
Lucky Chinatown annex building
Reina Regente St.
The interiors of Mann Hann were very modern yet artistic feel. Slabs of wood make the walls zen-like yet also absorb the noise of all the chatter. The lighting was minimalistic yet good to the eyes. But what we really enjoyed was the food.
Having all the carbohydrates and meat for lunch, we opted for hakaw (shrimp dumplings), broccoli flowers with garlic, sweet and sour fish, yang chow, and radish cake. Except for the radish cake, which we felt could still be made crispier and more delicious; our dinner was hefty and satisfying. The staff was also friendly and efficient, despite the high demand from patrons eating in the restaurant and those waiting for their turn.
Mann Hann originated in Greenhills, San Juan in 1994 as a Chinese grocery store. Eventually, they started cooking Chinese food for take-out but because patrons grew and more people go to Mann Hann, they eventually opened their first restaurant at Wilson St. in Greenhills.
It was time to return to the mall’s shuttle waiting area. Good thing we were accommodated at the 8:30pm shuttle ride because there were voucher holders who also rode with us.
We ended the night back at Resorts World Manila, enjoying the Imperial Festival at their plaza. Since we couldn’t buy Chinese pastries at Binondo due to all the lines, my friends were able to have their hopia to bring home to their respective homes. It was a fun adventure yet not too tiring. We enjoyed the festivities without sweating it too much. We were just lucky to have experienced it all. Kung Hei Fat Choi!