Attractions Near Jonker Street, Melaka : A Day/Night Itinerary

Tucked in the heart of Melaka’s Chinatown, there’s plenty to see and do in Jonker Street – from unique craft shops and museums to temples, mosques, decades-old eateries, chic cafes and more. It also has a rich history. Dutch colonists lived in nearby Heeren Street, just next to the Melaka River, while the main thoroughfare, ie Jalan Hang Jebat, was home to rich Peranakans (Straits Chinese) settlers, who built lavish homes with beautiful architecture and filled them with exquisite furniture.

BY DAY 

Lung Ann Refreshments 

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Start the day with a traditional Malaysian breakfast at Lung Ann Refreshments. The shop’s setting is typical of Malaysian kopitiams, where elderly aunties and uncles bustle about preparing your orders, and drinks are served in white and green ceramic cups. No fancy noodles, only the basics – half boiled eggs, and toast with kaya and butter, washed down with either coffee or Milo.

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I didn’t realise how Malaysians take this for granted (usually if someone asks about local dishes to recommend, I’d think of nasi lemak) until N told me how unique he thought it was (half boiled eggs for breakfast isn’t a thing in the Phils, apparently). Sometimes it’s really the simplest things that are the best. Bread is nicely toasted and fluffy, with generous amounts of kaya and butter. Despite how simple it looks, half boiled eggs are notoriously difficult to get right (the timing has to be extremely accurate). The one’s at Lung Ann were perfect.

Baba And Nyonya Heritage Museum 

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A private housemuseum that once belonged to a wealthy Peranakan businessmen, the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum is a must visit for lovers of culture and history. The Peranakan, or Straits Chinese (also called Baba Nyonya), are a community descended from Chinese settlers who immigrated to parts of the Nusantara, ie Dutch-controlled Java in Indonesia, southern Thailand, the British Straits Settlements of Malaya (Penang and Melaka), as well as Singapore. Many adopted local customs, whilst still maintaining a strong Chinese heritage – resulting in a unique blend of cultures that you will not find elsewhere. The Malaysian Baba and Nyonya, for example, speak a creole version of Hokkien and Malay, dress in baju panjang which is influenced by the Malay kebaya dress, but still practice ancestor worship.

You can wander the museum, which consists of three terrace homes joined together as one, on your own – but I highly recommend the guided tour. The tour brings the entire house and its past occupants to life, as knowledgeable guides point out details and events that have happened in those very spaces. You get a sense of being separated by time, but not space. Everything is lavish, beautiful and meticulously made – from elaborately carved furniture inlaid with mother of pearl and silk embroidered paintings done by masters in China, to hand painted tiles, crystal ware, porcelain dining sets.

Note that photos are only allowed in the foyer.

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

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Literally the ‘Temple of the Green Cloud’, Cheng Hoon Teng is the oldest functioning Chinese temple in Malaysia,  built in 1673. It is dedicated to the three precepts, namely Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, so visitors will see deities dedicated to all of these religious beliefs. The altars in the main hall are dedicated to Guan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, as well as the Taoist goddess Mazu and deities such as Kwan Ti, the God of Justice, and Thai Sway, the god of worldly human welfare.

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Even if you’re not a devotee, the temple is worth visiting for the architecture alone. Lacquered surfaces, gold gilding, intricately carved archways and windows abound. The main hall, made from timber, was built without the use of nails.

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Keilun, ie what Westerners like to call foo dogs (they’re actually mythical lions).

Orangutan House 

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The quirkily named Orangutan House is an art gallery-cum-souvenir shop, where you can get colourful printed tees and art pieces. It’s hard to miss if you’re walking around the area, as there is a huge mural of an orang utan on the side of the building. The inside is equally colourful and trippy.

Explore the Streets

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Jonker Street is chock full of interesting sights, and sometimes the best way to see them is just to explore the area on foot. You never know what hidden gems you might uncover. In any case, they make for great photos. (Above) the doors of the Hokkien Association.

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This neat little nook next to the river.

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BY NIGHT 

We’re not done: sundown is when the fun really begins. Jonker Street is the place to be on weekends, as there is a huge night market, just there for you to snack from one end to the other.

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Crowds, yes.

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Worth it because you get to gorge on delicious street food…

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Did I mention delicious street food?

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Delicious street food!

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One does not come to Melaka and not have a refreshing taste of a coconut shake. 

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You can also commission a street artist to have your portrait drawn…

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Or buy a hand-drawn sketch from this extremely talented young man. His drawings were phenomenal!

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Jonker Street’s entrance is hard to miss, as you have this inn/restaurant lined with red lanterns, which somehow reminds me of the classical Chinese novel ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’.

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You can do the touristy thing and hop on to one of the loud and colourful trishaws for a spin around the city.

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If crowds are not your thing, opt for a cruise down the Melaka River, which is decorated on both sides with neon lights.

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Dutch Square, just a few steps away from Jonker Street, is also much more quiet at night.

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Literally had the whole place to ourselves for photos.

I hope this itinerary has been useful in helping you to plan what attractions to see while in the Jonker Street neighbourhood. Happy travels!

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Review: Shin Kee Beef Noodles @ Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

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When it comes to good food in Kuala Lumpur, Shin Kee Beef Noodles is practically an institution. Tucked in an old colonial-style building in Chinatown, the establishment has been run by the Koon family for over 80 years. That’s basically older than Malaysia as a country. And for something to have been around for that long, you best believe they’ve got a recipe to their success.

The kitchen is at the restaurant’s entrance, so you can watch the chef in action as he boils and tosses the noodles, ladles pieces of beef and soup into each bowl, or tops off the dry noodles with a smattering of savoury minced meat.

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The restaurant space is cramped, so expect table sharing when it gets busy. There is also a small room at the back which is non-air conditioned, so it can get pretty warm. This is a strictly eat-and-go kinda place.

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The lady boss comes to your table to take your orders, and you pay once food arrives. Diners get a choice of three types of noodles – bihun, yellow mee or kueyteow – in either soup or dry form. We opted for the dry. N had beef soup, while I had the beef + meatballs. You can also get tripe. The ‘small’ (which was not very small at all) costs RM9: a fair price in the heart of KL.

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Verdict: A solid bowl of beef noodles, and I can see why people have been flocking to the place for decades. It’s hearty, it’s comforting, and it’s substantial. Most impressive were the beef balls, which were so springy you can practically use them as ping pong balls – not a trace of tendon or whatnot left.  The noodles were al dente and slathered in the savoury meat sauce.

Shin Kee fans might crucify me, but in my humble opinion, the best bowl of beef noodles still goes to another iconic decades-old beef noodle spot – Soong Kee. I simply prefer their version of meat sauce and the thinner noodles. N, however, said he liked Shin Kee better, so it’s all a matter of preference.

Better yet, try both!

SHIN KEE BEEF NOODLES 

7a, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, 50000 Kuala Lumpur

Telephone: 012 673 7318

Opening hours: 10.30am – 7pm (closed Wednesdays)

Travel Blog: Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur – Once Upon A Chinatown

You’re probably wondering why I chose to call it ‘once upon’, like it’s not anymore.

Well, that’s because it’s not. Not really.

Tourists may know it as Kuala Lumpur’s ‘Chinatown’, but the truth is that Petaling Street has long ceased to be one. The grand archway may have tiny red lanterns and a curved green-tiled rooftop, but the authenticity of the place ends there; having made way for a cheap flea-market-esque atmosphere. Bangladeshis, Myanmarese, Indian nationals, etc., are employed by Chinese bosses to peddle their wares. Some of the food stalls are still manned by the Chinese, but even these are slowly being replaced by foreign labour.

I’m not saying its a bad thing per se – many of Chinatown’s businesspeople have worked hard over the years and they deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labour in their twilight years, since many youngsters no longer want to continue the fam biz – but it is still sad all the same that this once glorious Chinatown’s culture and spirit have been eroded in favour of commercialisation.

Listen to me rambling! That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t drop by Petaling Street – there’s plenty to see and do if bargaining and shopping for (overpriced lol)ripoffs are your thing. And the place does have a rich history. You just have to dig a little deeper.

Before Kuala Lumpur became the metropolis it is today, it was just another muddy ol’ spot with rich tin deposits. Seeking riches, the Chinese (mostly Hokkien and Hakka clansmen) came to work as coolies in the tin mines in the late 1800s. They were governed by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, a rich Chinese businessman and prominent figure in the early founding days of KL. It was around this time that Chinatown was founded, playing host to tradesmen, farmers, restaurants and other businesses. If you go hunting around, you might still find some hidden gems like the Yook Woo Hin dim sum restaurant, which was founded in 1928 !

Lots of stalls set up all along the pedestrian pathways sell ‘bargain’ bags, clothes, toys, handphone accessories, etc.

This shop that sold fancy fidget spinners for RM15 uncle nei mou hui cheong

For me, the only authentic part of Petaling Street left are the food shops, which sell various local and Chinese favourites, like pastries, biscuits and baked buns. There is, of course, the famous air mata kucing shop (literally cat’s eye tears) which is a blend of monk’s fruit juice with longan.

Stalls selling bakchang (glutinous rice dumplings) for the Mid Autumn Festival.

An old uncle still making a living from his pushcart selling ‘dai gau meen’ (big face dough?) or apam balik, filled with bits of peanut and sweet corn.

Fresh sugar cane juice and coconuts.

So is Petaling Street worth a visit?

If you’re a first timer to KL, the place is within close proximity to all the attractions like Pasar Seni (Central Market) and Kasturi Walk (similar concept to Chinatown, but with more Malay traders). Bargain hunters or people who like to shop for cheap imitations might find a few gems here, that or food hunters, might also find the place good for a visit. If you’re looking for a slice of Chinese culture though, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Opening hours: 10AM – late

Getting There 

Convenient if you’re taking the train; just alight at Pasar Seni LRT. Petaling Street is about 5 minutes walk away (next to Central Market).

Also read my other Chinatown experiences in: 

Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia 

Singapore

Los Angeles, California 

San Francisco, California 

Binondo, Manila 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Cafe that was a Brothel – Merchant’s Lane, Petaling Street Kuala Lumpur

I admit it. Despite this being a (mostly) food blog, I’m not the most up-to-date when it comes to food trends or new cafe openings – there always seems to be new ones mushrooming up somewhere or other, and not enough days to try them out (not to mention… not kind on the wallet. lol). 😀

So even though I’ve heard many good things about Merchant’s Lane in Petaling Street, it wasn’t until last week that I got to visit the place with N. It was an awesome experience – not just because of its nostalgic, atmospheric vibe, but also coz of the food and service.

There are no visible signboards proclaiming their location. Instead, we had to hunt for the cafe entrance, which was shielded by a bamboo shade in front of Kiat Leong Stationery and Trading. There we found green doors, and a narrow stairway leading up to the second floor.

The stairway was bathed in a sleazy red light – perhaps a throwback to the days when the place used to be a brothel. Walls were intentionally left chipped and flaking, with posters plastered over for events, open-mic nights and other artsy happenings galore. We got there around 1-ish and there was a short line, but we got a table for two fairly quickly.

Old school/vintage paraphernalia decorated the shelves, along with artsy items that would satisfy any hipster’s wet dream.

The main dining area was spacious and airy, with a high sloping ceiling and plenty of natural light filtering from above. Rattan chairs, paired with stainless steel tables and the blotchy concrete walls created a nice blend of modern and nostalgic, of industrial meets old-school charm.

Restaurant is popular with the urban crowd; mostly young, but also families.

Orders are made at the counter, where they have shelves lined with teas and coffees. Loved the fluorescent lights within the caged counter top design.

While waiting for our food to arrive, I did some snooping around. 😀 Haven’t seen these calendars in a long time.

Like most pre-war buildings, the space is longer than it seems, belying its external appearance. Beyond the main dining area is an outdoor patio (smoking) with several more tables and lots of shrubbery. Bunches of dried herbs and bulbs hang from the wooden beams, while a faded wall that would have looked ugly on its own is spruced up with vintage posters and flower garlands.

At the very back is a cosy nook, with incense coils acting as ceiling decorations, and large tapestries featuring vivid and colourful flower paintings. Old school wall-mounted fans spun around lazily as guests engaged in intimate conversation, snuggled on low rattan chairs. It was less crowded and noisy in this space: I can imagine spending a whole afternoon here having a cuppa with friends or the s/0.

   

Merchant’s Lane definitely scores points for ambience, but it would be poor fare if the food didn’t live up to expectations.

Thankfully, the few items we tried were satisfactory, with some clear winners. My hot Rose Honey Milk (RM12) looked too pretty for consumption : the bed of flower petals scattered over the froth was like an exquisite work of art. Finally took a sip and was pleased; milky with just a hint of honey sweetness, complemented by the subtle fragrance of flowers.

N tried their signature Hongkie Beef Stew (RM22), which is slow cooked Cantonese beef with mash and gravy. This was well done: the beef was tender and flaked apart easily, while the mash on the bottom was smooth and creamy. The sauce on first try tasted good, but after a bit it got too sweet for my liking. Could have done with a bit more texture, but overall, still a decent dish.

The Italian Chow Mein (RM21)  was a fusion of east and west: stir fried pasta with chicken Rendang. I liked the al-dente texture of the noodles, and the slightly spicy Rendang sauce with tomato (not spicy enough imo!). Again, first few bites were good but it tasted increasingly sweet towards the end for some reason. Wouldn’t say it’s the best pasta I’ve ever had, but I’d still give it a 7.5/10.

To round off the meal, we ordered the cheekily-named Better than Sex (RM18) – four thick rolls of Pandan flavoured roti jala with melted cheese, served with signature kaya toast ice cream and drizzled over with gula melaka sauce, a handful of almonds and slices of strawberry.

THIS.

The roti jala was soft and fluffy, perfect to go with the sweetish-salty ice cream and the gooey cheese. Almonds added a much needed crunch, and the thick, caramel-ly gula melaka brought everything together in perfect harmony. A good dessert to say the least!

Is Merchant’s Lane worth visiting? 

Yes, especially if you love cosy little hole-in-the-wall nooks and too-good-to-eat-looking dishes.

Food: 7.5/10 (9/10 for the dessert!)

Service: 8/10 (fast and friendly)

Ambience: 9/10 (-1 point because a bit crowded/noisy on weekends)

 

MERCHANT’S LANE 

First Floor, 150, Jalan Petaling, Off Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur.
Opening hours: (daily) 12PM – 8PM

 

 

Visiting Chinatown (Kampung Cina) @ Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia

 

Hey guys! So I was recently on a media trip to Redang island, off the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia. Took an overnight bus from KL, and stopped at Chinatown in Kuala Terengganu for breakfast. Dubbed Kampung Cina (literally Chinese Village), it is one of the oldest Chinese settlements in Southeast Asia, dating back to the 1700s. Although not as old as the one in Binondo, Manila, it’s still pretty old! 🙂

KT Chinatown sits at the mouth of the Terengganu River, where the place was once an important trading hub. In its heyday, it had over 1,000 homes! All that remains now are several dozen shophouses, most of which have been designated as protected buildings under the UNESCO World Monument Programme. The style is similar to many Malaysian-Chinese shophouses found in Ipoh, Penang, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur – usually double storey, with a five foot walkway (covered corridor) at the shopfront.

Entrance arch with the usual Chinese motifs – lanterns, sloping roofs, dragons on clouds.

Breakfast at one of the restaurants – trying out a local specialty called ‘Roti Paung’. It’s like a cross between buns and bread, with a flat bottom but lumpy top somewhat similar to a sixpack lol. The bread was firm but fluffy, and came with a slab of butter and kaya (coconut jam) as spread. To complete the meal, some soft boiled eggs seasoned with pepper and soy sauce, and a glass of cold sweet Milo. 

Exploring the town! The designs aren’t uniform; each building has its own character, which makes them more charming.

Many of the Chinese who live here may be descended from early settlers, with the homes handed down from generation to generation. While it is not clear when exactly the city was founded as no archaeological digs can be conducted in order to preserve the heritage buildings, records by Admiral Cheng Ho (one of China’s most famous admirals) date back to the 15th century, where he supposedly landed in Terengganu with a fleet.

A fire in the 1800s gutted most of the town, so the buildings we see today have been reconstructed. Most are made from brick, plaster and timber.

Small town saloon – nothing fancy. I love how idyllic things are here. Do you spot the shopkeeper peeking from behind the door? xD

 

Oldest Taoist Temple in Singapore – Thian Hock Keng, Chinatown, Singapore

Singapore has a significant Chinese population (74%). Long ago, when the first Chinese immigrants arrived on the island republic with nothing to their names but hopes and dreams, Chinatown was the epicentre of everything. Today, it spans several blocks within the Outram district and houses numerous heritgae sites and old buildings – an important reminder of the country’s culture and history.
For our Chinatown Tour, we had Shal from Ruby Dot Trails as our guide. And what a guide she was! Visiting places of interest is one thing but having a good guide is another: and Shal really elevated our experience by telling us loads of interesting stories and tidbits. It felt more like having a very knowledgable local friend bringing us around. 🙂
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Our first stop for the day was Thian Hock Keng, or the Temple of Heavenly Happiness. Established in 1839, it is the oldest and most important Hokkien/Taoist temple in Singapore. Shal pointed out that the temple sits on Telok Ayer Street, which was so called because the area where Chinatown is right now was actually by the sea (now it’s not due to land reclamation).
Dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea and patron deity of seamen, Ma Zu, the temple was originally a simple shrine located close to the shoreline. Sailors arriving after a long voyage from China would offer their prayers as thanks for safe arrival to Singapore. Eventually they brought over a Ma Zu statue from China and erected a proper temple in 1842, at a cost of 30,000 Spanish dollars.
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There are separate entrances to the temple. We entered through the side door, because the main one is only for VIPs. The side doors are painted over with images of two fierce generals, or the ‘Door Gods’, who guard the temple from evil.
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The main entrance, on the other hand, has different ‘door gods’, which, according to Shal, are eunuchs (since Mazu is a goddess, so it’s more appropriate).
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The main temple. It’s not very large, but it sure is grand. Just look at the elaborate details!
The structure is typical of Chinese temples, with a spacious courtyard and a huge ash urn for joss sticks. Shal pointed out some interesting fixtures for us. If you look up at the beams, there are Indian elements – figurines of Indian craftsmen alongside the usual dragons and phoenixes. During the temple’s construction, Indian craftsmen and workers were brought in to help. As a gesture of thanks, they were allowed to carve their images into the structure. It proved that racial harmony and tolerance were in place, even back in the days. How cool is that?
Even though it wasn’t a very big temple, it was surely an important one. Visitors looking up might notice a large scroll-like hanging at the top of the chamber, which was a decree from a Qing Dynasty emperor – a great honour for a temple in what was considered the ‘boondocks’. The decree has been stored away for safekeeping, but we can still see the replica at the temple today.
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Source: taoist-sorcery.blogspot.com note: NOT the Ma Zu statue at Thian Hock Keng temple.
Pictures of the main shrine housing the Mazu statue wasn’t allowed, but I wanted to illustrate the story with a picture, so yeah.
Mazu: The Goddess of the Sea
Like many Taoist deities, it was believed that she was an actual person before being deified (is that a word?) Her real name was Lin Moniang, and she lived in 900s Fujian province during the Song Dynasty. An excellent swimmer, she wore red garments while at the shore to guide fishing boats home, even in harsh weather. Her father and brothers were fishermen. Legend has it that a big typhoon arose while they were at sea, and Lin Moniang fell into a trance where she dreamed of them drowning and attempted to save them. She saved her father but her mother woke her up from her trance, thus dooming her brother. The father returned alive and the villagers believed a miracle had happened. It was said that Lin Moniang ‘died’ when she climbed a mountain alone and flew to heaven, becoming a goddess.
Mazu is often flanked by two generals, Cheen Lei Ngan (thousand mile eye) and Soon Fung Yee (with the wind ear), from the legend of the 10 Brothers. They are her eyes and ears, and lookout for sailors or fishermen in trouble.
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Chinese temple, but European-style tiles from Holland. The outside gate is Scottish steel.
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Side area, housing other deities. There are deities for everything you could possibly pray for – Mazu for protection and blessing, Confucius for kids who are studying, another deity for health, and one for matters related to love.
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Another interesting story is that of the Black and White guards of Hell, or the Heibai Wuchang. 
Legend has it that they were once two constables of justice, Xie Bi’an and Fan Wujiu. While looking for an escaped convict, they split up and promised to meet at a bridge. Fan Wujiu was on time but due to heavy rain, Xie got delayed. Not wanting to break his promise to his colleague, Fan waited, but the rains swept the bridge away and he drowned (hence the black colouration of the deity, due to decomposition). Upon finally arriving, Xie was so overcome by remorse and guilt that he hung himself (thus the long tongue). Looking down from heaven, the Jade Emperor was impressed by their loyalty and friendship, thus appointing them guardians of the Underworld.
At Thian Hock Keng, Shal explains that devotees pray to these deities if they wish for wealth from ‘unorthodox’ means, ie striking the lottery or such. A closer look at the statues reveal that their tongues and mouths are stained black from opium and more recently, cigarettes – since unorthodox wealth = unorthodox offerings lol. There was a small table with an ashtray and sometimes you’d see beer or alcohol as well. Those with very sick and old relatives also pray to the Heibai Wuchang, to strike the person’s name off the list, since they are soul catchers.
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After all that, stepping out from the temple to the sight of towering buildings was a bit disorienting. We are still in the middle of 21st century Singapore!
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Thian Hock Keng Temple 
158 Telok Ayer St,
Singapore 068613
Opening hours: 730am-530pm
Entrance: Free – but observe local customs and dress decently.
thianhockkeng.com.sg

Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo Manila

It was by pure chance that we stumbled upon this gem of a noodle shop called Ling Nam while wandering the streets of Binondo. Feeling peckish after a lot of walking, it was the first noodle shop we saw and popped into. Turns out they serve good mami noodles.

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What are mami noodles? They’re basically noodle soup with a texture thicker than ramen but similar to wantan mee (thin egg noodles). I had the one with pork asado (basted in sweet dark soy sauce), beef chunks and wantan dumplings (PHP170).

Maybe it was because I was hungry, but the noodles were amazeballs. Especially with the sauce from the tender, melt-in-the-mouth pork asado, which when mixed into the soup created a flavourful broth. The wantans are stuffed with pork instead of shrimp, while the beef chunks were also soft – they must have cooked it for ages.

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E’s didn’t have asado, which made it much less flavourful.. I strongly recommend getting the one with asado. 😀

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Also got a siopao (steamed bun) with barbecued pork filling. Bun was fluffy, filling was savoury-sweet and flavour was just right. as good as buns go.

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Interior of shop was also Hong Kong style. They have an upstairs dining area.

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LING NAM WANTON PARLOR
616 T. Alonzo St., Sta Cruz, Manila
Tel No: (632) 733.5231 / 733.5234

They have branches all over Manila and one shop in Cebu, but this is the original one (58 years old!) so head on over here for some delish mami while in Chinatown. 🙂

 

 

Binondo : Manila’s Chinatown

My mum once told me a saying, “Where water flows, there will be Chinese people.”

As a fourth generation Overseas Chinese, I couldn’t agree more. We’re everywhere on the planet. My ancestors were poor people, and they left China on boats in search of a better life – as many others did to countries as far away as Haiti and Iceland. Our culture and values, which place a big importance on ‘wealth and prosperity’, also meant that many Chinese became traders and businessmen.

Binondo, or Manila’s Chinatown, is the oldest in the world: established in 1594 by the Spaniards as a way to keep an eye on their ‘immigrant’ population’ (lol ironic seeing that the Spaniards are immigrants themselves – but hey, the winner writes the history book, right?). Over hundreds of years, these original settlers have intermarried with the locals, creating a lineage called Chinese mestizo.

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This place has seen much grief – in the 1600s, a revolt was put down by the Spanish and subsequently, more than 20,000 of the colony were killed. It was also ransacked during the British invasion of Manila, and hundreds of innocent civilians died. In later years, it became an important banking and financial hub just before World War II, so much so that the area around it was called the Wall Street of the Philippines. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Manila, housing various souvenir shops, food stalls and historical buildings.

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We arrived on a rainy morning, so the roads were slick and wet with mud. It was the third day of Chinese New Year so festivities had winded down, but the streets were still lined with various CNY paraphernalia and food stuff. The overall layout reminded me of Hong Kong (never been to China *gasp* so I couldn’t tell you) – tall, narrow buildings fitted very closely together, narrow walkways, a jumble of signages.

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We asked around for the temple and was directed to one on the third floor of a building. This was peculiar to me because our Chinese temples in Malaysia are always a solitary building. The inside didn’t look much different though. The temple caretakers looked Chinese and spoke in a dialect I didn’t understand (possibly Hokkien).

The Chinoys (Chinese Filipinos) are well integrated into Filipino society, adopting the names, cultures and customs of the locals – even those with pure ancestry. This is quite different from Malaysia. When Malaysia declared independence, the Chinese and Indians (two other major race groups in our country) were allowed to have their own schools, systems and to keep our languages/names. It has resulted in a unique blend of cultures which still retains most of their respective customs/languages without being assimilated. There are pros and cons to this, but more on that in another post.

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The main street in Binondo is a long one, so expect to do some legwork. There was a bridge from the North to South part of Chinatown.

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The river running through town was filthy. ._.

We didn’t get to go to many places other than the church because of the infernal rain, but there are historical buildings around that you can visit, such as the First United Building, Regina Building, Burke Building and Natividad Building. Mostly, come to Chinatown to experience the Chinoy culture and load up on food, street snacks and souvenirs (talisman, charms) to take home. You can even find exotic items like ginseng and shark’s fin in Chinese herbal shops here.

Getting There 

Take the LRT from Baclaran station to Carriedo (we stopped at Rekto and walked from Quiapo to Santa Cruz to Chinatown, which was quite a long walk lol).