Yeah I know, if this is a news article it’s no longer relevant but it would have been weird to squeeze this in my Baler series so I had to put this off just a bit. Anyway, I still want to make a post about this simply because, it’s the first time I actually celebrated Chinese New Year and where else can you do it best but in the oldest China town in the world, Binondo. So here’s 5 tips to celebrating Chinese New Year in Binondo.
1. Do not bring a car
To say that Binondo is crowded in this time of the year would be an understatement. There are lots of people, Filipino and foreigners alike, that if you bring a kid, the chance of you losing the kid is high. Dragon dances are being performed at every corner, the streets are lined with fruits, charms, and other things that Chinese believe to bring good luck, and of course, the foods, oh my they are everywhere. So unless you want to spend hours trying to find a spot for your car, I suggest that for this occasion, just take the commuter’s way.
2. Bring your camera
The Chinese sure know how to greet New Year; everybody looked like they were having a great time. There are so many things to see, it’d be a shame not to photograph them. The fascinating dragon dances alone will make your camera busy. My friend and I had a blast taking photos. The dragons come in different colors, but the most prominent, of course, are the red ones. Incidentally, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon.
3. Carry a small bag
Many people gather in one area especially when there are dragon dances. If you are carrying a big bag, it will make things extra difficult for you. So settle with a small bag, specifically one you can put in front of you because you never know if there are some pickpockets lurking about. Only bring the essentials then you’re good to go.
4. Go on a food trip
This is Binondo so you don’t pass up a chance to go on a food trip, and the food, they are everywhere! You don’t even have to go to the restaurants because the streets are already filled with food stalls. Even some restaurants have set up their own take-out stall outside. There’s the dumplings, siopao, noodles, hopia, chestnuts, tikoy, the list is endless.
We went to Baker’s Fair in search of that diced hopia, which according to my friend is for the win. To my dismay, two Baker’s Fair branches we’d been to had run out of the coveted hopia. I was impressed (and of course disappointed), if they’d been sold out that early then they must be really that good. I just settled with the hopiang ube, PHP25 for five pieces. Whatever disappointment I may have been feeling was gone the moment I sunk my teeth on a piece of this hopia. They were freshly cooked so they were warm, soft, and smelled real good.
5. Take home a souvenir
It doesn’t matter if you believe in good luck charms or not, at least bring home one item to serve as a souvenir. I was quite amused seeing the charms that were being sold on the sidewalks. Who would have thought that pineapples and ginger tied with red ribbons can be used as good luck charms? There are also bead bracelets, dragon figurines, and Chinese coins. Or a box of tikoy, if you are really not into souvenirs.
Lastly, just have fun! Take lots of pictures, light an incense, observe the scenes, dance with the dragons, watch the program that showcases Chinese culture, and most of all, eat lots of food. The Chinese New Year is a fun and colorful festival and even if you are not Chinese, you can enjoy it, the way my friend and I did.