Thursday, 26 April 2007

I don't like Chinatowns

I don't even like the word Chinatown. In this increasingly self-concious world where words are shunned for the wrong historical connotation, you couldn't put town on the end of any other country and expect to avoid criticism. Try it and see.

As a student, I used to make regular pilgrimages to Manchester's CT to stock up on packet noodle (decades before Asda stocked it) and London's is pretty good for food but mainly what I dislike are the inevitable red gates and other tourist labeling. It's a contrivance.

The one here in Singapore (yes, there is one) follows this traditional formula. It has shops, stalls and there is decent food to be found but why anyone would go to CT for a Chinese meal versus going next door is beyond my imagination.

It says quite a lot about the relatively non-Chinese, Western look and feel of Singapore's streets that you can have a CT and even notice it. At this rate, they'll open up a CT in Beijing for the Olympics. China recently built an English-style town near Shanghai, complete with cobblestones. If it is truly genuine, there will be a Golden Jade Chinese takeaway down a side street.

For authenticity, Little India is highly recommended. It has real Indians with fantastic Indian restaurants, spice sellers, gold shops, long-distance phone kiosks and moneychangers vying for the best rate for rupees. Everything is real, for a purpose. Now there's a proper ethnic minority quarter.