Photo: Thomas Rafael

The Chinatown area of Lower Manhattan is one of the most well-known cultural areas of New York City. Since the 1960s, the population of Chinatown has grown and grown, with immigrants from China as well as an increasing variety of immigrants from other east asian countries. Chinatown is unique in its self-containing structure - it's both a highly commercial and highly residential area. The most well-known street of Chinatown is Canal Street, which is accessible by a variety of different transportation methods. Climbing up from the subway into Chinatown does indeed feel like you've been transported into a whole different country - one worlds away from the sophisticated tree-lined streets of upper Manhattan and the cosmopolitan business world of Midtown.

What's there to see in Chinatown? Dozens of groceries, fish mongers, and bakeries sell their wares along the streets. Bargaining is an expected part of the trade, due to the neighboring competition. Garment industries, jewelry centers, and banks fill in the blocks. Most of the storefronts along Canal Street cater to the tourist trade - selling imported imitation jewelry, purses, clothing, and perfume, as well as electronics and housewares at low prices. Many tourists come to Chinatown to enjoy a savory meal, and it's nearly impossible to go wrong - there are noodle shops and dumpling houses, as well as more traditional chinese restaurants, lining every street, and you're sure to enjoy the cheap, delicious food, which feels much more authentic than living-room take-out!

If you're heading to Chinatown to enjoy the bargain shopping and the delicious food, do yourself a favor and step off of Canal Street, onto some of the side streets a few blocks in any direction. You'll find more authentic food, and many of the same sorts of items for sale at lower prices.

Molly O'Neill