Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Trippin': Exploring Binondo, Manila's Chinatown - Church, Crystal-shopping, The Wai Ying Experience, and Bakery-hopping [The Cityscapes Series]

Last week, April 9 was a holiday (Araw ng Kagitingan), so my friends and I took the opportunity to have an urban adventure in Binondo. It is the country's Chinatown, and is actually the oldest Chinatown in the world, dating back to 1594. A lot of ethnic Chinese live there, and it is a place brimming with awesome and unusual food, as well as unique stores with great prices.

My friend Cielo -- who is part-Chinese and knows the area well -- thought up and organized the entire thing. Our former officemates Verns and Luis joined us, along with my husband Aleq. (The last time I was in Binondo was actually with the same group of people plus our other former officemates, and that was years ago.) It was a fun day exploring a part of Manila that I don't know well. Here's the story.


The day started bright and early at 9am, with a visit to Binondo Church. Aleq and I met up with Cielo at Bluebay Walk in Roxas Boulevard, but we met up with Verns and Luis at the church. It was my first time inside it, and I was fascinated with all the paintings on the ceiling. We spent a few minutes there praying. 

   The Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish

After volting in, we proceeded to brunch! Cielo took us to Wai Ying, a restaurant known for its dumplings. She warned us that it was a hole-in-the-wall type of place, but Aleq and I were fine with it because we were used to it considering that we sometimes order take-out from Ma Mon Luk over in Banawe. We still prepared ourselves for the worst though, but when we got there, we were pleasantly surprised. It was a nice enough place -- bright with very cool airconditioning. It was just like the other old Chinese restaurants we've been to.

Dimsum feast!

We ordered a variety of dimsum (the Cantonese style of food prepared in bite-sized portions). They had dishes there that we have never encountered before. We also ordered some congee and fried rice. Some of us got milk tea as well. 

Cold HK Milk Tea

Beef Congee


Steamed Spareribs

Fried Rice

I think this was Fish Cake Hofan Soup but I'm not sure.

Sliced Fish Congee

Hakaw (Shrimp Dumplings)

Shrimp Chong Fan (Rice Roll)

Vegetable Dumplings

Everything was good! All the dishes were nothing we've tried before, and definitely far from regular Chinese fastfood that has a Filipino slant. We were so stuffed at the end of the meal. If you ever make a trip to Binondo, this place is a must-try. The address is 810 Benavidez St.

Happy Luis and Verns

Happy Aleq, Julls, Cielo

Afterwards, we went to look at crystal shops. There were a bunch scattered all over Binondo, and we learned a lot about what crystals are for. The prices there are also a lot cheaper than mall prices. Haggling is also acceptable! Our friend Verns is an expert haggler and was able to negotiate good prices for us. Aleq and I ended up with some citrine stones. [More on this in a future post!]

 Aleq and I looking at crystals. (Thanks Cielo for the pic!)

Crystal-cleansing with the use of a spirit bowl

Then we went bakery-hopping! No trip to Binondo would be complete without some take-home Chinese pastries. We first hit up the Salazar Bakery in Ongpin Street. There are branches in malls all over Manila, but the ones in Binondo have some goodies that are exclusive to the area, like this huge sponge cake thing with red mongo beans in the bottom, and the Chinese red ampao, which Aleq and I got. We also bought some diced hopia and Haw Flakes -- the red kind! 

Next was Bakers' Fair, also in Ongpin Street. There, Cielo, Luis and Verns got pianono. We also stopped by a small store somewhere along the way there were Verns and Luis bought some fried siopao. Aleq and I are still regretting that we didn't get any of those!

Our last stop was the famous Eng Bee Tin. They have the best hopia (in my opinion). Aleq and I kind of went crazy in there. There was so much we wanted to get! It was amazing. 

The hopia heaven that is Eng Bee Tin!

Loot from Salazar: plain ampao, red ampao, Haw Flakes, diced hopia

Still from Salazar: those sponge cake mamon things I don't know the name of.

Loot from Eng Bee Tin: Hopia Hapon, Red Mongo Hopia, Custard Hopia
It was a wonderful field trip with friends! It was a different experience, and yet we didn't have to leave the city for it. We had a great time, and we're actually planning on doing it again soon. 

Road home from Binondo. I can never resist taking a picture of the Manila Bay when passing through Roxas Boulevard.


  1. Our phones have the best resolution talaga! Ang nice ng pics. Next time you should take a pic of the arch. :)

    1. For camphone pics, yes. For pics in general, no. :P I was actually wishing I used my digicam (our favorite Sony TX5) hehe.

      About the arc, I wanted to! I was too scared to bring my phone out in some places! I will bring the digicam out and be braver on our next trip. :)

      Thanks for being our tour guide and thinking up this entire thing by the way!