After spending the morning of Day Four stalled on the interstate and all afternoon in Quincy, we spent the early evening in Boston’s version of Chinatown. It’s much smaller than its counterpart we visited in Manhattan in 2011, and a little less tailored to nosy tourists (by which I mean I still haven’t gotten over how Manhattan’s Chinatown had information kiosks and a large directory in the middle), but Boston’s has its own way of doing things.
The honorary entrance through the Chinatown Gate is on the east end, where we saw authentic sights such as Chinese signage, paintings and murals, and a group of men gathered in a circle by the gate, presumably enjoying a happy-go-lucky game of sorts. I’m not sure they would’ve let us join the fun if we’d asked.
Some art didn’t reveal itself quickly if you allowed yourself to be distracted. We were so transfixed by the ornate Gate that we nearly missed the tapestry to one side.
If you approach that closely enough, you’ll discover still more art situated below. Art under art by art, as it were.
Did I mention there’s art? Because hey. Art. Chinese, even.
Upon arrival, if you’re foolish enough to drive instead of braving Boston’s mass transit options, your first challenge is finding somewhere to leave your car. Most of the streets are one-way and so narrow that I held my breath just in case it would help us slip through. Parallel spaces were packed to 105% capacity, and parking garages were sold out or restricted to residents with authorized tags only. We ended up paying a pretty penny for a spot in an unfenced, open-air lot that didn’t feel terribly secure, but I consoled myself that it was cheaper than the average Chicago garage.
Visitors expecting unusual sights won’t be disappointed. We saw plenty of restaurants and several small businesses, but surprisingly few shopping options. I only found one store selling DVDs, largely a mix of porn and concerts. Refusing to leave empty-handed, I skipped their entertainment section and bought a gaudy dragon statue for one of my desks.
We knew the job was dangerous when we took it. The timid can seek refuge at McDonald’s.
The world around you in Chinatown may seem strange and yet familiar at the same time. It’s the little differences here and there. Try not to stare, even when you notice artifacts from other exotic cultures and distant generations.
This obscure gewgaw, for example, is called a “phone booth”. Ask your mom or dad to explain the concept to you. They used to be all the rage.
For dinner we consulted online recommendations and sided with the Gourmet Dumpling House. You can’t go wrong with an eatery sandwiched between two bakeries. In this photo you’ll notice a recurring motif in Chinatown: political ads. They were so prevalent, they nearly outnumbered the Chinese pictograms on some walls.
My wife’s pan-fried pork dumplings was easily the best meal at our table — simple, meaty, and less left over to bring back to the hotel fridge.
We spent two hours wandering and sightseeing, wishing the neighborhood were larger but grateful for the experience regardless. My son was disappointed that we didn’t find an Asian grocery to explore. I wouldn’t be surprised if we missed a side street or failed to perceive a top-secret entrance.
We sure didn’t miss those political signs, though. They were everywhere.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]