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Sunday, February 07, 2016

My 7 hours itinerary in Binondo, Manila for the Chinese New Year 2016

This is my 7 hours itinerary tour in Binondo, Manila. I made this itinerary just in time for the upcoming Chinese New Year 2016 this Feb 7-8, 2016. My first plan was to make a 12 hours itinerary, this is for people who want to tour around Binondo and the Chinatown area for one day, it’s a promising itinerary project, but I’ve learned from my 1st trial that its hard to complete a 12 hours itinerary especially if you started at around 11pm or 12nn. Also, at night time, some establishments closes so early and its hard to take photos of the view at night.

On my first walking tour last February 3, I decided to launch my 12 hours project here in Binondo, I want to share to my blog readers what else you can do in Binondo and Chinatown besides from eating and visiting those old restaurants and Chinese temple.

I did a survey and I learned that most of my friends are recommending me to try those Chinese restaurants, yes, they are all good when it comes to food, but I want to search for more sites, views and uncommon places that are worth of your time to visit.

For my project and experiment, I invited my co-blogger friend Enzo Luna of to join with me to walk around Binondo using these itinerary. During our stay there, the rainy weather challenged us and it slowed us down a bit, skipping some sites in Escolta and the outskirts of Binondo.

I created a plotted destination via Google Maps, feel free to use it as your reference if you plan to visit the food havens, cultural sites, historical sites and the art nouveau buildings of Binondo. There still lots of places to visit, and the map I created is very incomplete. Feel free to fill up the gap, just share it below in my blog comment board.

You can browse the map here via

or just simply go to my custom made short url -

This is not a suggested itinerary, its up to you if you want to follow it or make a custom version of your itinerary. The fun part of doing a mapping of a site or city is that I’ve learned so much more about the area, and I discovered that there are still many things you can do if you research and also explore the heart and edges of the city.

I combined the things that I learned when I joined the walking tours of Carlos Celdran and Ivan Man Dy in the past, also I have a copy of Ivan’s Binondo Food Walk and Ramada Hotel’s Binondo tour map, I used the learnings in creating this itinerary, I also did some Google search and stumbled a series of blogs that showed to me the non-food topics about Binondo, Paolo Bustamate’s blog The Filipinas is very helpful when it comes to knowledge about these art nouveau buildings, the history and beauty of these old buildings got me the interest to see it with my own eyes and appreciate art and history at the same time. I super thank them for the effort in promoting and also share knowledge about the old Manila.

Btw, this project was inspired from my Facebook friends who ask suggestions on where to bring their foreign or local tourist friends around the city or province in one day, just to experience a food adventure, historical, cultural and a way to embrace the city.

so welcome…to my 7 hours tour of Binondo, Manila.

1. Ying Ying Tea House
location: Dasmarinas st.

Me and Enzo met here and we agreed that this will be our starting point for the 7 hours tour around Binondo. Ying Ting Tea House is an old restaurant that serves Chinese food with reasonable prices. I love the vintage feel of the restaurants, kinda reminds us of those old restaurants in Hong Kong. I also love the smell of the restaurant, it brought me back to the days of 80’s when I first walk into an old Chinese restaurant in Quiapo and Cubao.

I ordered a beef curry rice, special Ying Ying siopao and then Enzo ordered this Wanton noodles.

2. Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch
in Quintin Paredes road, right after Jones Bridge

You won’t miss this new arch if you will enter Chinatown, main roads have this arch and I believe we have 3 of these. But the new arch that was built last 2015 is at Quintin Paredes road, just right after the Jones Bridge. Its so huge colorful, it now replaces that old arch near San Vicente St.

The 2015 arch is a bit controversial because some residents from Binondo didn’t like the Chinese words or characters written on the arch. Some say that the translation of the characters means that the place is owned by China, but according to the officials who made the new arch, the characters used was the same characters written in the archs of Chinatowns around the world.

3. The Commercial Bank & Trust Company Building
in Escota-Yuchengco st.

I like to invite you that you try appreciate the old buildings around Binondo, these buildings are very unique and have weird features. For example this UFO shaped building attracts so many people because of its shape, and you will discover that the UFO building is bank and office.

4. Weird art exhibit
in Escolta st.

I found these weird art exhibit in one of the buildings near Calvo building. There are two kinds of art exhibit, the 1st features these crows and an abandoned camp site and 2nd exhibit features a creepy mannequin infront of a hanged furry animal.

I think the art exhibit was from an old gallery or store that is now closed, they just left the art pieces for the public to appreciate street art.

Btw, the crow and the furry animal that I mentioned are all stuffed animals or taxidermy treated

5. Calvo Building
in Escolta-Soda st.

My first visit to this Calvo building was during a walking tour with Carlos Celdran and Samsung, I think that was way back around 2008 when Samsung launched their own Samsung Tab tablet. We used the tablet in snapping some photos and also in surfing some info about the sites. Carlos showed to us that there’s an Old Manila museum at the 2nd floor of Calvo Building, its open to all and you can see there old posters and items from the old times of Manila.

Calvo building was built in 1938, and its great to see that it is well maintained in present time.

6. Escolta Museum
inside Calvo Building

There’s a massive collection of old posters, coins, Coke bottles, movie posters and any items that dated during the pre and post-World War. All are preserved and exhibited inside the museum. Me and Enzo were supposed to visit the museum, but the security guard told us that the care taker went out to visit a bank and he is not sure what time the care taker be back in Calvo.

If you want to see the past, I suggest that you add this to your itinerary. There’s a donation needed when entering the museum, I think it was suggested to donate PHP10 per person.

7. City College Institute building (old PNB Buiilding)
infront of Calvo building

Its an old building that was built in the 60’s by architect Carlos Arguelles, it was an office for Philippine National Bank when it was constructed, later in the succeeding decades it was home for City College Institute of Manila. Unfortunately the building was nearly destroyed by a fire last 2015, there are debates about the demolition and also conservation of the building. The building is now abandoned and on hazard level due to deterioration.

The building is the 1st modern style structure that was built in the Philippines, the building’s construction symbolizes the successful commerce of our country. Tearing it down will totally erase the memory it left for us to realize that Philippines was once a strong and rich nation.

Last January 2016, there’s news already that the City of Manila,under the mayorship of Joseph Estrada, he mentioned that the building is a hazard and they decided to demolish it right away before it can harm the public walking near the old PNB building.

8. Jones BridgeIt’s the bridge that connects Manila and Binondo, This bridge was built in 1916 after an old bridge was destroyed by a big flood in 1914. Jones Bridge was named after former Virginia Rep. William Atkinson Jones, the principal author of the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916. The design was from Juan Arellano's Neoclassical style. The bridge was destroyed during World War 2 and was recovered back to shape in 1945.

Jones Brdige is also a diving launch pad for kids who dive to Pasig river. These kids really know how to swim and I think the diving activity is just a normal play activity.

(info via Wikipedia)

9. Escolta River Ferry Station
in Muelle Del Banco Nacional st, right after Calvo building

I haven’t tried riding the ferry transport in Pasig River, because I don’t know where to find the ferry station in Manila. But during my mapping activity of this tour, I learned that the ferry is right below the Jones Bridge.

The Pasig Ferry Service will cost you a PHP 30 ferry ride from Escolta to Intramuros, and a PHP 50 ferry ride going to Guadalupe. The entire Pasig Ferry trip starts from Intramuros-Lawton-PUP-Sta Ana-Lambingan-Valenzuela-Hulo-Guadalupe-San Joaquin-Pinagbuhatan.

10. El Hogar Filipino Building
in Muelle dela Industria- Juan Luna st.

El Hogar is so popular today because of a debate about its demolition by the new owner of the building and the preservation proposal by our heritage commission.

El Hogar stood the land of Manila in 1914, and its one of the oldest and earliest skyscraper of Manila. According to Wikipedia, the building is a wedding gift of Antonio Melian y Pavia, 3rd Count of Peracamps to his bride Margarita Zobel de Ayala. The building was designed by Ramon Irureta-Goyena and Francisco Perez-Munoz, the two art architect inject a strong Neoclassical and Renaissance design to the El Hogar, and you can see its so unique among the rest of the new buildings standing around it.

According to the people who lived around the building, they got sad about the news about the demolition of El Hogar, they wished that the building be preserved, because for them the structure is very iconic. I also learned that Enzo Luna shared a story to me that he visited an aunt who works in an office inside El Hogar years ago. The building is so old…and it needs a lot of repairs according to him, he shared to me that there are giant sewer rats living inside and the size is a bit larger than a cat.

11. Juan Luna Building
infront of El Hogar

The Juan Luna building is also known as Juan Luna E-Services building, the building was constructed on the year 1923 by two American architects, the building is formerly known back then as National City Bank.

It is now under restoration and preservation because the building will serve as a new venue to a BPO company.

The building is an eye catcher because of its columns

12. Chaco building
in Dasmarianas st-Quentin Paredes st.

Chaco building was built in the 1920s and it was named after a Chinese businessman named Mariano Uy-Chaco. The building is now occupied by Philtrust Bank and they did a great preservation and restoration of the entire facade of the building.

I didnt even noticed this building before, because I usually take a jeepney ride infront of it when going to UN Ave whenever Im at Binondo. You can appreciate the art deco style of the building by looking at its terrace on each window, the dome style top of the building and an awesome art at the top deck which reminds me of an old bed from Europe.

13. China Banking Corp building
in Juan Luna st.

I just saw this building when it was featured at The Filipinas blog, when I learned that its also an old building that was built in the 1920s, I immediately plot it on Google Maps, and went there to visit it.

According to Paolo, the blogger of The Filipinas, the bank was sealed off by the Japanese army during the world War, turning the assests into Japanese money. The building was damage during the war and it witnessed the course of history of Old Manila and Modern Manila.

The building is still pretty and well maintained. Thanks to China Bank.

14. Juan Luna Quick Bites
in Juan Luna st.

Me and Enzo Luna stumbled this Juan Luna Quick Bites eatery area in Juan Luna st. I think this is a good alternative if you ran out of options to eat in Binondo during the heavy crowded Chinese New Year. We took a break here, paused our walking tour, visited a comfort room and hydrated ourselves with some ice cold orange juice.

The place is busy due to its an eat and go joint for office people around Juan Luna st.

15. Estero de Binondo

Dirty old river… nothing special. But did you know that this river was an area for trade during the early times when Chinese ships docks in Manila to sell and do trading.

Today, the estero swallowed all the dirt and filth of Manila. Just cover your nose when you walk near it, people with low resistance to filth should stay away.

16. Heneral Antonio Luna’s home
in Urbiztondo st.

This old house in Urbiztondo st is the birth place of Heneral Antonio Luna. The old house was here since 1866, the same year when Antonio Luna was born. Antonio Luna is the brother of painter Juan Luna, who are also the super long distant grand father of Enzo Luna.

There’s also a controversy about this house, read the news here at

I saw a series of photos online about the house was repaired, cleaned and opened on a certain celebration. I do hope that our councils of the heritage commission should protect these heritage houses, as you can see on the photo that the front of the house is a parking lot and also a home to a street dweller.

The marker is still there and it was installed on 1967 citing that the place is the birth place of Antonio Luna. According to a bystander near the site, he said that our government should do something and not let the house rot, because some people who lives there and school kids forgot already the history of this heritage house . The only solution is that it should be well maintained and preserved, or turn it into a museum, so that people can appreciate that the life behind this old house.

17. Road to Divisoria

Just a road that leads to the busy street market of Divisoria.
You’ll see lots of sidewalk street vendors selling their wares in very cheap prices and also lots of street food vendors selling different kinds of meals and food on sticks.

18. Starbucks Binondo

It’s the only Starbucks branch on the Philippines with signage of a Chinese character.
The place serve to us as our rest area part 2 and CR break part 2.

20. Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz
A plaza was created infront of the Binondo Church and Ongpin st, the plaza was named after Lorenzo Ruiz, the First Filipino saint. There are two big fountains, 1 statue of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, Mama Mary statue and two monument

21. Binondo Church

Binondo Church is also known as Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish.

The church was founded on 1596 by Dominican priest to serve the Chinese people at the Chinatown to convert to Christianity, but the church was destroyed on 1762 by the British, then the church rose up again on 1852 but was damaged badly during the World War 2.

Our Filipino saint, St. Lorenzo Ruiz served here and became a missionary. Binondo Church is one of the oldest church here in Manila.

22. Roman Ongping statue

Roman Ongpin is heavily visited in every walking tour, his name is very popular because it was named after the Ongpin st. in Binondo. According to history, he is a Chinese businessman who secretly supported the Philippine Revolution

23. Ongpin st.
The long stretch of Ongpin st is very popular because of the colorful signage, the vast selection of restaurants, food joints and it’s the central business center in Chinatown. The look is still very vintage and there’s no mainstream commercial complex in this street, the people of Binondo did an awesome job in preserving and taking care of Ongpin st.

24. Sto. Cristo de Longos

An image of a crucified Jesus Christ was found by a deaf and mute in an old well and many says that the image is miraculous, the replica stood here in the wall in the corner of Ongping st. Many visitors drop by here to offer a prayer before starting their walk tour around Binondo.

The original image is now taken care of by the officials of Binondo Church, they encased the image in a glass cabinet near the entrance of the church and its accessible for everyone to see and pray with it.
Also during Chinese New Year, many people took their selfies here.

25. Dong Bei Dumplings

I’ve tried the kuchay pork dumplings during my 1st walk tour with Carlos Celdran, I can say that this is the best dumplings ever around Binondo. For a price of PHP 120, you get more than a dozen of kuchay pork dumplings. It’s a lot already to stuff your hungry tummy.

26. Estero fast food

There's a fast food near the estero of Ongpin, its like a mini resto that come all together to serve the hungry juans. Drop by here if you want to eat seafood for lunch or try pinoy and Chinese fusion cuisines.
There’s no aircon because the Estero fast food are at a sidewalk of the estero with cover roof. The aroma of the food cooked here over powers the stinky smell of the estero nearby. Kaya don’t worry.

27. Chinatown Lai Lai Hotel

Me and Enzo went here to check out the hotel, we will stay here for 2 days and observe the Chinese New Year festivities at night time. I learned that the hotel is under now a 3rd generation of owner, they will have their soft opening this afternoon, its like a re-launch welcoming the new administration of the hotel. I’ve been seeing this hotel ever since, and it reminds me of the song in Ranma 1/2 “Lai Lai boy” song.

28. Café Chino

Café Chino is an old café that was formerly located near Lai Lai Hotel. The new admin of the hotel transferred the café inside the Lai Lai Hotel. They offer lunch and dinner buffet at a price of PHP 299 each person. I was surprised when I saw that they serve Chinese food for buffet, and when it’s a buffet manner, expect an eat all you can spree ahhahaha. For breakfast buffet, they sell it at around PHP 150.

If you are looking for a hidden resto inside Chinatown, then I suggest you check out Café Chino as your alternative. Im sure the resto this Chinese New Year is super jam packed.

29. Higino Francisco Residence

I just learned about this Higino Francisco Residence when I stumbled a Google search about a historical sites around Binondo. I later learned that there’s this house owned by Higino Francisco, an old friend of Jose Rizal. The body of Rizal was brought here after his execution and also some say that Rizal lived here too.

There was a historical marker posted on an old building, but then it was demolished and will be replaced by a semi-high rise building.


see a photo of the old building here at

30. Ride the kalesa

If you really want an adventure, then try ride a kalesa and tour around Binondo. I don’t know much they charge, but I heard it’s a PHP 250 ride for two persons. I've rode a kalesa before during the 2008 tour with Carlos Celdran and Samsung.

31. Ongpin st. at Night
At night, you’ll see that Ongpin st will glow with lots of colors. The neon signage of each establishment will light up and it will teleport you to another world. The entire street will transform like an old China. Kulang na lang may nag kung fu street fight and Zhang Ziyi to greet you.

32. Carvajal st.

We’re almost near to end our walking tour of my 7 hours itinerary project in Binondo. Me and Enzo went here in Carvajal st. also known as the umbrella market of Binondo. The small sidewalk is a wet and dry market area, lots of vendors sells fruits, Chinese deli and seafood ingredients for your cuisine. There are some eatery and restaurant inside Carvajal st. One of the popular resto is the Quicksnack resto. I was about to my Oyster cake there, but the resto closed so early before 7pm.

33. Ho-land Chinese Deli

We ended our tour here in Ho-land Deli, a store near Carvajal st. I totally hoarded some hopia because it’s a best seller kind of hopia here in Chinatown, their hopia are good…not too sweet and its crunchy when you toast it again on a small oven.

End of walking tour

Thanks for reading my blog post and my 7 hours itinerary in Binondo, Manila. I will be there in Binondo again to observe the Chinese New Year and also welcome the year of the fire monkey. Me and my blogger friends will be there too for the Lai Lai Hotel soft opening, and we will attend a walking tour too, I hope I can discover new spots and food joints for my 3rd year of covering the Lunar New Year celebration here in Binondo.

Azrael Coladilla is the blogger and founder of Azrael's Merryland Blog. This blog started as a personal blog in 2003, and then converted the blog into a lifeblog about his interest and reporting about pop culture, lifestyle, entertainment, technology, food, travel, toys, outdoor adventure, internet and social media. Awarded as the 2009 Most Influential Blogger for Luzon, Philippines, awarded by the Philippine Blog Awards. He is the founder of several online communities - Manila Bloggers Network, Philippine Bloggers Network, Oh My Food! community, Cavite Bloggers, Travel and Blog Community, and Philippine ToyCon. Azrael's Merryland Blog is included in a list of top 50 Blogs in the Philippines , ranked 65th in Top 100 Blogs that Matter , 49 must read lifestyle blog in the Philippines. and rank 40th in 100 Top Philippine Blogs by Feedspot.
He loves to travel, explore, discover, eat new food, document and record his life, meet new people, do photography and collects Transformers toys.
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