Things to see in Paris: Chinatown
For years I had wanted to see a real Chinese New Year parade and that desire is what drove Liana, my wonderful assistant editor and me to the 13th arrondissement back in February.
We were anxious to see the start of the parade, so we crowded in with anticipation. It turns out there is no need to do this because the parade lasts for hours and you can see it basically no matter where you walk in the triangle of streets in Chinatown, Ave. de Choisy to Ave d’Ivry and then back up Choisy. Watch out for huge cascades of fireworks which are being lit up willy nilly all over the place creating thunderous explosions and sparks.
There were dragons, and many of them, bands, floats and drums. Loads of color and pretty fabulous outfits but like many parades after about 20 minutes or so everything begins to look alike and you find yourself ready for lunch.
While the parade is a special event and one of the spectacular things to see in Paris, everyday in Chinatown is interesting. Lucky for us we happened upon L’Indochine, which suited our needs perfectly. When you read about Chinatown (be alerted there are two in Paris) you’ll find a few places, which everyone agrees stand out. Yet I’ve had good luck just picking places on the spot due to their look, the crowd and my intuition. Today was luckily no different and we proceeded to have an absolutely superb Vietnamese meal at this non-descript looking 20-table restaurant. The whole family is involved here and of course it was bustling because of the festivities but the pho we had was magnificent, the spicy shrimp salad spot on and the Vietnamese iced coffee to die for. I’d go all the way back just for that.
I often go down to Chinatown for a bowl of pho, which is one of the cheapest meals you can have in Paris but this was the first time I’d spent time there during daylight hours. We found a restaurant supply store Kawa, 89-97 Ave de Choisy which was great fun to peruse and each of us found something very affordable to take home.
If you are in search of Ban Mei the two best are Thieng Heng at the entrance of the Tang Frères supermarket, 55 avenue d’Ivry and Khai Tri, 95 avenue d’Ivry. A trip through the department store Tang Frères is a lot of fun any day. Tea should be taken at L’Impire des Thés, which represents an ideal fusion of French marketing talent and Chinese raw goods offering hundreds of different types of tea.
Besides fireworks and food, manicure and pedicure places as well as the occasional Chinese massage place (Heather Stimmler Hall recommends Dong Fang at 12 rue Caillaux) offer great deals and you’ll walk home refreshed after your foray into this Asian Paris wonderland.
Map of Chinatown