The Chinatown Mega-Tour

New York Chinatown Signs StreetA long while back I read a very nice post about Manhattan’s Chinatown.  The article was photo based, and gave some good background on the predominantly Cantonese speaking population.  I liked the article because of the historical element that it presented, as well as the simplicity with which it was presented.  Good pictures and some info about what you were seeing.  I have been to the NYC Chinatown many times, and each time find that there are small nooks which I have never seen before.  It is densely packed, and although the main strip of Canal street is a tourist hell, it is possible to loose yourself in smaller back streets that have preserved stronger elements of Chinese culture.

Thinking back on this article, I had an idea; It is time to do an East Coast Chinatown mega-tour, covering each of the significant Chinese enclaves in the region.  Queens, Manhattan, Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore.  All of these cities have noteworthy Chinatowns.  I heard that Atlanta was also a possibility, but that it pretty damn far from here.  I would like to visit each one, take some pictures, try some food and make some good comparisons between the bunch.  I have only ever been to the regions in the Boroughs, and find it hard to believe that they would all be the same.  I’m sure I could find out by searching the web, but that just wouldn’t be a true adventure.
To truly top off the experience, I am planning on riding the mind-trip of bus services that are generically referred to as the ‘Chinatown Bus’.  These busses are significantly cheaper than most other lines, an initial marketing ploy used to make them appeal to the largely lower economic class that exists in the regions that the busses connect.  At least this was how they originated.  Seeing the success of the original idea, some larger companies such as greyhound have opened their own lines designed with the same super cheap bottom line principal (Bolt is one such of these brands).  As comes with the territory of a discount ticket, the clientele can range from the super bizarre to the occasionally terrifying, and the service on the bus is definitely hit or miss.  I have heard any number of terror stories from the classic Chinatown busses.  I believe it is the only acceptable method by which to travel for this trip.

Now, here’s the true question: What amount of time is acceptable to spend in each location in order to gain a good sense of what there is?  I would love to spend a couple of hours in each city, but I am also aware that I would have to spend significantly more money if hotel stays were required.  I could easily make it to Boston and back in a day, staying at my aunts house in Brooklyn.  This would also include visits to the immediate options of downtown Manhattan and Flushing, Queens.  This leaves Philly, Baltimore and D.C.. I have an Aunt in Philadelphia, and I’m sure I could turn the trip into a visit, as she would probably be happy to spend the day visiting things around the city in conjunction with a Chinatown excursion.  The question that remains, then, is whether or not it would be feasible to visit both D.C. and Baltimore in one day.  I will have to look at a map and a bus schedule to answer that question.  I’m not even going to consider Atlanta until I have a better idea about the others.  For now, I believe I will start with the trip to Boston and Manhattan, as these are in immediate range and I can hop on the bus with pretty short notice.

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