Chinatown is a living, breathing, anything-but-quiet enclave with vibrant streets full of food shops selling exotic produce and seafood, Chinese restaurants and bakeries, Buddhist temples, herbalists, discount massage parlors, and barbershops. A quarter of the city's Chinese residents live here, in a neighborhood that started as a seven-block area but now covers some 40-plus blocks above and below Canal Street (encroaching on what was once a thriving Little Italy). Head to Mott Street, south of Canal—Chinatown's main thoroughfare—where the first Chinese immigrants (mostly men) settled in tenements in the late 1880s. Walk carefully, as the sidewalks can be slick from the ice underneath the eels, blue crabs, snapper, and shrimp that seem to look back at you from seafood displays as you pass by. You can create a movable feast here with delicious soup dumplings, Peking duck, yellow custard cake, and bubble tea—each at a different place in the neighborhood. A city tourist-information kiosk (www.explorechinatown.com) on a traffic island where Canal, Baxter, and Walker Streets meet can help you with tours, and it also has a map that's useful for unraveling the area's tangled and angled streets.
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