Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chinatown Toronto - Spadina and College - Picture Perfect Movie Location, Shopping

A walk through Toronto's Chinatown area along Spadina south of College is like being in China itself. It's a popular location for movie filming, and a mecca for shopping in shops that could easily be lifted whole from any city in China -- Beijing, Nanning, Shanghai or Hong Kong.

Here are some pictures of Toronto's Chinatown I took earlier this week. If you've been to China, you'll see what I mean. If you haven't , well, trust me, this is as good as being there without the jet lag:-)(Click on image to enlarge, then click the Back button to return to this page.)

Wicker, Rattan, Bamboo, Purses and Shirts

This shop fronts on Spadina (map at bottom of this post), and, like its neighbours, goods are spread out along the sidewalk. Stores in Chinatown often have much lower prices than western chain stores. This shop had 6 ft-high bamboo poles that I needed, but I didn't want to carry them around town and to dinner.

Red Roses International Spadina Avenue

This is another shop I will come back to when I have more time. I found some wonderful cotton tunic tops for about $10 CAD. Some of them would make great beach cover ups, and all would go well with jeans. Red Roses also carries purses and bags, jewellery and assorted gift items.

BBQ Meats in Window Display

A few shops south on Spadina, this BBQ and meat store hung its wares in the front window. Many if not most of the clerks in Chinatown do not speak English, or else they don't speak it well enough to talk with non-Chinese. Just like in China! If a clerk really doesn't speak English, they will call in someone who does to answer your questions.

Dried Seafood ~ Fruits ~Vegetables

Also as in China (Hong Kong comes to mind, and Tai O village on Lantau Island), this shop sells dried seafoods, as well as Asian fruits and vegetables, and of course, our usual Canadian ones. At some stalls, the vendor sat in a chair on the sidewalk, busily trimming fresh greens pulled from the delivery carton. But unlike China, in Toronto doesn't allow sales of live fowl -- chickens, ducks, etc. -- from cages on city streets.

Carton of Sweet RambuTan ~ Spadina Shop

Named for its 'hairy' covering (enlarge this then come back!) Rambutan is quite lovely. Related to and tasting much like lychee or longan, and costing $4 a pound, it weighs next to nothing. I paid about 30 cents CAD each for three of these fruits. If you have the time and inclination, peel and seed these fruits and fill seed cavity with a honeyed cream cheese. Yum!

Asian Grocery Store Spadina Avenue

With the streetcars running on tracks in the center of Spadina, and parking at a premium, both people and vehicle traffic can be chaotic. Just like -- well, you know. This shop was a few doors down from a CIBC bank, and boasted a nearby fortune teller.

Filming Location - Spadina near Bright Pearl Restaurant

Across Spadina from the grocery store above, the red traffic cones herald a film shoot in progress. This area borders the somewhat notorious Kensington Market neighbourhood. We crossed Spadina to the west side, and saw more trucks and traffic cones in front of the Bright Pearl, a huge (400+ seat, 2 storey) dim sum restaurant that's very popular.

Cat on a Chair Up in the Air

No idea of the backstory to this art work. If you know, post a comment!

CN Tower Seen from Spadina north of Dundas

The CN Tower (spiky thing in background) is easily visible from much of downtown Toronto. What's not so easy is to get a photo of the tower without power lines.

Not all shops in Chinatown are geared to bargain hunters. One lovely shop at 297 Spadina (east side) sold high end jade and Chinese artifacts, including stunning bronze sculptures and ceramics; a good percentage of them were priced in the thousands of dollars.

So if you find yourself in downtown Toronto, and yearning for a taste of China, then go west from the Eaton Center on Dundas until you get to Spadina. There are lots of good restaurants here, but if you're not in the mood for Chinese or pho, as we weren't that day, then walk north to trendy College Street, and find yourself a nice outdoor patio, like Kalendar.

Google Map Chinatown Toronto

More photos of China and Hong Kong on my travel site