Excited, scared, nervous, happy. Just some of the endless emotions we’re feeling right now! For those who don’t know, on September the 7th, we are both moving abroad to live in China for a year. Our bags are packed, our goodbyes will have been said and after what will no doubt be a very boozy few days in Prague we will be jetting off to a country we’ve never been to before. The overwhelming feeling we are currently sharing is one of excitement; it’s steps like these that shape why we love to travel.
With all of that in mind, we wanted to spend some time surrounding ourselves with some traditional Chinese culture, or at least, as much as you can get here in the West. Where else better than Chinatown? Chinatown here in London is a hub of Oriental culture. Restaurants, bars, massage parlours, bakeries and even more restaurants, there’s a lot to take in whilst making your way through the packed pan-Asian streets. We wanted to see it all, but with our busy schedule we were reduced to just the one full day
We started off getting ourselves some lunch, which, when you have 82 places to choose from, isn’t easy! After walking around comparing deals and drooling over the Dim Sum, we stumbled into the ever reliable Mr Wu. Mr Wu boasts the cheapest all-you-can-eat buffet in all of Chinatown. After a few platefuls of amazing food and a near food coma we gathered ourselves and headed back out.
We then made our way around some of the many bakeries and shops Chinatown has to offer; first stop Golden Gate Cake Shop. We were way too stuffed from lunch to actually get anything but, my god, this place is incredible. Golden Goat has over 80 oriental cakes, each more beautiful than the last. Their signature dish is Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork) Buns and they looked delicious! The shop itself is tiny, you can hardly fit more than 5 people in at a time, but this cosiness gives it a quaint charm that we both really liked. If anyone wants to visit here it’s open from Monday to Sunday - 10:30am to 9pm.
We then stumbled into Oriental Delight, a two floor mini mart in the centre of Gerrard Street. This awesome shop had a huge range of Asian sweets and treats including some delicious Pokemon style drinks that we just couldn’t say no to! Downstairs had the largest collection of Pan-Asian instant noodles we have ever seen as well as a huge range of other lovely savoury bites. The whole shop, especially upstairs, is so colourful and an absolute feast for the senses. Oriental Delight is open Monday to Sunday - 11am to 10pm and we would definitely recommend it!
One of the main concerns we’ve had in regards to moving to Beijing is the pollution and the effects it can have on your skin. We’ve heard lots about this and read about it in many blogs. P2Bus is a beauty shop aiming to serve Asians who have developed skin conditions due to pollution. We decided to head over there, take a look and see if there’s anything worth buying in advance. It is a really cute, small shop filled with loads of body positive products of different kinds. The name P2Bus actually means Proud 2 Be us, which is evident in the way they market their products. We didn’t end up buying anything but absolutely loved the products they have. Not only do they have beauty products for you skin, but also wacky colours for your hair amongst their 300 plus products. P2Bus is open Monday to Thursday - 11am to 9pm and Friday to Sunday - 11am to 10pm.
We then made our way to a place we were both really interested in visiting, Guanghwa bookshop. Founded in 1971, this shop has long been a great destination for book lovers from all over the world. With over 5000 scholarly books of different types, there really is so much to choose from. To top it off, Guanghwa also has an impressive variety of Mandarin language books, which are great for any wannabe traveller. We also loved the beautiful arts and crafts on show, with lots of authentic Asian stationery, perfect for getting us in the mood for the famous Chinese art scene! Guanghwa is open Monday to Saturday - 10am to 7:30pm and Sunday - 11am to 7:30pm.
All this exploring was starting to make us peckish again and we had our sights set out for two cool places we had spotted earlier on in the day. The first of the two was Doughnut Time, an Aussie-run company which offers a huge range of different and hilariously named doughnuts. The menu is changed weekly, leaving lots of space for new, creative ideas. We got the brilliantly named Bella-Twix Lestrange (shout out to all you Harry Potter fans out there!), a delicious, biscuit, caramel and chocolate covered beauty, which we devoured in minutes. Doughnut Time is open Monday to Wednesday - 10am to 11pm, Thursday to Saturday - 10am to 1am and Sunday - 11am to 9pm. This does depends on their stock though, as they can sell out quite quickly!
Our penultimate stop of the day before heading for some drinks, and with a little bit of space left in our stomachs we headed for the famous Bubblewrap. Based on a popular Hong Kong street food, we managed to steer our way back to Asian cuisine. These amazing creations are delicious, with a bubbly waffle wrap with a whole array of different toppings and fillings. We ended up forking out £7.50 for one with hazelnut ice cream, oreos, pecans and nutella and it was amazing (although a little expensive!).
After a long day, we thought it would be best to chill out and enjoy some drinks. We headed off with haste to Opium Cocktail bar, a speakeasy, Chinese apothecary themed bar with some of the coolest drinks and friendliest staff we've ever come across. We shared some cocktails, basked in the decor and atmosphere and chatted with the bartenders. A lovely ending for a lovely day! If you're ever in Soho, we would definitely recommend coming here for a few drinks! It is open from 5pm-2am.
We had an absolutely fantastic day in Chinatown; we ate great food, visited lovely shops and got a taste of some wonderful Chinese culture. It’ll be interesting to see how different Beijing is, but we’re both ready for this next step and are excited to see where it takes us!
Check out our Chinatown Vlog below!