Located in Calle Capon, between blocks 7 and 8 of Jiron Andahuaylas, “el Barrio Chino de Lima” or Lima’s Chinatown is a peculiar gastronomic and shopping attraction. Not quite a touristic attraction but nonetheless a beacon of business, shopping and good food in the middle of one of the busiest cities in Peru. El Barrio Chino might be a perfect place to taste, no pun intended, a little bit of Lima’s Chinese culture.
It is around the 1950s that we start to properly talk about a Barrio Chino located next to the Historic Center of Lima, and is in 1971 that the Arch or Portal is inaugurated, but is under Mayor Alberto Andrade that this location undertakes its major reconstruction and embellishment. Lima’s Chinatown stands proud as the heart of the third largest Chinese community outside mainland China, behind only to the United States and Canada.
Gastronomically speaking Chinatown houses some of the best “chifas” in Lima. The word chifa is a Peruvian slang originated from two Chinese words “chi” and “faan” ((饎飯)) meaning “eat” and “rice” respectively. Now this word equates to memories of delicious dishes and strong aromas that combine the Cantonese gastronomy with Peruvian spices. Just thinking about it brings family memories eating this succulent dishes. Be aware that portions are really generous and more often than not a problem for me and others who like to try a bit of everything.
Chinatown, el Mercado Central (just steps from Chinatown) and Avenida Abancay are regarded as shopping havens for the bargain hunter. You should be able to find all kinds of merchandise, CDs, DVDs, house ornaments, electronics, stereos, posters, incense, etc, etc, and another big etcetera. As a tourist in search of souvenirs and gifts this is a perfect place to take care of the list. Like everywhere else be aware of the “tourist tax” and practice your haggling skills. Prices while cheaper are still mostly the same as EBay (without shipping and handling).
In case you are looking to find about your future or if you are soon to find the love of your life, there are palm readers inside that will give you a hand, well, actually they will take your hand. I had been told that some of them are even very accurate and not much generic in their readings. Maybe next trip I’ll give it a shot.
Even though I was born in Lima and think of myself as street savvy, I am always heads up around Abancay. Usually never go alone, and never at dark. Just like any other place in the planet, just be careful but not paranoiac about safety. I can tell you by experience do not to take your car but instead take a taxi. For once, is really close or even part of Metropolitan Lima (or Historical Lima), so traffic and parking are out of this world, add to that shopping and food and you have controlled chaos. Make yourself a favor and take a taxi. Make sure that your camera and phone are not exposed but safely secured inside your pockets or purse and you should be more than ok. Is really not that bad but definitely a heads up.
Feel free to bring dollars or euro but change to local currency once you get there or before. There are plenty of “cambistas” (currency exchange brokers) just make sure to get a good exchange rate. If you think is not fair just walk away and ask someone else. Having all that money around is one more reason to feel secure as security has improved in Chinatown. But if you want to be extra secure there are banks there also.
I hope you enjoy your trip to Chinatown in Lima, Peru and please let me know how the food was and how much you saved shopping there.