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» 29 Sep 2011

It took place on a Sunday, not the best of days to catch a bus from rainy Curepipe, but still it had to be done, it’s all part of the exploration. The bus journey took 50 minutes to reach Port louis and it was quite nice to be a passenger and avoid the hassles of driving. I was surprised to see a sign in the old looking bus saying free wireless connection! Once in Port louis, I walked up towards the Caudan Waterfront and instead of taking the underpass to the left, I walked straight down La Route Royale until I reached the huge welcoming gate of China Town. I made a mental note of the imposing Jumah mosque standing right before the gate.

Everybody knows that Mauritius is a melting pot but stumbling upon two neighbouring buildings which represent two different cultures is very interesting. Perhaps this is how the law of attraction led me to Alain Lim on the corner of Queen Street and Emmanuelle Anquetille. I was proceeding to interview an old Mauritian couple speaking in Cantonese but I fell upon Alain as unbelievably, the old couple hurried their steps as if they were late for a meeting. I later on realized that the people from China Town actually all walk fast as they do not like wasting time.

All I asked him was the name of the street on which we were and he read a sign with Cantonese letterings and translated it into Queen Street. Alain then told me that the street plates used around China Town have Chinese letterings because of a project that was meant to bring in more Chinese people to Mauritius. This never took place but Alain proceeded to explain how the Muslims and Chinese were very close in business when they just got to Mauritius, one of the reasons being because the Muslims were sailors and were able to tell the Chinese what goods were coming into the country. The Muslim area, Plaine Verte has a street called Pagoda street while China Town has a street called Jumah street.

The streets in China Town are extremely busy on weekdays and you can expect to find second hand and used spare parts, plastic toys, Chinese paintings, clothes, books and medicines in the same shop! The smell of Chinese spices along with dried mushrooms and ingredients is very pungent and quite rare nowadays in fast developing Mauritius but not unusual as it is common saying that every Chinese cooking ingredient can be found there. Thankfully, China Town remains one of the most authentic places in Mauritius, full of history and mystery. The Mauritians with Chinese background, speak with the heaviest Cantonese accent and some still use their abacus to calculate.

Walking along those streets made me jump into a different world altogether, with dust, different smells, busy people, different commercial goods than the usual, never seen before spices, and some restaurants with authentic Chinese menus. Some of the well-known ones are Lai Min, le Grand Canton and a Cantonese restaurant called Kim Chi House. In fact, most Mauritians know China Town as being a good place for good food. During lunch time on weekdays, you will find businessmen and work people taking their lunch break in China Town.

The first Chinese immigrants landed in Mauritius in the 1820's from the province of Kwang Tong in the South Eastern region of China, and were followed by the Hakkas, originating from the region of Honan in central China. A large number of them converted to Christianity due the European cultural influence.

China Town remains a living proof of this culture although the Chinese community comprises only of a minority in the Mauritian population. Some habits such as traditional festivals as the Chinese New Year, the Moon festival and the dragon boat festival are long awaited ones and infuses China Town with new life and zest.


Travel Tips

 ...In fact, most Mauritians know China Town as being a good place for good food...






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