Lonely Planet review for Chinatown
With a discordant soundtrack of blaring Canto pop, Dixon St is the heart and soul of Chinatown: a narrow, shady pedestrian mall with a string of restaurants and their urgently attendant spruikers. The ornate dragon gates (paifang) at either end are topped with fake bamboo tiles, golden Chinese calligraphy (with English translations), ornamental lions to keep evil spirits at bay and a fair amount of pigeon poo.
This is actually Sydney’s third Chinatown: the first was in The Rocks in the late 19th century before it moved to the Darling Harbour end of Market St. Dixon St’s Chinatown dates from the 1920s. Look for the fake-bamboo awnings guarded by dragons, dogs and lions, and kooky upturned-wok lighting fixtures.
On Hay St, the surreal Golden Water Mouth sculpture drips with gilt and water. Formed from a eucalyptus trunk from Condobolin, the destination of many gold-rush-era Chinese, its feng shui is supposed to promote positive energy and good luck. A little further down Hay St, Paddy’s Markets fills the lower level of a hefty brick building. It started out in the mid-19th century with mainly European traders, but the tightly packed market stalls are more evocative of present-day Vietnam these days.