Dixon St is the heart of Chinatown: a narrow, shady pedestrian mall with a string of restaurants and insistent spruikers. The ornate dragon gates (paifang) at either end have fake bamboo tiles, golden Chinese calligraphy and ornamental lions to keep evil spirits at bay. Chinatown in general (though not necessarily between the dragon gates) is a fabulous eating district, which effectively extends for several blocks north and south of here, and segues into Koreatown and Thaitown to the east.
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 Golden Water Mouth sculpture represents a symbolic fusion of China and Australia. 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 these days the tightly packed market stalls are more evocative of present-day Vietnam. Beyond Paddy's Markets, there's some great cheap eating to be done in the area around Thomas and Quay Sts and Ultimo Rd.