If you can, go there on the weekend, when all the Chinese of the New Y ork area turn up to do their weekly shopping. Do go into one of the supermarkets on Canal Street. They sell the best tea in the world and very pretty porcelain at rock-bottom prices; you’ll see wonderful hanging ducks and hundreds of mysterious delicacies. You can take a look at the Chinese Museum (8 Mott Street; open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and the Buddhist Temple (64 Mott Street). Don’t miss the Chinese New Year (see p. 87).
Leave Chinatown by way of Chatham Square and St. James Place. You will come almost immediately to the Jewish cemetery, Shearith Israel, founded in 1683 by Portuguese Jews, the first to migrate to the North American continent. This is the oldest monument in New York.
A few blocks away from the cemetery you’ll find the Jewish section of the Lower East Side. Hester Street is where the market was held at the end of the 19th century. You could buy anything there: religious tracts, 48 kosher meat, jewellery. Go along the street toward the East River for one block, then take Orchard Street as far as Delan-cey Street. This will give you a good idea of what Hester Street must have been like. It’s one of the most bizarre places in New York. The traders look as though they belong in another world or another century. And there are wonderful bargains to be had (see p. 77). Most of the shops close on Friday afternoons and all day Saturday for the sabbath. Sunday is the day to go, when Greek shish kebab venders and black poker players rub shoulders with crowds of Puerto Ricans and Orthodox Jews in their fur hats and black frock coats.