When Christy Chang moved to Houston from Taiwan in 1983, Chinatown consisted of a smattering of shops, restaurants, and markets near the George R. Brown Convention Center. In 1985, a few other shopping centers along Bellaire Boulevard between Corporate Drive and Gessner Road were built, forming the core of the new Chinatown, which is now called Asia Town. Today, Chang, a bilingual educator and an Asian literature/history storyteller, coordinates tours of the area.
Why did the district’s name change?
We now call this area Asia Town to accurately represent the diversity of the community. We have people here from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and the Middle East. And more than 60 percent of our Asian population is Vietnamese.
Is it true that Bellaire Boulevard means “Hundreds of Profit” in Chinese?
In Mandarin, we translate Bellaire according to its pronunciation. So, b˘ai means “hundreds” and lì rùn means “profits.” This street sign, with such a prosperous name, has attracted thousands of businesses to this 8-mile corridor.
Where does the tour visit?
Stops include the Hong Kong City Mall and a Buddhist temple, and we have a 10-course dim sum meal at Ocean Palace. We also do a tea tasting where guests learn about the health benefits of herbal remedies.
Do you shop at Hong Kong City Mall?
I go to the Asian market there for my groceries. I can get hard-to-find fruits like durian. I freeze it and scoop out the inside like ice cream.
What are some other good places to shop in Asia Town?
The Wholesale District along Harwin Drive between Highway 59 and Beltway 8 has more than 300 wholesale and import stores. Bags, scarves, eyeglasses, clothes, home decorations—you name it, they have it. It’s fun to bargain.
Are you planning activities for Chinese New Year (February 14)?
A special tour will allow guests to participate in a celebration at the Chinese Community Center. They’ll observe lion and dragon dances and Asian folk dances, and taste Lunar New Year dishes.
The four-hour Asian Heritage Discovery guided tour is offered weekdays and some Saturdays. Reservations are required; $30 per person. (832) 858-2788.
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