We’ve discussed Bucharest’s Chinatown on these pages before, although until this week we have to admit to never having been there.
With our father-in-law in town however, keen to find the source of Romania’s cheapest socks, we decided that a visit to the much-fabled Dragonul Rosu in Colentina, often referred to as Bucharest’s Chinatown, was in order.
You may remember that Dragonul Rosu was opened earlier this year with great fanfare by Romanian Prime Minister, Little Emil Boc. (Have you ever noticed how the same politicians who rush to open things are never quite so keen on attending closing ceremonies? We doubt for example that Boc will be cutting any ribbons when Nokia closes the doors of its Cluj factory for the last time next month).
Dragonul Rosu is to be found at the end of Bucharest, in the suburb of Voluntari.
Getting there is best done by car, but there is a free minibus from Costin Georgian metro station, and even trains from Gara de Nord (one per day) and Bucur Obor (four per day): Dragonul Rosu has its own station (officially called Pantelimon Sud).
However you arrive, the first thing that you will probably notice about Bucharest’s Chinatown is that it is about as Chinese as Ghana.
Certainly, many of the merchants who sell their wares here are Chinese, and we would guess that 99 per cent of the goods sold here come from China. But if you are expecting an authentic Chinese experience however, forget it.
(Please note that by ‘authentic’ we are not talking about daft pagodas and dragon statues and such nonsense, but instead good, cheap Chinese eateries, grocery stores and the like).
Never having been here before we excitedly headed to the Chinese Supermarket expecting to find all sorts of freshly imported Chinese produce and were somewhat disappointed to find a rather limited selection of frozen, dried and canned ingredients. (We should add that we did spend a bit of money here, on some things you can’t find elsewhere in Romania, such as rice noodles with aniseed and some highly pungent dried mushrooms, but we left the supermarket feeling somewhat let down).
The rest of the enormous site (and it is enormous) is given over to a number of warehouses inside of which is the biggest selection of Made in China toys, clothes and shoes you are likely to find anywhere in Europe.
Unfortunately for the bargain-hunter, however, most merchants only sell en gros. Quite why anyone would want to buy ten children’s ski jackets is beyond us, unless of course they have ten kids all of the same size. A few of the stores will sell piecemeal (la bucata), but you need to hunt around a bit.
Other things worth noting:
There are No Smoking: Danger of Fire signs everywhere, but in practice smoking appeared to be compulsory.
The whole place closes at the ridiculously early time of 2pm each day. On Sundays it is closed all day.
Our father-in-law reported that the fishing supplies section is first class, cheap, and that everything is available piecemeal.
So is Bucharest’s Chinatown it worth a trip? Yes, for the sheer scale of the place and for the bedlam of it all if nothing else.