Chinatown Souvenirs

Susana Restrepo Orakas

It’s no secret that Chinatown is basically run on cash. Because of some lack of planning, I made the mistake of going there the other day intending to buy things on my debit card. Fortunately, I had someone there I could borrow money for food from, but I also wanted to buy him a little gift. So, we rummaged Chinatown and found only a handful of places that would accept cards.

I stumbled into the shop by accident. We were on our way back to the Q train at the Canal St Subway station when I noticed that on the door there were stickers that said Visa, American Express, and other names of cards. Inside, the walls were nearly covered with a random array of things: the walls in the back were covered with swords, ranging from $45 to $100+, that was followed by books on martial arts and the life of Bruce Lee on one side of the store. On the opposite side there were little figures such as those of a happy fat Buddha and fortune cats. Finally, at the front of the store were little knick-knacks such as paper fans, a set of chop sticks, and patches of yin and yang, dragons, and the head of tigers. At the very front, there were handmade Big Laughing Buddha Head masks. These masks, I found out, were used to celebrate events like the Chinese New Year. They tell a story of a monk teaching the lion to find inner peace and not cause so much trouble. At big events, a dance is performed to retell this story; however, nowadays they can be used as decorations for home or office.

I ended up buying a set of chopsticks and a solar-powered fortune cat (a figure of a cat whose waves bring good fortune, money, and wealth). I’d recommend this place to people going to Chinatown because of the products they sell are one of the best souvenirs (who wants another “I LOVE NY”shirt?) and if you want martial arts accessories you can get some there, and they accept major credit card companies. The name of this little store is called Bok Lei Po Trading Inc and it’s located on 63 Mott St. You can visit them on the web at