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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Haifa’s Sinyon: all it’s cracked up to be?

sinion Israelis love the Far East:  they travel to Asia in huge numbers and it stands to reason that they’d like to bring a little of that Asian exoticism back home with them.

This winter, to great self-conducted fanfare, the “Sinyon” (this seems to be the official English spelling) opened in Haifa, proclaiming itself Israel’s first “Chinese mall experience.”  The word “kenyon” (קַנְיוֹן) means mall, and “Seen” (סִין) means China, so, with their love of portmanteau words, the creators of the Sinyon stuck the two together:  Chinamall = Seen-ee-yon.  Whoopee!

According to the company’s website, “it” (they don’t say what; Chinese people?) has had “huge success in Las Vegas, Johannesburg and Bangkok.”  It boasts a great location near Hof HaKarmel train station and 2000 free parking spaces.

I doubt they’ll need all 2000.  More like 20… but then, to be fair, we went in the middle of a working weekday afternoon.

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My short summary of the experience might go as follows:  the best thing about the Sinyon is that it’s just one short bridge-crossing away from the REAL Azrieli Haifa mall, where you can find real stores, as opposed to cheesy little rip-off kiosks.

Some attempt has been made (see the picture at the top) to create a nice Asian ambience.

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There is also a restaurant, offering greasy typical-Israeli Chinese food, served by an Asian-looking woman who speaks great English.

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More Asian “ambience”:

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I’ll be honest… we hope eventually to host friends and family members here in the area around Haifa… so I’m always on the lookout for interesting things to do nearby.

This will not be one of them.

Having been to (and eaten in) excellent Chinatowns in Montreal, San Francisco, Toronto; heck, even Washington, D.C., I’d be embarrassed to even suggest to somebody that they might have even a remotely Chinese experience in the Sinyon.

One big plus:  It was certainly easy enough to get there – it’s one ten-minute bus ride through the mountain from the Merkazit HaMifratz central bus station (Haifa has 2 central bus stations, one on either side of the mountain, with an awesome tunnel connecting them).  The bus ride was a real highlight of our trip to the Sinyon.  Sadly, the Sinyon itself was not.

In terms of the merchandise, there is no “theme” and the stuff is all over the place.  Mostly poor quality, cheap and cheesy.  Bracelets, underwear, backpacks, and a low-quality off-brand-name toy store selling “Barbara” dolls with the word “Barbara” written in Barbie script.  I wouldn’t even really call it a mall; more like a triangular strip of stores.  We didn’t find anything there that we couldn’t buy cheaper in any local "shekel-o-Rama."

Welcome to China, the website proclaims!

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It also brags that, “The Sinyon mall targets all family members… [with] diversified activities for the whole family, drawing its inspiration from the colorful Chinese culture.” 

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It may well be that we didn’t see it at its best, but these only-slightly-flawed posters that greeted us just inside the door (most likely printed in China!  yay, Asia!), seemed to be about it in terms of expressing the “colorful Chinese culture.” (as opposed to the black-and-white Israeli one?)  The posters read, “Family this main and the best in life,” and “Time to drink champagne and dance one the table.”

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Like I said, the Sinyon’s best feature may be its proximity to the real mall.  But by the time we got there, I was tuckered out from looking for real Chinese culture and annoyed that I was fleishik and over-full from the substandard overpriced sticky-starchy Chinese-food lunch that would have taken second place to most food court Chinese (though I should note the presence of dumplings, hot & sour soup, and chicken-corn soup on the menu; I got a dumpling and Elisheva had the soup.  Both were reasonably good, unlike the sticky glop that is most of their food items).

I’ve heard rumours that more Sinyonim / Chinamalls are coming soon to other Israeli locations… at least, their website hints that this is the start of a trend.  If one opens near you, you might want to visit once out of curiosity… but if your experience is anything like ours was, I’m fairly certain you’ll want to stay away after that.

Is there anywhere in this country to find real Asian culture???  I really would love to know…

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