In most cities, you can find Chinese restaurants built in a traditional and sometimes stereotypical style of architecture. But what you might not realize is that some of these places served as more than just restaurants, but also places of cultural exchange. The New Ocean Paradise in Rotterdam is a perfect example of such a place that dates back to the mid-1980s.
With its steep walls, pointed towers, and large entrance gate, the New Ocean Paradise, colloquially known as the Bamiboot or Chinese boot, resembles a Chinese fortress upon first glance. In reality, the place is much more interesting. Inside it houses an Asian supermarket, a three-star hotel, a restaurant, a garden filled with Chinese plants, an aquarium, a museum with miniatures of Chinese landmarks, and a theater.
The structure was built and funded in collaboration with the city of Shanghai to celebrate Rotterdam and Shanghai’s relationship as sister cities. The project was helmed by a local businessman called Sun Huan-Jan, who paid for the rest of the construction. The restaurant was opened in 1985 with great fanfare and was popular among locals, especially the Chinese immigrant community, for many years. The New Ocean Paradise hosted cultural events and continued to build attractions, such as the butterfly gardens.
Unfortunately, the novelty of the place wore off over time, especially when more Chinese establishments opened and started replacing the many functions of the boat. A boat like this is expensive to maintain, and without the visitors this became impossible. Corners started to be cut, and the quality went down significantly. The hotel especially suffered in the 2010s. This eventually became a scandal in 2017 when an investigative program called the “Hotel politie” visited the hotel and filmed the state that it was in, pointing out the dirt, dilapidation, and mold. The mayor of Rotterdam made a statement about dirty hotels and warned about potential sanctions if they posed health risks.
This seems to have worked because the hotel closed down for renovation and reopened under a new name (de Chinese boot).
Know Before You Go
The boat is freely accessible.