After lunch at Caffe de la Presse, we crosssed Bush street to pass through the fabulous gates of Chinatown. It really is a transporting experience to walk under the beautiful dragons and begin a gentle upward slope through tightly-packed and colorful shops. The entrance and first block are really peaceful. Later on and deeper into Chinatown we would find anything but peace on the bustling and energizing streets, where the produce, meat and fish markets seemed to buzz all day long.
There were so many beautifully-architected and decorated buildings. We wanted to know about their history and the characters who might have lived and visited there over the years. We were equally drawn to the myriad shops selling everything from expensive collectible art to 99 cent tchockies and souvenirs. One shop early on in our journey on Grant St. had beautiful things for children such as hand-painted pillow cases, miniature Chinese New Year dragon heads, and beautiful Asian-inspired Christmas ornaments.
Take your time and let the streets and alleys guide you. This is a great part of town to "get lost," because you're never more than 1/2 block from getting found.
Go hungry, because there are endless small restaurants offering dim sum, sushi, pastries, peking duck, pearl tea - and all at different price points from 99-cent sushi to extremely high end gourmet Chinese meals.
Be adventurous and have a sense of humor, because some blocks are incredibly densely trafficked, especially the busy sidewalks of the produce and fish markets, where locals won't look up as they make their way to the freshest and best-looking green beans, bok choi and eggplant I've ever seen.
Explore the tea houses, herbal shops and alternative medicine shops. Chinese Herbal Medicine is an ancient practice, and the proprietors in these shops have amazing knowledge and experience. It's well worth investigating one or two - even if just for your own education.
chinatown, san francisco, Walking Tour, sightseeing, Architecture, markets, Shopping, produce