While walking through Grant street at Chinatown, you can find a colourful street, ok it is shops, and souvenir shops (even worst lol) or it is just maybe that after visiting London or New York Chinatowns, for my first time I was impressed…
Unlike in Asia, you are expected to give a 10-15% tip at Chinese restaurants in San Francisco Chinatown and in USA. Unless, it is a quick take-away (to go).
Try these popular Americanized Chinese food:
1) Gong Pu Chicken
2) Mushi Pork (wrapping shredded meat and vegetables)
3) Chop Sui Yee (mixed leftover, recooked)
4) Lemon Sherbet (poor man's choice for ice cream)
5) Fortune cookies
Go for dim-sum too, just do not forget to tip when the bill comes to avoid angry faces.
There is convenient underground public parking near Chinatown.
The Chinatown gate.
I've seen some Chinatowns in the world but I must say I like this one.
It is not too crowded, and many fancy shops coloured the area.
It is very close to Union Square, just a couple of blocks away.
This is where I bought alle the accessories for my camera. From a typical chinese who was actually half-italian and whose son is married to a 100% italian woman too. Her name is Silvia (useful tip!)
A place I always wanted to see. It was like I had expected it, all Asia stores (not only Chinese) and restaurants and bars and newspapers and signs and street lights and all that.
But somehow I didn't really get to love it, I didn't get to the heart of Chinatown. I felt more like an observer, watching locals and tourists buzzing around, day at night, always busy, always full of light and action and voices. A strange atmosphere. Different from all other streets and blocks in San Francisco.
So the city wouldn't be the same without these streets and buildings and people!
Start from Broadway and Columbus, then work you way down Stockton, toward downtown, then downhill to Kearny and Portsmouth Square, then go back up to Grant and finally through the Chinatown gate and end up on Bush.
Chinatown is in its present day location because the then city hall wanted to put "Chinaman" out in a corner of the city, forgotten. The worst neighborhood in the city then is the corner of Columbus and Broadway, known as "The Barbary Coast", full of nude dance, brothels, and opium dens. Chinatown was placed "behind" that section of town to be forgotten. You can still see the night clubs and adult theaters and such on that corner. They've cleaned up a bit, but you can imagine what it was like back then...
Walk down Stockton and look at all the shops. Make your way down Jackson and go through the first alley. You'll discover the original Chinatown fortune cookie factory, and they STILL make fortune cookies there. In the old Chinatown days, these alleyways are considered turf territory by the local gangs known as the Tongs.
One of these alleyways used to have a bar named Rickshaws. When Beatles came to town, they had a nightcap there. Really.
Head down to Portsmouth Square and explore the various plaques and monuments there. This is where discovery of gold was announced, the location of first school, and much more. It's now a public square with Chinese chess players and more. On weekends, they have a night market there.
Walk back up to Grant and head toward the old St. Mary's Church. Admire the uber-Chinese style on the houses and lamp-posts and such. Pickup some souvenirs if you wish (prices aren't that bad).
Continue on Grant (opposite the traffic flow) and you'll reach the Chinatown gate, with the four words written by Sun Yat-Seng, founder of Republic of China (reverred by both China and Taiwan).
There's far more to Chinatown than just dim sum and Chinese signs.
Fondest memory: Oh, there are plenty of fond memories to be had within Chinatown.
Trying various types of dim sum (most of them you can't even pronounce and many of them you wouldn't want to know the ingredients involved) would be a lot of fun. For large selections, try Asia on Pacific and Stockton, or Gold Mountain on Broadway between Stockton and Grant.
Check out the various markets selling everything from VCD's and CD's to vegetables and meat.
There are several Buddhist and related temples in Chinatown that is worth a visit if you can actually find them, and most do not permit cameras (the flash disturbs the deities).
You can take the cable car on California/Grant or Powell / Clay (going in slightly different directions) to continue your journey.
Favorite thing: I stayed in Chinatown while here. What a great place to just walk around. The sights and smells (some good, some bad) The people in Portsmouth Square playing checkers or doing Tai Chi, the architecture..it's almost overwhelming. Go here, spend much time, and take in the culture.
China town really did remind me of parts of Beijing. If you are going to SF you MUST visit this area. They tell me Portsmouth Square at Clay and Kearny Streets is generally considered the center of life; residents gather for board games, discussions and solemn tai chi rituals.
If you go in February you may enjoy "Chinese New Year" or Spring Festival.
Fondest memory: get a pic at Grant Avenue and Bush Streets
Portsmouth Square is a small, one-block square between Chinatown and the Financial District surrounded by Kearny Street, Washington Street, Clay Street, and Walter Lum Place. The square was established as the central plaza of the Mexican pueblo of Yerba Buena in the 1830s. It's modern name comes from the USS Portsmouth, the command ship that seized San Francisco in 1846 and whose captain raised the first US flag in the city on this site. Nearby Montgomery Street was named after the ship's commander, Captain John B. Montgomery.
The park has various markers and statues, including a landmark for the first public school in California, a marker for the Eastern Terminus of Clay Street Hill Railroad Company, a monument of the hoisting of the American flag, a memorial for Robert Louis Stevenson, and a statue of the Goddess of Democracy. The democracy statue is my favorite, as it is a replica of the democracy statue constructed by students at the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 in Beijing.
After its $3.9 million renovation in 2001, the park has become a center of daily Chinatown life. On any given day you will see dozens if not hundreds of local Chinese-Americans playing Chinese chess, cards, or just chatting away the day.
Under Portsmouth Square is a 500-space, four-story parking garage operated by the city.
In 2005 the Project for Public Spaces named Portsmouth Square the 8th best public square in America and Canada.
Old Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church is the city's first cathedral, completed in 1854. The church building survived the 1906 earthquake only to be gutted by the ensuing fires that engulfed the city. All the remained of this landmark cathedral were a few walls and the bell tower. In 1909 reconstruction of the cathedral began, and the church underwent a major expansion in 1929 to enable a capacity of 2,000 people.
Next to the church is St. Mary's Square which is home to a 12-foot statue of Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Chinese Republic. Sun spent some time in San Francisco in th elate 1890s.
Median Household Income: $21,930
Median Age: 42.6
Average Household Size: 1.92
White Population: 5,017
Black Population: 279
Hispanic Population: 243
Asian, Pacific Islander Population: 8,846
Male Population: 6,723
Female Population: 7,507
Speaks Asian or Pacific Island Language: 8,038
You can find the official entrance to Chinatown at the intersection of Grant and Bush streets. Its just a short walk from Union Square, so if you're staying in this area, its best to walk over, especially since the traffic is so bad. Several bus lines also run to the area.
Chinatown is a sprawling area that extends to the sidestreets bordering Grant Street. Here you will find a population of mostly Asians but also tourists and locals as well. There are tons of shops selling everything from touisty items to herbs and Asian statues. There are also numerous restaurants in the area, some of which are supposed to be pretty good and reasonable as well.
Despite the near grid lock of the pedestrian streets, I enjoyed Chinatown and would recommend at least a brief walk through of the area. Its great for window shopping and for finding interesting items to bring home, such as teas and herbs designed to cure all ailments, even those you don't know that you have.
Perhaps San Francisco's most famous neighborhood, Chinatown is a lot more than a tourist attraction. It is the lifeblood of the South East Asian Community in the Bay Area. On a trade, cultural, religious and emotional level.
San Francisco has been the destination of choice for South East Asian Immigrants since the 1800's and till date serves as a strong reminder of their roots in the US. What Ellis Island is to European Immigrants San Francisco's Chinatown is to South East Asian one's.
Fondest memory: There's lot more to Chinatown than Chinese and Dim Sum Restaurants, Shops seeling cheap wares from asia and herbal remedies.
Chinatown is still very much alive and functional, it is not just tourists who frequent this part of SF, a lot of business is done here, theater enjoys prominence here, people live here, die here.
It is not to be seen from the outside looking in, but instead to be submerged within.
Favorite thing: A few blocks north of Union Square is Chinatown, the most densely packed pocket of the city and one of its most colorful. The tacky curio shops along Grant Avenue are monuments to the role tourism plays in the neighborhood, but the 30,000 Chinese - most of whom speak Cantonese as their first language - live in a tightly knit, distinctly un-Western community. It's a great place for casual wandering through narrow alleys, where on quiet afternoons you can hear the clack of mah jongg tiles from behind screen doors. The most colorful time to visit Chinatown is during the Chinese New Year in late January or early February, with a parade and fireworks and other festivities.
Favorite thing: Visit Chinatown. Here you can see beautiful Chinese buildings and buy exotic Chinese products. See more at the travelogue.
Favorite thing: Visit Chinatown - unlike many US cities, the layout means that it's easy to walk around. You really need half a day at least to do it justice, and make sure you stop for lunch or dinner there - yum!