My mom was in San Francisco recently and I carefully planned her itinerary to make it easy for her to sight see.
For her Chinatown tour, I tailored a personal walking tour for my mom so she can site see in Chinatown with minimal walks but loaded with a lot of Chinatown attractions. She loved it!
For the most part, my mom and I drove around the city so she wouldn't get tired site seeing. However, there are attractions in San Francisco that are better appreciated by walking. Chinatown is one of those places where you need not only see but also hear, smell and taste.
We started the tour from the Porstmouth Square garage. There were lots of people hanging out on the square and you can't miss to hear their chatters in Chinese. As soon as we got off the elevator, my mom smiled and mentioned the place reminded her of Hong Kong.
We walked on Washington St. where there are lots of Chinese restaurants and businesses. We then turned left on Grant Avenue which I consider the main street in Chinatown. I imagined that if we walk on Grant Ave., my mom would get a Chinatown experience right away. The plan was to walk as slowly as possible.
Grant Avenue is very colorful. That day, there were red lanterns hanging on the facade and above the street in front of Peking Bazaar. They were so pretty and intricately designed and my mom agreed. Peking Bazaar is one of the places where you can buy reasonably priced San Francisco souvenirs and lots of Chinese items like plates, chopsticks, figurines and hard to find items like a Chinese cap with braids, Asian paper umbrellas and Kimonos.
There were musicians playing Chinese music in front of Eastern Bakery. Both musicians were playing stringed instruments, kind of like a violin but with fewer strings. I find this type of Chinese music soothing. My mom found it interesting, and she is thankful at the same time, that San Francisco retained its Chinatown. Since I took photos of the street musicians, I asked my mom to drop a dollar on their donation bucket but my mom felt embarassed so she declined my request.
Finally, we reached the Dragon's Gate, or the Gateway Arch, on Bush St. and Grant Avenue. We took a lot of pictures from here. I could see that my mom is truly enjoying this walking tour. During big festivals like the Lunar New Year and the Autumn Moon, the streets of Chinatown come alive with colorful displays and creative booths.
We walked back on Grant Avenue. According to Google maps, the walk was going to be 9 minutes so I decided to add a couple of stops in this part of the walking tour .
From the Dragon's Gate, we did a little shopping for her refrigator magnet and her grand kids' name plate souvenirs which we luckily found all their three names.
For the second stop, I took her to a tea tasting at Ten Ren's Tea on Grant Avenue. This was also to make her rest a bit from this walking tour.
I am not sure if my mom had tasted tea before. It was not my first time to taste tea, although, it was my first time to taste tea in Chinatown and at Ten Ren's. For the tasting that day, they had Honeysuckle and Milk Oolong. Both my mom and I enjoyed both teas and she bought a couple of bags to bring back to Manila.
From TenRen's Tea, my mom and I slowly made our way to Ross Alley and dropped by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie company. We found this Chinatown Alleyway round plaque on Ross Alley.
Follow the aroma of the freshly made cookies on Ross Alley. The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie company sign is high up and the background is yellow. My mom and I also learned that the fortune cookie was first made in San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden.
The fortune cookies start out soft and flat. A factory staff takes the flat cookie, put a piece of little paper fortunes, and puts both in hot metal fingers to turn them into a buttefly shape. And this is done quckly.
People are asked to pay 50 cents per photo inside the factory. However, my mom decided to buy a bag of fortune cookies to bring back to Manila so we were allowed to snap lots of photos. We were also given samples to try while we watched the process of making the fortune cookies.
For our last stop and lunch, we stopped at the Great Eastern restaurant where Mijo was waiting for us. Mijo was working that day and he stepped out of the office to meet us for lunch.
My mom's favorite dim sum? Sticky rice.
With minimal walks, my mom was able to see and experience San Francisco's Chinatown.