Monday, February 28, 2011


In January we spent some time with Andrew in Los Angeles's Chinatown, so we were excited to go to San Francisco's Chinatown and compare.  San Francisco Chinatown prides itself on being the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America.  Wikipedia notes that it gets more visitors each year than even the Golden Gate Bridge.  Based on the day we were there, I can believe that.

A couple we struck up a conversation with in a restaurant on Saturday night mentioned they had taken a free "City Walk" tour.  When we got back to our hotel, I researched those tours on the Internet and discovered there was one in Chinatown available on Monday, and all we had to do was show up at the starting point, which was less than a mile from our hotel.  What a great deal!

Our tour guide was a retired high school history teacher with a love of the city.  He gave us the basic history, pointed out significant features and buildings, and took us down alleyways and into buildings we never would have ventured down and into on our own.  If you're ever in San Francisco and need a guide, we can recommend these City Walk Tours as a great place to start.

This is our guide (in the orange coat) and part of our group of about 20 walkers.

One of the entrances to Chinatown that happened to be located one block from our hotel

Our guide said this is the only "real" Chinese structure still standing.  Everything else is designed for tourism by American architects.
This mess of wiring didn't inspire confidence

Talk about prime real estate.  Chinatown abuts the poshest parts of downtown San Francisco's business district.
 Near the end of the tour, Bob and I were hungry and decided to branch off on our own.  We had seen lots of interesting food and were ready to try some.

If you need a live frog or turtle for dinner, this is your shop.  I was SO glad our hotel room did not have a kitchenette.

Bob selected some pork and a whole duck from one of the displays.  The shop's butcher cut it up into manageable-sized pieces for us to eat.

I think I would cut off my whole hand if I tried to use this cleaver.

We had some dim sum--Chinese appetizers--including chicken skewers, barbecued pork dumplings, and pork gyoza.

Tasty, beautiful desserts

While we were in the bakery eating our desserts, we noticed the banging of drums and clanging of cymbals out on the sidewalk.  As the ruckus got closer, we spied a dragon dancing in and out of the shops.  It had been the Chinese New Year celebration earlier that week, and we figured this was part of the tradition.  The dragon, a Chinese symbol of strength, power, and good luck, was bestowing his blessings on all the local business owners.  The drummers and cymbalists would stay out on the sidewalk making as much noise as possible while the dragon danced around in the shops.  When he came into our bakery, the women behind the counter made a point of reaching out to touch his furry head.

We did have one rather incredible experience.  As we were walking out of one of the shops at the Chinatown entrance near our hotel, we heard voice calling out, "Bob Cannon!"  It turned out to be Courtney Camp, a young girl from our ward in Redlands who has been attending the University of Utah and who was in San Francisco auditioning for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music graduate program in opera.  What are the chances?  It was a most auspicious meeting.  I think it had something to do with seeing the Good Luck Dragon earlier in the day.

All in all, San Francisco's Chinatown is fun, fun, fun!  We are looking forward to visiting a THIRD Chinatown in New York City in a few weeks.


  1. We're going to get so good at Chinatowns that we'll have to go back to the real place - Beijing - and see if it is like Chinatown.

  2. Looks like it was lots of fun. Nothing like having Dim Sum in San Fransisco. I also like the moon cakes there.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful visit! I truly enjoyed Chinatown when we were there last summer, but I wasn't on an eating tour with Bob. Russ wishes Bob had been there helping to select the menu, I'm sure, because I'm afraid I tend to stick with my lemon chicken . . . even in Chinatown.