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Iowa folk in Chinatown

February 15, 2010 - 6:00 AM

One of the sights I have always really, really (and I mean, really!) wanted to see while in San Francisco was Chinatown.  Our first morning in the city we accidentally woke up at 5AM (7AM IA time), it was wet, it had been raining all night and was still lightly misting.  We grabbed 2 HUGE drinks from Starbucks and right across the street was the "main entrance" to Chinatown.

cheese and Chinatown

Maybe it was because I woke up at 5AM, maybe it was because it was now only 7AM, maybe it was because of the misting rain, maybe I was just undecided about everything, but standing there Josh asked me if I wanted to go in and I said, "Eh, no biggie either way."  Josh said, "We'll come back, you'll see."

After a round on the cable cars to the bay and back, it was now late morning and we jumped off near Chinatown.  This time we went in and I am SO, SO glad we did!  Everything about our visit there was PERFECT!  While I knew Chinese New Year was on the 14th, it turned out they started their celebrating this weekend.  The place was already hopping with stores busting out their front doors from the Saturday morning shoppers and now roads were being blocked off from traffic, and extra vendors were lining the narrow streets.

busy saturday

People, mostly elderly, were waiting in line for free containers of salt and boxes of pasta and coins.  Oranges, large and small, orchids, long leafy vegetables everywhere.  Smells of dried seafood, fresh seafood, even live seafood being sold from dripping suitcases on a street corner.  Delicious cooked food wafting out of every store we passed, not to forget the two huge, delicious smelling pigs walking down the street.  It was awesome! 

pigs a plenty

While in Chinatown we heard no English except when we happened into a non-Chinese place, this fancy, yet odd, little home decorations store.  We were wooed in by a huge, intricate carving out of an ivory tusk.  Two greasy looking guys sitting on a store couch greeted us, one in a suit and one with his hands in his pants.  They seemed annoyed that we were there but said we could go upstairs, after they said we couldn't.  Upstairs we found more carved ivory and mammoth tusks, ranging in price from $25K to $125K+.  We were heading down when a 3rd greasy guy approached us and aggressively said, "I'll give you a crazy deal on anything you like."  We're certain it was all a trick. ;)!

After that we wandered in and out of "grocery stores," the entrances to which were narrow, but they kept going back farther and farther.  One started off with an assortment of whole fish alive but out of water, chopped up bloody fish, intestines and the like.  A little further back there were frogs and large live fish swimming in tanks.  Further back, larger tanks with larger fish. Then a little stall that sold door locks.  Further still, live brown and white chickens  & quail in cages.  And then random storage, at which point we figured we should turn around.

fish a plenty

One of the things I really wanted to do was eat something, anything, in Chinatown.  We passed countless places with whole roasted chickens and ducks hanging in windows, dim sum, and again, grocery stores filled with food, though nothing was written in English.  I finally opted for an incredibly crowded place selling dim sum.  People were crammed into this small space, everyone was shouting at everyone else in Mandarin/Cantonese, food was going this way and that.  Josh wanted to leave but I was determined.  While I wanted to try a Chinese tamale, I couldn't see them and I didn't want to lose my place by dilly-dallying, something I felt just wouldn't bode well there.  I opted for dumplings because they were closest to me behind the glass.  I made it out with 3 dumplings for $1.40 and I was mighty proud of myself.  They were amazing! 


I am so glad I didn't opt out of going to Chinatown!  I only wished I would've braved going back to the dim sum joint for seconds, or tried something else.  *Sigh*  I will have to save that for next time.

Response to Iowa folk in Chinatown

  • Joe said on February 15, 2010 - 2:15 PM

    Dana, I'm so proud of you guys for persevering! You never would've had so many cool experiences if you hadn't. Don't be afraid to take chances. "Common sense is the killer of creativity" Have fun!

  • Dana said on February 15, 2010 - 3:16 PM


  • Josh said on February 15, 2010 - 4:02 PM

    That was definitely an awesome time. You forgot to mention that the greasy guy with his hands down his pants had on shiny silver colored shoes. Never make a purchase from a man wearing shiny silver shoes.

  • Kirsten said on February 17, 2010 - 7:44 AM

    Dim Sum is awesome! If you have the chance you should definitely try a full meal of dim sum sometime...or get together with friends and make dim sum yourself. Time consuming, but fun. (We did this once -- it is a lot of work which is why I suggest sharing the load with others). :-)

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About Me and This Blog...

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2012 to CA, MN, CO
   Ladies Trip to Napa Valley
   My Parents Rode in a Plane!

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2012 to MN and CO
   Vacation to the North Shore and Cabin
   Boulder for the Summer
   Life in Boulder

Begin Our Adventures of Winter/Spring 2012 to UT
   The Drive to CO/UT Begins
   Vacation in Moab
   Living in Moab / Denver

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2011 to CA
   The Drive to CA Begins
   Living in the SF
   Living in the Suburbs
   Coming Home to IC

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2010 to Eastern Europe
   Life at Czech English Camp
   Travels in Germany & Austria
   Travels in Czech & Poland


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