2-Hour Walking Tour of Chinatown + Dim Sum Lunch
We started today with a walking tour of Chinatown. We booked this through Viatour and although I knew the girls would be really excited about it, I didn’t have very high expectations. I’ve done walking tours before and have thought they were OK, but they were never something I’d rave about. I was pleasantly surprised with this tour and would definitely recommend it! Our tour guide Linda grew up in Chinatown and was able to offer an authentic viewpoint of what life is like for the residents. She was very funny and I laughed a lot on this tour! As an added bonus, I had multiple “Linda listen” flashbacks during her stories.
We started the tour with some brief history on how the Chinese ended up in California in the first place, then we walked over to a store that sells herbal remedies and fills herbal prescriptions. We had been running late this morning and weren’t able to stop for coffee (end of the world stuff here, y’all) and I was DELIGHTED to find canned iced coffee at this small herbal store; it tasted like a store-bought Starbucks Frappucino which was just fine with me. I also picked out a couple herbal soup remedies to bring back home and try out. In the picture on the right, below, you’ll see prescriptions that are being filled.
The next stop on the tour: a Chinese temple. The Ma-Tsu Temple is built in honor of Ma-Tsu (or Mazu), a Chinese sea goddess revered for protecting the lives of fisherman and sailors and, today, travelers of all kinds. Ma-Tsu translates to “Maternal Ancestor” or “Mother”. The golden columns you see in the pictures below hold the names of worshippers who have purchased a spot in her temple, and with it protection during travels, for the year.
The final picture you see below is from our third stop, a fortune cookie factory. Maybe surprisingly, the only country that doesn’t serve fortune cookies with Chinese food is … China, according to Linda. She informed us that the first modern version of the fortune cookie was served in the U.S. in the 1890s or early 1900s by Makoto Hagiwara of the Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden (which we visited and I wrote about on our first day in SF). Sometime around WWII, fortune cookies evolved from a Japanese-American dominated tradition to a Chinese-American one.