We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

A question regarding Chinatown

Whitehorse, Canada
Level Contributor
38 posts
1 review
Save Topic
A question regarding Chinatown

I understand Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest outside of Asia, The three places I most frequently visit in Canada (Toronto, ON/Vancouver BC/Victoria BC) all have thriving Chinatowns. I'm on holidays so I won't be needing groceries, can't think of any consumer goods I would be wanting to buy there (have a decent supply of White Flower Balm, thanks) and may or may not go for a meal or dim sum.

What I'm looking for an opinion on is...does the San Francisco Chinatown offer anything I wouldn't probably be able to find in Chinatown in another city?

I don't want to make my days crazy rushed but I don't wanting to be ignoring possibilities when I don't yet know what I'm talking about.

Santa Clara...
Level Contributor
22,324 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

What is unique about our Chinatown is the history. You will best appreciate this with a guided tour. Chinese played a key role in the Gold Rush expansion of the west by doing a lot of the literal dirty and dangerous work. It is not only about the food or trinkets at the store. That being said, it is your holiday so only you can prioritize what is important. .

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
29,029 posts
6,062 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

Its not in Chinatown, but in San Francisco, there is an excellent Asian Art Museum

http://www.asianart.org/

In Chinatown itself, the historical museum if worth a visit

http://www.chsa.org/

If you come in February, February 15 is the Chinese New Year Parade (not sure of your timing)

http://www.chineseparade.com/

Pacifica, California
Destination Expert
for Pacifica
Level Contributor
9,851 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

I doubt that you'd be able to get 5 San Francisco t-shirts for $20 at the other Chinatowns.

*(My old college roommate was from Whitehorse.)

Edited: 26 November 2013, 07:48
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
13,472 posts
65 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

None of the Canadian cities that the OP mentions have "thriving" Chinatowns. They are all a fraction of their former selves. They have all suffered with aging Chinese populations and new immigrant Chinese are settling in suburbs. The largest Chinatown mentioned is in Vancouver, but San Francisco's Chinatown is multiple times the size and population.

There really is no comparison.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
2,633 posts
36 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

I think some of the architecture is interesting with the Chinatown gate and I understand that it's not necessarily "authentic" but a kind of chinoiserie or something similar. The history is interesting with the Chinese exclusion act of 1882 and limitation of Chinese people to Chinatown and other discrimination. If you're interested in these kinds of things a good tour may be interesting. Sfcityguides.org gives tours for free (small donation requested). The immigration station on angel island is also interesting in this regard.

I wouldn't particularly visit Chinatown for shopping since many things there are not really my cup of tea (though they do have tea shops). There are a lot of souvenir and jewelry shops on grant street for the benefit(?) of tourists. Stockton Street is the Chinese market street meant for their own community. Some of the alleys are interesting, too.

I've been through other Chinatowns and the one here feels more like a spectacle and crowded. Other Chinatowns exist in San Francisco and Oakland, too.

Even if you only walk through on your way from union square to north beach, I'd think it's a somewhat unique experience even if you've seen some other Chinatowns before. It has a different atmosphere than the Vancouver and Boston ones which I've also visited.

San Francisco
Level Contributor
36,629 posts
26 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

As others have said, much of what makes this Chinatown interesting is the history. Holodan mentions the Chinese Exclusionary Acts of the 1880s which limited Chinese immigration to males, many of whom worked on the railroads. Which is why the housing in Chinatown was built as small one-room lodging space. Chinatown in those days was a true ghetto, a Chinese person had better not be found on the "wrong" side of Broadway after dark.

After the 1906 EQ and fire demolished Chinatown, word got out that the city wanted to move the Chinese population out to the southeast section of the city so the Chinese rebuilt quickly and with all the pagoda touches. And they rebuilt housing in the same one room apartments.

As a result, Chinatown is the densest neighborhood in town. On the tour I took, the guide said if the entire city was as densely population, SF would have 7 million people (rather than 800K).

I greatly enjoyed the City Guides tour I took. There were a lot of people on it (it's free after all!) but it was very well done.

Of course these day, Clement Street is just as Asian (and in some ways more authentically so) than Chinatown.

Dublin, California
Level Contributor
21,666 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

I am not sure we have the largest Chinatown, but certainly the oldest in north America. Yes definitely the history is the thing. I would take a tour also. I usually buy something from the Wok Store, and if you like, line up for an egg custard at that Golden Gate bakery.

I would have to disagree with datthecoast. Toronto's Chinatown is certainly thriving, even though the majority of the Chinese population resides in the suburbs.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
13,472 posts
65 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

There are a half a dozen "Chinatowns" in Metro Toronto. The Chinatown in Toronto that most people visit now has only been around since the 1960's and is a former Jewish enclave. As in many other cities, the Chinese population that is currently there was forced to "re-locate" from another area of the city after the land there was expropriated.

This Chinatown is not thriving. It is eroding as the existing older Chinese population disappears and that population is only being replaced in a very small degree by ethnic Chinese from Vietnam, India and Malaysia. The area is morphing away from being Chinese to being "Asian." Predominately Vietnamese.

Chinese communities in Toronto's bedroom communities of Mississauga, North York and Markham are thriving.

Whitehorse, Canada
Level Contributor
38 posts
1 review
Save Reply
9. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

OK Thanks everyone. This one remains firmly on the maybe list.

Holodan, you're right..easy enough to walk thru on my way from one point to another, so if it catches my fancy I can certainly explore further. I'll have the city guides tours info handy anyways so if the day and time is right, I 'll probably go on one.

10. Re: A question regarding Chinatown

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 28 November 2014, 05:17