• Dr. Elisabeth Paige

Mindfully Exploring San Francisco: Chinatown

Updated: Nov 26, 2018

The Gates to San Francisco Chinatown


If you’ve ever wondered how to approach a city mindfully, join me. I just had a fantastic time exploring parts of San Francisco using an app called Detours created by KQED, the public radio station. The app is free. You use your phone with headphones and you can sync your tour with your fellow tourists so you are looking at the same things at the same time. It has GPS so the narrator tells you where to, super important for us directionally impaired, and waits until you are at the destination to talk about it. In the two tours that we did, the narrators were wonderful and pointed out details that we never would have noticed if left to our own devices.


Detours offers tours all over the world, including San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York City, Tokyo, London, Paris, Berlin, Seoul, Barcelona, Marrakech, and Rome. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet found my hometown, Sacramento, or other places in the Bay Area.


Detours Day 1 in San Francisco—Chinatown: The Biggest “little China” in the USA

We walked an almost 4-hour detailed tour of Chinatown and learned and learned the entire way. They highlighted the fires due to the 1906 earthquakes that caused the immigration papers to be destroyed. So many Chinese living in Chinatown were able to have their relatives immigrate and the government couldn’t prove they were illegal. I wish we had that today, not the fires and earthquake but some easier ways for people to immigrate.


Although the Chinese in Chinatown earn much less than the rest of the population of San Francisco, they have been able to fight off people who have wanted to develop their community and kick them out through the churches and nonprofit organizations.

About half the people in Chinatown live in single occupancy hotel rooms (SOH) that don’t include a kitchen or bathroom. Unfortunately, this is mostly the elderly.

Churches are very important to the Chinese community. Many of the Chinese attend several different types of churches. According to the Pastor who narrated the tour they are very welcoming.


We were guided to stop and eat at a bakery with awesome pork buns and milk tea. Whenever you wanted throughout the tour, you could pause the recording and eat or just rest, but the narrator was so powerful, the time flew by.

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