(See previous posts: 1, 2, 3).
Last day in the city, and we were busy again. We slept in a little and then hoofed it over to Chinatown as they opened the place up. Jess and I both compared it to Cancun -- you're seeing the edges of a real "other" culture, but you're seeing it through this lens of tourist-friendliness. We walked into total tourist trap stores with tons of junk (neat, cool junk, but still junk), and we walked down alleys where various businesses with no english names operated. We saw a funeral procession go by, and we gawked at the vendors and their weird foods. We hit the district too early to catch the locals buying and selling things like live animals and such, but it was still plenty interesting.
We went to the Golden Dragon for Dim Sum, based on location and description in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was suitably Chinese -- not much English in their interactions, kind of confusing, but fun. Dim Sum deserves its own whole story -- the end of the story is that we ate until we were full for 15 dollars, including tip. Total. Amazing. The sad part of the story is that we left so many foods unsampled. Going with 4 is definitely the way to go -- either that or just leaving half the food uneaten. In any case, it wasn't long until we were passing on every dish they brought out, just because we were full.
We had a good laugh about Dim Sum, later. There were several Chinese families there, and a European family, who were obviously quite accomplished Dim Sum eaters :). We were a bit out of water, doing our best to get by. But there was a family there who made us look like we came from Hong Kong. The waittress comes by with the cart of food and says, "Dim Sum?". The guy responds by taking out this piece of paper, which turned out to be a flier from the restaurant promising "One free Dim Sum with Lunch Special." He points at the words "Dim Sum" and speaks with exaggerated volume: "DIM SUM?" It was hilarious. They ate their lunch special with their free plate of Dim Sum, though, and were evidently quite happy.
We know this because when the couple who looked like they were from Texas arrived, they sat down and the husband asked the guy at that table, "What's this Dim Sum stuff?" The guy answered, pointing at the small plate of Shumai he had, "It's these little dumpling thingies. We had some, they're good." Wow. So, yeah, evidently I'm like all cultured. Go me. As I mentioned to Jess later, though, it clearly takes a certain kind of courage to walk into a Dim Sum parlor having no idea what you're getting. I'm sure they were very proud of their adventurous spirit.
We ditched Chinatown and took the subway to Golden Gate Park, next. We spent the afternoon walking through the park, which is really beautiful. We had tea at the Japanese Tea Garden, ate Japanese cookies and snacks (including some Pocky ... honestly I don't understand its odd appeal to the anime fanboy set), and took some pictures of the pretty flowers and whatnot. Very relaxing, and a beautiful afternoon for it.
Then we got back on the subway and rode to Ocean Beach, where we stepped foot in the frozen Pacific. We strolled back to a corner bar right by the beach which turned out to be this cool neighborhood cafe with an awesome vibe. We relaxed, I had a beer, Jess had a soda, and we just took in the place. Very cool, and it was nice to be reminded that people -lived- here. It had a very college town feel to it, which was perfect.
On the way back, we got off the subway near the park and stopped at this Japanese place we had walked past before called Hotei, and ate noodle soup that was way too big for us. Still, delicious and again a perfect atmosphere, sitting in a window booth watching everybody walk by as the sun dipped down. The relaxing walk and subway ride back to the hotel really put the cap on our time in the city.