Thursday, May 10, 2007

TOUR: Walk around Chinatown at Lunchtime on a Sunny Wednesday

Chinatown in Chicago is more than a tourist destination. The Chinese population follows only the populations of the Chinese communities of New York and San Francisco. Take a walk down Archer Avenue and look down Wentworth Avenue - framed by the most recognizable landmark in Chinatown.

If you're coming for a meal and don't want to fall for the tourist traps, stick to the local eateries inside the walking mall along Archer just west of Wentworth. You'll know you're here by spotting the square featuring Chinese Lions, Statues of the animals of the years and the red and green pagoda. Arial Shot Here.

However if it's trinkets and other stuff you're looking for, then DO stop inside all the gift shops along Wentworth to the south of the Chinatown Gateway. Get lost inside the musty aisles beneath the buzzing shop lights. The sights and smells are authentic - I've been to Hong Kong. And the stuff is the same! No need to travel to the Far East for inexpensive plastic waving cats, rayon kimonos and twisted bamboo; it's all the same right here. On busy Saturdays, even the DVD vendors come out of the woodwork peddling the latest releases (and even some not released yet.)

Mixed in with the ordinary are two outstanding shops. Keep your eye open for the store featuring tons of imported boxes. These decorative wooden boxes are far more interesting than the standard fare at Pier One. Also stop in at Ten Ren Tea Shop at 2247 S. Wentworth. As one of the most popular tea shops in Chinatown, Ten Ren attracts both locals and tourists with its wide selection of items and friendly atmosphere. Prices range from a couple of dollars to more than $50, depending on the kind of tea or ginseng you purchase. Ten Ren carries several grades of the same tea, giving you a choice in price. Again, as good as we found in Hong Kong.