CHINATOWN...With its crowded streets and bustling markets, curled eaves and pagodas, mysterious alleys, hidden temples and busy restaurants, Chinatown is easily San Francisco 's most colorful neighborhood. It is also among the city's most famous, and therefore teems with visitors. But beyond the kitschy gift shops and tourist traps, there is an authentic Chiantown that is fully worth exploring. For a peek at the hidden Chinatown , explore the neighborhood's alleys.
Waverly Place is probably the best known and it abounds with Buddhist temples and community associations. When it's quiet, you can hear monks and nuns singing and playing Chinese instruments from behind the walls of their sanctuaries.
Unfortunately, many of the buildings are not open to the public except for the Tin Hou Temple on Waverly, and the nearby Gold Mountain Monastery on Sacramento (call ahead for hours).
Ross Alley, which connects Washington and Jackson Streets, is also worth a look. Its semi-hidden sweatshops reflect the gritty reality of life in the Chinese ghetto. For X-rated fortunes or a bog of delicious crumbly almond cookies, stop by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookies factory at 56 Ross Alley.