Did I tell you that I also really love Chinatown? San Francisco's Chinatown. Again, lots of cities have what they call a "Chinatown" area, but SF's is the best. I'm a total sucker for certain touristy things, and I embrace that fact fully. But Chinatown is one of those great combination places that is both the ultimate in touristy kitschiness, and yet is also a vibrant neighborhood inhabited by real people.
Why does it seem like every culture on earth is more colorful than European/American culture? So many other people in the world embrace bold colors in their clothing, architecture, homes, even their food. While we dress in blacks and blues, live in our gray houses, and eat potatoes and bread. Boring! And so we love the "exotic," and we admire its beauty, but we know it's not really for us, so instead of emulating it or joining in, we try to possess it, and purchase it, and own it. Anyway, I'm off topic. Back to the joys of Chinatown!
One of the joys is indeed shopping. Look at all the pretty little things! And they're cheap too! Beautiful silk purses in every shape and size, paper parasols, gleaming lanterns, decorative fans, lucky porcelain cats, colorful tea pots, dainty slippers. Of course there are also tons of crappy souvenirs, tiny cable cars and bridges, shot glasses and ash trays, cheap luggage, and tacky t-shirts. I also love the glitzy antique shops interspersed among the souvenir stands. Who is the person who actually buys that $2,000 bronze tortoise on a whim while walking through Chinatown on vacation? Where exactly are you going to put that 6 foot ivory carving of a thousand tiny horses running in the wind when you get home? These shops are so crammed full of stuff I can't even see what I'm looking at. But I will always regret not buying one of these sleeping piglets.
It's fun to eat in Chinatown too. We had dim sum at a random place that we were handed a flyer for on the street. We looked it up and it had good ratings, so we went. It was a literal hole in the wall, the service was incredibly slow, and some guy left shouting that he was going to call the police because of a dispute over his bill, but other than that it was great. The food was yum-yummy, and super cheap, and they only brought out one dish at a time so you had to savor each one individually, like these steamed pork buns. I just want to squeeze them, and hold them, and kiss them.
Even if you don't eat anything, it's fun just looking at the cooked ducks hanging in the windows, the odd-shaped fruits and vegetables in the wooden stand on the corner, the candies flavored with things we'd never consider "candy-appropriate" in the west, and the many bakeries. Everything in any bakery looks delicious, the world over. But you never know what you're going to get. We bought an assortment of tasty looking treats at one popular/crowded bakery, but most of them were filled with strange savory pastes that just didn't match our conception of "sweets." Still, they're pretty to look at and fun to sample. I wanna go back. The fact is yes, you can find all of these things in Los Angeles, but it's just not as FUN. (Actually some of it IS lots of fun here too, it's just better when you're on holiday.)