I’m walking out of my favorite lunch spot – Columbus Cafe – where I devoured a really yummy schwerma, and saw this phenomenon that occurs about every week here. A huge tour bus of mainland Chinese swarm around me. The tour guide was pointing them up Lombard (from kind of an odd angle, from the North Beach side) expecting them, I guess, to walk up it. It is hard or near impossible, really, to drive down Lombard in these huge tour busses. What is also odd about this is that there’s a Chinese-merchandise store that caters only to Mandarin speakers. My mom and I went in there the other day, and because she has no shame and is an older senior citizen who readily speaks her mind, asked, “What kind of store is this?” to which they didn’t reply. They really almost exclusively speak Mandarin. They sell: expensive watches, expensive perfume, jade knickknacks, expensive lotions, and medicine. Note: I have never seen women on this tour.
So the tour-bus-main-store is on Columbus between Lombard & Chestnut if you want to check it out – and there will be tons of Chinese tourists hang out there. How can you tell a Chinese tourist from other kinds? Well they’re wearing drab colors, they’re holding cameras that are quite nice, smoking constantly, not very good teeth but excellent hair cuts, hmmm. Yes, and speaking Mandarin, which is pretty obviously not Cantonese.
I noticed this thing in China too, and it really annoyed me, when I went on a tour, we kept stopping at big stores devoted almost singly to the tour. We spent close to an hour at each store, too. It’s a racket. These guys, though, seem happy to stand outside smoking and chatting, waiting for their next big beautiful spot, which I bet you is Palace of Fine Arts. Maybe one day I’ll jump in the bus and see what’s up. Oh I remember I actually did that once just to tease them. They laughed quite a bit (or laughed at me? So hard to tell.)