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Ross Alley in Chinatown is one of the oldest alleys in San Francisco. The notorious alley was once famous for its brothels and gambling and is now renowned for its murals depicting the life of the American Chinese community. Chinatown, a favorite amongst tourists visiting San Francisco has several shops and food joints to cater to the varied crowds. The alley's major attraction is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Factory which makes around 20,000 handmade cookies a day and one is welcome to see them prepare the same and sample them as well!
You reach Tin How Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in San Francisco (founded 1852) by climbing three flights of steep and narrow stairs in the heart of Chinatown. Once there, after catching your breath, your breath may very well be taken away again. The west wall of this tiny temple is an expanse of intricately carved gilded wood housing the shrine to Tin How, the goddess of Heaven. From the ceiling hang hundreds of paper lanterns, each bearing the name (in Chinese characters) of the person for whom it is intended to bring long life and happiness.
This serene space is the oldest Buddhist Temple in San Francisco, dating back more than 50 years. Named in honor of the Norras Buddhist Temple in Tibet, many of the symbols here are derived from Tibetan Buddhism. The shrine shows a triple-display of Buddha and his acolytes in attitudes of compassion and joy. The altar is gilded wood imported from China in 1959. Note the pair of three-dimensional mandalas shaped like golden mountains, five feet high and containing hundreds of tiny windows with even tinier Buddhas sitting inside. At the flick of a switch, they spin to the sound of Chinese music.
This old temple (founded 1857) housed in a new building (built in 1977) that also houses the Chinatown Post Office is located on the fourth floor. It is a large light-filled room with stark white walls and a pyramid-shaped ceiling with a skylight at its apex. The elaborate altar displays the deity Kuan Ti with attendant deities. The altar and other carved panels were moved from the original temple nearby and are beautifully gilded and carved in amazing detail. The view from the Kong Chow Temple's balcony, one of the nicest in Chinatown, includes the Transamerica Pyramid. A temple story has it that Harry Truman visited the temples old location just before the 1948 election and made an offering for good luck. It may have done the trick.
The neighborhood of Jackson Square is a quaint place to shop for antiques and art, as well as a historic landmark. On the edge of San Francisco's Financial District, near Chinatown, this area is one of The City's oldest examples of commercial architecture and holds its own collection of reputable art dealers. Find galleries that feature Oriental rugs, antique domestic and imported furniture, vintage posters, fine art, silver, china, and more. Stroll around and enjoy a tranquil piece of San Francisco tucked away in the heart of the action. Credit card acceptance varies by store.
As much a trademark of the city's skyline as the Golden Gate Bridge, this 853-foot (260-meter) high masterpiece is the tallest office tower in the city and is headquarters to some of San Francisco's most powerful companies. Unfortunately, the elevator, which ascends to the building's uppermost heights, is no longer open to the public. Fortunately, rooftop video cameras allow visitors to "virtually see" the bird's-eye view from the comfort of the lobby. Outside, a man-made Redwood Park offers a welcome green oasis within the concrete jungle.
At one time, the spire of this cathedral was the tallest structure in the city. There may be buildings taller than this cathedral these days, but none offers such a rich history. The church's foundation is granite that was cut in China. The exterior of the Old Catholic Cathedral Of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception is composed of red bricks that were made in New England and brought around Cape Horn. Inside, the white plaster sanctuary offers stained glass and exhibits the ribbed-vault arches typical of neo-gothic architecture. The lighting is kept low, giving the shrines along the walls, lit with indirect spots and votive candles, an ethereal glow. Display cases house a collection of drawings, photographs, and artifacts from St. Mary's rich history, which includes dramatic photos of the devastation caused by the 1906 earthquake and fire.