San Francisco is an incredible city rich in culture and history. I wanted to visit San Francisco in particular for the opportunity to visit San Francisco Chinatown, which represents the largest Chinese ethnic enclave outside of Asia.
The original Chinatown itself is a marvel, spanning five zipcodes and some 24 blocks. The streets are lined with art celebrating a unique fusion of Chinese and American culture, Chinese architecture stands proudly throughout, and iconic red lanterns light the streets at night.
Remarkably, it’s only one of four major Chinatowns in the city – just 75 years after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in December 1943 and over three decades of the detention of Chinese migrants on Angel Island just a short ride across the bay post-1910.
I was struck by how far the presence of Chinese-Americans extends throughout the city. One example is the Asian Art Museum, which stands dignified alongside City Hall in the heart of the city. Similarly, the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park features the largest collection of Magnolias for conservation purposes outside of China – and I was even lucky enough that they had already started to bloom when I visited.
The Garden itself is spectacular and one of the best I’ve ever visited, with sections devoted to flora from North and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and even Australia. I arrived early enough to be one of the few visitors wandering around, and this made for a truly serene experience as I wandered peacefully across the globe.
The entire city of San Francisco is a testament to human endeavour. Built on more than 50 steep, rolling hills, with parks and gardens like the Panhandle built from nothing into vibrant oases, San Francisco’s ability to endure earthquakes and fires that wrought near total devastation is evidence of the human spirit. Likewise, the Golden Gate Bridge looms as a monument to human ingenuity and achievement that is proof that, in America, there’s no limit to what humanity can achieve.