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Bust out the walking shoes

Young Henry Lee lived here, in Canton Alley, now part of the Wing Luke Asian Museum.Since several readers have asked and since it’s not a bad idea, I thought I’d jot down a few of the highlights (and one lowlight) of a psudo Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet walkabout, lookie-loo tour of Seattle’s Chinatown International District.

Granted, at some point, the Wing Luke Asian Museum will probably orchestrate something official, but in the meantime, if you’re trekking to Seattle and wanted to know what to see and do, here are a few suggestions:

Mon Hei Bakery(Where Henry used to take Ethel on cool summer evenings). I’d start here, because fresh mooncakes are an entirely different foodstuff when eaten warm. Don’t go too early, this isn’t Dunkin Donuts, so don’t expect anyone there at 6:00am, but if you wander in around 10:00am, you’ll be in great shape. My favorite are the bittermelon mooncakes, but the cocktail buns are also a must. (Made with equal parts coconut, butter, and heaven).

Wing Luke Asian Museum—I’d hit the Wing Luke next. This is one of the cornerstones of the neighborhood—a lovely, beautifully designed museum, with great exhibits that are always changing, so visit often.* (The museum envelops part of Canton Alley, where young Henry lived with his parents).

Tsue Chong—Next I’d pop over to the Tsue Chong Co, which makes fortune cookies. (Ask for directions on your way out of the Wing Luke). The cookies are fresh, inexpensive, and come in flavors—like pina colada, mint, coffee, etc. They make fresh noodles too.

Kobe Terrace Park—If you head north from Tsue Chong and climb the steep hill you’ll run directly into Kobe Terrace Park, a relatively small city park adorned with cherry trees and featuring an active community garden. The area was much larger in its heyday; before I-5 bisected the neighborhood…ah, progress. (This is where Henry and Keiko spent time, the steep hill made for a frenetic wagon ride).

Panama Hotel—Walk west, toward the waterfront and you’ll see the Panama Hotel on your left (about a block or two from the park). The tearoom is lovely, be sure to stop in and enjoy a cup, or share a pot. Inside you’ll also notice a cutaway section of the floor that reveals the basement area and the long forgotten belongings that still remain. For a truly authentic experience, you should spend the night upstairs. You could even request one of the rooms where I stayed, or where other notable authors, like Tom Robbins, used to hang out.

Uwajimaya—If you’re hungry or would like to do a little shopping, Uwajimaya is the place. There’s an amazing food-court that features sushi, Thai, Hawaiian, Chinese, etc. The grocery store itself is massive (Where Samantha bought ingredients for dinner), the gift shop is packed, and it’s next to Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookstore.

Unicorn Crepes—Last but not least, a block away is this funky, shoebox restaurant that serves Asian-fusion crepes. Chocolate banana cornflake crepes, pizza crepes, you gotta check it out.

The Lowlight—As promised there is one low spot. If you walk down Maynard Alley, just south of King Street, there are doors to several old businesses. One features several rows of glass blocks. This is the old Wah Mee Club, a former backroom gambling parlor and site of the Wah Mee Massacre—where fourteen people were gunned down in 1983. There are locals that will wince at my mentioning of the place, but it’s also where my grandparents first met, so I see it in a different light. (Plus, it's this kind of alley that I had in mind when Henry and Keiko first meet Oscar Holden).

Hope this helps, happy exploring.

*If you want a really great tour experience, just ask at the Wing Luke. They have the best tour guides and can do a much better job than I ever could. I’ve taken my own family on their tours.

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Reader Comments (5)

Uh oh, this just in: I've heard a rumor that Unicorn Crepes recently changed their name to UNICONE Crepes and has changed locations? Not sure if this is true or not...
April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
My wife and I were completely enchanged with Bitter and Sweet. The prose, the dialogue, the scene all have just the right touch. We are eagerly awaiting more Jamie Ford magic.
April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Gorham
This is really cool, Jamie. You know, the tourism board ought to be giving you props for encouraging people to take a trip through the area like this. Anyway, thanks for sharing.
April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Stallsworth
It is true. Unicorn Crepes now Unicone has moved out of the neighborhood for now. They now can be found at Southcenter Mall.

Thanks Jamie for the post!
April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVivian Chan
I was so sad to discover Unicorn Crepes had moved. We were going to go there after the Sounder game this weekend. I wish I had taken the time to go there more often.
April 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaryke

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