I think the initial idea to go to the International District was based on a desire for Dim Sum. I mean, there are a lot of really fun reasons to go to the ID, but Dim Sum ranks up there at number one for me. Many carts full of food being offered nonstop? YUM.
I had an errand to run in Belltown on the Sunday morning that we went, so Pana picked Boyfriend and I up there. She was not in the Watchmobile (tm) that morning, but had borrowed the Mrs's car for the day, which I must say is slightly more comfortable for 3 people. We were all hungry, so our first mission was to find a place to eat. My first instinct was to go to Jade Garden, a frequent stop of my coworkers and I when we are not too busy to hop on a bus in the tunnel for lunch. Driving by Jade Garden we realized that this might be a futile effort since it was already so crowded at 11:30 AM, so we drove around the corner to check out House of Hong. House of Hong is bigger, so we figured we'd get a table, and we did immediately. Turns out we got there right at the perfect time because there was a huge rush right after we got there.
So, did I mention that I love carts full of food? SO MUCH FOOD. And they aren't shy at House of Hong about offering you everything. I was trying to hold out for this particular item that I've had at Jade Garden, meat stuffed sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves and steamed. They didn't seem to have this going around at House of Hong, though, which was slightly disappointing. What we did have was delicious, though. Shumai might be my second favorite item, which are dumplings filled with meat (pork I think) and vegetables and steamed...actually, isn't that the way you describe a lot of the food? According to an old friend's little sister, shumai look like brains. Delicious, delicious brains. I don't know what anything else we had was called except for the humbow, which wasn't really all that great. I've had much better. I liked the food very much, and ate it up, but I think next time I'd rather go to Jade Garden because I like it just a little better. We still stuffed ourselves silly, though! I seriously think restaurants with other types of cuisine should consider the cart method. Also, Boyfriend got a very strange and slightly off putting fortune in his cookie, so he did not eat it. He kept the fortune though.
Next we decided to walk around a bit and just look at what the ID has to offer. We went into a toy store full of too many awesome things I wanted to buy, but didn't need. Boyfriend and I went into a really cool exotic fish pet store called Liem's Aquarium and Bird Shop, but Pana has a fear of fish and even though she tried to come in at first she had to wait outside instead. The shop is very small and crammed full of fish. I didn't see any birds, though.
While we were walking around taking in all the interesting shops and buildings, we noticed some beautiful ornate looking balconies on a few buildings and I had to stop and take a picture. It seems that these balconies signify that there is a "tong" which is some sort of Chinese association. Upon looking these up further, they are explained as Chinese secret societies that were created for immigrant support and protection. Looking into it even further it seems in the past that there was some illegal activity going on in these organizations, much like the mob! Intriguing! Also, the Bing Kung Tong was the first one we saw and this particular tong's members are mentioned in articles about the Wah Mee Massacre in 1983, which I did some reading on a few years ago. I'm certainly not the right person to tell you about this, though. Look it up! There is so much history here.
Next stop was the Grand Pavillion which was designed and constructed in Taipei and brought to Seattle in 1975. It was a nice place to stop and rest. We were still too full to do anything more food-wise, which was slightly disappointing because I wanted bubble tea and I didn't really have room for it. Pana and I wandered around the little park a bit and Boyfriend found one of those new weird self cleaning public toilets and tried to figure out how to get in. Someone was in it, though and it didn't seem like anyone was coming out for quite a while.
At this point we started to continue on our journey, but then Pana cried out in terror as a bird shat on her! EW! It was a very traumatic experience, let me tell you. Poor Pana!! And it was more disgusting than regular bird poo, but I should probably spare you the details (you're lucky I didn't take pictures...bleeeehhh). I helped her take her sweater off, but it was cold and she didn't have another one. So we decided it was best to walk back in the direction of the car and then drive to Uwajimaya. We stopped by Wing Luke Asian Museum, but it was closed which was disappointing.
Next stop: Uwajimaya. This place goes down in history as one of Pana and my favorite stops. And we're super bad influences on each other when we go there and want to buy as much random stuff as possible. My coworker likes to call it "why'd you buy it" and she's right. You can, however, do all of your regular grocery shopping here, too. But Pana and I would rather buy things with labels we can't read and be surprised later. This might seem pretty white-bread of us, but seriously, asian snacks are delicious and fun and I love them. Obviously the usual stuff isn't "weird", like Pocky, Pretz, wasabi peas, Yan Yan, etc. This stuff I know you can buy at Safeway, but they don't nearly have the great selection Uwaj has. What I wish I would have bought is the sake in a carton...the Japanese version of boxed wine! (You'll come to know my fondness for alcohol in a box) I also wanted to buy some frozen items for future dinners such as pork, cabbage and corn dumplings and lumpia. I made the dumplings with a few meals over the next week and they were delicious. I need to go back and buy them and try the other varieties, as they were very reasonably priced and easy to make. I also now have a vast selection of different cookies to snack on. I made the mistake of buying some packages of shrimp udon soup that I did not inspect well enough and it turns out that there is seaweed in it that makes it far too fishy tasting for me. I also bought canned lemon jelly that I haven't had the guts to open and try yet. Pana and I both spent a ton of money, and probably could have spent more but we were starting to get tired and had to wrap up the day. We did a quick run through the home section and I realized that I need to go back for a lot of decorative stuff that I want next time I am in the area. I probably should have spent money on that instead of a bunch of snack food!
Even though we didn't hit a lot of places like I had planned and hoped and only ended up in the Chinese section mostly, we really had a great time. But there is a lot more to explore on another day, so we'll definitely go back. It is a place full of beautiful buildings and interesting history, plus a lot of great places to eat and shop. I wish I could say more, but I think it would be best for you to just go and spend the day there. It really is a lot of fun!
Overall Grade: A-