If you are ever in Chicago, you must stop by Chinatown. Sure, it sounds very tourist oriented - and it is to a degree - but it is still wonderful. The thing that drew me there was a promise of delicious food (I was very hungry) but I found it extremely enjoyable to simply walk down the streets and observe everything.
First of all, the buildings are interesting and beautiful. There are many shops where you can buy the usual Hello Kitty trinkets, fat Buddah statues, paper fans, Chinese candies and the like. The places to shop I found most interesting were the markets that sold food items not availiable in most supermarkets. There were jars of dried plants, mushrooms, and fish that I had never even heard of before. Ginger candy, assorted teas and spices - I was in heaven. My traveling companion bought a durian at one of the shops. A durian is a fairly large, roundish fruit with a spikey exterior. The inside is kind of gooey and smells very...different. She says they are banned in many hotels in the east because of the smell. It was a unique experience buying it because how many times in your life can you say you went to the market and purchased a durian?
Now, on to my favorite part...the food! We stopped at a little place appropriately titled "Tasty Place". I was coaxed inside by a giant poster of marvelous looking smoothies in various flavors. Papaya, avocado, coconut, etc. I ended up trying a mango one and it was superb. I ordered the curry chicken. It said on the menu that it was hot and spicy, which I like. It was so amazing, better than any "chinese" food I have had in the past. My companion got noodles with vegetables and chicken; I tasted it and approved. The thing I liked about the place we ate at was the broad selection of drinks you could order compared to a typical american eatery. All sorts of teas and milks and yummy beverages. There are restuarants everywhere in Chinatown. I wanted to eat at them all.
After we ate, we stopped at a little cigar shop. It was very cute and had a great selection. The sign also said something about tattoos but I didn't inquire.
Overall, it was a great experience. No one was ever rude to us, they were very helpful. There were so many things to look at and do. I highly recommend visiting Chinatown if you're ever in the neighborhood.