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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


They say there’s always a story behind pictures. Well, I’m no photographer but lately my mom hasn’t been feeling all that well and I drive for an hour once a week to Chinatown so that she can go see a Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist doctor whose office is at the end of a Chinese mini-market. It’s quite an interesting atmosphere. The aroma of herbs and specialty foods linger in the air as I wait for my mom to be poked by bunch of needles.

For those of you who have never tried it and are squeamish, acupuncture doesn’t hurt as long as you hold still and try to relax. It’s a strange feeling the first time you do it. It has a tingling sensation. Sometimes if you have injured an area such as your back badly, you will feel more of a discomfort, especially if the tiny needle sits on a bone but it’s only a discomfort at most.

Anyhow, during one of my visits to Chinatown, I decided to take some pictures for my blog and share a corner of an old culture in Los Angeles for those of you who are thinking about visiting my hometown. I say a corner because to a tourist it doesn’t seem that complicated, but if that tourist had a Chinese friend as I do, then the traditions and the benefits of the items on the shelves and the history and meaning behind each peace of what seems like knickknacks to the average westerner becomes much more complex than that which was originally anticipated.

The first time I was introduced to Chinatown by a friend, who was born in Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese as opposed to Mandarin which is more common in the rest of China, I was simply amazed. And this will not be the last time you will hear me talk of it. As I learn more and more myself, I will share my experiences with those who stop by my blog. So without further ado, here are some pictures my amateur eyes and hands took. I hope you will enjoy them.

Below is a photo of the metro taken from a parking lot. The green structure you see isn’t exactly your typical modern Los Angeles look but rather designed to blend in with the rest of the Chinatown architecture which is what gives it a special charm. You may click on any of the photos to see it enlarged with more details.

Here is a street view East of the Saigon Plaza.

The Saigon Plaza is packed on weekends and at times it's impossible not to bang into someone. So you must watch out for your wallet and purse! Street vendors sell anything from fresh sugar juice as they put the sugar beets in their special blenders to decorative Hello Kitty pillows to jewelry and hair decorations, purses and luggage, t-shirts, socks, toys and whatever else you can imagine for very reasonable prices.

Here is a mini-market with all sorts of Chinese delicacies, diet teas, green tea candies, dishes, pots and pans and an herbal pharmacy where you can only buy herbs with a prescription from the herbalist and acupuncturist doctor who works here.

And so my mom was hungry after being poked by needles and we ended up eating at a quaint hole in the wall called JC Café.

The friendly girl working in front stops passersby and offers them samples of fruit smoothies, cold boba milk teas and sometimes appetizer-sized chicken or pork.

And alas, I order our lunch as by now I’m hungry as well. The girl behind the counter is really nice as she explains the dishes. Now, I’m quite familiar with the “American” version of Chinese food, but here I need to be careful because if I don’t ask, I may end up eating chicken feet or some other body part for which I don’t care for, especially since I’m a vegetarian and my mom ...well, let’s just say she doesn’t care for “creative” delicacies she's not used to eating.

I ordered a green tea jasmine boba. No pix as it came in a Styrofoam cup and looked pale, but nevertheless, it was tasty and definitely different.

My mom's egg rolls and my freshly made wild mushroom chow mein arrives but by the time I’m ready to take a picture, my mom has already taken a bite of her egg roll. So, sorry about the half egg roll.

My mom’s Pork Won Ton Soup. She insists on me trying it. So, I break my vegetarian promise to myself and try it. It’s really delicious. I feel guilty as my mom offers me another piece. I say no way.

Okay, so after we chowed, we walk a bit further down to an outdoor mall named Chinatown. Here is a picture of the end entrance of it before we walk in.

A wishing fountain.

Kids throwing in pennies and dimes and making a wish.

A beautiful building. Inside there are some shops and to my left which you cannot see here is a bakery. I did stop by to buy Chinese rolls to take home but the line was way too long and I left.

Another wishing fountain. Whereas the other one had better landscaping, this one has a really detailed fountain.

A girl and a couple making a wish and an amateur photographer tourist.

I thought the name of this shop was funny – Sincere Imports. I suppose they couldn’t have named it Insincere Imports because people would be hesitant to shop there.

As you see, you can find just about anything here from fake jewels to kimonos and wallets made of various silk fabrics.

More shops and walking areas. It was such a beautiful sunny day with a cool breeze coming through.

Side walk cafes and lots of lanterns.

Last photo: The front entrance of the mall.