Thai Town LA
In March of 2007 I took a work related trip down to several cities in California, and just my luck one of them happened to be LA. Only spending the morning at work, I decided to spend the other half of my day checking out Thai Town LA. Although hardly enough to gather it all in, it was enough that I can give you the reader a taste of it.
For those who don't know, at about 80,000+ people (roughly 66% percent of all Thai Americans), LA has the largest Thai population outside of Thailand itself. No wonder why some jokingly refer to it as the 77th province (Thailand has 76 provinces). Thai Town LA isn't all that large in size as its just a few blocks down a single street - its nothing compared to say China Town in New York. But it is however the only Thai Town in the world, and its right on our west coast doorstep!
To go to Thai Town LA, I first had to go down to the Hollywood/Western Metro Station on the Red Line (click below map to enlarge).
Straight out the metro you will know that you have landed in Thai Town. Why you may ask? Because the giant hotdog says so.
Walking down the street it will pretty much look like any other street in LA, with the big Hollywood sign up on the hill within visible range. The overwhelming majority of the people walking down the streets won't even be Thai. But what you will notice is Thai writing on about 30% of all the buildings.
Facing the giant hotdog, you now want to take a right and start walking on the left side of the road - there are no Thai places of interest in any of the other three directions you can take (I checked). As you stroll down the street you will immediately start seeing Thai stores. The first major place of interest is this Thai Market place.
Silom SuperMarket is a huge food store selling all the various Thai yummy stuff you can only normally find in Thailand - everything from 10+ different types of Thai teas (yes, there are many other teas just as tasty as Thai iced tea), to Thai desserts, snack foods, fresh fish, and even dried squid!
There were a few things I couldn't find, such as fruits, but I can't be too picky . . . shucks and I wanted durian!!! j/k
This market actually has one additional secret. Walking out the back (you aren't allowed to walk out using the front entrance) you will end up in this parking lot straight out of Thailand. Immediately on your left you will find a Thai book, movie, and music store, with definitely a huge selection. I think I spent over an hour in there, and about $100 too . . . Unfortunately in Thai Town LA, the prices are American prices - the baht won't go very far. More specifically, this particular store is a little over priced compared to all the other book and music stores you will find later as you explore further on. So don't spend all your money just yet!
Now as you leave the parking lot (which looks exactly like you are in Thailand), you will come across a parking lot guard post (manned by a Thai man in uniform), followed directly after by something even more amazing - two Thai spirit houses. I think I had 'a moment' . . .
Walking further the next point of interest will be this big parking lot surrounded on three sides by nothing but a dozen Thai restaurants (talk about competition!). They even have a kanom store! I forgot the name of the particular restaurant I decided to eat at, and I didn't try the others, but I will still recommend it. Facing towards the parking lot, it will be on your right, somewhat in the middle. It was on the left of what I think was a Thai hair stylist (if my memory serves me right). The restaurant had THE most authentic Thai food I have ever eaten in the states, and offered many rare (in the US) dishes. They even had pigs blood soup! Ok so it wasn't as good (or as red) as I've had before, but it was still pretty good. I was amused how the waitress decided to explain that it had pigs blood in it to make sure I knew what I was ordering . . .
Now after being stuffed from way more Thai food than I could eat, I continued further. I found a few more Thai book and cd/vcd stores, a few stores selling a large variety of Thai magazines and newspapers (including the official Thai Town USA newspaper), and even a place selling nothing but Thai movies on the old fashioned cassette tape. If you are interested in buying a nice formal Thai outfit, you will even come across a store for that too.
Your trip should now start to end. The Thai shops stop when you see a sign that says 'Little Armenia.' Interestingly, Thai Town and Little Armenia are actually the same place. Of course I didn't realize this until I quickly glanced at a shop, saw a few Thai characters, walked in, saw only white people and a bunch of Russian newspapers, then walked out again entirely confused to make sure I didn't walk though the wrong door.
Before I ever started to learn how to read Thai I was saw an Armenian webpage. Then not much later I saw my first Thai webpage. I remember thinking something like, 'wow, they look exactly the same.' Now that I can read Thai, to be frank, they still look very very similar:
Ok so the trip isn't really over - you are only half way! Yay! Turn around and now walk back to the metro on the other side of the street. This side isn't as interesting, but you will find a Thai tourist agency, a Thai bakery that sells the hard to find ma muang paen (mango fruit roll-ups), a few more Thai restaurants, a Thai hair stylist, and a modern Thai fashion clothing shop.
Supposedly there are also two discotechs (clubs) and a bikini bar reminiscent of Patpong somewhere in Thai Town, but I didn't see any of these nor did I try very hard to find them.
I don't want to hype up Thai Town too much, as it isn't all that big of a place. Most of the time I just felt like I was on just another street in LA, but with lots of things that a Thai fanatic (like me) could both appreciate, and quickly spend his entire paycheck in a cant-buy-this-at-home spending frenzy.
Hopefully you now understand why both Los Angeles and Bangkok are called the City of Angels. =)