On the drive the Chinatown, the roads dipped and curved at odd angles. Los Angeles welcomed us with the smell and grit of urban spaces. People milled about; restaurants dotted the sidewalk; cars zipped through the streets.
I spotted the tell-tale entrance of Chinatown—a paifang, or, according to Wiki, a “traditional style of Chinese architectural arch or gateway.” We parked in a lot by the entrance, a block or two down the street.
Bright red paper lanterns were strung through Chinatown, billowing pockets of vibrancy.
The shops were reminiscent of those in China, of small outdoor markets filled with colorful decorative goods. Hats, toys, and paper dragons spilled across the shops. It was strangely empty, but it was also noon on a weekday, when most people were at work.
Near the center of Chinatown was a small park and pond. A woman sat outside smoking. A man in a bright pink tee rested on a bench.
In an abrupt reminder that this was Chinatown, LA, a burger joint interrupted the space. “Rush Hour was shot here,” painted letters on a wall.
On the walk around Chinatown, we stumbled upon outdoor markets, where the clothes reminded me of my waipo, grandma. The fabric was thick and wooly, the colors rich and dark.
We passed by a Vietnamese and Chinese bookshop, where the lettering and signs reminded me of childhood, when we’d walk through markets adorned with similar posters, searching for phone cards, herbs, spices and medicine.