As a tour guide, I've become increasingly aware of the many ethnic enclaves in the Southland.  As a kid, I remember visiting Chinatown for its toys or Olvera Street for its mexican jumping beans.  Now I go for different reasons, and I think these communities add a wonderful bit of spice to an often overwhelming megalopolis.  They certainly make tours more interesting!  Here's a sample of the cultural fun we had.

On recent Hoffy Tours, these cultural jewels have provided entertainment, interest and learning.  In Chinatown, the Orange County Concierge sampled tea at the huge Wing Hop Fung Ginseng store in the Far East Plaza at 727 Broadway.  We marveled at the beauty of the Central Plaza and its colorful gateway.  We admired the new Bruce Lee statue and wondered how good the galleries on the hard-to-find Chung King Road (I would say alley!) really were.

New Chinatown's Central Plaza.
Orange County Concierge Assoc.
sampling tea in the Far Eat Plaza.

At El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park, we were delighted by the beauty of the central gazebo of the plaza and its huge magnolia trees, the tight alley of colorful curio shops on Olvera Street, and the restful courtyard of the Avila Adobe, LA's oldest home.  We were stimulated by the museum and controversial mural - America Tropical - painted by David Siqueiros on the second floor of the Italian Hall.

Siqueiro's 1932 anti-American mural portrays
a native American on a double crucifix with
an American eagle overhead.
Posing for photos by the prickly-pear
cactus in the quiet courtyard of the Avila

At Little Saigon in central Orange county, my groups loved exploring a traditional Vietnamese supermarket, wondering how a dorian (jackfruit) could possibly be edible and how many types of bok choy there might be.  At the Bao Quang Buddhist temple in Santa Ana,  we were enthralled at the beauty of the shrine, the hospitality of our hosts and the priceless artifacts in its museum.

Hoffy Tour guest with a
sizable dorian (jackfruit)
Our gracious hosts at the
Bao Quang Temple.

Our latest discovery was the beautiful Mandir Hindu Temple in Chino Hills.  The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir - a traditional place of Hindu worship - amazed us with its ornate architecture and beautiful shrines.  Our hosts were gracious and eager to share their culture and faith, explaining several of the deities of Hinduism and the dedication and vision of Pramukh Swami Maharaj who made the temple complex possible. 

Entrance to the Mandir which embraces Hindu divinity,    Indian architectural excellence and humanitarianism.
Ornate carvings in Indian sandstone
are matched by white marble within.

As a tour guide, I feel grateful for the cultural diversity that our region and country embraces, and for the kind people so willing to share their ways of life.  In so many parts of the world, cultural differences  lead to misunderstanding, discrimination, and often violence.  Culture provides the context for our lives; cultural diversity should enrich it.