On a sunny spring Saturday morning, two dozen Redlands Sister Cities members gathered at the San Bernardino Metrolink station to begin a day of adventure in Los Angeles. After some initial difficulty with the ticket dispensing machine, all were ready to board the 8 a.m. train when the call came. Despite the early hour, it seemed as if half the population of San Bernardino was traveling with us.
Seating on the upper deck provided interesting vistas as we barreled toward Los Angeles, viewing sights we don’t usually see from our cars on the freeway. Union Station was a bustle of activity as well as we found our way to the Los Angeles Metro Gold Line platform. We traveled one stop north and exited at the Chinatown stop.
There we were met by our guide, Holly, who represented the local business district. Although she was not Chinese, her credentials included reading and speaking Mandarin and working in the area for many years. She gave a brief history of Chinatown, mentioning that the area we were about to tour was the second local Chinatown, the first having been appropriated by Union Station when it was built.
She then guided us around the immediate area for an hour and a half, pointing out a night market, bank, elementary school, vintage alley way and other landmark buildings and sites important to the local Chinese community. A visit to a Taoist temple was especially illuminating, as she explained many of the customs and worship practices that believers use when they pay a visit. Looking at the signage in Chinese, hearing the language spoken by many passersby and seeing the architecture gave us the strong impression that we were visiting another country.
We also learned that in recent years, Chinatown has become a hotbed of artistic endeavor, hosting a number of cutting-edge art galleries.
Holly left us in the Central Plaza, after which our group members scattered to enjoy lunch, further wandering and shopping and a return to Union Station to catch an afternoon train home to San Bernardino.