|Thai Town - Things to Do|
Thai Town offers a myriad of opportunities to become fully immersed in the Thai culture, including a plethora of restaurants serving traditional Thai cuisine from different regions of Thailand and supermarkets where one can find authentic Thai groceries and other products.
In a very short period of time, Thai Town has become an important economic base for much of the Thai community. Many residents now come to Thai Town to visit its unique mélange of attractions. As a result, many small business owners have been able to expand their services. Thailand Plaza, a local Thai diner, boasts well-known musicians from Thailand. The Thai Town Outlet offers a beautiful array of imported silks and linens. Ban Kanom Thai sells traditional Thai desserts such as bananas with coconut milk and taro.
Places to Explore/Sights to See:
At the western entrance of Thai Town at Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, one cannot help but notice the statues on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard. These are known as the Thai Town Apsonsi Gateway. The statues depict “Apsonsi” a mythical half human-half lion creature that is said to protect and bring good luck. Presented to the people of Los Angeles by the Thai Community Development Center in 2007, these statues stand 6 feet tall on 10 feet tall galvanized steel pedestals with engraved lotuses. The statues themselves are made of bronze and were transported from Thailand free of charge by Thai Airways. Two additional statues will soon be erected at the opposite end of Thai Town at Hollywood Boulevard and Normandie Avenue. The Los Angeles Office of Community Beautification, along with the Royal Thai Consulate General, Kasikorn Bank, Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, Union Bank, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Thai businesses and residents funded the statues and they are considered one of the premier public art installations in Los Angeles.
As one moves eastward on Hollywood Blvd. there will be Thai culture on display in the form of a Thai goddess statue seated within a mirror mosaic shrine on a pedestal where Thais seeking prosperity place their garlands and say a prayer in front of the Thailand Plaza.
In addition to the attractions within Thai Town, many famous Hollywood landmarks are nearby. The historic art deco Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Walk of Fame, spectacular viewpoints of the Hollywood Sign, and Barnsdall Art Park, where the annual Thai Cultural Day is held, is only a mile or one Metro stop away. Also, after visiting these surrounding sites, you may visit Thai restaurants in Thai Town as your final destination, since many Thai restaurants serve food until 4 a.m. Be sure to check out the street art and famous murals at the Hollywood and Western entrance of Thai Town before starting your Thai Town experience.
After a very long day of touring and sightseeing, you might want to stop for some relaxation. Visit one of the many Thai spa and massage businesses along Hollywood Boulevard for a traditional Thai body or foot massage. Stop at Thai Sabai on Hollywood Boulevard for all of your needs from traditional Thai massage to sports massages and foot reflexology.
To serve the large Thai community in East Hollywood, Buddhist monks from North Hollywood’s Wat Thai Los Angeles (Thai Temple) walk the streets of Thai Town in their traditional saffron robes every Wednesday and Saturday morning beginning at 9:00 am. They accept alms from the public and grant blessings of goof fortune and happiness.
You can enjoy and learn more about Thai culture and traditions if you happen to be in Thai Town during special events and activities. The most well known event is the Thai New Year’s Day Songkran Festival, which occurs on the first Sunday of April. Originating in 2004, the festival attracts around 100,000 people annually. The Songkran Festival is a day of Thai culture, food and entertainment on the streets of Thai Town on Hollywood Blvd. between Western and Normandie Avenues. A wide array of over 200 booths sell a variety of Thai food, beverages, silk, silver, ceramics, lacquer ware, jewelry, plants, flowers, potteries, handicrafts and more. People can also take part in the traditional water blessing, which involves the transfer of respect, love and good fortune between generations using water. Enjoy different cultural and musical dances, performances and fashion shows as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard through the festival. For the martial arts enthusiasts out there, watch male and female Thai kickboxing professionals compete for the title of Muay Thai Champion. For those who love Thai pop and alternative music, or those who are curious about current Thai pop culture and fashion, be sure to check out the music groups, fashion shows and cultural activities held at three stages throughout the festival. Finally, cool off and relax with a cold beer at the Singha Thai Beer Garden.
Another notable event is Thai Cultural Day that occurs on the 3rd Sunday of September at Barnsdall Art Park. Thai Cultural Day originated in 1993 to preserve and promote Thai culture. Located just blocks or one Metro stop east along Hollywood Boulevard atop Olive Hill, Barnsdall Art Park is a famed arts center founded by Aline Barnsdall when she came out west to open a theater company. Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the historic landmark Hollyhock House and other structures. Years later, Barnsdall donated the park to the City of Los Angeles after wishing to provide an accessible arts center. The Barnsdall Art Park is located on a location with phenomenal views of the city, Griffith Park Observatory and the Hollywood sign. This is the location for Thai Cultural Day where people come to enjoy this beautiful park and Thai arts and crafts such as vegetable and fruit carving, folk music and dancing. A parade, health booths and a live reenactment of the war between Burma and Thailand are also held during Thai Cultural Day. Interactive activities for children involve making traditional masks and headdresses and learning traditional dances.
Since Thai Town and Little Armenia are bordering communities, it is only right to have a festival that recognizes both cultures. Since the establishment of Thai Town in 1999 and Little Armenia in 2000, the two communities have grown together and their relationships have been strengthened. The Hye Thai Festival is an opportunity for both communities to come together and share with each other and other communities their unique cultures through fashion shows, Thai massage, jazz shows and other cultural performances. The word “Hye” means “Armenian” in the Armenian language, and the event is named “Hye-Thai” to demonstrate the unity of the two groups of people in Los Angeles. Be sure to check out the next upcoming Hye Thai Festival in early December.
Finally, the annual Thai Health Fair: Live, Work and Play in East Hollywood Consumer Resource and Health Fair, is an event where health care providers, medical volunteers, governmental agencies and social service organizations offer free health screenings and consumer information and advice for improved health, employment and recreation. Organized by the Thai Community Development Center, many Thai and non-Thai residents of the area receive much needed health, legal and consumer resources.
Southern California, home to the largest Thai population outside of Thailand, is the scene for many restaurants that offer an endless array of Thai cuisine from different regions of Thailand. Many of these restaurants are located right in the heart of Thai Town. Visit the Thai Town Plaza for a wide selection of restaurants including Ruen Pair (5257 Hollywood Blvd), where you can find traditional Thai food in a relaxed Thai setting or the Thailand Plaza Restaurant (5321 Hollywood Blvd.), a bigger and livelier venue. For a taste of traditional barbecue from Thailand, check out Thai BBQ (5324 Hollywood Blvd.) where you can go for a satisfying grilled treat. In the evening visit Kruang Tedd (5151 Hollywood Blvd.) for an entertaining atmosphere with live Thai music and food and drinks. For late night hunger or just a sudden craving for noodle soup, stop at Sanam Luang Café (5176 Hollywood Blvd.), Ord’s Noodles (5301 Sunset Blvd.) or Hoyka Noodle (5401 Hollywood Blvd.). One way to sober up after clubbing all night is to have some traditional Thai rice porridge at Ruen Pair or Hollywood Thai Restaurant (5241 Hollywood Blvd). If you cannot decide what to eat, not to worry because Six Taste Food Tours will take care of that. Six Taste is a food tour that takes you to all the prime Thai food and dessert places in Thai Town with a sample from each place. The tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 10:15 a.m. and take tourists to places such as Ruen Pair, Siam Sunset, Thailand Plaza, Ban Kanom Thai (Thai Dessert shop), Sanamluang and others. For just $55 per person, you can enjoy different Thai foods and desserts from these restaurants, as well as a crash course in Thai Town history and Thai culture.
But with over 60 Thai businesses within a mile, continue to walk down Hollywood Boulevard and see where it takes you. Who knows maybe you will find your next favorite Thai restaurant!
Hollywood Boulevard is also not the only place to find fine Thai food. The whole East Hollywood area is filled with Thai restaurants specializing in cuisine from different regions of Thailand including not just central Bangkok cuisine but from the far northern all the way to the southern regions of Thailand. An example of a regional cuisine is Jitlada, which focuses on southern Thai cooking considered the spiciest form of cuisine in Thailand. The curries of the south are heavily influenced by Malaysia and bring out a very rich taste. The southern region is also famous for its delicious crab salads and Jitlada serves two variations. Jitlada is located at 5233 W. Sunset Blvd.
Moving up to northern Thailand, Spicy BBQ offers an assorted menu of cuisine from the region. Northern Thai cooking is heavily influenced by the many hill tribes and ancient Chinese settlers who anchored themselves in the region as well as Laotians and Burmese. A couple of the most well-known dishes at this restaurant include the Naam Phrik Num and the Naam Phrik Awng, both chili mixtures made from fresh roasted chili eaten with sticky rice. Also try the Laab Tod, which are slider-like pork patties cooked with seasoning topped with crispy garlic and basil leaves. The north, contrary to the south, is considered pork country (Southern region has minimal pork in their cuisine because of the prominent Muslim population) and because of this Northern Thai sausages known as Sai Ua are another specialty of Spicy BBQ. Finally, northern Thai cuisine would never be complete without its staple: sticky rice. Spicy BBQ is located at 5101 Santa Monica Blvd.
Thai Town is a prime shopping area for Thai groceries and also to satisfy your sweet tooth, offering Thai desserts, pastries, snacks, and candies. Visit Ban Kanom Thai (5271 Hollywood Blvd.), a dessert shop that specializes in Thai sweet treats such as Ruam Mit (a refreshing concoction of coconut milk and fresh fruits served chilled), taro root cakes, crispy egg crepes and sweet steamed rice and banana wrapped in banana leaves. Also stop at the Silom Thai Supermarket (5321 Hollywood Blvd.) right under the Thailand Plaza restaurant for everything from exotic fruits to traditional Thai cookware and china. Finally, stop at the Dokya Bookstore (5321 Hollywood Blvd.) behind the Thailand Plaza in their parking lot for various Thai publications, books and magazines.