Exploring Los Angeles by public transport – Little Tokyo

Would you ever consider using the Los Angeles public transport network?

After we had exhausted all the touristy things to do (open top bus, Universal Studios, holding the Hollywood sign)

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using the three day pass we had chosen to make the most of our 3 days in LA, we unexpectedly had another 3 days to fill due to the Qantas dispute in November 2011. The wonderful guys (Brian and Bon) at our motel gave us some suggestions and so we decided that yes we could use the public transport in this city.

It was Halloween and we had been told not to miss Carnaval that evening. During the day however we we decided to visit Union Station and see a bit more of the city.

After Union Station we didn’t have a plan where to go, but wanting to get a train from the station we saw a local train on the Gold metro route going to Little Tokyo.

While not as exciting as climbing on a huge AMTRAK train and travelling alongside the Pacific Ocean, this would have to suffice. That said if we had gotten on the metro travelling the other direction we could have gone to Pasadena on our one day $5 pass.

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Little Tokyo

We first called into the Little Tokyo Community Council a non profit organisation supporting the Japanese American community and the wider Downtown Los Angeles community.IMG_3179

The very helpful man there, who clearly loved his neighbourhood, gave us a potted history of the area and told us to visit the Japanese Gardens at the Kyoto Grand Hotel.This Is not a main tourist area, and I don’t think many English visitors come by his community centre. You can see how quiet it was here, no traffic on 1st Street. No traffic in the car city that is LA! This is what happens when you throw away your guidebook and just take a train on a whim, you meet the real people of Los Angeles, not another wannabe actor, and visit places where real people live.

Kyoto Grand Hotel – Japanese Gardens

We would never have known about these gardens if not for the man at the community centre. They are open to the public but are accessed via the lifts in the hotel lobby. The hotel has since changed its name to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown but the gardens are still there. Definitely worth a visit. Some websites say you need to book to see them but we walked into the lobby, used their loos and got in the lift, and behaved as though we were guests there. Used the same technique when visiting the loo with the view at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne. Blagging it.

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Weller Court

Below the gardens is Weller court, a shopping centre, with some interesting places to eat,

and this prayer/wishing tree…

and then we find this.

The monument to Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American astronaut who flew into space on The Discovery. He died in the explosion that destroyed the Challenger in 1986.

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Los Angeles is made up of pockets of communities of different ethnicities. Where we were staying on Hollywood and Western, in one direction it we had Thai Town, with great inexpensive food and in the other direction there was a Mexican community.

It was Halloween and we had to get back to go to Carnaval – again using our trusty $5 pass to catch the No 2 Metro bus to Santa Monica Boulevard. On the way home we stopped by a family run Mexican café and their children, who had been trick or treating, joined us.

Getting off the tourist trail, using the buses and trains, enabled us to see the real Los Angeles away from Hollywood Boulevard. Meeting the people who work and live here in this big city. As with any big city you need to be sensible and alert, and there are areas to avoid. If it hadn’t been for the Qantas dispute Phil and I would only have had ticked the boxes of the touristic Los Angeles. As it was, we got to see much more and look forward to returning one day to see more.


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