By: Jessie Singh
Nearly one-quarter of all Houstonians are foreign-born. There are 145 languages spoken in the city. According to the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, it’s the most diverse city in the country. Though our airports make it easy to get to destinations around the world, it’s possible to travel the globe without ever leaving Space City. Here’s a primer.
China: Lucky Land, 8625 Airline Dr., luckylandhouston.com
Want to see the first emperor of China’s terracotta army without leaving Houston? A near-perfect recreation of Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is the centerpiece of this Asian-centric theme park. Also on view? Teenagers in panda costumes, ponds full of giant koi, and a mini reproduction of a Chinese village begging for Godzilla-style photo ops. Hungry? Don’t miss the Laotian food vendor out front.
Mexico: Sunny’s Flea Market, 8705 Airline Dr., sunnyfleamarket.com
Nida Lee of Lucky Land also co-owns this destination right next door. Anyone who has visited a market in Mexico should have some idea of what to expect: There are cheap goods ranging in legality and quality, delicious food (we like the bacon-wrapped hot dogs and filled churros), and a dose of good humor. Look out for the dinosaur park and a food court decorated with statues of Disney’s seven dwarves.
Vietnam: Chua Viet Nam, 10002 Synott Rd., Sugar Land, 281-575-0910
This Vietnamese Buddhist Center is a transporting destination whether you’re there to worship or not. Pagoda-style buildings host frequent cultural festivals and Vietnamese language classes, but it’s the outdoor portion that’s likely to make you feel most at one with the world. Walk along the manmade tributaries surrounded in palm trees and take in the 72-foot statue of the bodhisattva of compassion, Quan Am. The monks open their home to the public for a vegetarian meal every Sunday.
India: ISKCON of Houston, 1320 W. 34th St., iskconhouston.com
The spires of this Hare Krishna temple rise seemingly from out of nowhere on a residential street in Garden Oaks. The community is welcome to daily worship, the Sunday Love Feast—filled with chanting and dancing—and to Govinda’s. The latter is a daily vegetarian buffet, serving Sattvic food, which is absent of alliums, thought to be overstimulating.
Russia: Russian General Store, 9629 Hillcroft St., 713-655-1177
Seeking Russian immersion? This store in Bellaire has everything you need. From Russian art to stackable matryoshka dolls to clothing, it’s hard to imagine Russian products you can’t buy, or at least admire, at this compact store. Health and body products are especially good (we like the toothpaste), but the very best treats are the opposite of good for you. Stock up on tarragon-flavored soda, tiny chocolate candies, and homemade cakes.