Lose yourself among silks and spices

Thirty minutes southeast of downtown L.A. on a nondescriptstretch of Pioneer Boulevard, step out of your car and into India.The buildings' exteriors may be typical L.A., but cross anythreshold and you'll find yourself in a world colored by rich silksand spiced with exotic scents and sounds. On August 10, the Taste of India festival will transform Pioneer into avirtual Indian bazaar. But you can explore on your own anytime.

Once you've parked between 183rd and 187th Streets on Pioneer,walk the length of the street―all the better to stop whereveryou're inspired to linger. The temptations are bountiful here,starting with the edible kind. Ashoka the Great (18614 Pioneer Blvd.; 562/809-4229)specializes in northern Indian cuisine. Across the street at UdupiPalace (closed Mon; 18635 Pioneer; 562/860-1950), southern Indianvegetarian classics like wide, crêpe-thin dosas and pancake-thick uthapams are a rewarding treat for newcomers. For dessert,get lost in the dizzying variety at any Indian sweetshop. A goodone is Ambala Sweets & Snacks (18433 Pioneer; 562/402-0006),with confections like moist carrot halvah and rasmalai, a chewy, dairy-based dessert the consistency offresh mozzarella cheese.

The markets along Pioneer sell everything from stacked bags ofrice to cookware, crafts, and bath products. Bombay Spices (18626 Pioneer; 562/860-9949) is neat andfriendly. For a dollar, the salespeople up the block at Farm Fresh (18612 Pioneer; 562/865-8171) will hack open acoconut for you to sip the milk and scoop out the meat.

CDs ranging from raga (traditional Indian music) to the latestsound tracks from Bollywood (India produces more films annuallythan any other nation), as well as videos and DVDs, are availableat Raaga (18625 Pioneer; 562/865-6070). Across the street at Bangle Bazaar (18624 Pioneer; 562/402-4890), you can browsemore titles, as well as a good selection of Indian and Pakistanimagazines.

Sari shops selling the elegant Indian national dress for womenand kurta pajamas for men also line the boulevard. Cottage Art (18619 Pioneer; 562/860-1076) is an ideal placeto wander the wealth of color and textures and perhaps try on asari.

Finally, even if only to window-shop, drop by the spectacular Bhindi Jewelers (18508 Pioneer; 562/402-8755). Thetraditional Indian designs in 22-karat gold have attracted thelikes of Naomi Campbell and Madonna, who was featured on the coverof Rolling Stone in a Bhindi necklace.

WHERE
Pioneer Blvd. is off State 91 (Artesia Fwy.), near thejunction with I-605 (San Gabriel Fwy.), southeast of L.A. andnortheast of Long Beach

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