"Our friends are talking about it," said Ta, hitching a gold-zippered red Prada bag further up on her shoulder and snapping a picture of a her daughter with an iPhone.
Valley Boulevard caters to these families as well. As you exit the San Gabriel Hilton, a glass-walled office to the left advertises a new home loan program for foreign nationals. In the office on the right, Victor Chang, an immigration attorney, helps Chinese investors get visas and green cards.
His company, California Investment Immigration Fund, helps Chinese investors navigate a special immigration program that awards visas in exchange for investments of $500,000 or more. Chang says he currently manages more than 150 clients looking to obtain these investor visas, and walk-up business from Hilton guests is common.
Tourism, and the investment it helps generate, helped shield San Gabriel from the 2008 recession. The total value of all commercial and residential real estate within the city has doubled in the last decade, bucking countywide trends, according to city records. And the San Gabriel Square strip mall can generate more sales tax revenue than some of the city's commercial corridors, according to city officials.
But not everyone is pleased with Valley Boulevard's increasing prominence.
Road maintenance costs are on the rise along the heavily trafficked thoroughfare, and residents say rush hour is miserable. The city is considering ordinances that would calm traffic and limit the number of buses picking up people on the street.
And a persistent complaint is having to drive out of the city to shop at a Western market like Ralph's or Vons.
"We have longtime residents that feel the city is giving in to a certain culture," said Mary Cammarano, a former city councilwoman.
But Cammarano says nearly everyone understands that the tourism is "extremely valuable." More hotels could mean millions of dollars more in transit occupancy tax revenue for the city to repair roads and spur economic growth.
And developers competing for Chinese luxury tourism dollars are trying something new: adopting Western culture.
In the lobby of the proposed Crowne Plaza hotel, the anchor restaurant will be Smitty's Grill, which also has a location in Pasadena that serves American comfort food.