NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A trip to Asia can cost thousands of dollars for thousands of miles of travel, but a place in Grand Prairie allows people to become submersed in Asian cultures without ever leaving North Texas.

Matthew Loh is the CEO of Asia Times Square, a place he says is a bridge to the Asian community.

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“When they come here, they say ‘Wow, I didn’t know this existed,’ or ‘Wow, I didn’t know Asia Time Square was here in Grand Prairie,” Loh says.

Loh says the mission of Asia Times Square is to preserve traditions and promote cultures.

“We should be very proud of who we are and where we came from, and then at the same time, be so proud that we want to promote our traditions and cultures to the mainstream,” he explains.

The concept started with a grocery store they started off Pioneer Parkway called, Hong Kong Marketplace.

It has now grown into a location that houses not just one of the largest Asian grocery stores in North Texas, but also over 60 Asian restaurants and retailers, all under one roof.

“We have representation from the Philippines, the Laos, the Cambodians, the Koreans, Japanese, Mongolians, Chinese, Vietnamese,” Loh says.

Asia Times square offers over 40,000 products, including food choices that people may not be familiar with– like the Durian fruit.

“This is what I would consider a fruit and a weapon, you can actually hurt someone badly with this,” Loh describes as he picks up the heavy, spikey fruit.

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He says it is a polarizing fruit that people either love or hate.

“Some call it ‘King of fruit’, but those who don’t like it call if ‘Fruit from hell,'” he says. “To be honest with you, my wife, if she knows I (ate) this, she will tell me to sleep in the garage because she cannot stand the smell.”

But no matter what people taste or experience at Asia Times Square, Loh hopes it is a place where visitors can broaden their horizons.

“It is important to understand other cultures,” Loh says.

Loh believes the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes boils down to one major issue.

” I think a lot of the problem now a days is based on ignorance,” he explains. “Once we replace ignorance with tolerance, we will be a much happier society, and I think in order to replace ignorance with tolerance you have to be engaged.”

That is why Asia Times Square has created a calendar filled with cultural events, where the community can come together and engage in traditions they may know little about.

“We can open our doors and welcome everyone to come, but it also takes the other person to be willing to learn and venture out,” Loh says.

“If you keep doing the same thing over and over, you will not grow,” Loh says.

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“Experience something new. Broaden your mind. Broaden your horizon. Come, experience, and then engage. Let’s be more willing to talk, understand and accept one another.”

Madison Sawyer