Thursday, November 15, 2007

the old ole US of A

mummy is always traveling for work, so i hardly get to do touristy stuff except for a couple of hours here, a few minutes there.

i was thrilled to visit the other states besides the de-facto San Diego. Our journey began in New York, then crossed over to the west Bay Area, up to Los Angeles and finally Seattle, all in 15 days.

ahh.. the great big apple. Streets filled with yellow cabs, steaming man-holes and endless honking. Much of my anticipation was stemmed from the movie industry and being in the centre of the city itself is like a scene off the movies. i felt like i was walking in a set filled with props.. half expecting SJP to sashay by.

right-smacked in times square are a myriad of shops and highly-overpriced restaurants (a cobb salad costs usd17 in a tiny cafe). People hurrying everywhere.. popping into stores, chasing after cabbies, disappearing into underground subway stations. i enjoyed the new york pizzas and authentic greasy cheeseburger and thick fries.

the new de-facto accessory dorned by yuppies is not prada nor a pair of autumn collection mandolos, it's interesting to see how a cuppa starbucks latte (grande no less) in hand can make one looked more like a 'true blue corporate new yorker'.

was told me that greenwich village, around NYU is a cool place to hang out. there's lots of places that i would visit on my next visit: statue of liberty, empire state building, the museums, broadway shows, etc. Pity i couldn't do more.. :(

Word of caution: do not venture into Central Park (or any parks for that matter) after dark as it is where the homeless seek rest at night. Avoid quiet alleys and be alert of your surroundings too.
ALWAYS LATCH YOUR DOOR! not only in USA, you should make it a habit in every hotel room.

Off to San Francisco, i had the morning free before mummy goes to work so after an early breakfast at Union Square, we took a SF trolley (usd5 one-way) to Fisherman's Wharf. i tasted saltwater taffy and the SF clam chowder in sour dough, felt so good to be near the sea.. tho the smell of the seals at Pier 39 was a tad overpowering. i could see the golden gate bridge (*ahem* it's red actually) and the Alcatraz from afar.

Top of the hill

In the video below, you'll be able to see the famous slanted slopes of SF. The tram traveled steeply up-slope and along the way, you must enjoy the signature architecture of the SF houses. Right on top of the hill, you can revel in the beauty of SF Bay.

My creation
Union Square was quite nice.. lotsa retail shops around the area (Levi's, Sak's Fifth Ave, Macy's, Disney Store, GAP, A&F, etc).

Caution: avoid the streets after Mason St. to the left of Union Square. stayed in Hotel Bijou and it was scary to be near a seedy neighbourhood, with the homeless loitering outside the hotel, asking for loose change. We were followed a couple of blocks after rejecting to contribute loose change to one of the homeless people.

2nd last stop - Los Angeles
Tom Hanks
In LA, i did my fair share of window-shopping and gawking at the priced-outta-the-world merchandise, all thanks to the weekend and the fact that most normal people do not work on weekends! Heh.. :)

My creation
If you have the time, visit the Santa Monica Beach. As the tatty in me enjoys frolicking in the sun and the sand, it is a refreshing change from the hectic city routine. At the end of the pier is an amusing park with roller coaster rides and stuff, many sun-dwellers were having a blast cycling, jogging or reading in the park.

Grand Post Office Beverly Hills
This picture shows the Grand Post Office in Beverly Hills, it is the only post office in the world (i think) that has valet parking service, *sighs* such is the life of the rich and famous.

Had a little bit of time to roam around LA and ventured into Mulholland Drive - the scenic route to view the HOLLYWOOD sign.
My creation
Interesting fact:
The sign was initially created as 'HOLLYWOODLAND' as a realty advertising billboard to sell the estate. Each letter of the sign was 30 ft (9 m) wide and 50 ft (15 m) high, and was studded with some 4000 light bulbs.

In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce removed the last four letters and replaced the structure with new letters of 45 ft (13.7 m) high and ranging from 31 to 39 ft (9.3 to 11.8 m) wide. The new version of the sign was unveiled on Hollywood's 75th anniversary, November 14, 1978, before a live television audience of 60 million people. [extracted from Wikipedia]

oooh... El Pollo Loco
One of the best meals I had in LA was in this fast-food outlet, El Pollo Loco (besides In&Out burgers of cos). Much like Kenny Rogers, they serve roasted chicken with side dishes such as mash potatoes, refried beans, mac & cheese. However, the difference is they pack a punch with the variety of salsas. Oh.. soo good!

My creation
Ahh.. Seattle, my last stop before i head home. First time in a baseball stadium, standing in the midst of the vast arena is a surreal experience. I tried to imagine the excitment and adrenalin rush on Game Day - the floodlights, the ticket queues, the vendors selling hotdogs, the music, the team colors, the crowds cheering.. yet when I opened my eyes, the whole place was like an abandoned old town - so quiet and empty. Ah well, it will come alive again next season.

This multi-states trip had been a real eye-opener, it brought to me new experiences and memories. Each state has it's own unique charms and at the end of it all, I am truly glad to have spent some quality time in each and everyone of them.

Monday, November 12, 2007

and so it begins

the first step..

suffering from major post-vacation blues, i decided to finally get started on the travel blog that i've been proscrastinating for the longest time..

for a travel blogger, i am not widely traveled enough. however, one gotta start somewhere hey?
most of the countries i've been to are within the asia-pacific region, occasionally popping to the americas and germany.

my trips consist mainly of snippets on food and places of interest, nothing off the usual tourist tracks and definitely not overly adventurous nor deadly serious. in fact, i would say my blog will be informative for travelers hoping to cover major sights within a few days.

In the next series of blogs, i will cover the following countries:
- korea
- japan (tokyo & osaka)
- america (new york, san francisco, los angeles, seattle)
- germany (hannover, frankfurt)
- taiwan (taipei)
- china (shanghai, beijing)
- australia (brisbane, perth, sydney, melbourne)
- new zealand (south island)
- indonesia (bintan)
- thailand (phuket)

see you soon!