Travel dates: May 15-19, 2015
This was the first big trip of 2015 I’ve taken since coming back from exchange last December. I spent the last four months working a Co-op term at InterVISTAS Consulting, one of the world’s best aviation consulting firms. I loved my time there; the “internationality” of the office, with employees flying all over the place for work, made me crave travelling even more than I usually do! One of my proudest accomplishments of my Co-op term at IVC was chairing our weekly meeting – I discussed the importance of cultural understanding in the context of IVC’s work. It was pretty daunting and I was really nervous to present in front of the entire office (albeit only 20 people), but it worked out in the end and I was really happy with the outcome.
We took a late evening flight into LAX and arrived around midnight. By the time we picked up our rental car and found the place, it was already past 1am. Thank goodness for cheap SIM cards and widespread technology! We rented an Airbnb and it was cute and quaint. Since we planned to be out for most of our days, pretty much all we needed was a comfortable bed and a washroom.
On our first morning in LA, we searched up a good place for breakfast/brunch. We found a place called A-Frame, and boy were we happy about it! I had a “Surfer’s Sandwich” with homemade spam. Sooooo good.
That afternoon we went to the pier at Santa Monica. It was a pretty sight from afar, and it was the perfect day to walk along the beach. It was almost surreal being there – I felt like the front of a Hollister graphic tee.
Then we searched for a good place to eat in Korea Town. I had always heard that LA’s famous K-Town had the BEST Korean food around, but I didn’t raise my expectations. That being said, I was blown away! The food was absolutely delicious. We went to a place called Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong – we had to wait 40 minutes, but it was worth it. We got a set menu that came with a LOT of food, and I tried so many new Korean dishes I had never even heard of before (bibimbap, seafood pancake, kimchi tofu soup… that’s about the breadth of my Korean food knowledge). It was pricier at ~$40 USD per person after tax and tip, but it was worth it for a once-in-a-while meal.
That evening as we pondered what to do, we decided to go to Sunset Boulevard and hit up a show at The Comedy Store. It was really cool – you buy tickets for a specific timeslot, enter the room where there’s dozens of small round tables made for 2-3 people, and enjoy yourself. The catch was that you had to order approximately $20 per person in food or drinks, in addition to the tickets you just bought. Not to mention the parking – we paid $30 to valet our car for the evening (you have to drive in LA, or you’ll get stuck on a terrible transit system or you’ll be walking for hours). LA ain’t cheap! Overall, the show was hilarious. I’d definitely go again for a great night of entertainment.
The next day we went to Grand Central Market where we stuffed our faces with delicious Cajun food and refreshing smoothies (Preface: we ate SO much on this trip). To minimize costs, we parked our car in a sketchy (but cheap) lot in downtown LA, and took Lyft around the city. Definitely the way to go.
With some resistance from my travel partner Nathan, we went to the Hello Kitty Exhibit (full title: Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty)at the Japanese American National Museum. I used to be obsessed with Hello Kitty as a child, so this nostalgic visit brought back memories of all the HK memorabilia I used to have. Nathan thought it was kind of creepy how HK was so damn happy all the time. I loved it.
We spent the afternoon walking around downtown LA. I don’t know why, but it was eerily dead. I felt like a zombie apocalypse was about to start – everyone had already vacated the city and we were the only ones left. Granted, it was Sunday…
One thing I wish I did was visit LACMA – and their Snapchat made me want to go even more. I’d heard all about it, but at the time I didn’t want to spend the money nor brave the traffic downtown in that area. I do enjoy going to art galleries, but they can take up entire afternoons and it seemed like the best use of our time to skip it since we were only there for four days. Next time!
That night, we met up with my mom’s cousin Tina (my second cousin?) for dinner at Cecconi’s in West Hollywood. We had delicious and fresh Italian food, and it was nice to catch up with Tina after a while – I’d never actually hung out with her without my other family members before. She’s a single middle-aged woman with a great career. She’s down to earth and knows what she wants in life, and I admire her for following her dreams and living life to the fullest. After dinner we got dessert at Harajuku Crepe which was super delicious.
The next day we visited Beverly Hills. It was super luxurious just like I’d imagined, but it almost seemed like a fantasy world. We saw the famous sign and all the high-end brands, and felt extremely underdressed in our shorts and flip-flops. We simply windowshopped – and didn’t dare enter any of the stores for fear of getting kicked out. We got ice cream at Sprinkles (they had red velvet cones – how could we resist?), another treat to indulge in. We walked around inside the Beverly Hills neighbourhood and marveled at the huge mansions and fancy cars. I thought, “the definition of excess”.
After Beverly Hills, we headed to Venice Beach for a little stroll. It really was cool seeing all the eccentric characters and muscle-y people working out. It was just like TV! I looked out for Kat Von D of LA Ink, but I figured she’s way past that TV show now and probably in Japan somewhere.
That night, we cooked ourselves a fancy meal. We stopped by Ralph’s, a cheap grocery store, and bought ingredients for our home-cooked meal. On the menu was citrus chicken, sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes. We made way too much food, but it was absolutely delectable. We were munching on chicken legs into the night, still recovering from food coma.
On our final day, we went to the Getty Museum first thing in the morning. What a great place: beautiful architecture, luscious gardens, interesting exhibits, and an overall fantastic way to spend a morning in LA. If you like museums, galleries, and history, I would definitely recommend the Getty! We could have stayed there all day, but we had Hollywood to get to.
Saved for our very last day, we finally went to Hollywood. I myself am interested in the media and entertainment industries, so I was really looking forward to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the surrounding areas. But….. I was quite disappointed!. On TV, Hollywood is always shown as this luxurious place full of celebrities and buzzing with activity. I’m not sure if it was because we were there in the early afternoon or at it was just a slow day, but it was much duller than I had expected. Passing by places like the famous Dolby Theatre, I was surprised at the inactivity in the area. I suspect the excitement happens when there is a premiere or a function of some sort – nevertheless, it was a good experience seeing Hollywood for the first time.
One thing we didn’t do on this trip was Disneyland or Universal Studios. This is because I felt that they were part of a separate trip altogether, and we didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars in admission for these two attractions. Regardless, I know I will be back in LA someday. I have even considered moving there to work and live, but the biggest issue for me is the daily traffic (how can there STILL be congestion with 6 lanes on a highway?!). We shall see what the future has in store!
Other places I’d love to see next time are Malibu, Long Beach, Burbank, and Huntington and Newport beaches. LA, I will be back for you!!