Places CALIFORNIA USA
Our travel guide book describes California as “impressive for both its size and its sway over modern culture, symbolising United States’ diversity and sense of prosperity. Here can be found towering forests, high mountain peaks, deserts within half a day’s drive of ocean beaches and two of the world’s foremost cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles.” How true! California is the third largest state in America, and has many unique natural landscapes and man-made attractions for travellers to explore and experience, whatever their interest may be. We would recommend a minimum stay of three weeks for visitors to fully discover and enjoy the state of California.
As Gaya Travellers landed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), we were bright eyed and excited, despite having travelled a solid 17 hours on Malaysia Airlines.Despite the drama of witnessing a team of US Marshals having to arrest two unruly passengers upon landing, we were still in good spirits. Finally, we were in the land of the free where everything is possible. Yes, we watch too much American television shows.
A word of caution though: getting through US immigration takes time, so just be prepared to wait long to be cleared. It is one of the world’s top five busiest airports after all. It took the three of us (The Gaya Travellers plus our sister Irma) approximately two hours to pass through the arrival gates. Our friends Soeraya and Erwannor who arrived a few days earlier were already waiting for us, eager to start our Californian adventure!
We decided to get a shuttle van and head to San Diego straight away and leave Los Angeles for later. The drive to San Diego took about 2 hours, and our stay in San Diego lasted three days.
San Diego is quite a touristy city, with many interesting attractions. With only three days, we decided to visit Sea World, the world famous San Diego Zoo and a short cross border trip to Tijuana, Mexico!
Places SAN DIEGO USA
Downtown San Diego is fairly small to explore, whereby most of the time we just walked around since the weather was pleasant. We love The Gaslamp Quarter, the historical part of the city. Uniquely, it is also the city’s dining, entertainment and shopping hub as well. Consisting of 16½ blocks that spans over Fourth and Fifth Avenues, the grand Victorian-era buildings are home to more than 100 of the city’s finest restaurants, 35 pubs and nightclubs and 100 retails shops, as well as theatres, art galleries, offices and residential cum work lofts. Come night time, this downtown neighbourhood attracts thousands of diners, shoppers, theatregoers and nightclub patrons
Remember the killer whale in the movie ‘Free Willy’? The whale, which real name is Shamu, is considered an American icon and lives in Sea World. This world’s most famous killer whale has managed to attract thousands of visitors to Sea World daily. Sea World San Diego sits on almost 200 acres, so what a great start to our great American journey. There are many attractions up on display, live animal shows and rides to be experienced and enjoyed.
San Diego Zoo
We love animals, so San Diego Zoo was definitely on priority list when selecting the places that we want to go to in San Diego. With more than 4,000 animals comprising over 800 species from all over the world, trying to discover all of them that are placed throughout the entire 100-acre land on foot would be impossible – thank goodness for the trams and cable cars! At the end of the very tiring day, we feel that we’ve had enough of seeing animals.
Places TIJUANA MEXICO
Crossing the United States border to enter Mexico was quite easy and convenient, as there is a trolley (like a tram) from downtown heading to just before the borderline. To get there, just look for the Blue Line, headed to San Ysido. All we need to do as soon as we alight from the train is just walk across and we do not even need to stamp our passports since Mexico believes in free entry for everyone. As much as we’re glad there is no hassle of going through the Mexican immigration (if there is such a thing), we were quite disappointed as it also means that we have one stamp less on our passports!
There is a Visitor’s Information Centre as soon as we enter Tijuana. The officer manning the centre was very nice and friendly and seemed genuinely happy to receive some visitors from Malaysia. We chatted for a bit and managed to give each other some quick lessons on basic phrases in our respective languages.
Tijuana seemed like a ghost town, unlike a year ago, according to Soeraya. Many shops have closed down and have not been receiving many visitors for the past year, due to the US economic downturn. Despite this, Tijuana is still a very much interesting place to visit due to the different atmosphere it offers. We walked around the town to have lunch and shop – the people are friendly and speak English.
Heading back to San Diego is a different matter altogether. Security is tight, and there is a long queue going into the US. What we had to do was just to be patient, making sure that we were in the right queue and bought some churros from the street vendor while waiting.
Places ANAHEIM USA
Disneyland Park and Disneyland Adventure Park, Anaheim
We parted ways with our friends and made our way to Anaheim. We have decided to take the bus and the journey took approximately 3 hours. Anaheim is the home of Disneyland. After an early check in at the hotel and a short rest, we made our way to Disneyland Park, which was just a short walk across the street. So off to the magic kingdom we went! We had a great time meeting up with Mickey,Minnie, Donald, Goofy, the Princesses, and other usual suspects.
We may be in our thirties, but being in the “happiest place on earth” made us feel like we’re a bunch of three year olds! We had fun discovering Main Street, USA, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, Adventureland, Critter Country, Mickey’s Toontown and Frontierland, all are different themed parts of the park.
We thought that we had ample time to discover the two parks in one day – were we ever so wrong! Just next to Disneyland Park is Disneyland Adventure Park. You need to buy separate entrance ticket to enter the Adventure Park; discount will of course be given if you buy them together.
By the time we were done with Disneyland Park it was already 6 p.m., but since we had already bought the tickets to Disneyland Adventure Park, which closes at 8 p.m., we did our best to cover all grounds of the park in that time span. This park is more exciting in terms of rides and features the more recent Disney characters from Bug’s Life, Cars, Toy Story, Aladdin, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and many others.
One show not to be missed is the Colours of Life show that starts at 8.15pm, after the park closes its entrance. This spectacular show incorporates the use of water, lights, sounds and visuals. Magnificent indeed!
The city of angels is a mere 40-minute bus ride away from Anaheim. We have decided to stay in Hollywood due to convenience. Our apartment in Hollywood is located behind the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and Kodak Theatre (where the Academy Awards is annually held) so discovering Hollywood is easy. There are many shops and other attractions along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, so be careful while walking because you might accidentally crash into people when you are busy trying to make out the names of the stars on the footpath!
Places LOS ANGELES USA
Rodeo Drive,Beverly Hills
We took the Metro bus from Hollywood to find our way to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Made famous by the late 90s movie, Pretty Woman, we just had to see the Rodeo Drive for ourselves! The area is much smaller than we imagined it to be, with only three blocks of designer boutiques and exclusive labels.
This is not your typical LA tourist destination, but we like the charm of it. This place consists of grocery stores, restaurants, and shops. The market has been around since 1934, which was during the Great Depression. One can easily spend a few hours browsing here, with so many interesting fresh produce to witness and admire.
Universal Studios is just one Metro train stop away from where we boarded (Hollywood /Highland Station). The interesting part about Universal Studios is that it is a working movie / television studio, so you get to see familiar sets – like the Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane during their famous Studio Tour. So many attractions and many interesting photo opportunities for visitors – as there are a lot of movie characters walking around the premises.
Just next to Universal Studios is Universal Citywalk Hollywood, a three block entertainment, dining and shopping promenade. There is a Hard Rock Cafe here, for those who are into Hard Rock Cafe’s merchandise. This place comes alive at night and the crowd gets bigger as the night progresses.