Category Archives: US Dec 2007

Day 7 – 19 Dec 07

As you can see, I am pretty determined tonight to finish up my US series so I can get started on my Taiwan series before the details start giving up on me.

So, on Day 7, the last day of our US trip, we were off to Universal Studios. We had higher expectations of Universal Studios than Sea World or Disneyland because the movie theme appealed to us more. Some quick research on the Internet the night before assured us a little. The place seemed like fun!

As we were going to the airport directly, we checked out of the hotel with our luggage in toil. Bye Ramada!

We were supposed to make a trip to Kodak Theatre but apparently this wasn’t conveyed to our driver so we gave that a miss. Not that we really minded in the first place ūüôā Our driver is a nice and friendly Chinese man who also conversed with us in Mandarin!

The obligatory “Been there, done that” shot.

Check this out! Film shootings right on location at the theme park! Such familiar names! How exciting! No, we didn’t catch any filmings though…¬†

A pic with Beetlejuice. They (actors in various impersonations) were everywhere! Unlike Disneyland.

 

We made a beeline for the famed Studio Tour. Saw the write-up and photos on the Internet and I was pretty excited!

 

Before boarding the ride, we took some pictures of the view. Beautiful with good weather but the Hollywood sign was nowhere to be found! ūüė¶

On board the ride, we were seated right in front so our guide was just in front of us. It was a good thing we were not relegated to the cabins at the back or we could only contend with seeing a filmed version of our guide on TV. He was quite a funny guy, witty and chatty, but a little too duh and talkative at times.

Tokyo Drift (I think).

 

I thought this was really cool though I am not really a car-person!

 

This was exciting too! It was meant to show some of the special effects used in the movies. And the water gushing out shown in the picture is only the tip of the iceberg! Moments after, water just gushed out and we were wet! I can’t remember which movie though…

  

Our vehicle also went into water a la Hippo tour. It was very interesting how all the ships and King Kong shown in the movie King Kong were actually all very miniature in size but made to look really huge due to camera tricks (right photo)!

 

We also experienced an “earthquake” – a fake one of course.

 

Familiar? This is Wisteria Lane. No, we didn’t catch any of the famous housewives filming on location.

 

Plane crash? No, this was the actual set used for filming Steven Spilberg’s War of the Worlds. Amazing.

 

Didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of the famous sign, so had to make do with a picture of the poster of the sign. Sad!

 

Heh! Thought this was interesting. When we were there, the writers’ strike was still on-going.

 

Dracula! The expression was real! I was quite ticklish so was feeling a little uncomfortable… :p

 

Water World. Didn’t watch the movie but this show was really quite good! As always, the audience was separated into the wet and non-wet zones. We sat ourselves just above the wet zone. It was too cold to take the risk!

Next, we went to this show called Back Draft. It’s adapted from a movie of the same name. The screening demonstrated use of fire and water. I remember there were sudden explosions and fire, water gushing out and the place reeked of kerosene after the explosions. Stuffy inside..

 

Animal show. Animals were cute. Did spot some famous animals, like Babe. The girl from the audience was really adorable!

 

Apollo 13! One of my all-time favourite movies!

 

We then made our way down to the bottom of the park and took rides at The Mummy Returns and Jurassic Park. I still remember we went from one escalator to another; it was quite a long journey down. Along the way, there was a commentator reading out some famous quotes from movies and TV shows and asking the visitors to guess the movie/show. Innovative idea to engage your audience!

Both rides were super fun! Both rides were perfect, minimal waiting time probably because it was a weekday and it was getting dark. The former was like those roller-coaster rides (minus the 360 degree turns), goes two rounds, just that for the second round, you retrace the same route going backwards. Gulp!

The Jurassic Park ride was equally fun and we were pre-warned that we will get wet. We had an ominous feeling when we saw vendors selling raincoats to cautious visitors. We decided to be garang and did without a raincoat! Fun fun fun! We were wet because we went underneath a waterfall-like structure and the climax saw us dashing down (like the Haw Par Villa) to huge splashes of water!

 

One last parting shot. We had to wait quite a while because there were just groups and groups of people posing to take pictures!

¬†We left at the park’s closing time and did some shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch. We each bought some stuff for our sisters.

Dinner at Bubba Gump (again). May seem unadventurous but after that forgettable dining experience at Mimi’s, we decided it was better to be safe than sorry and to stick to the tried and tested.

 

We had some seafood platter but because I wasn’t too keen on seafood, we ordered calamari as a side.

One of various signs placed on the walls all around. I like this!  

A picture of the famous bench, suitcase and shoes!¬† After dinner, we did some frantic last minute shopping at the Citywalk. Bought some chocolates and candies and magnets (what else?) as souvenirs. Then we were off to the airport! I was seriously depressed now! Why do good times end so quickly?! We were rather late (about 20 minutes behind schedule) and scrambled to the park’s entrance where our van and a grumpy looking driver (not the original one) holding a placecard with my name on it were waiting.

After checking in, H thought he had managed to let me¬†go into¬†the Business Class lounge and use some of its facilities. Turned out to be false hopes in the end ūüė¶ But he was really nice and gave up his “privilege” for a while until I told him it was perfectly fine. I used the time to browse through some books and magazines – got two US tabloid-type trashy magazines and one novel – which by the way, am still not done with it yet.

At the departure lounge waiting to board. H was at the Business Class lounge before coming over to join me.

In transit at Taipei (Taoyuan International Airport). How was I to know then that I would be back at the same place 4 months later….

That concludes my LA-Vegas-Grand Canyon-San Diego trip. It has been a relatively good and eventful one. I managed to fulfil my long-cherished dream of finally stepping foot on the Grand Canyon. Las Vegas was an absolute blast though I suck at gambling! Disneyland was so-so but again, it is that how-can-I-not-visit-Disneyland-if-I-am-in-US mentality! Sea World was really not my cup of tea but at least I can plot on my Facebook Travel Map that I have been to San Diego!

Sure, there are regrets, like how we should have taken a helicopter ride across the canyon, or I should have taken more photos, but which trip is perfect? All these little should-have-done-that moments just add up and make a second (or third) visit worthwhile! ūüôā I have kept all the theme park maps, brochures, receipts, paper bags, ticket stubs etc as momentos of the trip! ūüôā

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Day 6 – 18 Dec 07

We were leaving Sin City to return to LA. Itinerary for the day was pretty lax; there were plans to tour a few casinos, do some outlet shopping before returning to Anaheim.

Our tour group left the hotel at around 9am to visit some casinos. Took a monorail which linked Lyxor and Mandalay Place. Vegas presents a different set of charm in the day. The place feels surprisingly serene in the morning (very oxymoronic).

  

Views of Lyxor. Note the Absolut Volka ad on the giant glass pyramid structure. One moment you think you are in Egypt; the next you are snapped back into reality as you realise you are actually in commercial US of A.

 

The interior of Lyxor. We settled breakfast there. H had a Mac breakfast. I wasn’t really in the mood for anything heavy, so had some blueberry puff and tea. Blah!

Mandalay Place taken from Lyxor. The two buildings are actually connected.

Then we were off. Bye to Las Vegas (and Grand Canyon) and back to LA! It has been a memorable 3 days – immersing ourselves in the glitzy lights of LV and marveling at Nature’s work at the magnificent Grand Canyon. Am missing the place already!

 

Got caught in a mini sandstorm on our way back.

To our disappointment, the guide brought us back to Tanger Outlets for the second time! We had gone there for the first time before entering Las Vegas (the “fateful” day where I spent over S$500 and emerged with a huge bag of Coach purchases).

So, there was no way I was going to damage my wallet further by going back to Coach (actually it was because I think I have already combed the place enough to get what I want). Well, I did make one quick trip around the outlet for the last time…

We ended up spending most of the time in the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet for last minute shopping. I picked up shirts for Dad and Qi, a polo tee and a golf jacket for myself. Now I am regretting why I didn’t get more polo tees!

Back to Anaheim. We did dinner at Cheesecake Factory again. We had a craving for their buffalo wings. Really good! Also shared a big plate of aglio olio. I usually prefer cream-base or tomato-base for my pastas and seldom ventured beyond the 2. My first attempt at this type of pasta and it has made me a fan! Cheesecake Factory did not disappoint again!

 

Renmants of our dinner. Was too hungry and forgot to take pictures before we started.

It was an early night as we spent our last night in LA…

Day 5 – 17 Dec 07

We set out very early in the morning to get to the Grand Canyon. We were given two options by our guide – to either 1) go to the West Rim, a journey which will take about 3 hours one way, go on the Skywalk / helicopter ride or 2) go to the North Rim (5 hours one way, no Skywalk) which has the ampitheatre. The travelling times meant we could afford to spend a longer time at the West Rim as compared to the North although we had to pay more for West.

We decided on Option 1 cos we wanted to save as much time as possible and thought it was a good idea to go on the Skywalk.

It was a freezing morning – temperatures in Vegas are really quite extreme – hot and dry in the day and cold and (still) dry at night – we boarded the bus after a rushed muffin breakfast from Macs. We can’t escape from the Golden Arches, especially in America!

Before getting to the Canyon, we stopped by at Lake Mead and Hoover Dam for some photo taking. Lake Mead is the largest man-made lake and reservoir in the US and is formed by water generated from the Hoover Dam. Lake Mead is the primary source of water supply for Las Vegas. Our guide also explained that Lake Mead was in danger of drying up. We could clearly see the much higher water level marks as compared to its current water level.

The clock shows the Nevada time zone, another shows the Arizona one – both time zones are one hour apart from each other. Reminds me of Transformers the movie..

After another about 2 hours or so of travelling, waiting, alighting and boarding coach after coach, we finally reached the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was freezing cold!!! To the extent I was very reluctant to even step out of the coach.

     

The Grand Canyon is just so beautiful! Awe-inspiring! Breathtaking! Totally justifies its “seven wonders of the world” tag! A visit to the canyon is a dream come true for me, ever since I was totally blown away by the sheer magnitude of the wonder when I watched this video at the Omniplex Theatre many years back!

One can’t help but be awed by the sight of the canyon stretching miles ahead into the horizon. I am really thankful for being given this opportunity to witness such a magnificent sight. You put things into perspective and realise just how small and insignificant you are in God’s creations. Both of us got into a reflective mood, about how we have lived our lives so far and how we should attempt to improve on it.

Lunch was provided by the tribal people of the Hulapia Nation. No pictures here. Simple fare of BBQ chicken, beef, baked beans and a delicious muffin. Reminds me of Kenny Rogers. Lunch in the view of the Grand Canyon.

After lunch, we continued to take in the scenery of the Canyon. I could just spend the whole day there, admiring the breathtaking views of the Canyon, chilling out, reminiscing of all things past. The view of the canyon looks different from every angle.

The last picture in the series is that of the Skywalk. Yup, no pictures of us on it, because photography (our own) was prohibited!¬†Bullshit! Only “authorized” photographers were allowed on the Skywalk to earn big tourist bucks! Bleah! What a rip-off!

Before getting on the Skywalk, we had to put on cloth covers on our shoes to prevent the glass from being scratched. Once on the Skywalk, I am disappointed to say that the Skywalk is really just far over-rated. No big deal! 

We arrived back at Las Vegas around 4 in the afternoon. Before¬†going back to the hotel to wash up, we went to a ticket counter to purchase tickets for “V for¬†Variety” and the Madam Tussad’s¬†Wax Musemn cos they were going cheap. Had to give up the latter in the end because we were running out of time.

Found ourselves rushing to Planet Hollywood to catch “V for Variety”. Dinner was hastily settled with some chips smuggled into the theatre. Hilarious show! Real glad we caught it!

After the show, we walked around the Strip to take more photos. At the same time, we were trying to sell our Madam Tussard’s tickets away. Finally managed to sell them at a cheaper price to an Indian couple while we were waiting to go up the “Efiel Tower” at Paris.

Some random pictures:

  

  

Pictures from atop the tower were beautiful! Also watched the fountain show at Bellagio, saw the volcano erupt at the Mirage, pretended I was back in New York at New York New York (duh!), saw real lions in glass enclosures at MGM…the usual touristy stuff.

There were hooligan-like men everywhere on the streets dishing out namecard-size pictures of women to the men. Hooker service I think! Which I found pretty amusing! The pictures were even plastered on the fences!

We proceeded to Denny’s for a late dinner. By then, it was already past midnight. We were in the mood for a true-blue American dinner so we both ordered burgers and fries. No prizes for guessing.. the portions were huge!

Fifth day and by far the most enriching day!

Day 4 – 16 Dec 07

We were going to spend the next 2 days in Las Vegas, including a trip to the Grand Canyon. Viva Las Vegas! Exciting!

So we carried all our barang barang and made our wait to the coach for a couple-of-hours journey to Las Vegas. We took about 5 hours I think, cos we reached Las Vegas around late afternoon. That was also because we made stops at factory outlets along the way.

First up were the Barstow Outlets. I spotted the familar 5-letter C-O-A-C-H as our coach turned into the carpark. This word has succeeded in stirring up my excitement from the time I touched down in US. Even now when I walk past a Coach store, I still make my way in although I know I am not going to buy anything from there. I browse items that I already have and do some mental sums on how much I have saved and feel a great sense of accomplishment after that! Childish I know, but damn shiok!

As we were only given about 1 hour to shop, I made a beeline for Coach (where else?) and emerged with 2 big carriers and US$514.83 poorer about 45 minutes later. I know because I still have that dreaded credit card bill with me. My loot? 2 hobo bags (one in the signature collection! All thanks to H who spotted it for me!), 2 wallets and 1 wrist pouch.

I made a few more rounds around the store until I reluctantly queued to pay for my purchases. I had some more time to set my eyes on a white golf jacket from Polo Ralph Lauren. It remained on my KIV list because we had another day allocated for outlet shopping later on.

One of several photos taken from the bus. That’s Caesar’s Palace. We knew we were nearing Las Vegas when the landscape on the road changed from one full of barren land and desert to one of fanciful, outrageous looking buildings.

We were staying at the Plaza Hotel for two nights. Yes, they share the same name, but this Plaza is definitely not like the Plaza in New York. They are way, way different. Plaza Hotel is situated at the far end of the strip, and like the locals mention, it belongs to “old” Las Vegas, whereas your newer, hipper¬†hotels like MGM, Bellagio, Monte Carlo etc are part of “new” Las Vegas. Plaza Hotel is really quite old. The escalators looked rather ancient, the decor the traditional type and the beds, well, just old.

We passed through the hotel’s casino on our way to the lobby and it reeked heavily of cigarette smoke. I soon found out that every hotel, big or small, has its own casino, which unfortunately, doesn’t have a no-smoking policy. So just imagine half an hour there will stink! Your clothes, your hair, your skin!

Our top prorities for Las Vegas were gambling (H, not me) and catching some shows. After we laid down our stuff, we were out. We checked out some half-priced tickets and decided to watch it the next day after Grand Canyon instead.

  

Some pictures I took along the way. Everywhere in Las Vegas is filled with shiny, glitzy lights. Oh, did I mention it was freaking cold too? It was much colder than in LA. Temperatures were definitely in the single digit, 6 – 7 C probably?

We had dinner at Tony Roma’s. My first visit at the restaurant, and in the place of origin somemore! And it was really cheap! We shared the ribs platter. It was just only 5-plus when we finished dinner. This is the good thing about short days, long nights. The sky darkens very quickly, at about 4-ish but there’s still a lot of time before it is really late (i.e. 12 mn) so psychologically, we always feel we have a lot of time to party the night/day away.

Krispy Kreme! I was so excited to finally spot an outlet! Was kinda disappointed not to see a single one in New York last April. Seeing Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t really make up for it also. Of course, we had doughnuts there and just had to take some photos. Wanted to buy some doughnuts on our way back later for the trip to Grand Canyon the next morning, but predictably, the store was already closed when we got back at nearly 1am!

Then we boarded a bus to take us down the Strip. First stop was Fashion Show Mall, where I was visiting the Coach outlet (again!) to do an exchange for the wrong purchases at Southcoast Plaza in LA. We could exchange the sling bag, but we could not request for the missing sling bag from the store. I had called Southcoast Plaza from the coach (i.e. the bus, no pun intended) and the manager advised that I could go down to Southcoast where they will give me another bag for the one I had lost. I was impressed. No questions asked, nor did they doubt whether I was trying to pull a fast one by conning them into giving me another bag for free.

I decided to try my luck at the Fashion Show Mall outlet by requesting for an additional bag. The sales assistant was very nice about it by politely rejecting me and explained something about inventory and not being able to take something out from their store inventory when the purchase was actually logged somewhere else. Ah! Whatever! At least I tried!

We were off on a mini trip up and down the Strip. Took photos, visited some casinos. We were also on a “mission” to find this casino which supposedly housed mini replicas of famous icons around the world. As we walked along the cold streets, we were making guesses. Maybe it’s the MGM? Maybe it’s Monte Carlo? What about New York New York? We later realised after checking with their tourist office, that there is no one single casino which housed all the replicas together. The replicas were housed in different casinos! For example, the Statue of Liberty in New York New York, the Spinhx in Lyxor and the EiffelTower in Paris (the casino). Hahaha! What a joke!

The Venetian. One of my favourite casinos. It was a replica of Venice, complete with a mini river, complete with gondolas. But it was freezing cold to be out in the open for too long so we gave the gondola a miss. Not too many pictures of the casino tonight, my battery died on me! Thankfully H managed to get quite a bit of photos from his camera. When I intend to¬†get them from him is another matter…

Paris. Besides the Eiffel Tower, there was also a mini Avenue des Champs-Elysees. We bought tickets to go up to the observatory of the Eiffel Tower. Didn’t go up that night since we wanted to check out our places as well. And also since the tickets were valid for two nights.

I secretly took one picture of the casino in Paris (I think). Check out the “sky”. It was painted a light blue to give the illusion that it is (always) evening. Cool!

Gucci. Such nice decor.

We also caught the famed fountains in front of the Bellagio. They were truly spectacular and absolutely breathtaking! Went on to catch another 2 more shows the next night! Loved it so much I even videoed it. More on it in the next entry.

That’s all for now; getting really quite tiring. And it is quite sad because I can’t seem to remember quite a lot of details already. Oh well!

Day 3 – 15 Dec 07

I have finally gotten down to continue blogging about my US trip.

15 Dec 07 – We were off to Sea World San Diego. This was the least anticipated part of the tour for the both of us because we aren’t exactly very “theme-park” people. We visited the homepage the night before to look at the attractions and were slightly comforted that things weren’t too bad. Or at least we thought.

We boarded a bus which took us to another bus terminal where we were due to travel for nearly 2 hours (?) to get to San Diego. Before we left the terminal, we bought some breakfast to snack on the bus. It was far too early for us to grab breakfast.

We bought breakfast from a van which was selling quite a substantial range of breakfast. We had crossiants with hashbrown, ham, bacon, scrambled egg for filling! Far thicker than Big Mac! I had quite a bit of difficulty finishing it up on the bus. H finished his portion before we boarded.

Our guide was a middle-aged lady who was rather friendly and gave quite a bit of introduction along the way. So much so that I fell asleep, cos she was practically talking non-stop.  

Along the way, we passed by the Pacific Ocean coastline, and managed to see some surfers wind surfing along the tides of the ocean. Cool! We also spotted some burnt plots of land which were the results of the raging forest fires that engulfed this part of the US just before we arrived.

Finally reached San Diego after what seemed like eternity.

A photo with Elmo. This is the Sesame Street Bay of Play attraction which was still under construction then. Such a pity!

 

A picture of the place. As we reached the place relatively early, there wasn’t too much of a crowd. The sun was just coming up so it was quite¬†cool and not too cold. Just nice!

Damn! I knew I would forgot¬†things but basically, we combed nearly all the attractions in double-quick time. The place¬†didn’t really appeal to us so I took very little photos too.

We wanted to take the Skyride but it was under constuction too! :X So we made our way to the Bayside Skyride, which is basically a cable car ride. Cost us 3 bucks. Cheap!

View from the Skyride.

We¬†visited a few other attractions before heading for lunch. Had lunch at this place called Mama Stella’s¬†Pizza Kitchen, which really is nothing more than a nice-sounding¬†American deli. Everything is operated in mass-production, factory style. You queue up for the food and when you¬†reach the checkout counter, the staff¬†dishes¬†your food (pre-prepared of course) in huge dolps. Refills are also done in an unglam manner. I spotted one worker refilling the pasta sauce by pouring it from a huge pot.¬†Absolutely no¬†culinary presentation at all!¬†Needless to say, the food wasn’t fantastic either!

A writeup of the exhibits, in particular order as I absolutely can’t remember their sequence!

Wild Arctic

Home to the polar bears, penguins and other arctic animals. The exhibit was quite interestingly done up; there was fake ice (made of styrofoam-like material) lining the interior of the exhibit. The exhibit extended underground and the polar bears were swimming in a pool that extended 2 levels – ground level and basement level.

I recall there was also an image which made you feel like you are an explorer in the Arctic. There were expedition-related exhibits. And it could be a psychological effect Рit felt chilly inside!

Penguin Encounter

Nothing special. The layout was similar to Underwater World. We were on an escalator as we caught sight of some penguins.

California Tide Pool

A similar concept as in Underwater World. Visitors are allowed to touch various sea animals. The usual suspects: starfish, sea urchins, stingrays.

I had to muster a lot of courage to sweep my fingers very slightly across the stingray. This place is a major hit with children. H was playing with a little boy who was initially afraid to touch the creatures. And we were saying the mother was probably afraid herself so forbabe her son from doing the same.

There was a park employee (they call it park educator) who was explaining about the different animals in the tide pool. The one thing I can remember about her is that she had such a bimbotic voice! Like Paris Hilton type! It was a little sad cos no one seemed to be listening to her. We definitely had a good laugh about it! We bumped into her later at the penguin exhibit.

Also went to several different aquariums to while the time away.

The highlight of the trip was probably the show. We watched two shows – the Shamu Show: Believe and a Christmas show featuring quite a lot of animals.

It was quite a good show; Shamu was really well-trained and its moves were spectacular! The show tried to highlight the importance of environmentalism and protection of the wild, to protect them from extinction. Got a little draggy at the back cos it felt that the producers were banking too much on the emotional factor. You know, the type that will give you goosebumps? I remember there was this action where the host got the audience to shout “Shamu” and clap twice and do it repeatedly. It was quite a crowd-warmer.

The thing about US is that it gets dark very quickly, about 4pm. So we always had the perception that it was already very late when it was not. Good when we have so much things on our hand to do, but it definitely was quite a torture that day. Because of a slight jam along the way, the tour guide extended our time at the park by half and hour more. We thought it was great initially, but soon realised that it was really difficult to spend the time away!

So, by about 5, it was getting quite dark and most of the exhibits were closing already! Lagi worse! We made our way to a fastfood joint lookalike to have some hot chocolate and snacks. Yes, to make things worse, it was getting quite chilly! I badly needed something hot to warm myself up!

View from the place we had tea. This photo was taken earlier in the day. We could see houses lining the coast and the whole area feel very European. It seemed like we were in Spain or Portugal. The travel bug definitely bit us again!

After tea, we nua-ed at a souvenir shop. We were waiting to watch the last show on our agenda – this Christmas special, which featured Shamu (of course) and several other animals.

Couldn’t remember the timing of the show. I still remember the mad scramble of everyone there to rush to the stadium to grab good seats. It seemed that everyone was also done with the sight seeing and was hanging around to wait for this show.

The show didn’t disappoint; I enjoyed it better than the Shamu show. But it was super cold! And we were all out in the open! It was really terrible when the winds came. Brrr!!

When the show ended, we finally, finally made our way to the tour bus. Totally exhausted! It was another 2 hours before we arrived back in Anaheim. Went back to the hotel. We initially wanted to call for delivery cos we were too tired and lazy to walk out again – California Pizza initally, but the outlet beside our hotel wasn’t open for business yet. Then we toyed with the idea of ordering from the Indian restaurant downstairs or Chinese food.

We brushed those wild ideas off and made our way towards Disneyland in search of dinner. Passed by quite a number of eateries before deciding to do dinner at the small, cosy family-run restaurant – Mimi’s. Cute right?

The food turned out to be one the worst meals we had during the course of our trip!

Our starter. The bread and the cake turned out to be nicest food of our whole meal!

We ordered one side and one main dish because we could never finish the portions!

Crab cake. Had a fishy smell. I liked the greens more.

Some pork dish. Serves me right for trying to be adventurous! The meat tasted too “meaty” and the baked potato was too bland; we were at risk of suffering from carbo-overload!

We then made our way back to the hotel after a less than satisfying meal. I quite pity the restaurant; the waiter staff was quite helpful (for obvious reasons) and the place felt so homely. I started to think if the business wasn’t good and was hard to sustain. Fortunately, business seemed quite brisk then…

This sums up our third day. We had an early night because we were travelling to Las Vegas early next morning. When we got back to the hotel, we got down to packing our staff (well, mostly mine). I had to unpack all my Coach stuff to squeeze them into my luggage. I had to part (very reluctantly) with the Coach carriers and exquisite gift boxes because they were far too bulky!

It was then that I realised one Coach slingbag that I bought for my Stanchart colleagues from Southcoast was missing! Because we bought the stuff on the first day (2 days ago), there was no way to find out if the Coach staff had forgot to pack the bag in, or *gulp* the chambermaid had stolen it! The package seemed untouched so my guess was the former, because the staff seemed a little confused with my orders then! Damn! I made my way down to the reception at 2am to report the “loss”. I thought, heck if I couldn’t go back to Southcost, at least try to demand for some compensation from the hotel.

They took note of my issue and I told them I will be coming back two days later. You would know later that I just let the issue past… It was all too troublesome!

What a dramatic end to the third day of my holiday!

Day 2 – 14 Dec 07

Day 2 was spent at Disneyland “The Happiest Place on Earth”, only a 15-minute walk from our hotel. We decided to be less “gung-ho” and only reached the park at around 11. I know it’s silly but frankly, none of us were really that enthusiastic about Disneyland,

We made our way to a supermarket to grab some water and light breakfast before heading to Disneyland.

It was a beautiful Friday morning; the weather was comfortably warm. There were also groups of people who were making their way to the park.

The alphabets were supposed to spell the word “California” but I just couldn’t capture the full word with my camera. Lousy!

Some assorted shots from everywhere. Before entering the actual park premises, visitors are allowed to enter this area where the whole street is lined with shopping places selling all sorts of Disney merchandise. If we are kids, we will probably look on in awe at all the cute items. But, being the ever practical Business majors that we are, all we could see everywhere were the evident signs of American capitalism. Ha! This is what happens when you bring 2 adults to Disneyland. :p

We bought ice-cream cones in a desperate attempt to re-discover our hidden “childlike” feel. Unfortunately, we only ended up feeling guilty over such sinful indulgences..

Taken at Tomorrowland? Where Winnie the Pooh resides. It was quite strange because we didn’t manage to see any Disney characters on the streets whom we could take pictures with. Not that we really wanted to, but I thought such a scene is synonomous with Disneyland?? Well, obviously I was wrong.

I can’t really recall what we did. I remember going to Kodak Theatre to watch the 4D show “Honey I shrunk the audience”. First time I felt “mice” sweeping across my feet! It was quite gross actually!

We did comb most of the park, even took a boat ride across some “jungle”, with a guide who was making rather lame jokes along the way. Well, I can’t really blame him’ his jokes are meant for little kids, and he did succeed in making the kids laugh!

Wanted to take some rides but the long waiting time killed much of our enthusiasm. Made our way to Tomorrowland in search for more “adultlike” thrills. Got on to the Starwars simulator which was really, only so-so. We queued for nearly 40 minutes to get on Space Mountain, which turned out to be very well worth the wait! Two thumbs up!

Some shots from the Disney characters parade at Main Street at 3.30pm. Hordes of people were packing both ends of the streets. Little children were running up and down. It was really quite a sight.

Found the time to sneak in an afternoon snack.

It was some bread pudding with caramel and roasted nuts. Nice, but it got a little too overwhelmingly sweet and sticky after a while. :p

Feels like a little trance-like “brainwash” plot. Hiak hiak!

Because it was winter, it turned dark very quickly. The sky at 4pm there looked like the sky at 7pm back home. So I always had the feeling that the day passed really quickly (which in some ways, is true) when it was only 7pm!

Seems like a must-take kind of picture. Had to compete with the crowd to snag a picture.

We walked around the park for a while and stumbled into “Mickey’s house” or something, where people were queuing to take pictures with Mickey. We decided that since we didn’t get the opportunity to take pictures with various Disney characters (which we found very strange), there was no way we were giving up this chance. So we queued up for a while to take one shot with Mickey. One for the memories!

We made our way out of the park for dinner before going back for the fireworks at 9.30pm. Went back to the hotel to rest for only 15 minutes. The 15 minutes turned out to be at least 45 minutes! We were dead beat!

Went to Bubba Gump Shrimp & Co and Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Finally! I had been dying to go to the former since NY until the crowds over there dampened my spirits.

We were so lucky! Bubba Gump was next to Cheesecake Factory and both outlets were a mere 10 minute walk from our hotel!

We left our name with Bubba Gump because there was quite a queue and went over to Cheesecake Factory where we ordered Buffalo Wings and a Kahlua cheesecake to go.

The wings were good! Very sour but it did whet my appetite!

Popped over to Bubba Gump next.

Every table has this chart-like thing with two signs – Run Forrest Run and Stop Forrest Stop. Run Forrest Run means everything is well and good and you don’t need anything. Flip the sign to Stop Forrest Stop¬†means you need assistance and a waiter will come over.

I ordered this raspberries vodka drink (right in the picture above) and I got the mug for free!

In the end, we had to miss the fireworks but decided we had to make it back into the park for the Disney Christmas show at 10.30pm. Even that, we were a little late that we went back to the hotel to call for a cab. The fare cost about $6. Expensive! Ran past the entrance into Tomorrowland. We missed about 10 minutes of the show. But still, the show was well worth the rush!

After the show, we took the train for a tour around the park. It was freezing cold! Stayed until the park’s closing hour and went back to Cheesecake Factory for our cheesecake.

Totally exhausted!

Day 1 – 13 Dec 07

I am in 2 minds now. I am not sure if I should include the unhappy stuff of the trip or just blog about the happy things.. Let’s see.

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I boarded SQ12 departing Singapore at 9.50am to Los Angeles, via Tokyo, Narita Airport. This was the first time I took a plane on my own and despite initial worries, I was excited (but of course!) and surprisingly, I enjoyed the me-time and quiet!

In my excitement, I forgot to take a picture of the flight departures board, which seems like a “must-do” on every trip! Well, I didn’t do it when I went to NYC in April, so..

It was to be a six-hour flight before reaching Narita Airport. On board the plane, I was sitting next to a slim lady who turned out to be the wife of an SIA pilot. She was on holiday to LA with her family. Her husband was sitting in First Class, while she and her two kids were “stuck” in Economy Class until Tokyo. Lucky her! Apparently, First Class was fully booked because George Yeo and contingent were flying to Tokyo as well.

She was rather friendly and we chatted a bit. She made my day when she thought I was a university student who was returning to LA from my term break! Haha! She shared some tips on travelling in the US and introduced me to some must-go attractions. She recommended “Soaring California” which I later found out to be in California Adventure Park, a place where we had no access to. ūüė¶

As the plane was enroute to Tokyo, there were quite a number of Japanese on board the plane. There was also a selection of Japanese food for meals. I regret not requesting for at least one Japanese meal during the flight. Stupid mistake!

Reached Tokyo around 6pm, local time. The transit process turned out to be a pretty seamless one as the ground staff directed all of us to the right places for immigration from the moment we stepped out of the plane.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to take some photos.

 

The toilet! This is Japan! The place famed for all its technological advances and quirky inventions! This picture doesn’t do justice to the quality of¬†its toilets..

 

Taken while I was queuing up to clear immigration. The Japanese are a careful lot. Transit time was about one hour but because the Japanese were carefully screening all our carry-on lugguage, there was only time for me to board the plane again immediately after I was screened. That’s sad!

True enough, the lady and her kids were no longer around for the Tokyo-LA flight. The passengers sitting in front of me occupied the seats next to me! Drats! Just when I thought I could have an empty seat next to me. The flight was to take an approximate 9 hours.

Time flew by and unlike the last trip to NY, I didn’t watch a full movie, only watched short documentaries and read a bit, and slept a bit.

Halfway into the flight, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, the plane met with pretty bad turbulence. It was nothing I have encountered before. The plane moved up and down very quickly and was also swaying to and fro. It was so bad that the water split from my cup before I struggled to finish it all up. A la “Air Crash Investigation”. The girl sitting next to me started clenching her mum’s hand. I just prayed really hard for nothing to happen. I still had a lot going for me and I didn’t want to die yet! Of course, I thought of him as well..

Thankfully, everything turned out to be ok and I landed at LAX Airport at around 11.20am, ahead of schedule. But I only managed to disembark from the plane nearly one hour later due to delays, firstly because another plane was occupying the berth intended for our plane and we had to wait for it to warm up before flying off. Secondly, the US immigration was conducting some immigration drills that day which prohibited us from disembarking. I was super hungry cos I was not served breakfast. I was sleeping and when I woke up, most of the other passengers were already served so I guess the cabin crew decided to leave me out. Sianz!

It was another long wait at the Customs. The officer probed and probed, and asked silly questions like whether I knew what the ‘S’ and ‘F’ in my NRIC stood for. He also asked for my air ticket (why??) to confirm I was no illegal immigrant who had hopped on the plane, without being caught by the Singapore AND¬† Japan immigration authorities. Right, I am guessing about the illegal immigration part but I just can’t imagine how absurb everything is!

When I got out, I didn’t see him at first instant.¬†The first guy I saw was this Chinese man holding¬†a placard with my name on it.¬†He soon appeared too, with all his lugguage.¬†First words to me were: Welcome to America!

We followed the Chinese guy to his van to store our luggage before following him to the domestic terminal for him to pick up another family. He showed me some of his pictures taken at various places, including Chicago, New York and Niagara Falls.

When the family arrived, we were on our way to the airport. So early on in the trip, he had made me upset already. He is interested in this Shanghainese girl who is currently studying at the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago and proceeded to tell me that he has plans to relocate to Chicago for a 2-year work stint. And my guess is, because the girl is here, and subsequently go to Shanghai. What should I have done then? Tell him not to go? Because he will be leaving so much behind? Or tell him to go for it?

My nonchalance acted up again and I told him everything was his own decision although I secretly hoped (and still hoping) he will not go over. I was quiet for a few moments before we changed our topic. He also showed pictures of a handicraft pillow case he had painstakingly made for the girl and even asked me for comments. You know what? This is really one of the saddest part of the trip. What should I have said? That it is so sweet of him to do something like that, beyond my conscience??

So, I told him it looked ok but I wouldn’t be touched by it. Ouch!

Oh well, I have said almost everything I should about the topic. In fact, the details are quite blurry now because I can’t recall when he told me about his pillowcase artwork. I am quite sure it wasn’t mentioned on the same day. But well, whatever!

Our hotel, Ramada Plaza, Anaheim Resort at Anaheim, a 10-minute walk from Disneyland, the first and original version.

Quite a quaint little hotel, doesn’t look impressive from the outside but the room turned out to be rather cosy, with the standard facilities and free wireless Internet!

We were trying out the Internet connection and I commented that I wanted to do some internet banking on DBS. He was quite sure that I could use his token and my own login ID to log on to my account. So, to convince him this was not the case, I proved it to him! It was really quite funny cos he was pretty insistent he was right! Haha.

We did some research before deciding to head out to South Coast Plaza for some shopping. Nearly got fleeced by the hotel staff who told us it was difficult to get a cab and kindly offered to call one for us and informing us that it would cost about US$70!

Fortunately, we were brave enough to venture on our own a little and with the help of a very friendly local, we reach South Coast Plaza after 2 buses.

My first dinner at LA was at Wahoo’s Fish Taco, a Mexican-style fastfood place. Again, I was praised by the service staff, who said I was very youthful! ūüôā

Dinner. His. Mine was something similar. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t finish it.

We shopped quite a bit after dinner, most notably at Coach, where I picked up one bag for myself and stuff my friends had asked me to buy.

We also went to Banana Republic to check out a light brown suit he was really keen on. I told him frankly it was really not such a big deal, and it didn’t suit him very well. In the end, his shirt size wasn’t in stock so at least that made him feel convinced he was just not fated with the suit.. Haha.

 

It was freezing cold but there was still a small band playing Christmas tunes out in the open! You only get to see scenes like that outside of Singapore! Reminds me of the jazz I saw outside Hard Rock Cafe at NYC in April!

 

Macy’s at South Coast Plaza.

As we left when the store closed at 10pm, we got a little lost with the directions and again, another kind local brought¬†us to the correct bus stop for our bus. As it was really late, we were running the risk of missing the last bus. When we alighted from the first bus to wait for the second one, we were both apprehensive about whether we were waiting at the correct bus stop. To make matters worse, the last bus would only be arriving in another 20 minutes at least. It was freezing cold so we sought refuge at a Carl’s Junior outlet, while keeping an eye on the time. The outlet served no hot chocolate or tea so we had to make do with iced tea. Silly!

By that time, it was nearing 12 midnight and we were really contemplating spending the money to take a cab back to the hotel. It really isn’t nice being stranded in an unfamilar, deserted and not to mention, extremely cold place.

This pretty much sums up my first day in LA. Disneyland next!

Thankfully, we were on the right track and reached the hotel in one piece.