After thought: Los Angeles, California

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Palm trees soaring into the cerulean skies, that was how I knew I was in California. Well, that and the fact that I also bought a ticket to Los Angeles.

It was all a blur at first, stepping out of the airport, and trying to make my way to my host’s place without the use of my phone. I never had a chance to stop and take it all in, until I finally settled down and put my bags away. That’s when I began to see the familiar sights I had seen on TV shows. Towering palm trees along the sides of the road, clear blue skies that seem almost unreal, amazing weather that’s just perfect. I was in California. I was finally there.

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Throughout my stay in California, I took the train a lot. I took the train almost everywhere I went. The train, much like everywhere else’s, saw many different people. It was pretty eye-opening to see the kinds of people who rides the train. The tap card, is what they use to get around. It’s $1.50 per ride, no matter where your destination is. For some people, train rides are free – they just tag behind the person in front who, tapped to enter the station. I’ve tried it once or twice, it’s almost effortless. There’s no one there to check your entry, so you can just follow behind someone else, and no one would know.

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At first glance, the map of LA’s rail system can be overwhelming. The trick to getting around LA is to google your directions and then follow it to the tee.

Truth be told, I have never done anything like that before. I have never travelled so far on my own, I have never stayed at a stranger’s place and to be honest, I wasn’t the least bit afraid. I was more stoked than anything. LA was the first time I’ve ever couchsurfed, and it was amazing. I made new friends and met different people who are in the same place as I am because of the same reasons. Yes, I had to sleep on the ground with only some sheets as my cushion, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. That is also the price to pay if you want to travel cheap.

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This is Koreatown, I stayed in this neighbourhood for about a week before I left for Dallas. This is a pretty neat neighbourhood. It has everything you need within walking distance.20140208-204827.jpg

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The skies in California never fail to take my breath away. Every single dusk and dawn, the colors in the sky is so vibrant, it is like a painting but better. It’s real, this is all nature. There were days where I tried to capture it on camera, but my camera could not even do it enough justice.20140208-204931.jpg

On this trip, it was like every where you turn, there’s a picture worthy moment. Whether if it’s the sky, or an incredibly pretty park. This is just a regular bench in a church and a willow tree with its sweeping canopy of leaves. But I guess if you look hard enough, there is beauty in everything you see. Try a different angle, look at it with a whole new perspective, maybe you’ll find treasure right beneath your nose.20140208-205009.jpg

This  was my first time in LA, and I had absolutely no idea where to go other than Hollywood Blvd. So I googled places to visit in LA and Olvera Street came up. It was pretty far away from where I was staying, but I thought it would be an adventure to go out and walk about. So I did, I followed the instructions on google maps and took a train downtown, and then started walking. And walking. I am pretty sure that at some point I started doubting google maps, but I had already walked so far, I just continued on the route that was given. True enough, I saw the little marketplace. It wasn’t very fancy, considering that it is the oldest part of downtown LA. But it was filled with so much color and people, it reminded me of Mexico – or at least what I think Mexico would look like. True enough, this place has Mexican roots.20140208-205026.jpg

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On Olvera Street, there’s a really old house that is turned into a museum. It’s called the Avila Adobe and was built in 1818 by Francisco Avila. It has the distinction of being the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles, California. True to it’s name, the rooms were old and it creeped me out. The floors creaked as you take a step, and the rooms were so well preserved that it seemed like it could come to life any time.

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After a fulfilling Mexican dinner and a day of exploring the oldest town in LA. I walked back where I came from, only to find sights I’ve missed on the way to Olvera Street. The mountains in the background were so faint, that if you don’t look hard enough, you just might miss it. I come from a small city-state, I have never seen mountains as a backdrop for roads in my country. This sight was amazing, it took my breath away. The setting sun made it even more magnificent. 20140208-205139.jpg

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The streets of LA were filled up by many different sights. Hobos, for one, fill up the streets pretty well. Food vendors are everywhere, I hardly think that they have a valid license for selling these food but boy, are they delicious.20140208-205241.jpg

Hollywood Blvd was quite a disappointment. It was extremely overrated, but I cannot not go and see it for myself. After all, I was in LA. The Hollywood Walk of Fame was not as glamorous as it seems. The entire street was pretty empty and it was too quiet for my liking. I expected more… life. But hey, I got to see the hall of fame. If you’re in LA, I wouldn’t recommend you to go there, but then again, you’re in LA. You have to see it, no matter how overrated it is.

If there is one thing that I regret, it was that I never got to see Santa Monica Beach during the day. This is Santa Monica at dusk, can you believe how amazing this looked in real life, while I was standing on the board walk, watching the sun set? I cannot repeat enough, how many times California took my breath away. By the time I got to Santa Monica, the sun was already half way down. I failed to take into consideration how early it gets dark in winter, and how long the bus ride was. I was however, extremely thankful that I still made it in time to catch the last glimpse of the setting sun. It was magical.

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After all that glorious sun had set, I made my way down to Santa Monica Pier. There wasn’t a lot of people, maybe because it was a weekday. I did wish that Derek was there with me though, it would have been so much better and magical if he was.20140208-205314.jpg

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And lastly, I had to take a picture of this.20140208-205511.jpg

LA wasn’t just all fun and sights. It showed me many things. Yes, there are many hobos sleeping on the streets while it’s cold out, but there are also many kind souls who leave food by these hobos. There was not a single homeless person without packets of food by their “bed”. My new friends and I did the same thing with our leftovers, I know, leftovers aren’t the best thing to give, but hey, it was better than not having anything at all. LA was also not how most TV shows portrayed it to be. My friend lost her entire purse and some kind soul returned it to her with all her belongings intact. I guess there is good everywhere we go.

LA you have been wonderful. I will definitely be seeing you again, and if I could, I will want to stay there for a little while.

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Places and people.

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What makes a place worth remembering? Is it the places you’ve seen on the internet? Is it the things you’ve heard about on TV? Or is it really the people you haven’t met?

It was definitely the people I haven’t met for me. There were so many things I remember about California; the weather was amazing, even though it got a little chilly at times. The sky was magnificent at any time of the day, or night. The food was delicious, all those mexican in my belly makes me so happy. And most of all, the people I’ve met in California – Drew, Moon, Elsa and David. The strangers I’ve met made it so difficult for me to leave. California was great, but the friends I’ve met in California, they are the ones I’ll always remember.

Texas was more boring than I’d imagined it to be. The water tastes weird in Texas, everything looks flat and spread out. It was difficult to travel via public transit and it was definitely colder than LA was. Despite all of that, I will still miss Dallas. I will miss Spencer and his amazing hospitality, even though he’s so busy with work and school. I will miss Gibbs and how he was mean to me the whole time we were together. Again, the strangers I’ve met makes leaving Dallas so sad. To be fair, gibbs is no stranger, if anything, he made it very difficult for me to leave. It’s incredibly difficult to have amazing friends so far away from you, but it is inspiring and heartwarming to know that you have a friend somewhere out there in the world, who will always remember you and all the times you’ve had together.

I can’t imagine how difficult it will be to leave Indiana and New York, because just thinking about it breaks my heart.

Los Angeles

Sitting on the balcony of my host’s apartment, looking out the gridded window, it’s 1030 AM. The amazing cerulean sky and towering palm trees makes LA seem so perfect. I actually wouldn’t mind living here in LA for a while if I can. The sky in LA takes my breath away, it’s incredibly pretty.

In the morning it varies between a pretty azure and a nice cerulean, but when it comes to sundown, the sky turns purplish pink. After that crazy shade of pink, the sky transits into a perfect shade of orange with hues of red and yellow. I took some photos, it doesn’t really do the sky justice, but it is as close as it gets.

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After visiting Hollywood Boulevard, I’ve got to say that it is pretty disappointing. I pictured it to be more vibrant, bustling with live and crazy crowds but instead, it was quiet and empty. It kinds of makes the stars on the ground less significant than it is advertised to be. I’m still glad I saw it though, you can’t come to LA and not visit Hollywood Boulevard!

Its about 14 degrees celsius out, it is pretty cold for LA. It should get warmer in the afternoon. I think I’m doing pretty well in this weather, considering that I’ve only been wearing a long sleeved top and leggings most of the time. I can only imagine how cold it is going to be as I travel East to the other side of USA in the next couple of weeks.

Food in LA is pretty affordable, I stumbled across this supermarket called Ralph’s and everything there is so cheap, you wouldn’t even believe it. Actually, there’s a pharmacy here called CVS, it’s more like a convenience store than just a pharmacy, it has everything you need, much like a huge 7-11. Groceries are pretty cheap here, usually I would take at least 30 minutes to walk a supermarket, but I think I can live in supermarkets here.

Clothes are not that expensive either, Fashion District is like a night market (only it closes at 6 PM) – full of clothes and stuff that you can get for cheap. It’s like Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market, or Hong Kong’s Ladies Street, or Singapore’s Bugis Street. Who would have known that you can get stuff for cheap in the US? I saw a pair of heels that costs USD$19.90, and those are pretty, killer heels. Clothes are going for USD$4.99, crazy pretty maxi and empire dresses are only USD$32.

There really isn’t much to do after 6 PM. The sky gets really dark really early here, maybe it’s because it’s winter. But everything closes at about 6 PM, except some fast food joints and grocery stores. After dark, most of the people you see on the street are hobos. To be honest, it’s not all that scary, you just have to avoid walking in those secluded alleys and you should be fine.

I have been in LA for about 2 days now, there is not a day I don’t hear the police sirens wail. It reminds me so much of those TV shows I watched about LA. Last night, I saw a chopper in the sky from where I’m putting up at. It had red and blue lights, so I could only assume that it’s a police chopper, and it was circling the sky like it was looking for something or someone. It’s almost like the TV shows are coming to life.

I leave LA on the 10th, so I still have a couple of days more here. I really need to go to the Griffith Park Conservatory. I might go to the beach today, and try to catch the sunset. I’ll have to figure out how to get to the beach using the very confusing metro system here. Okay, I’m going to take a walk and maybe get some food along the way.

xx