Saturday, July 18, 2015

LA: Land of Automobiles

This is a "pakyawan post" on my first three days in Los Angeles, USA.

I learned how to drive in college. Driving caused me stress before I even stepped in the classroom. I had no issues taking the jeep anyway, so there was no need to drive. When I started working, I learned the ropes how to be a bad-ass MRT commuter. There's no need to drive in EDSA. But when I changed work, my mother hounded me daily that I should start driving. I finally gave in and tried to give driving another chance - after 11 years. 

C5 at 10:00PM, Northbound. Huhuhuhu.

I've been proficiently driving (or so I say) for about a year when I travelled to a city where everyone should know how to drive. Driving is a survival skill in Los Angeles. 

*I hopped off the plane at L.A.X. with a dream and my cardigan / Welcome to the land of fame, excess...*. Yeah, I let a Miley Cyrus song in one of my blog posts.

I had less than three hours of sleep in that 12-hourflight. I spent the flight watching Kingsmen and the Fast and The Furious 5 (didn’t finish it) and stuffed myself with Ruffles and Toblerone (that’s why I love flying CX). Even with two glasses of red wine, I was only able to doze off for only three hours.

Then it was time to meet America, the land of opportunity.

Down the escalator, to the intimidating immigration area in LA

I was a bit jittery waiting for my turn in the immigration even though I have no plans of finding a job or getting married or doing something illegal in the United States/ States/ America. Lack of sleep and anticipation I guess. The immigration officer just asked why was I in the US. Told him I will be visiting my friends and they are taking me around LA. I enumerated some places in my planned itinerary. I was granted entry.

After collecting my luggage, I headed outside where I handed out the customs form on my way out. I followed the signs and walked and walked and walked. Just when I was thinking that I was lost (wow, agad!), I saw the blue Super Shuttle van. I asked the guy for a ride to USA Hollywood Hostels. He asked if I had a reservation and I said none. He just waited. He wasn’t cross, nor was he angry. The entire conversation just lacked warmth, for me.

Super Shuttle in LAX airport

Not exactly the warmest reception in the US. But I guess that’s why they appreciate the hospitality in most Asian countries. I waited for 30 minutes before I had a van that will take me to USA Hostels Hollywood. Super Shuttle had a lot of vans. I guess it is better if you reserve a ride in their website. It was a 1.5-hour ride going to the hostel. I sat in front. I couldn’t pretend to be cool about it and got into my tourist mode when I saw these palm trees. I whipped out my camera and started clicking. The noise of the camera echoed throughout the van. I paid the driver $14 for the ride.

Palm trees in suburbia

He dropped me off in USA Hostels Hollywood at 10:00am. I had just enough prep and mini-rest time to before the Hollywood tour that started at 10:30H. The walking tour costs $15. The guide advised us to slather some sunblock, bring water, some snacks, hat and sunglasses. We stopped by 7-11 so that others could get water and food. The group was just lounging outside when a man bothered us.

Man: Hey man, can you buy me a bottle of water? (Me: whatda)
Guy from our group: No man
Homeless man (he didn’t look homeless ha): Come on, just a dollar for water
Guy: No
Homeless man: Oh f*** you! *Walks away*
*our group nervously looked away*

After two minutes, he walked back and threw a lollipop at the guy. Nganga kaming lahat. And that was during my first day in LA! Ibang level. Tinalo ang mga pulubi sa Maynila. Binalikan pa kami!

Photo of a bag lady, taken from the van.

I was walking around Hollywood Road, trying to find the famous names in the entertainment industry. I don’t know half of the names there. Some are directors and producers, and probably some names were the big stars in the 50’s, 60’s or 70s. 

There was a homeless man in almost every other block. There were also these irritating touts who constantly bug you with tours. Some of the homeless people were checking out the trash cans one by one. Some of them approached me and asked me for money, food or offered a tour. There was this one homeless guy who got really aggressive and followed me til the next block. I looked at him and said "No English". He left me alone. I was exploring the street alone I think that was one of the very rare moments that I felt unsafe and scared while traveling alone. I didn’t think first-world homeless people can be so aggressive!

I guess that's why the Stormtroopers patrol around the streets of Hollywood.

Anyway... so the tour. We waited for 30 minutes for a bus to arrive. 30 MINUTES. May you be sufficiently warned with LA public transportation. The bus ride took an eternity, before we got off at our first stop: Rodeo Drive. After that bus ride, I understood why people drive in this city. Public transportation robs your time.

Rodeo Drive is a swanky shopping area. Really swanky. There was this shop that you need to be pre-approved to shop there.And there were these cars parked outside, under the sun. I think the tourists enjoy these cars more than the owner.
Rawr car. Rawr.

I don’t know if there’s someone really shopping in this area, or we are all just tourists or passers-by.

Rodeo Drive

Under the hot sun and cool wind, we walked to the most popular and expensive zip code: 90210, where Beverly Hills is. Remember that 90’s series? I did watch that series, even though the program is rated PG. ha ha ha.

The cast of Beverly Hills 90210. So 90's.

If you plan to tour around Beverly Hills to see how the rich people live, you won't really be seeing much. A lot of the houses here are surrounded with tall fences covered with lush bushes. At the best, you'll see the gate and the path going inside. 

How about a cactus in your landscape?

I am extremely fond of walking tours. But this is one walking tour that I felt so...poor. Hahaha! We were the only group of tourists who were walking under the sun. All of the other tourists were in cars.

We got lucky that the gate of this mansion was open

The next day, we did the most touristy thing to do in LA: go to a spot where the Hollywood sign is clearly visible and have your photo taken from there. Griffith Park Observatory is one of the recommended sites where to do this. My good friends went with me and drove me up the observatory. Parking was a bit tricky. 'Twas the weekend. Locals do some hiking in the area.

Touristy me. That is a very small Hollywood sign back there.

To the credit of my friend, Zy, she searched for another view of the Holllywood sign and did some zig-zag driving in a private neighborhood. We arrived in Lake Hollywood Park, a 30-minute drive from Griffith Observatory. The neighborhood had these “No Access to Hollywood sign” in some corners. I guess they got annoyed from all the tourists flocking their peaceful village.

Lake Hollywood Park, with Zy.

And it was way better than the view in Griffith Observatory.

After Griffith, we headed to Exposition Park to watch an outdoor movie ($12). I’ve always wanted to try one. Parking costs $2. There are parking lots but it can be tricky where to find the entrance and exit of the parking lot.

We were almost two hours early. We chose a side spot under the shade while almost everyone stayed under the sun. Ha ha ha. Checked out the food trucks and got some food. If you don’t plan to share your food, choose the smallest size. The food portions were disgustingly huge for one.

Outdoor movie. The sky is blue and clear, but the wind is cold.

After 8:00pm, the sun finally set and the movie started. They showed “The Interview”, which is a comedy film, revolving around an interview with North Korea’s dictator, Kim-Jong Un. Halfway through the movie, I had to pee because of that huge lemonade. I was impressed that portable toilets had toilet paper in them. We all didn’t have sweaters and jackets so we stayed and endured the chilly night breeze in the park. I don’t know how the audience survived in shorts, tanks and fit flops. I shook every time the wind blew.

I had a midnight flight the next day, so we did something that can be finished in the afternoon and costs free: Getty Museum. It was almost an hour-long drive from the hostel. LA is so spread out. Sab said that tall buildings are avoided because the city is in the earthquake belt. Tama nga naman, sabi rin sa San Andreas na movie. That’s why there are centers/plazas with single-floor stores. I just thought it would be easier for people to shop and do errands in mall, instead of driving around from  block to block to go to the supermarket, laundry, drugstore, bank et al. Philippines, let us be proud of our malls!

Getty Museum, with Sab and Zy.

Getty Museum has a lot of really nice artworks. I don’t really know how to appreciate artwork alone. I’ve learned what makes a painting sorta special from my museum visits in Paris and Madrid. But I still can’t just appreciate an artwork for what it is. I was glad to be with friends when I explored Getty. Company adds some entertainment value while you appreciate, or try to appreciate artwork. There were a lot of artwork, but I don’t really know most of the. There was a Goya painting in there. 

A wing in Getty museum

It was amusing to find these normal-looking bougainvilleas glorified.

And there's this cactus garden. You can only admire from a distance. Boooooo.

Art is free, as long as you pay for the parking. 

Parking for compact cars

So far, that's LA: the land of Automobiles. I enjoyed looking at all the different cars. There were a lot of swanky cars in this city.

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