Spring break was just over and it was awesome. Here’s a summary of what happened
Day 1: Hollywood Strip, Santa Monica
We took an overnight greyhound bus to Hollywood, took the metro train a stop to Super 8 motel, had nice Thai noodle lunch, and we walked to the Hollywood/Sunset Strip. Coincidentally, there was an anti-war protest going on, pretty interesting. They were like making signs and giving them out. There were also people giving out evangelistic dollar bill-like notes with messages behind them. There were like fake ‘coffins’ and someone wearing an Obama-like mask. They started marching onward, a much bigger protest than the one we saw at UCSC.
The weather started to get warm, and we decided to head back to our motel, changed to shorts, and head to Venice Beach. But Google gave me wrong directions and we ended up at Santa Monica beach. It was a long bus ride, almost 2 hours, like taking a bus from Woodlands to ECP! The Metro Rapid Bus looks pretty cool, it looks like a very trendy-looking LRT-like bendy bus on the outside. Unfortunately, the ride isn’t that comfortable/smooth, probably due to the roads being bumpy. We reached there and there were people evacuating from the amusement park cos of a bomb threat lol. We went down to the beach anyway and watched the sunset. It was amazing, cos it was a completely clear day without clouds, and the sun literally set behind the horizon. Quite a rare sight in Singapore since it it is always too cloudy. After the sun set, a fog came over the area. We had dinner at downtown Santa Monica before heading back.
Day 2: Universal Studios
It’s the REAL Universal Studios day! We took the metro to Universal City and there was a shuttle bus up. Didn’t know it’s so near. It started to get crowded as the park opened at 10am. After taking photos with the globe, we started off with the House of Terror and Terminator 2. Then we went to watch Shrek 3/4D and Waterworld (which Singapore has). The Simpsons ride was pretty cool, as it is like a simulator but with a giant Omni-Theatre-like dome screen. The Studio tour is quite cool too, we went through the Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane, some backlot sets, Norman Bates’ Motel, a few cool cars, floods, earthquake in an SF metro, an overturned plane and more. After all those boring rides, we finally went to the lower lot to try the Jurassic Park boat ride, which we will get wet. But it wasn’t that bad after all! Was quite fun, the sliding down was pretty short. Then we took The Mummies roller coaster ride, this was the best and we actually did it twice! It was an indoor roller coaster, and it has many twists and even went backwards! We also went to watch the soundstage demos of green screen, sounds and fire, quite similar to what I saw in MovieWorld some time ago. On the way back, we met a Singaporean! so cool and so rare. Julian’s about the age as us, and he’s here on some business trip (hypnosis?). We invited him to have dinner with us together at a Thai-Chinese restaurant at Little Thai Town on east Hollywood. It was good food and good company.
Day 3: Disneyland
We woke up super early the next day to chiong Disneyland. Took us like >2 hours to reach there at about 9.45am. We started off with a jungle cruise and Indiana Jones indoor roller coaster. We took another Pirates of the Carribean cruise, before taking a super wet boat ride! haha. We then took the mine railroad roller coaster, and the bob sleigh ride thing. After that, we walked around the kids area and took some photos, before chionging to the other side of the park, tomorrowland. We watched a Michael Jackson 3D show, and then rushed back to the main street for the Celebrate Street Party parade, which was awesome! It was very dynamic and very cool with all the dances and mascots. After that, we took the Haunted Mansion ride, before chionging over to the other California Adventure park. It was about 4.30pm. California Adventure park is much more fun, since the rides are suited for our age group, and less crowded. We took some fast pass tickets, and took another wet rapids ride! This time, we got super wet as the rapids were strong! lol. We then went over to the highlight of the day: the screamers roller coaster. It was the BEST and most AWESOME ride ever! It stops you at the starting point, counts down “Screamers, are you ready? 5, 4, 3…” and then it zooms up the ramp, down a few drops, up again, and upside down in a loop, then a few more dips and turns and twists! it was so cool that we decided to take it another time immediately! Then, we took the tall free-fall drop ride, but this one it was the acceleration upwards that was scarier. After another simpler roller coaster, we walked through a Bug’s land to the Hollywood Tower of Terror. It looks really suspicious looking from the outside: a tall, eerie looking building with the words “Hollywood Hotel” on it. I thought it was really a hotel. After realising it is actually a ride, I was wondering if the building was used for other purposes, like offices or something, as it was reallyy huge and tall! After queuing for a long time and going through the many staircases and doors, we reached the ‘service elevators’. Initially, I thought it was a simple ‘elevator’ ride, showing you every level and some ghosts and effects. I took out my camera, and then WHOOSH! It zoomed ALL THE WAY up to the top of the tower in a split second. The doors open, we could see the scenery and lights outside. then ZOOM! it went all the way down. This repeats for a few times, and I was grasping for my breath and holding on to my camera super tightly. Lol. totally didn’t expect it to happen. It was awesome! After that, it was time to rush back to Disneyland for the fireworks, after which there was some shopping and we took the long bus ride home.
Day 4: Warner Brothers VIP Studio Tour, Getty Museum, Chinatown
What’s up, doc? Yay, Warner Brothers, my favourite. We took the metro and a bus to Burbank and went for a exclusive small group tour. It brought us through the soundstages, the backlots, which include the places where Spiderman and other films were created, as well as a WB/Harry Potter Museum, a FRIENDS studio set, an automobile soundstage which includes the batcar and the Mystery Machine. The best part was when we were allowed into an actual soundstage set used for the upcoming Miami Medical drama series. It’s really cool to step into a hospital set, complete with all the studio lightings overhead and around, in a sound-proof soundstage. There’s even a fake elevator! and a fake wallpaper outside the balcony. After the tour, we ate at the historic Bob’s Burgers, before taking another long bus ride to Getty Museum. There was a La Vinci exhibition, and the view from there is pretty nice, overlooking the whole of LA. And the best part was the museum admission is free. After that, we took another long bus ride to Chinatown, which seemed super quiet at night, sadly. Fortunately, we found a restaurant which had pretty good Chinese food, roast pork and other stuff.
Day 5: Hollywood Sign, Drive to Las Vegas
We collected the car at Hertz, sadly the online coupon didn’t work, hence it was slightly more expensive than Enterprise. Our first stop was the Hollywood sign, driving up to as near it as possible. Since we are not going Death Valley anymore, we drove straight to Vegas in order to catch the night scene. After an Argentine lunch in LA, Kep managed to drive the 5 hours, but he was zonked out at the end. haha. We reached Vegas slightly after 7pm. After checking in at Sahara, we drove down to Treasure Island and walked around T.I., ate dinner at the Venetian, and walked down the Strip towards Bally’s and back. However, due to unsure planning, we did not manage to catch any of the free shows. But the sights and sounds were amazing, more beautiful than NY Times Square or SF or anywhere else. I like how each hotel has its own theme and architecture, from Roman to Venice to modern times. There were pimps giving out cards of girls, many people walking around, and some street performers/buskers.
Day 6: Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon
We woke up early to compensate for the long 5-hour drive to Grand Canyon. We stopped at Hoover Dam, at the borders of Arizona and Nevada, where Transformers was filmed. After that, I managed to drive the full route, it was a very scenic and enjoyable drive. Truly an American road trip, with all the mountains, dessert, rocks, and snow! They all look so fake, like we are driving into a ‘wallpaper’. Saw some elks along the way. We were very surprised to see snow at Williams, at elevation of about 4000 ft. It was pretty cold and we were not prepared! We ate a super heavy lunch at Denny’s, before continuing the remaining journey to the Grand Canyon, reaching there at about 3pm. Sadly, it was a cloudly day, so the colours of the canyons were not as saturated, and there was no sunset. And there was not enough time to do much hikes, and we did not wear thick enough jackets too. We walked around the rim trail, taking photos here and there, and then hide from the cold in the Observatory Point/Gift shop. Should have planned to stay a night there! Next time, maybe. After it got dark, we headed back for another 5-hours drive home. We wanted to stop at Kingman for dinner, but the popeyes was closed =( In the end, we skipped dinner and drove all the way back. Some of them were contemplating to watch a strip show, but they didn’t watch any in the end. too tired!
Day 7: Las Vegas
It’s a whole day dedicated to “Paradise, NV”. We ate THE Buffet at Bellajio’s, which was a sumptuous meal of sushi, chinese food, american food and lots of desserts! We drove down to the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, then to the Luxor Pyramids, MGM, where we walked to New York New York, M&M’s, Coke, Hard Rock cafe and more. After that, we went to watch the Circus Circus free show, and then went to Treasure Island again. But too bad the show was cancelled due to weather conditions. We watched the volcano eruption at the Mirage, had dinner at Venetian again, before trying out a few casino games. Haha. Jackpot is pretty dumb, sucks all your money. But one of us managed to win $10 though. Playing blackjack with the computer/plasma screen is quite simple and time-wasting, it lets you win money after a while, and then makes you lose all of it later, then makes you win a bit again, it’s a vicious cycle. After sending the girls to the airport, which is like super near, we went back to Sahara to chill chill.
Day 8: Kelso Dunes, San Diego
After sending Steph to the airport in the morning, we had brunch at Popeyes (finally, but the chicken shrunk), and we started our drive to San Diego via the Mojave National Preserve. It was a scenic detour on a laid back, slow-down-and-enjoy-the-scenery-and-chill-chill day. It was pretty fun to drive in the middle of nowhere and enjoy the ‘wallpaper’ sceneries. We arrived at Kelso Depot and got to know the history of the area as a WW2 rail boomtown. After that, we drove on a off-road dirt track to the Kelso Dunes, which are really sand mountains. It was a short hike to a super sandy area, reminds me of the Dunes which I slided in Brisbane last time. It was hot in the dessert, yet it was cold and windy. Weird uh? After playing with the sand, we continued our drive, via Walmart at Barstow and down all the way to San Diego. On the way, we saw a few super long trains, as long as 40 carriages or more! Amazing how they pull so much weight over mountains and deserts. When we reached San Diego, it was already about 7pm. We drove over the San Diego Bay on the bridge to Coronado Island and saw the sun set. We tried to search for a nice area at the beach, but ended up in the navy area. lol. We found some parking in the condo, and walked on a small stretch of the beach. It seems so exclusive, and the condos there look very beautiful. Imagine, waking up to a view of the Pacific Ocean (not just some Straits with ships) every morning! Must be expensive. After that, we drove to our motel at Old Town San Diego, where California was born. It’s a pretty cool and rustic place, with many Mexican restaurants and gift shops. We ate at one of them, and we got owned by the amount of food, the tortilla chips, and the burrito flour wraps etc. At one of the gift shops, there were weird Jesus action figures. lol.
Day 9: Back to Santa Cruz
All good things come to an end. We drove back to L.A., returned our car. After waiting very long for the metro bus, we realised that we were pretty late. We ran to Subway, grabbed lunch, and ran through union station to the other side where Denny’s is to catch our china CABus. Phew, it was 12 noon, but the bus was not there yet and there was a lot of poeple waiting. The bus came like 20 minutes later, it seems so much cleaner, newer and better than Greyhound. The people were nicer too. And strangely, they didn’t check our tickets or ID, and only did so when we alighted. It was a straight 6 hours plus journey to San Jose, with a stopover at Burger King halfway. At San Jose, we missed our 17 bus and took the next one. We ate dinner, which is the guys’ last dinner at SC, at Ocean Buffet. It was fantastic value, $12 with all the sushi, salmon and Chinese food. Very fulfilling at the end of the day!