Lilypie - First Birthday

Monday, July 27, 2009

[Los Angeles] Universal Studios - Entertainment Capital of the World!


Week 1
Day 7 (Nov 26th, Wednesday)
Day 1 back in Los Angeles - Universal Studios full day

We woke up early, all excited like bright-eyed little kids, ready for our day of fun and adventure in Universal Studios Hollywood. Thanks to Leo's pre-planning, the park was just a short drive away from our hotel.

Brangelina!

A visit to famous theme parks like Universal Studios and Disneyland involves quite a bit of planning beforehand as the park compound is huge. Each ride/show had its own schedule, so we had to plan which rides to take first to avoid missing any of the shows! One thing good about Universal Studios was that the park workers were very helpful and were stationed all over the park ready to answer all our schedule queries. Going on a weekday off-holiday-season also helped as the crowd was significantly less.

Universal Studios is divided into the Upper Lot and Lower Lot. The rides on Upper Lot will open first, so we tried to finish them all before advancing into the Lower Lot.

#1 House of Horrors!

It was a walk-through horror house with "ghosts" reaching out to touch us. Nothing really special here but I got to see my beloved Chucky doll! Last time before my youngest aunt got pregnant she used to feed my brother and I with all the Chucky movies.


#2 Water World

This water tricks-filled show (named after the movie) has some really cool stunts and gunfire action on water! Don't sit on the first few rows if you don't wanna get drenched!

No!! Jaws took my bf...!! -Outside the Water World arena.

#3 Terminator 2: 3D

We went inside an amphitheatre for the ultimate 4D experience where Arnie, Sarah Connor and John Connor leapt off the screen and the machines came alive and tried to shoot at us. Hollywood technology is just incredible. It was like THE coolest effects, ever! 5-stars rating for this one.

Fatter version of Paris Hilton took photos of her bf after my brother got off Arnie's bike.

#4: The Simpsons Ride: 3D

Leo's FAVOURITE ride. At Krustyland, don't be fooled by the non-existent queue outside the amphitheatre, cos once you get inside it's another story. The wait was quite long because the amphitheatre was very small. I think it could only fit around 20-30 people? They showed Simpson's cartoons from hanging LCDs so that we wouldn't get bored from the long wait. I didn't like this ride very much cos I was dizzy from watching the 3D-simulated rollercoaster ride and getting my body bumped here and there on the uncomfortable chair.


But the "real" Simpsons were so cute! Bart tried to dig Leo's nose and also tried to look inside Mom's handbag. =_='''

One for the camera with Scooby-Doo!!

#5: Mummy Ride

Short rollercoaster ride. The special thing about it is the rollercoaster can move front and backwards. I think this is the first time after many years that my parents have sat on a rollercoaster together with me. My mom was SO THRILLED from the ride!

After that we could see the mummies/zombies walking around on the street.

#6 Jurassic Park

My favourite ride in Universal Studios. I so hope this ride opens in Universal Studios Singapore so I can relive my favourite moment all over again. It was the ride I've waited to take all my life since I watched the first Jurassic Park movie!

I almost cried when our raft sailed through the high wooden doors that opened into the mist-filled prehistoric world (like in the movie). Complete with the movie theme songs playing in the air, I felt like I was transported into the movie. It was an exciting boat ride through "jurassic period" plants and fake dinosaurs (I even saw that Brontosaurus) that ended in a plunge that totally drenched us all. Brace yourself for T-Rex at the end!


After the rides we were ravenous. We grabbed lunch at one of the foodcourts near Jurassic Park.

Our lunch

#7 Backdraft

An extremely dangerous situation when the fire is contained in a room and in lack of oxygen, once somebody opens the door letting air in, the oxygen will fuel the fire and make the whole room explode. When the fire eats up the oxygen inside there will be an "air-sucking" motion beneath the door, known as backdraft.

An extremely amazing showcase of Hollywood special effects not to be missed!! This technology was used in the movie of the same name. Pipes and gas-drums were exploding and the whole floor suddenly spread into flames as we stood at a "safe" distance, safe enough to watch but we could also smell the fumes and feel the heat coming straight at us!!


#8 Special Effects Stage

We skipped the Animal Actors show because we didn't have time and went to see an interesting talk and demonstration on how special effects like robotics and makeup were deployed in the making of a movie. Very informative.

#9 Studio Tour

In our mad rush to complete all the rides, we completely forgot about taking the Studio Tour which we should have visited first! So we rushed all the way back to Upper Lot while I was praying all the time. Thank God we managed to catch the last tour, cos this was THE HOLLYWOOD STUDIO TOUR! Not to be seen anywhere! The downside was that it was already dark at that hour so we weren't able to see many things clearly. Oh well, dusk is always a different experience altogether.

The open-tour cart took us through spinning race cars used in Fast and Furious 2, through an old mining town where they simulated floods, through a mechanism used for parting rivers, to the miniature Skull island used to film King-Kong, through a Spanish-type courtyard, through an underground subway station where they simulated a San Francisco earthquake (totally MIND-BLOWING!), through the filmset of Psycho where Norman Bates actually ran out and chased our cart (this was creepy), and through the disastrous ruins of the War of the Worlds filmset. At times the tour-guide halted the cart and told us to keep quiet as we neared some places where some film-crews were shooting CSI: Vegas and Ghost Whisperer. To imagine that we were so near those places that we often saw on TV, it was SO COOL, I tell you!!

Again, too bad I couldn't see Wisteria Lane - because, they were shooting Desperate Housewives at that time!!! Oh man!! What wouldn't I give to see Susan, Gabrielle, Bree and Lynette in person, and the houses they live in! ;-(...

#10 Shrek 4-D

We were all oohs-and-aahs after the Studio Tour. Our last stop was at Shrek 4-D, also in an amphitheatre. This 4-D show is better than Simpsons -storyline and cuteness-wise. :-)

Totally satisfied because we got to sit all the rides we wanted, we took a walk around the souvenir shops. My favourite Betty Boop. Everything's too expensive in the souvenir shops so I just took some pictures for memory.

Last but not least, an Oscar for my award-winning boyfriend... XOXO!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

[San Francisco] Chinatown

Week 1
Day 6 (Nov 25th, Tuesday)
Day 4 in San Francisco - Chinatown

There's a Chinese saying that says "wherever there's water, there's Chinese people". Today we paid a visit to the very famous San Francisco Chinatown, which is actually located just a few blocks away from our hotel.

The gateway into Chinatown, with a plaque bearing the words "天下为公" which means "Let there be justice under heaven". A fair thing to say, if only it were true. Then there would not be so many innocent lives lost.



There are many copper statues of animals and children throughout the US, just like those seen in MJ's Neverland. This tortoise statue reminds me of this ridiculous piece of news I just saw today - "90 year old tortoise finally pops its cherry".

On Grant Avenue

Old St. Mary's Church. Below the clock there's a plaque that reads "Son, observe the time and fly from evil". Very intriguing.

Cable car passing through Chinatown.

Now this whole Chinatown thing didn't really excite me much. Being Chinese, it just felt familiar, like I was strolling the streets of Hong Kong and Petaling Street in KL. Chinatown smelled of dried foodstuff and cheap t-shirts and old men counting money behind their cash registers. If not because mom wanted to buy some American ginseng and traditional foodstuff, I think we would have just driven through the area and left. :-P

The immigrants here did everything they could to reconstruct a mirror image of their homeland. Even the banks in this area are housed in buildings with pagoda roofs! This is the Bank of America.

I saw from Joan's blog that there's a shop in Chinatown that sells very very yummy egg tart. Wee Meng confirmed it. But where's that shop? I wanna try the egg tart too.

For lunch, we just popped into the nearest restaurant that looked the most decent (and with a very tempting display of roast duck outside). Yee's Restaurant.

This is after we had our lunch. Thumbs up!

This is pigeon meat... I think. But mom says the slices are too big to be pigeon.

Fried beef strips with peas

Mongolian-style something... can't remember

Everything was very oily but it was one of the best meals we'd had for days! Enough of hamburgers, more hamburgers and cup noodles everyday... we were craving for hot, steamed rice and Chinese food! And eating in Chinatown is really cheap too compared to other parts of San Francisco!

When we came out from the restaurant I discovered a laminated magazine page stuck to the wall outside. It seems that Yee's Restaurant was named restaurant with the "Best Peking Duck" by The Western Insider! We immediately ta-paoed Peking duck for our dinner.

There were soooooooo many Chinese everywhere, for a moment there I swear I thought I was in Hong Kong and not America! The street signs there had Chinese words on it too, Pacific Street is 柏思威街... I don't see Americans there making a big fuss out of street signs unlike our Malaysian politicians!

Before lunch mom had already bought mushrooms, American ginseng, fish maw, etc. Now after she regained her energy after lunch she popped into more supermarkets to buy more stuff - fruits, vegetables, etc. It was like a normal shopping day in Ipoh old town for her.

Baby waiting outside sundry shop...

...while this street cleaning machine caught my eye. I also saw a traffic police summoning two blacks for some traffic offence.

Everything's so gigantic there... I still have my mini Japanese sweet potatoes from Cameron Highlands that I haven't eaten yet that's only the size of my finger.

The sea cucumber is expensive though... mom only bought the South African thorned sea cucumber (on the right) which has like blunt thorns all over its body.

What a morning in the bustling streets of Chinatown... now we had had enough of walking and shopping and we were ready to leave for the City of Angels with the beautiful aroma of roast Peking duck in our car... ^__^

The Transamerica Pyramid - I think it houses finance offices inside or something

A closer look at the Transamerica Pyramid

Crossing the Bay Bridge... goodbye my beautiful and romantic San Francisco... hope to see you again...

There's really an island called Treasure Island! It's just off San Francisco... something like our Pulau Jerejak at Penang.

Monday, July 20, 2009

[San Francisco] Cityscapes

Week 1
Day 6 (Nov 25th, Tuesday)
Day 4 in San Francisco
- From Union Square to Moscone Center and back

This was our last day in San Francisco. The night before, we had to park our car very very far away because there was no more parking space near our hotel. It was very far, but still walkable, less than two miles to and fro. In the morning, both of us walked to get the car. The cool crisp air made this a refreshing walk, with both of us appreciating the time we had together alone very much.

At Union Square area, outside Macy's.

Christmas window display at Macy's... oh I miss the Christmassy feel there...

This is Barney's New York, a pricier departmental store compared to Macy's.

Emporio Armani! We're at the intersection of Market and Grant now.

Bus stop. The shopping district on a working Tuesday morning is quiet, compared to the crowd at night.

Drunk little baby angels!! This reminds me of the three singing cupids in Night at the Museum 2.

California Pizza Kitchen. Is the pizza great? Khoon Hau says they've opened a branch at Suria KLCC. This is part of the financial district, this explains why there's more cars on the road here.

Suddenly a small gated garden appeared out of nowhere in the middle of town. Too bad we couldn't stay!!

We've reached the SoMA (South of Market) district. Fire engine in front of SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), which is that brown building there on 3rd Street. It houses 20th century art, among which are collections by Jackson Pollock and Frida Kahlo.

W Hotel San Francisco. See that giant man structure sleeping on the roof of the hotel? You can book your hotel online through HotelsCombined.com. This site auto-compiles the list of available hotels at your travel destination and then you can refine your search according to distance from San Francisco city center.

'A Christmas Carol' by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Bands! *Gasp! I hope it's not about Mr. Scrooge and the Gay Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future!!

A Keith Haring sculpture

Moscone Center - the largest convention and exhibition hall in San Francisco. Leo says this part of San Francisco looks like Singapore with its clean, modern and simplistic-looking buildings and streets.

To me, this guy represents the essence of the San Francisco metropolitan - casual, light, rugged, handsome. I thought he, this very scene, fell right out from a magazine page. :-)

The average blue-collar American hard at work.

Autumn trees and red brick...

Finally, we reached the place where we parked the car, near the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel at SoMA district. Again, it is just so convenient when you can book your accomodation at your fingertips - HotelsCombined.com

Guess what?

We were greeted with dismay at the sight of a white/green colored paper sticking out from under the wiper. We had been summoned!!! Imagine how our faces fell when we saw the summons. We didn't see the street sign that no parking was allowed from 2-6a.m. for street cleaning!! Anyone knows that the U.S. traffic fine is costly, especially after converting to RM. I think it cost around USD35 or more. What the... we could have spent the whole lot on food and now we just had to pay up... so sad... left San Francisco with burnt pockets :-(

Drove the car back to our Hotel 480. Some of the beautiful old buildings that we passed by... they even had fire escape, just like in the movies.

After the 1906 fire and earthquake, the reconstructed buildings were built with standpipes to allow firemen to connect the water hoses in event of a fire.