I am so in denial over not being in LA right now. I had such a good time there and I’m so glad I made the leap and decided to go even though I didn’t have anyone to travel with. I initially wanted to go to San Francisco or maybe even Airbnb a super cute Brooklyn apartment but SF tickets were super expensive and my sister was like “ala tak nak la New York lagi…” lol. Since I had never been to the West Coast and LA flights were pretty cheap, I ended up going there. And this might just be hindsight bias or cognitive dissonance or whatever else we’ve learned in Psychology but I’m so glad I ended up going to LA! In a weird way, LA kind of reminded me of KL—the sprawl of the city, less-than-ideal public transport, sun. And… I don’t know. There was just something about it.
So, I left my apartment in Philly at like 3.45AM or something ridiculous like that because I had a 6AM flight on Spirit. I was too cheap to pay for seats obviously, so I got the aisle seat. I don’t care what most people think; to me, if it’s not a window seat, they all equally suck. Luckily, the window seat on my row was free so I woke up the dude sleeping peacefully in the middle seat, scooted over and slept my way to LA.
Then began my struggle with LA public transport. I was staying at UCLA (thank you again Xen and Serena if you’re reading this!!!) so I had to take the bus there but it comes only at the top of every hour and because my plane landed at like 9.07AM, there was a lot of waiting to do. Thank god Ed Sheeran’s album had just come out so I was content sitting there with my earphones. I should also say ‘÷’ became the definitive soundtrack of my trip and I already know that when I listen to it years from now, I’ll get flashbacks of LA sun.
Serena and I spent Sunday walking around Melrose Avenue. On the way there, thanks to Uber Pool, I got a really nice view of Beverly Hills and Bel Air and oh my god. It was just… so nice… to just… look at. Every house looked like the kind of house you’d see in the background of celebrity pap shots and surely enough, around the corner, there were people selling maps to celebrities’ houses haha. Anyway, as much as I enjoyed treating my eyes to the beautiful Beverly Hills area (which is basically Bukit Bintang x 10 but super clean), that wasn’t where I was going. We visited the Melrose Trading Post which is basically a flea market, and we looked at really pretty shops from the outside and took lots of pictures in front of murals. It was a drizzly afternoon though so poor Serena had to carry around this huge rented UCLA umbrella the whole day, haha. Then we went to ~Hollywood~ to see the most touristy places: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Walk of Fame, Dolby Theatre, etc etc. I literally looked around for 10 minutes and was like ok what’s next? Seriously, the Walk of Fame is hardly an attraction. It’s literally pavement. But I mean, if you’re in LA for the first time I guess you “have” to or whatever, haha.
Anyway, my favourite part of the day was going to Griffith Observatory. I guess people go for the view more than anything. Serena asked me if I wanted to go to for the observatory or just to see the outside of it and I was like, “are you kidding? I am struggling through Astronomy right now, the last place I want to go to is an observatory.” Heh. But we went at about sunset and the view really was breathtaking. My phone died as soon as we got there though, so we actually did end up going inside… to look for a power outlet, haha. Serena’s phone ran out of battery too so we really needed a charger because a cab was going to cost us a bomb to get back to campus (this one guy said it’d be about $40…) and we needed to call an Uber. After I charged my phone, we went outside to get picked up and my phone did the thing where it goes down to like 5% or whatever and the car was still like 10 minutes away and the power bank was out of power and it was the most stressful part of the trip. I even memorised the car’s plate number because I didn’t want to keep checking my phone for it and actually, now that I think about it, I oddly still remember the driver’s name and license plate number lol.
The next few days were mostly spent wandering about LA on my own and even though I knew I’d be fine, I actually found myself enjoying it way more than I thought. My apprehensions about travelling alone were mostly surrounding navigation (I’m somewhat directionally challenged) and um… I guess you could say “photography” (basically I had no one to take pictures of me!!!) but it actually turned out fine and I really liked it because I could kind of just… do whatever I wanted.
I ate wherever I wanted, I stayed at any place I went for how long I wanted and I just did whatever I wanted. It sounds self-centered, I know, but I was alone so I could, and I dare you to tell me it doesn’t sound appealing. I got to stay for a super long time at the Toba Khedoori exhibit at LACMA without worrying about the rest of my group wanting to move on to the next building. I stayed for an extra long time at brunch, sitting in my corner drinking grapefruit juice and writing in my journal quietly. It, was, pure bliss.
On Monday, I went Downtown by bus/Metro. I took the bus to Hollywood from Westwood, and stopped by at Amoeba Music on my way. Then I took the metro downtown. It’s quite clear that the Metro isn’t the most popular mode of transport—it was literally sunyi sepi at the Hollywood & Vine station. When I got there, I had lunch at Grand Central Market which was pretty cool. I’m sure most things there were really good but I had heard about Eggslut from, well, Instagram to be honest, and I had known for months that I’d eat there if ever went to LA. They had baked eggs with potato puree and a hint of salt and chives and as a huge fan of eggs, I have to say that went down as eggs in one of its best forms. Ugh. Amazing. I really liked Downtown LA in general. It felt a bit more like New York; more skyscrapers and old historic buildings, sans a lot of the bustle. It was also here where I finally made my way to a Blue Bottle even though I had been meaning to pay one of their cafes in New York a visit every time I’ve been in the city. I had their New Orleans iced coffee and it was just perfect. They also served me my miso cookie in a chemex filter, which I thought was a really nice touch. And oh my god, the whole cafe was beautiful—I felt like I was having coffee at an Apple store.
My favourite place in the area was definitely The Last Bookstore, highly recommended to me by friends and LA Uber drivers. It was a really cool place, with a “labyrinth” of shelves upstairs leading to a little hallway of cute artsy shops. I must’ve spent over an hour there on the couch, laughing to myself reading Texts from Jane Eyre.
On Tuesday, I spent a very long time at LACMA after an insanely good brunch (shoutout to Republique for their amazing creme brulee bomboloni, ugh). Like I said earlier, I spent an insanely long time at Toba Khedoori’s exhibit, chatting with an art student who helped me think about the pieces and “how we fit in them” which was really cool. Then I walked like 20 minutes to The Grove. I really liked their Farmers’ Market and I would’ve tried some food there if I wasn’t so full from brunch. The shopping area whatever you call it was very Disneyland-like which I guess compensated in some small way for me not dedicating a day to Anaheim, haha. I obvs didn’t do any shopping, but the weather was absolutely beautiful so I spent quite a bit of time lying on the grass the comfy blankets they provided and read a couple of chapters of Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, which is my March read. Then, on my way back to campus, my Uber driver (very politely) scolded me for not investing 15 extra dollars to see the Picasso and Rivera exhibit at LACMA, haha.
I got to hang out with Serena and Xen later than evening, and they actually took me to one of UCLA’s dining halls which were all insanely fancy. Seriously, they make Commons and Kings Court look really sad in comparison. It was also strange to think that had I not gotten into Penn, I would’ve gone to UCLA and that campus with its hotel-like dining halls, winding roads, uphill treks and ideal weather could have very well been my life.
I spent my last day in LA at Venice. I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to work since I planned to go straight to the airport from the beach, meaning I’d have my suitcase with me. Thankfully, my googling skills revealed that Hotel Erwin helps people store bags for like $5 and they gave me complimentary sunblock and a towel and it was all good. I had lunch at Eggslut again because, well, you know… eggs. And also because it was right next to Hotel Erwin so I just… I had to.
Venice reminded me a bit of Port Dickson meets Batu Ferringhi, if they were like 50x cleaner and full of white people. I saw the Venice Canals which were so pretty, but there was like absolutely nothing for me to do there other than look at it so I literally sat on the side of the bridge for a bit, just enjoying the weather and the view.
I think it is worth mentioning that I can’t quite remember when I last went to a beach. June 2015?! Even then, it was just so that I could get on a boat and—oh my god, this is definitely a huge digression but as I typed that last sentence, I just remembered that I think in 2015 in Phuket, I embarrassed myself at the beach when I screamed everyone’s bloody eardrums out when a monkey approached my boat, lol yikes. Anyway. So it’s been forever since I’ve been to a beach. (I’m 100% prepared for one of my sisters to text me being like “we went to the beach last summer -_-” but for now I’m pretty sure 2015 was the last time)
Anyway, anyway, anyway! Ok. Venice. Focus, Dayana. So yes, I took my free towel and trekked to the beach. I say trek because it was so tiring to walk across the beach to get close enough to the water… like the sand was so deep and my legs are… pretty weak I guess. It reminded me of when those teams in Amazing Race season 28 had to lead some camels through the desert—not quite the same thing, but it reminded me of that. I took a nap at the beach, read another chapter of my book and just relaxed to the sound of the waves. I did not get into the water, if you can believe it. And if you know me you probably can totally believe it because I don’t like the way sand sticks to your feet once you’ve stepped on water and I hate getting wet in general. Plus, I packed really light and didn’t have spare clothes or even sandals. I literally went to the beach with my Flyknits and a Longchamp bag with my Macbook in it because I didn’t want to leave it at the hotel lol. And I was fully aware of how silly it all might have looked but I was just having the time of my life that I didn’t care at all.
I really liked Venice, especially Abbot Kinney Boulevard. There were lots of cute shops and restaurants there. Huset was this adorable store selling Scandinavian homeware and I was so excited to see the candles I almost bought at the Copenhagen airport last December. I visited the Toms flagship store, went into Warby Parker for the first time (even though there’s literally a store on like 15th and Walnut or something in Center City) and I had the best damn ice cream OF. MY. LIFE. at Salt & Straw. When I got the first spoon of my taste test, I got the same feeling I had when I took the first sips of coffee at Monmouth in London and Devocion in New York, i.e. I was just absolutely transported. It must’ve been really popular too, given the queue went around the block. I tried Honey Lavender and oh my god it was sooo good. When I first arrived in Westwood on Sunday morning, I made a quick visit to Saffron & Rose, this Persian ice cream place and I thought that was the best ice cream ever. I guess it was, but by Wednesday it was dethroned when I had Honey Lavender at Salt & Straw. I also got their salty caramel flavour because salted caramel is my favourite dessert flavour of all time. I told Rafael, the guy who served me, that I like saltiness in ice cream so much that I sometimes joke I wish they’d make an ice cream that was salt with caramel instead of a bit of salt on caramel. He was immediately like, “oh, then you’re in for a treat because that’s what this is” and oh my god, it really was. I just realised I’ve spent most of this paragraph talking about this ice cream place and you know what… I am more than ok with that because Salt & Straw really deserves it.
I went back to the beach that evening to have early dinner and, I have to say, an ibuprofen. The sun was getting to be a bit much, haha, and I knew if I let the headache continue for even a little longer, the flight back to Philly would not have been a pleasant one. I watched the sunset on the beach with my salmon poke bowl in all my contentment with the sweet sounds of Justin Bieber’s most recent hits blaring from the boardwalk.
And that’s… pretty much it. I picked up my suitcase and made my way to LAX without incident so, no, no celebrity sightings. Although, now that I think about it, when Serena and I were on Melrose, we heard a bunch of people going like “Oh my god, isn’t that Skrillex? I met him at the Grammys!” LA, amirite? Hahaha I don’t even know if they were right, but the guy they were talking about did at least look like Skrillex. But yeah, LAX is a pretty crappy airport (the guys behind me in line were all wishfully talking about Changi while in line for security) and despite not wanting to leave LA, I was desperate to get out of the airport. I told my family that it reminded me of Subang Parade circa 2000.
I got into Philly early in the morning, about 4.30AM. I was asleep by six and woke up at noon. I am admittedly a little bit jet lagged still, even though the time difference between the coasts is only 3 hours. I probably could have gotten over it last night if Kim and I hadn’t caught the 11PM screening of Get Out. I’m not one for horror films—Kim and I seriously were gasping and squealing non stop throughout the entire movie—but though Get Out is decidedly not enough to convert me into a scary movie person, I did think it was well thought out, unique and had great cinematography.
Anyway. It’s like 5.45PM in the evening as I write this and I have to get ready to go to dinner. I hope you liked this post and I’m sorry I didn’t post anything last week—I was labouring over 5 other written pieces all due on Sunday and my writing juices were all spent. Plus, nothing happened last week. So I’ll make up for it next week or something. I hope you had a good week, enjoy the weekend!
P.S. It took all the strength I had in my body to not title this post with some La La Land reference. I just thought it would be too cliche, even for me.