Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 2) - Haight-Ashbury

January 19, 2016 (continued): When going to San Francisco, with an interest in the funky and artistic, you must visit the iconic Haight-Ashbury district - birthplace of the hippie movement.

Getting there early, a lot of the shops weren’t open yet so it gave me time to explore the street as a whole. I was instantly attracted to the vibrancy and vibe of the street’s facades, with enough interesting street art to fill my camera roll to my heart’s content, colorful Victorian architecture, and bits and pieces of the weird and wonderful.

Once the shops started opening I visited a few including Wasteland where I found the exact Jean Paul Gaultier jacket Cher wore in Clueless.

Also paid a visit to the original Amoeba Music store, widely known for being one of the biggest independent music chain stores. It felt like they had every music, movie, poster known to man - their catalog was huge and slightly overwhelming!

All images taken by me and opinions are my own.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 1) - Union Square

January 19, 2016 (continued): My day started off walking around my temporary neighborhood and seeing it for the first time in daylight. It was just as colorful and vibrant as it was at night. In contrast, one of my favorite buildings I came across was a black and white one that had such a cool graphic quality to it.

I ate breakfast at a nearby restaurant, Sears Fine Food. It was pretty cool as they give you a token to play the slot machine for your next free meal. Unfortunately, it was no dice for me.

After filling up on food, I went down to catch my ride at the tram stop nearby and while I was waiting I got to see a cool mix of old and modern architecture.

All images taken by me and opinions my own.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 1 - Late Night Arrival

January 19, 2016 (continued): Flying into San Francisco, I was greeted by the most stunning sunset I’ve ever witnessed - the sky was filled with bands of blood red and baby pink (the photos don’t do it justice!). I took this as a good omen for my next set of adventures here.

Landing in SFO, I hitched ride on the BART to my hotel. To lessen any stress, I like to be prepared and as hassle free as possible when traveling so I pre-booked my round trip ticket. I pre-printed the ticket before my trip so I could directly board the train without waiting in any lines. I was also fortunate enough that one of the stations was only a couple blocks walk to my stay for the next few days, Kensington Park Hotel.

 Walking to my hotel in Union Square, I was in the thick of the buzzing night life and I was intoxicated. The lights, the crowd, all the sights to see within a few blocks, I couldn’t get enough and it put an extra pep in my step - which helped when I had to drag my suitcase and thick winter coats uphill! I got to my destination and found it to be a charming, boutique hotel. Built in the 1920s, it had kept a lot of what I loved aesthetically about that era, the vintage fixtures, tiled floor, etc. My room was a nice size with a luxe feel to it. The only drawback was my window looked directly at another building’s wall, which is why I probably got it for a deal!

After freshening up and settling in, my buzz was still going so I ventured out to explore the area nearby. My first stop of course was for dessert at a nearby Ghirardelli. So many choices but I went classic with a scoop each of chocolate and cookies ‘n’ cream. They were a perfectly delicious nightcap and they gave you a couple squares of their signature chocolate as a bonus!

To walk off my dessert, I explored a little more near my hotel. I found a ton of high end shops and the Dewey Monument only about a block away. Just outside the Monuments square, was a man playing a jazzy tune on his trumpet and it set the mood for a kind of lovely, romantic introduction to this city.

Apologies for the phone quality photos as I didn’t feel like dragging out my big camera after I arrived. But I promise I have a whole slew of goodies coming up next!

All photos taken by me and opinions are my own.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 5 - Bits 'n Pieces Travel Day

January 18, 2016 (continued): For this day, my visual documentation was limited due to a mixture of being burnt out from the previous day’s adventures and it being a traveling to the next leg of my tour day.

Below are just some random photos from my phone that I did manage to capture for that day.

I started off with breakfast at The Crumpet Shop since I was craving something pretty light from all the heavy eating I was doing the past few days and it was in walking distance from my hotel which was a bonus. It kind of amused me that such a “posh and proper” cuisine as tea and crumpets was right across from a Showgirls - I guess that’s the diversity of Seattle for you!

The Crumpet Shop makes crumpets from scratch so I was eager to indulge - I ordered the Pesto Tomato Parmesan and a Lemon Curd Ricotta flavors. The crumpets were fluffy, soft pillows of goodness, and the ingredients tasted fresh. I highly recommend stopping over their for breakfast or a snack if you’re in the area.

I had some time to kill before my flight, so I explored a little more of Pike Place Market. I was finally early enough to witness the famous fish tossing amongst the vendors. Got another fortune from the Zoltar outside the magic shop.

I walked around the nearby area and saw some cool street art along the way. Stopped off in the flagship Nordstrom store, where there was a Diptyque candle the size of my head -the photo doesn’t do the size justice.

I walked around the nearby area and saw some cool street art along the way. Stopped off in the flagship Nordstrom store, where there was a Diptyque candle the size of my head -the photo doesn’t do the size justice.

On my way to the airport, I spotted a cool mural. It’s funny, as I was taking this photo, a girl who was standing near me for a while also decided to take a photo. Is this like yawning, you see someone do it so you’re also compelled to do so?

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Finally reached my destination at the airport where I waited to board for the next leg of my adventure, San Francisco.

All images taken by me via iPhone6.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Belltown

January 18, 2016 (continued): Walking back to my hotel from my day about town, I got to go through the trendy Belltown neighborhood. I enjoyed the colorful (literally and metaphorically) stores, restaurants, architecture, and art. Below, are some of the highlights of my walk through, including a mannequin sporting a new clothing trend perhaps? ;)

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Museum of Pop Culture (Part 3)

January 18, 2016 (continued): Making my way out the film section of the museum, I came upon the "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" exhibition. I knew Hello Kitty was a phenom around the world, complete with her own hotel room, but I didn't realize the vast amount of different products she came in from tarot cards to Kendo equipment!

Some personal highlights for me was seeing the mini bubble gum machine and coin purse watch that I used to own as a kid, and collaborations with some of my favorite artists like Audrey Kawasaki, Apak, D*Face and Gary Baseman.

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Other exhibits I visited only briefly, as it was getting on in the day and my legs weren't going to hold out for much longer, was "Indie Game Revolution" (still currently exhibiting), where as it states in it's title you can play a bunch of indie games!

They also have a large music section with an explosion of Fender Stratocaster guitars, to actual recording studios where you get a chance to sing, play music etc. They even have a live band simulator where you and your friends can pretend to play in front of a live audience. There were also instruments from around the world, and of course it was great to see featured ukulele's from my birthplace, Hawaii.

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Delving further into the music related exhibits, I came across the "Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970" (still currently exhibiting), featuring pieces from his tour abroad. Again, it was cool to see his connection to my homeland, Hawaii!

I ended my tour at the "Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses" exhibition where it had a major collection of memorabilia from the band Nirvana, including Kurt Cobain's iconic cardigan!

I finished off my day at MPoP with an early dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Pop Kitchen & Bar, mostly because I didn't have lunch and wanted the nearest access to food to stave off my impending hangriness! I had the cheeseburger and truffle parmesan fries, it was pretty good and did the trick.

Overall I found MPoP had a nice range of exhibits, with a bonus factor of a lot being interactive. You could definitely spend the whole day here since they have quite a bit of pieces within each exhibit. I feel it would be worth a visit if you're interested in pop culture and in the area.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Museum of Pop Culture (Part 2)

January 18, 2016 (continued): Making my way throughout the museum, I ended up in the "Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic" exhibition (still currently available). The kid in me was a bit too excited to see many of my favorite childhood films represented there, I didn't realize how much of a fantasy buff I was.

The exhibition room is decked out with a large holographic tree house, dragon and dungeon so you're automatically transported into another world, which I thought was a fun touch.

For this post, I thought I'd do something a little different in that I'll discuss why the films featured here are some of my favorites and the lessons you can learn from them.

Wizard of Oz - The film no doubt tickles the visual senses yet the messages behind it's story are what makes it most powerful. Like life, Dorothy had to go through a lot of trials and tribulations in her journey on the Yellow Brick Road, and through those challenges she realized she "always had the power" to achieve what she wanted. Without going through life's lessons would we know what we're capable of? Everything's for a purpose. The "no place like home" aspect also resonates with me, in that she wished so much to be transported to another place, somewhere different and exciting and she got it, (in technicolor!). Yet, she found it wasn't what she expected and what made her happy was what she had at "home", that you should appreciate what you already have in front of you.

The Princess Bride - I feel this is a pretty universal film, in that most people of all ages and genders list it as one of their favorites. It's fun, adventurous and doesn't take itself too seriously. I think the the message behind this one is, while possibly cliche is that love conquers all. There's romantic love, Wesley and Princess Buttercup reuniting after all those years, and his love for her helped him through literal torture. There's familial love, where Inigo Montoya vowed to get revenge on the person who killed his father. Even where Fezzik and Inigo were kidnapping the Princess, they saw the love the protagonists had for each other that they ended up helping them.

Labyrinth - I used to watch the Labyrinth religiously as a kid, something about all the different elements she encountered was fun, and the contact juggling in the beginning always used to always fascinate me. The message at the end is something that still sticks with me to this day, where the heroine confronts Jareth and says, "You have no power over me". Like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, she must go through a series of challenges to get to what she wants, but then realizes that she held the power all along. We put so much stock into what other people think about us that we let it control our lives, from how we dress, to career choices, and beyond. When we finally see that we gave them that power and take it back for ourselves, the barriers disappear and receive our lives back.


Stay tuned for Part 3 of my visit to the Museum of Pop Culture!


All pictures are taken by me and opinions are my own.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Museum of Pop Culture (Part 1)

January 18, 2016 (continued): I ended my Seattle attraction trifecta at the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly known as the Experience Music Project Museum). MPoP has a bit of a pedigree, it was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and designed by renowned architect, Frank Gehry. It has exhibits dedicated to contemporary pop culture, sci-fi / fantasy, and the world of music.

You’ll run into outdoor art between the attractions in this area, the Broad Street Green - Sculpture Garden is made up of four large scale sculptures. Two of these can be seen if you are making your way from Chihuly to MPoP. Alexander Liberman's, red pipe-like structure, Olympic Iliad and Ronald Bladen's, self explanatory Black Lightning sculpture sitting on a lawn near MPoP.

Even MPoP’s architecture in itself is a work of art, with its’ undulating bronze (at the time) panels glimmering in whatever light could peek through the packed clouds on that day. I didn’t go on it, but the Seattle Monorail also runs literally right into the museum so if you’re on it’s route it could also be another sightseeing form of transportation.

Note: Writing this Travel Diary a year later means a lot has changed, not only its name from EMP to MPoP, to its outer shell (which I didn’t think could change so easily), and obviously the exhibits at the time, though some are still going on currently.

Upon entering the museum, there were several pathways to choose from once you check in, I started with the exhibit, “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film” which is still currently available. As you enter through the heavy doors, you descend down the stairs towards the basement, all the while a mural of hundreds of faces cast in red look at you in horror. It was an uneasy feeling of what to expect considering horror movies aren’t exactly high on my favorite genre list, yet I still enjoy seeing the odd one if I’m seeking that adrenaline rush for the night.

It was dark and somewhat eerie once inside the exhibit, but it was cool to see the original props and costumes from several iconic horror movies. Some of my favorite films were there, though I wouldn’t necessarily classify as horror with things like Pan’s Labyrinth’s knife, the demon from Constantine, and the mutated vampires from Blade 2 (to which Blade will always be my favorite Marvel superhero). There was also Gizmo from Gremlins (which was too cute to be horrific), Michael Myers creepy face/mask complete with chin hairs to send an extra chill down your spine, the alien from Alien, the Angel of Death from one of my other faves from Guillermo Del Toro - Hellboy, and so much more.

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I eventually crossed over into another exhibit “Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction” (also still currently going on), again featuring many props and costumes from iconic sci-fi / action movies. I was most excited to see they had items from several of my favorite movies, including a lifesize cyborg from Terminator, his leather jacket in the movie, even the finger sword from T2 that always made me hide behind my hands when they pan out to see what was at the end of that!

The little Mars Attacks vignette of props was also cool to see and I never forgot the scene where they transplanted Sarah Jessica Parker’s head onto her Chihuahua!

The hoverboards from Back to the Future 2 were also featured and it’s pretty cool to think we’re sort of nearing that reality soon.

They also had the Korben Dallas and Leeloo’s costumes from one of my all time favorite movies, The Fifth Element. I loved that they had Jean Paul Gaultier design the eccentric futuristic clothing, it’s a lot more fun to look at then the dystopic rags that seem to be so popular in sci-fi movies days!

The Ghostbusters proton pack, and ghost trapper was also cool to see since it was one of my favorite movies growing up, with Vigo creeping the crap out of me when I was younger. There were a couple of cool lit infinity halls that I couldn’t resist getting a self portrait moment. The array of the Men In Black alien guns featured in the movies was also included in the show. It was also great to see one of the bugs from Starship Troopers, a film I have no idea why but I’ve watched several times and pretty much know it by heart. I know, it’s not the greatest incarnation from its source material, but I love it for what it is - a campy, B-movie satire that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my MPoP exploration, there was too much to fit in one post!


All pictures are taken by me and opinions are my own.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Chihuly Glass & Garden

January 18, 2016 (continued): My next stop was something that’s been on my bucket list for a while, and luckily the Chihuly Garden & Glass was right next door to the Space Needle!

My introduction to the works of Dale Chihuly was originally coming across pictures of the stunning glass ceilings that he created for the Bellagio Casino in Vegas. He’s originally from Washington so what better than to see his works in his hometown.

The explosion of color throughout the gallery was akin to a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment, where the glass sculptures reminded me of giant candy ready to be picked! Of course it is sort of daunting going throughout there since everything is so delicately put together that one small move and it could all come crashing down! How they sculpted the pieces of blown glass to fit so intricately together like a puzzle is amazing, especially when seeing it in real life. Even though the pictures don’t do his work justice, see below for some of my favorite pieces from my time there.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Space Needle

January 18, 2016 (continued): First stop of the day was at the iconic Space Needle tower, a major tourist hotspot, but where else could I see a sweeping 360 degree view of the city? Ironically, I’ve lived in Auckland for most of my life and never visited the top of its sister scraper, the Sky Tower.

Tip: Get there early to avoid the lines as there are only a few elevators that can fit 25 people at a time, especially if you don’t pre-buy the tickets. However, the ride was at a blink and you’ll miss it speed, rocketing to the observation deck at 520 ft in a matter of seconds!

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The view was pretty spectacular, and I was lucky enough that the weather had cleared up nicely so that I could see Mt. Ranier in the distance.

Tip: Your ticket also allows one free digital picture at the “selfie” machine on the observation deck, where you scan the barcode of your ticket at the self automated machine and it will take a tall angled shot of you and the view below.

Since I had the City Pass for this particular visit, I did have a discounted ticket but I will say if you’re a first time visitor to Seattle, it’s definitely worth going for the views alone.

I spotted these giant daddy long legs on a rooftop that I thought was a 3D sculpture at first. Later I found out it was actually a mural created by Marlin Peterson who was commissioned by the Washington State Artist Trust to paint somewhere in the city.