Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 2 (Part 2) - Venice Beach & Pier

January 25, 2016 (continued): Since I was in the nearby Venice Canals, I thought I’d pay a visit to the famous Venice Beach. Little did I realize, that this beach spans a vast width along the coast with the pier and boardwalk looking closer together on the map, it was definitely not in walking distance. Having now visited the boardwalk and Muscle Beach a couple times, the two areas could not be more different. My moments on the pier were calm and serene with only a few people scattered across the beach. Plus it was probably because at this time it was winter and the winds were brisker than usual.

I do like how the lack of people in the area, gives the photos sort of a dreamy, chill vibe to it.


Travel Diary: Portland - Day 4

January 14, 2016: On my last day in Portland, I wanted to explore the Eastern Promenade Trail where you can view many of the famous bridges that cross the Willamette River into downtown.

The day started off with breakfast at the much hyped Tasty n Sons, where I ordered the Moroccan chicken hash and a "nutritious" chocolate potato doughnut on the side. The Moroccan chicken hash had a nice, complex blend of flavors that warmed the palette with its hint of spice. While I found the doughnut to be nice, it was a little on the dry and crumbly side unfortunately.

Moroccan Chicken Hash at Tasty n Sons.

Chocolate potato doughnut with creme anglaise at Tasty n Sons.

Something that made me chuckle while waiting for the bus.

After breakfast I headed towards the Eastern Promenade Trail. Right away, you’re confronted by the Steel Bridge, opening up for boats passing through and rumbling under the weight of the light rail and cars. The view from the walkway, you can peek through to the Broadway and Fremont bridges. On the other side was a clear view of the Burnside bridge leading to Old Town. Seeing the expanse of the river and downtown was breathtaking (but it also could’ve been the dead of winter air that was taking my breath away!).

Heading further into the trail, there is a dock that you can walk into the river on and get an unobstructed view of the city. There, I found amusing little graffiti anecdotes that make Portland the absurd city that I love.

I ended my walk across the promenade and ended up in the Pearl District area. Needing a pitstop and shelter from the cold I went for a Moroccan latte at Ovation Coffee & Tea, which had a front row view of the Fremont bridge. Later on, I grabbed a vegetarian burrito for dinner at the Laughing Planet Cafe, before heading back to catch my flight to Seattle that night.

Fremont Bridge

My overall view of the first time visiting Portland is that it is one of the friendliest places I have ever been. I feel like their city motto of “Keep Portland Weird” really resonates with its culture in that I never felt judged by the natives, and everyone I encountered was willing to engage in a friendly conversation. It was definitely a great start to my trip across the west coast.

All photos taken by me on my Canon 70D and iPhone 6.

Travel Diary: Portland - Day 3

January 13, 2016: On my 3rd day in Portland, I ventured towards the Nob Hill district after hearing about the eclectic shopping and sights to see.

For breakfast, I stopped in at Vivace and ordered a monstrous (seriously, it was the size of a dinner plate) savory crepe with spring greens, tomato, walnuts, feta, mozzarella, topped off with a creme pesto, while washing it down with a nice, hot mocha. It was a delicious hallelujah moment.

Upon finishing up my breakfast, I went to burn off my instant calorie load by exploring the neighborhood. Serendipity occurred when I randomly decided to turn a corner and stumbled upon a place on my “I like weird things” list to visit, The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum. It is a store with an assortment of peculiar odds and ends available for purchase with a museum attached. The museum is small but blanketed with all things strange on every corner, that to me was worth the $5 admission. It even has those Instagrammable photo ops where you can be an alien autopsy victim or stand next to their giant Bigfoot.

After my museum visit, I did a little shopping and found the street where Reverend Lovejoy was named after. I found Nob Hill to be quite a charming place to stroll through, with enough variation of vendors to keep just about anyone interested.

The retail therapy left me hankering for a little snack and I discovered the much lauded Salt & Straw shop was nearby. They are known for their unconventional ice cream flavors. I opted for the Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper and Pear with Blue Cheese. Somehow, they manage to get the flavors just right where the crazier concepts aren’t too overpowering and it’s this nice subtle blend of flavors that seem to just work together.

Eventually I headed back into town, but the infamous Portland rain had struck so I took shelter in a nearby mall. Even in a conventional mall, I found shops with interesting products like the coloring book that put the “adult” back into adult coloring book.

I ended the night at Killer Burger - where I got the Jose Mendoza, a 1/3 lb beef patty with bacon, roasted green chilies, jack cheese, house sauce, grilled onion, pickle, and a side of fries. It was the perfect heat up your insides on a chilly, winter night meal cap to an interesting day.

All photos taken by me on my Canon 70D and iPhone 6.

Travel Diary: Portland - Day 2

 January 13, 2016: My second day of the trip started at a place I’d heard many rave reviews about, Mother’s Bistro. I decided to try their special of the day - waffles with peach compote and whipped cream, a side of extra crispy bacon and coffee. While their service was amazing, I think I had hyped the food up too much in my mind and was a little underwhelmed. It was still good, but not outstanding, I’d still go back and try some of the other items though.

After breakfast, I walked my way through downtown - spotting incredible Art Deco buildings (my favorite art movement), little office messages constructed out of post-its, the cold and the creativity was invigorating. I ended up at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, mainly due to my love of vintage signs and typography. After many selfie and angles were taken, I made my way around more of the downtown area, heading towards Chinatown.

The downtown exploration lead to walks through Lownsdale Square, where I was stopped by a Canadian fellow asking if I was a photographer - ended up talking about what we were both doing in Portland and why (see how solo travel sparks many delightful, unexpected encounters). Following the chit chat I furthered my way towards Chinatown, my journey slowing every few seconds as I was bedazzled by the charming historic buildings and street art murals everywhere I turned.

I finally made it to Old Town Chinatown, I love to check out the different Chinatown’s to see what spin that city has put on it (and because it’s probably an impulse in my DNA being half Chinese). Again, the vibrant historic buildings did not disappoint for me, and also once again I was stopped and asked if I was a photographer. They asked where I was from, to which I replied I was visiting from Hawaii, and then got a remark I haven’t heard in a long time, (especially after they hear I’m from Hawaii) was that “I spoke good English”. They were nice, but I had a nice little chuckle to myself afterwards, and was a reminder that some people still think we wear grass skirts and live in tree houses in Hawaii (not kidding, actual questions that have been asked before).

My love for vintage lead me towards the iconic “White Stag” sign, where I took in the views of both sides of the river up on the bridge. The famous Voodoo Doughnuts was nearby, so it wasn’t a really difficult choice to stop in. Their doughnut names were hilarious, especially when you have to say what you want to the cashier, including some *ahem* phallic themed ones. I just got an oreo topped doughnut along with their classic voodoo doll one. Verdict: I think go to visit just to see it but the doughnuts were like regular doughnuts to me, just with interesting and amusing themes. While it was still a little early for dinner, I stopped off at a Stumptown Coffee nearby because when in Rome (or Portland for that matter). It definitely lived up to the hype and was the perfect little jolt I needed.

Finally it was dinner time and I decided to try Grassa, because they make their own pasta for a reasonable price, and I if I had to choose one meal for the rest of my life it would probably be a type of pasta. I decided to go with their truffle parmesan fettucine, and let’s just say this is me every time I think of it. Nothing short of divine! Following dinner, I decided to burn off some carbs with a little retail exercise (a.k.a. shopping) around town. The glow of the neon signs and leftover Christmas decorations was a magical ending to the night.

All photographs taken by my with a Canon 70D and iPhone 6.

Solo Travel

Self-portrait at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts.

Self-portrait at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts.

Back in January, I took a solo trip along the United States’ west coast to scout for locations that I was considering moving to. I picked four main creative hubs I was interested in: Portland (Oregon), Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where I’d spend about 3 weeks total getting a feel for these places.

Before this, I had traveled quite a bit but had never really on my own - the one time being a weekend trip to a neighbor island in Hawaii, which wasn’t too much of a stretch since it was in the same state I was living at the time. As an introvert, I definitely had all the anxiety and fears of making a trip like this on my own, compounded with the noise of other people worried that it wasn’t safe for a young woman to travel solo, or that I didn’t know anyone in those places, or that I was going somewhere I haven’t been, alone.

If you can take only one thing from this post, just remember this - I’m glad I didn’t listen to the negativity and did it anyway. I can’t say enough how much I highly recommend doing a solo trip, at least once in your life, no matter what age you are or what your relationship status is. Yes, it is always nice to share something like this with someone, but this allows a time of seeing what you’re capable of and of self reflection. Granted, I was traveling within the same country and a first world one at that, it was still something that was most definitely out of my comfort zone.

Here are some things I learned on this solo trip:

  • Things are never really as bad as you think (or other people try to tell you) that they may be.
  • A smartphone and google maps is a life saver.
  • Interaction with others is much higher if they see you’re on your own. I’ve never had so many people come up and ask me about myself. It helped that I had a big camera with me to act as the ice breaker - i.e. asking if I was a photographer.
  • You learn to take yourself out for a nice meal, and not care what anyone else thinks (because most people are thinking about themselves anyway!).
  • You can do whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it. If you want to spend all day at the museum - do it! Or if you just want to spend the night in - you can!
  • You learn what you’re capable of and feel great that you accomplished it.

Tips if you’re having apprehensions about traveling on your own:

  • Make sure someone you can rely on has a copy of your itinerary - just incase something does happen.
  • Have at least 2 physical copies (stored in different places) of important contact information - emergency contacts, accommodations, consulates etc.
  • Like I said, a smartphone and google maps is your life saver. It’s how I found what public transports to take, where I was going, what to eat, etc. Some places, I could even download the bus pass to my phone and not have to carry a physical copy.
  • Because you might be using your smartphone a lot, it’s wise to invest in a battery bank for those times that you might not be near a place with access to an outlet.
  • Just remember to be aware of your surroundings and if you have any funny feelings at all, you can always leave. Remember, no one is there to judge you and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Preparation definitely took a lot of anxiety out of traveling on my own. I made sure I did these before my trip:
    • Obviously booking flight and accommodation.
    • Did my research on public transportation options - how easily accessible is it? Is it reliable? Is there an unlimited pass I can get that I could hop on and off with?
    • I made sure to at least map out how I would get to and from the airport to my accommodation so I wouldn’t have to worry about it once I disembarked.
    • Research what are the safer areas and ones you should probably avoid at night, just so you don’t accidentally stumble into something when you are out there on your own.
    • My last tip is what Nike has been saying all these years, “Just Do It”. You’ll never know until you try, and you’ll be glad you did!  

Tomorrow I will start posting my travel diaries from this trip, along with some tips to see and do. Have you ever traveled solo before? Or if you’re thinking about it - comment down below where you’re thinking of going?