Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 4) - Little Tokyo

January 25, 2016 (continued): The next place I checked out was mainly the Japanese Village Plaza area in Little Tokyo. Making my way from the Go For Broke Monument, I passed by some interesting art along the way.

On the side of one of the buildings in the Japanese American National Museum is a mural entitled, Moon Beholders by Katie Yamasaki.

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Further down the street beside the other building of the museum is the OOMO Cube, a giant rubix-like cube with different facial features from all different backgrounds and ethnicities you can mix and match to show that we are more similar than different. I added my mean “frowning in the sunlight” mug to the equation on one of the mirrored sides of the sculpture.

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I then ventured towards the Japanese Village Plaza. Out in front is a replica of a Japanese fire lookout called the Yagura Fire Tower. It was actually designed by a Korean-American architect David Hyun in 1978.

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Inside the plaza is small but has a mix of Japanese themed shops specializing in nik naks, toys, clothes and beauty. There are also a few restaurants, sweets and bakery shops and a Japanese market.

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In the courtyard are traditional, Japanese wishing trees where people write their wishes on small pieces of paper and tie them to the bamboo tree. In normal tradition the tree is later thrown into the river or brought to a shrine and set fire to in order for the wish to come true. I just thought it was a lovely scene in being able to visually see people's hopes and dreams in colorful, physical form.

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It was starting to get late, and I was getting hungry so I went to try a nearby ramen restaurant Shin-Sen-Gumi which in Little Tokyo is located across the street from the Japanese Village Plaza. At this location there is usually a line of patrons waiting to get in, pretty much any time of day but it usually moves fairly quickly. They sell only one type of base broth and then you choose from a variety of toppings including a miso butter bomb, to tomato paste and mozzarella(!!). I got one of the suggested combinations of kimchi, garlic chips and a poached egg. It was delicious, the noodles were nicely aldente, the toppings added a nice texture and flavor variation that helped cut the richness of the broth.

It was also surreal to see non-Japanese chefs cooking the ramen who conversing in perfect Japanese. At the same time it made me ashamed in my own lack of fluency.

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I finished off the night with dessert at the Mikawaya store back in the plaza, where they have a variety of different flavored Japanese mochi ice cream. Here is the cookies and cream version. 美味しかった! (It was delicious!).

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Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 1) - Eggslut, Grand Central Market, and the Bradbury Building

January 25, 2016 (continued): Day 3 of my trip in LA, consisted of tackling the Downtown area. For breakfast, I definitely wanted to try the much lauded, Eggslut - I’d seen it mentioned by a couple YouTubers and the food looked delicious. Their first and only location at the time was in Grand Central Market, a hub of many different food vendors that you could eat cuisines from around the world and never have left that place.

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Since this was their only location at the time, and as many hyped places tend to have, the line stretched around the block. Usually I just skip it if there’s a line, because most of the time the line wait vs the food in the end is almost never worth it. But I was determined and the line moved fairly quickly so it wasn’t too bad. The menu is pretty simple with only a few selections, so I ordered the Fairfax Sandwich (soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, sriracha mayo, in a brioche bun), it’s namesake the Slut (coddled egg on top of a puree poached in a glass jar, topped with gray salt, chives and served with a baguette), and fresh orange juice.

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Now living in LA I have tried a few of Eggslut’s different items and I feel like most are just ok, tend to be quite rich, and the seasoning is hit or miss, except for the Slut. That is almost worth waiting in line for on its own to me, as when you receive the Slut, you quickly stir the coddled egg into the potato puree and then dip your baguette in. The warm, creaminess of the mixture coats your mouth in deliciousness and the crunch of the bread adds a nice, needed counterbalance to the smooth texture.

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After my big breakfast, I needed some java to get me going for the rest of the day. I stopped by G&B Coffee, still in Grand Central Market and ordered a Mocha and what I thought was a sweet potato pie, but it turns out it was a coffee flavor, so I was double fisting it on to my next locale. While stopping to figure out how to carry all my equipment and 2 coffees, I had a direct view of the famous Angels Flight, which was featured in the movie La La Land.

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While researching the area, I saw that the Bradbury building was nearby and a neat place to visit if you’re into interiors/architecture. It is still a functioning office building, so you’re only able to go in the lobby area unless you have an appointment. Originally built in 1893, it has been featured in several films including Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer.

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When you walk in, you immediately are transported back in time with all the architectural details of the past. The entire ceiling is a glass skylight, to let the natural light shine through.

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The gorgeous, ornate ironwork staircases are divine, I mean I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to stairs, so you know I’m a little obsessed with these.

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To top it off they still have a set of working birdcage elevators. I would definitely recommend stopping by if you’re in the area.

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Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 4 (Part 3) - Palace de Fine Arts and Golden Gate Bridge

January 22, 2016 (continued): I decided to walk from Lucasfilm to the Palace de Fine Arts, it looked like an easy, quick trail on Google Maps. Alas, that wasn’t the case as the arrow always seems to point in the opposite direction for a while while walking, you start heading the wrong way and then it finally beeps to turn around - by then you’ve gone off the beaten path. That coupled with road blocks and construction at the time, exhaustion from lugging all my equipment, and dodging the rain - I was a hot, frustrated mess by the time I got to the destination. However, my heightened emotional state quickly dissipated as soon as the monumental structure started to come into view.

The architecture and its surrounding environment of the man made lagoon was breathtaking to say the least, photos do not do justice to the magnitude and beauty of seeing it in person. I have been fortunate enough to have visited Italy and viewed many famous Roman architectures, and I feel the Palace of Fine Arts is certainly comparable. Standing under the main dome, the vast height of the structure looms over with it’s intricately carved honeycomb ceiling and statues. I can see why this place was featured as a backdrop to many movies including Vertigo.

I eventually made my way to the most iconic sight to see in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. As I was walking there from the Palace of Fine Arts, I only made it to the Crissy Field Beach before my legs and exhaustion gave out. Though I only made it to the beach, it still gave a nice, clear, side-on view of the entire bridge. Now that I live in California, I will be definitely making my way back to San Francisco to cross the bridge and another thing off my bucket list!

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Ending off my day back in downtown, I had dinner at Delarosa. I was craving my Italian food, googled and found this spot. They had these delectable and artery hardening deep-fried macaroni and cheese balls that everyone was raving about in their reviews. I got there and it was packed to the brim, luckily as a solo traveler I got a spot at the bar fairly quickly. I ordered the deep-fried balls and a caesar salad to you know, off set the decadence of the balls, but yes I know caesar salad isn’t exactly health food either.

My food arrived, and a couple next to me even commented when they saw the balls like, “whoa what is that?!”. If I’m going to be honest maybe they were too hyped in my mind because they were just ok. Not bad, but not amazing either. Maybe it was a little too rich for me, and even the tomato sauce it came in couldn’t off-set the decadence.

Weekly Update: LA - Supermoon, Sunsets, Street Art and Stuffing My Face

October 2 - October 14: I’ve decided to try to incorporate a weekly, visual diary on the blog. I wanted to start documenting things more frequently again, as I did with the photo a day challenge on my instagram last year - it was a nice reminder of what I did on a particular day. I feel like it will also push me to explore again and spark my creativity, as I’ve kind of got into a rut of the daily grind of get up, go to work, get home late, go to sleep and do it all over again. Hopefully it won’t be too boring, though I have a strange fascination of seeing someone else’s day to day life, even the mundane tasks, maybe it reminds me that we’re all human at the end of the day. I also like to mentally bookmark interesting places that they go to for when I someday visit that place. These will most likely be shots from my phone and when I remember to document things so they probably won’t be artistic masterpieces, just random recorded memories.

Let’s begin! Yes, I realize October 2 - 14 is more than a week but I had some images I wanted to share before I thought to start this so I’ve included a bonus round.

October 2: My drive home from work was made a little bit brighter (no pun intended) due to the huge supermoon that hung in the sky at the beginning of this month. I wish I had my DSLR with me to capture the true size of that thing, it was like a bat signal in the sky it was so ginormous.

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I’ve been on a health kick as of late, working out everyday and eating better, so cooking more at home. I tried out this recipe of Roasted Carrots with Farro, Chickpeas and herbed Creme Fraiche. I subbed the farro for brown rice and the creme fraiche for the tahini sauce in the substitution part of the recipe. It came out pretty tasty, I think I overcooked the carrots a little, but the sweetness of the heirloom carrots made it come out caramelized and slightly crispy which was a nice added texture.

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October 3: Supermoon round 2, while waiting in traffic in Beverly Hills.

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October 4: Sunsets and supermoon while leaving work again. I like how in the last picture you can’t easily distinct the moon from the street lights but in real life it was as the song suggests, like a huge pizza pie!

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October 7: Started off the weekend at Black Dog Coffee where my favorite Avocado Toast is. This is the Deluxe Avocado Toast and worth every penny, its size is hefty and you have to hold it with two hands because it is stacked high with goodies. A large slice of bread is covered in avocado, arugula, fresh, soft melt in your mouth burrata cheese, tomatoes and drizzled with pesto and balsamic vinegar - heaven on toast!

Later, I spotted a little Lucille Dog (?) art on a clean up your dog’s poop sign.

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October 8: I treated myself to one of my favorite ramen in LA, the Spicy Vegan Miso Ramen at Jinya Ramen. I feel like if you can make a tasty vegetarian/vegan food, then you’ll be pretty good at making the other items on their menu. Unlike a pho place I tried that shall remain nameless whose vegetarian broth had less taste than if they just put water in there as the soup! Anyway this Vegan Miso Ramen is not missing any flavor and manages to retain the umami-ness that other normally pork-based broths have. This ramen contains soft tofu, onion, green onion, spinach, crispy onion, garlic chips, black garlic oil, chilli oil, sesame seeds and thick noodles. I had to add one of the best things about ramen, an ajitama egg (marinated, soft-boiled egg) to the mix. Even though it is named “Spicy” it is definitely a tolerable heat that doesn’t overpower the meal and you can still taste other flavors.

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October 9: The next couple of days had the most gorgeous sunsets, the sun was like a glowing fireball and the skies hued in pastel.

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October 10: Leaving work, the sunset had set the sky on fire again.

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Earlier, I said I was on a health kick, but I don’t deny myself things that I’m craving and it’s actually helped a lot than when I’ve dieted in the past to not completely restrict myself - because you end up thinking about it more than just having a little taste. SK’s donuts are heaven in a shop as they are open 24 hours, rotating out freshly made donuts throughout the day. Their cronuts are some of the best I’ve tasted as they have a nice crunch to them that most others I’ve tried have failed to capture. I just got a simple selection, a chocolate sprinkle, red velvet, and a cream cheese filled donut with oreo topping. Their cakey donuts are delicious, decadent, but not too heavy.

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October 11: A little bumper sticker wisdom on the drive home from work, “I am a leaf on the wind… watch how I soar.”

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October 12: A serendipitous moment of parallels, a man with a red and white striped shirt standing in front of the red and silver striped Peterson Automotive Museum.

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Later that night, I went to grab dinner in West Hollywood, and spotted Salt & Straw’s ribbon art on the side of their store. I first tried them in Portland last year - delicious, innovative ice cream.

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October 14: Finally working on editing my video diary from my west coast trip last year. I’ve been procrastinating, since it’s been a steep learning curve teaching myself Premiere Pro. I’ve edited videos in the past in iMovie but I wanted more control over certain elements so that’s why it’s been taking a while but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Any tips would be appreciated!

That’s it for this “week”. I will try to finish up writing for my west coast trip travel diary series and post those as well!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 4 (Part 2) - Lombard St, The Presidio, and Lucasfilm

January 22, 2016 (continued): To get from Chinatown to Lombard St, I rode on my first San Francisco tram. It was a slightly traumatic experience, because the seats were already crammed and I had my big gear bag and heavy winter coat so I was trying to sit down but the tram had already started moving. That coupled with the steps slick with rain I slipped and almost fell out, but luckily the other passengers reacted quickly and held onto my arms while I grabbed onto the bar.

After composing myself from nearly having my life flash before my eyes, I got off at my next stop. There were already a few people gathered taking selfies on the top of Lombard St and it’s winding road. It was a cool bucket list thing to see, but am glad it was on my way to other destinations because it is not as big as you expect it to be and not sure if I came here specifically it would be worth my while. It was interesting to see how the cars would have to carefully swerve each tight corner, especially with the wet roads.

After all the walking I was getting a bit weary and peckish, so I stopped for a little lunch and relaxation. I googled nearby spots, and an Indian restaurant, Curry Leaf came up - it sounded like the perfect place, as I was craving something warming to eat. Also having lived in Hawaii for a while, I had missed a lot of the good Indian restaurants I grew up eating while in New Zealand.

Along the way there were a couple more cool street art murals as well as an interestingly named theater.

At the Curry Leaf, I ordered the butter chicken with jasmine rice and a garlic naan bread. It was the perfect antidote to the mixture of cold, wet, and hungry attitude I was feeling, and it hit the spot. The portion could have probably fed two people!

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To work off my huge lunch, I walked towards The Presidio, a former military outpost that was now part of the Golden Gate Park filled with tons of trails, museums, mini parks, and my next destination, Lucasfilm. I’d read during my research that tourists can come by and visit the lobby area where many of the iconic characters are displayed.

Outside Lucasfilm was a fountain with statue of Yoda, there is kind of a special, funny meaning to him for me personally. As a baby, I was nicknamed Yoda, because when my dad first saw me when I was born, I apparently resembled the wrinkly little alien. Hopefully I wasn’t as green as he was! 

Inside the lobby, there were many costumes and statues of all the iconic Star Wars characters, a storm trooper, Boba Fett, and of course Darth Vader himself. Also displayed were many of the awards the company had won. Personally, I would have been excited to see something from my favorite of the Lucasfilm franchises Indiana Jones, but it was a cool experience nonetheless.

Later, I explored a little more around the park - it was so expansive you could almost get lost! It even had its own Starbucks there! Again, I would have loved to walk around more but the rain was picking up and I wanted to get to my other sights to see!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 1) - Blue Bottle & Alcatraz

January 21, 2016 (continued): Being raised in New Zealand - home of many coffee connoisseurs, my eternal search for a great cup coffee in the States continued with Blue Bottle Coffee. I’d heard good things about it, so I decided to start off my day there with breakfast.

I walked to the cafe from my temporary residence, seeing great little snippets of art and architecture along the way.

I arrived there early, yet a line had already formed out the door - thankfully it moved pretty quickly. I made my order of a eggs and toast with I think was a salsa verde sauce, and a mocha. The meal and coffee were a bit on the higher end of cost, but both were well made so I had no complaints. I also liked watching their cool siphon contraption and watching the barista stir the coffee in a beaker over an open flame, it felt like being in a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Finishing up my meal, I hopped on a tram towards my next locale - Alcatraz! Being a tourist in this city, why not visit the No. 1 tourist destination in the States. I pre-booked my tickets through the official site, before I left for my trip as I read that tours are nearly always sold out on the day.

Going into the tour, I only had a general knowledge of it being the most notoriously inescapable prisons, for the most hard core criminals. My curiosity leaned more towards why everyone who had visited previously, encouraged others to do so fervently.

The line for the ferry was snaked around the lot and I can see why you should definitely pre-book your tickets, we eventually hopped aboard and departed from Pier 33. The ferry consisted of indoor seating but of course, most people chose to wrap themselves around the outside decks. It was definitely a brisk, prickly combination with the mix of San Francisco winter winds and the speed of the boat but the view was worth it. We got to witness views of the Bay Bridge, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and the mass of seagulls overhead and diving below - fishing for their next meal.


We arrived at Alcatraz and gathered near the dock where the docent welcomed us in and gave us a little introduction into the history. At the gathering point, you could still see remnants when the Native Americans took over the island. After the introduction we were free to explore on our own, and once inside you could get the guided tour headsets. Walking around the outside, it was a kind of eerie feeling seeing all the abandoned buildings where nature and time had taken over.

In one of the exhibits, they had displayed many of the prisoner’s personal stories of what lead them to be incarcerated. It was incredibly moving and gave you pause to not paint everyone in prison with an “evil” brushstroke. Many of them were in desperate times, stealing to provide for their family, or got caught up with the wrong people and were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I made my way into the main prison area, where they gave you headsets that guided you through with the corresponding numbers above each area. Seeing it in person you got to see how big the prison really was, with stacks up stacks, and rows upon rows of cells that were so tight you could practically touch each end with arms stretched.

It was also interesting to see remnants of the numerous escape attempts by inmates, from widening bars with a nut and bolt contraption and starving themselves to fit through, to the infamous Battle of Alcatraz where prisoners overpowered officers, and gained control of weapons and the hanging key from the gun gallery. You could still see the damage on the floor where security had dropped grenades through the roof in an attempt to corral the prisoners to a certain area.

Out of the Administration building you could see the skyline of San Francisco as well as the Golden Gate Bridge.

Back inside the Admin building, there was this creepy red handprint above the doorframe that wasn’t mentioned in the tour but through later google research is apparently from the Native American occupation.

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I headed into the prison area where the only successful escape attempt took place. Four inmates were in on the plan and they had sculpted dummy heads in their likeness from soap, toilet paper, hair clippings from the barber and paint from the workshop. These were placed in bed the night of the escape. For 6 months they had widened the hole of the ventilation duct in their cells using various tools found discarded around the prison, this lead to the utility corridor behind the walls that was unguarded. Three of the inmates escaped successfully and their disappearance was only discovered the next morning.

I finished off my tour walking through various parts of the prison including the kitchen and underground where they showed a film on the history of Alcatraz. In the gift shop there was a former inmate there promoting his book on his experience.

I ended my tour and got onto the next ferry heading back towards San Francisco. My overall experience of Alcatraz showed me why many recommend visiting, it is thought-provoking, eye-opening, and you get to see humanity or lack thereof that took place. It is also being able to experience a piece of history that has been frozen in time, and how often do you get to do that?

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For...

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ICE CREAM (sandwiches and coffee)! I'm always up for little adventures, and what better way to test out my new camera then venture out to the windward side for an ice cream treat and coffee!

ChadLou's have THE most perfect nommies for your tummy! There are ice cream sandwiches, in which you choose from their in-house baked cookies and a range of unique ice creams (including Okinawan sweet potato!). My selection today was the chocolate chip cookies filled with "Hawaiian Mud Pie" ice cream. I washed it down with one their signature coffees - the Makapu'u Mocha - coconut, macadamia, mocha flavored coffee... ugh so yum!

images by me!