Monday, October 6, 2008

Living the American Dream (SEPT 13 - OCT 5)

Now for the American Dream Blog Entry...

After waiting 30.5years, I FINALLY managed to land myself in AMERICA! Alan and I embarked on our journey on 13 September 2008 at 5+pm and arrived back in Malaysia yesterday morning, 5th October 2008 at 8am. It was a cool 23 days away!!! *claps*

A summary of events:
We joined an ASA tour package because initially we were too lazy to plan the route ourselves but extended our stay at each of the cities. San Francisco - Las Vegas - Los Angeles - Monterey - San Francisco again. We then did a self drive back from LA to SF.

Day 1
After meeting Elaine and Weesuan for brunch, Alan came back from Sharon and Chris' ROM and then dad n mum drove us to the airport. We flew SQ2 SIN-HK-SFO. we arrive at around 830pm SF time on 13 sept also and then a limo came to fetch us to Hotel Whitcomb. SHIOK. :D We begun our experience with Burger King for dinner.

Day 2

After bf of Subway, we were taken on a full day city tour by Helen Wong, the tour operator there. In fact, on our second day there, due to the full day city tour, we sort of saw almost all the attractions that the small (7mile by 7 mile) city, SF had to offer. We went to City Hall, Lombard St (the short but crookiest street), Fisherman's Wharves (toge with bay cruise), Pier 39 (where the sealions gather and bask in the sun), Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park etc etc. Most memorable was the bay cruise - we got to see Alcatraz as well. *shudder* It was BK again for dinner. YUCKS.

Day 3
We were on our own for Day 3 and took the street car F to Ferry Building for brunch. We had yummy Jap at the Jap deli there and then proceeded to walk (very far) to Pier 39. We bought some tees and SF bags at a souvenir shop and then had a very bad snack of a very-ex hotdog and yucky clam chowder. The breadbowl in which the chowder came in was used to feed the pigeons. Then we walked (again) to beyond Pier 47 to visit Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum. Hmm... not that fascinating (lah). Dorothy's suggestion brought us to In n Out Burgers where we savoured the cheap cheap goot goot meal and then we shopped at Union Square (the Orchard Road of SF). Alan bought his jeans from Levis there and we walked (again) to Chinatown to have a delicious meal at Bow Hon restaurant with a sulky female manager cum waitress of service. We walked back to Hotel Whitcomb after that and rested our sore and aching feet and calves in the cosy hotel.

Day 4

Helen Wong picked us up late (because of a massive bay Bridge accident which caused a huge jam early in the morning). We stopped for lunch at KFC (and had the most delicious KFC meals of our lives!). Next was Yosemite National Park. We were NOT IMPRESSED. Luckily, there were quite a few lil squirrels which amused us during the hour we were there. We had a yummy dinner buffet and then checked in (late in the evening) into Days Inn. The motel was pretty cosy and sufficed for a one night stay.

Day 5

The coach brought us to Coach in Barstow. hahaha. We visited at Tanger Outlets in Barstow. For anyone planning a shopping trip to West America, this is a place to go. Too bad we were only given 1 hour to shop and we spent all of the hour in Coach. hahaa. It was super packed with mainly cheena tourists who were clutching onto bags, wallets, purses like Coach was as cheap as your pasar malum knock-offs. Hahaha. Refusing to lose out, the true Singaporean in me proceeded to shop like there was no tomorrow. we bought bags for our mamas and Sharon had a messanger bag (I hv one too). I was the eventual winner with a red patent sling, a small handbag, a small red handbag etc. haha. Life was as good as it got there and then! Lunch was at the Phoenix buffet.

After a long drive to Las Vegas, we checked into the Riveria a hotel which wasn't very desirable as it was away from the main area of The Strip. What to do? We quickly boarded the bus again and went on our Night tour. We visited Ceaser Palace for their show, photos at the Venetian (It of cos pales in comparison with the real Venice which Alan and I had been to on our honeymoon last June), watched the Bellagio (think George Clooney and Brad Pitt!) Water Fountain performance and had dinner at the Riveria. We opted out of the last night show as we were too exhausted to move but that night I could not sleep from 12am -4am. :P

Day 6
We woke up so early (430am) to go to Hoover Dam. The most memorable experience there was the stink of the portable loos lining up by the lone shop at the dam. Millions of tourist buses stop there each day and unload tourists who unload in the loos. I couldn't appreciate the beauty of the dam amist the stink ;p. The sky was a pretty blue and the clouds were like fluffs of cotton candy though. What a pretty sight! After a 2.5hour bus ride later, we arrived at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. God it was scorching hot there. I sizzled under the cruel rays of Mr Sun and was rewarded with more freckles whilst Alan merrily snapped away in the heat. We had a weird meal of minced pork and rice (ahaha provided by the tour lah) and then boarded the bus at 115pm to get back to the hotel. Because it was our last night together, we joined Helen the tour guide and the bus driver for a pricey dinner buffet at the Bellagio. for 30USD per pax, we savoured prime ribs, snow crabs, sashimi, etc etc and millions of cake. It was our most decadent meal in a long while....

Day 7

We woke up later and then checked ourselves outta the Riveria and into Harrah's. This was a more comfy hotel and in a much better location along The Strip. We took The Deuce to the Las vegas outlet centre and bought some stuff. it wasn't very exciting so we took 2 buses to the other end of the strip to Premium Outlets and spent the hour we had before the shops closed in FCUK.hahaha. For those who know Alan, you will know that he was in paradise in FCUK. Exhausted after a day of shopping, we took a cab back to harrah's and had dinner of beef steak and turkey with toast to end our day.

Day 8

After a starbucks bf downstairs, we walked towards Fashion Show Mall (or so we thought). We ended up at the Bellagio and because Fate had brought us there, Alan bought me a Tiffany N Co ring to mark the occasion. Ahhhh it's beautiful! In the end, we took the Deuce to the mall and were ABSOLUTELY AWED at the place. We didnt have much time but we scampered into Gap, Banana republic, Forever 21, Victoria Secrets and emerged victorious each time. We bought a Starbucks bear bear as well to commemorate our stay in Vegas, the City of Sin. we quickly rushed back (with loads of bags) to The Riveria where our shuttle bus picked us up and transported us to Anaheim Wynham hotel.

Day 9

We hurried to catch the 9am shuttle from our hotel to DISNEYLAND!!! Arriving at around 930am, we ventured into the different worlds - Toon Town, Fantasy Land, Adventure Land, Tomorrow Land, Frontier Land.. I was ecstatic to take pictures with my idol - Winnie the Pooh- ahhaha and had other shots with Minnie and Goofy and Pluto. Alan was disappointed to have missed Mickey but caught a photo of him and Minnie on board the float during the 3pm parade. :) The fireworks were lovely but didnt include those of Mickey and Minnie- I had seen in HK Disney. But at least there were no unruly people from China spitting on the grounds and scolding vulgarities at people for standing up during the fireworks show. The lines were very short too as compared to HK and we managed to cover all the 'lands' and all of the exciting rides. hahaha the best ride, in our opinion was Splash Mountain but we ended up all wet and stinky after that. ahahhaa.

Day 10

Our ability to shop allowed us to even shop around our hotel area and we picked up some stuff for Jay Jay and our daughters. haha. After checking out of Anaheim, THE REAL ADVENTURE began. We collected the car from hertz and Alan managed to drive using Right Hand drive to Best Western Inn in Los Angeles. Reading the recommendations in Lonely Planet, we drove to Skooby's Hot Dogs nearby to sample their fare. I was disappointed when the "chilli" dog was doused in what we commonly know was satay sauce but the overall experience was great. Then, we walked along the Hollywood Walk of Fame which sad to say was nothing to crow about. we headed next to Hollywood Highland mall and did some shopping (again) and then drove to Thai Town for an authentic thai food extravaganza. The General Noodles ( as recommended by Lonely Planet) was delicious and could feed an army and Alan's beef noodles were very tasty too. Overall, the tom yum gong was the best though!

Day 11

We woke up around 8am and had bf downstairs at the 101 Cafe (which had come highly recommended by a magazine). After piling on the calories, we drove to La Brea tar Pits and Page Museum. Both the pits and museum housed many fossils which had been preserved in the tar for centuries. Very interesting. We saw for the first time, mammoth skeletons, saber tooths bones etc etc.. The visit also took us outta the heat and sun. One would have thought that USA would be cooler because winter was approaching but shucks..there was an unexpected heat wave during the time we were there. ;p We headed to The Grove and Farmers' Market and had lunch at the renowned Cheesecake factory. We shared a shrimp pasta and a chocolate fudge cheesecake. MARVELLIOUS! Then, we walked to Samy's Camera where I picked up a Canon for Jean's birthday gift. Having nothing else better to do, we drove to Korea Town but decided against eating there because we were still stuffed from the late lunch. We packed some cup noodles back to the hotel for dinner.

Day 12

UNIVERAL STUDIOS!!! Need I say more??? Braving the intense heat, Alan and I flashed our Front of the Line passes and did all the major rides like the new Simpson's ride, Mummy returns, Jurrasic Park etc.. We watched shows such as Shrek, terminator and BackDraft too (where they showed us how to create fire). I liked the Animal Show very much but the most interesting one was the WaterWorld show where the pirates splashed water on the audience all in the name of fun! In between, we had a delicious lunch of bbqed chicken - the restaurant was in the shape of Flintstone's house and their kitchen was open-air in which they bbqed their meats. The air was filled with smoke and delicious aromas. After our fun-filled day, and taking photos with The Simpsons, Shrek and the princess etc, we bought a big bear with a sponge bob bag and hat and also the Gingerbread Man in shrek and then went to Universal Studios City Walk for dinner.We had Bubba Gump Shrimp a very fun and interesting family restaurant with very good seafood. We shared a meal of seafood - crab, clams, shrimps etc and were extremely contented after that. YUMMY! After dinner, we came across the setting up of the set of CSI and how much went into just a small scene. goodness! We grabbed icecreams from Ben n jerrys and then left for our hotel.

Day 13

LA was getting boring and we didnt know what else to do. So we headed to LA County Fair. It was your usual fair with smaller versions of rides like roller coasters and viking etc. there were countless hotdog stands and again the smell of bbqing meats filled the air. It was SO HOT that day and we had little mood to try anything but because of my sister Yvonne's recommendation, we tried Pink's hotdog. And after our try, we didnt see why they stood in line for 1.5hours. oopss To escape the heat, we went to the animal petting stations and dog park but the latter was really disappointing. At around 1pm, we decided to leave and drove to Rodeo Dr. That mall and the streets alongside it were really made for the Rich and Famous and alan and i took a few photos and left emptyhanded. hahaa. We headed to the Highland again and had a cuppa before seeing the red carpet being spread for the premier of The Express in the Graumman's Chinese theatre.Dinner was Shabu Shabu and delicious.

Day 14

Thankful to do something new, we checked out of Best Western and drove to check into Venice Beach Hotels and Suites, not before taking a photo of the Hollywood sign. before our check-in, we also checked out Beverly Centre and Banana Republic was 30% off! I bought my sunnies there finally - errr- and 2 tops!. The room was small and sandy and was a disappointment. In fact, all our hotels were very comfortable and cosy, except for this one. Anyway, thankfully, the location was great and the beach was at our doorstep. We walked down and caught the sunset on photo and soaked up the atmosphere. Sad to say, we couldn't help but feel alittle sorry insecure as there were many homeless folk roaming around. We bought back burgers for dinner in the hotel.

Day 15

We roused late and then walked to Abbot Kinely Avenue for a fine shopping experience ( as recommended by Lonely Planet). we were disappointed. haha. Butttt... we met some ex-Crescentians!! OMYTIANAH. The world is SO small! All 3 of them Indonesians were studying in LA. Good life siah! we picked up 2 collars (at a heart-aching price) from 2 nice gay store keepers - 1 for Jay Jay and 1 for Coco and then strolled pass a store which was giving away free icecreams (whoooohooo). We hit Fashion District after that but were surrounded by knock-offs and many mexicans... Didnt buy much.. not our cuppa ;p. Then, we headed to Robertson Boulevard and then to Santa Monica Pier. it was cold and foggy by the time we got there and we explored that area before queueing for a fantastic dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp. It made our day.

Day 16

we checked out from the hotel early (around 7) and drove to Barstow Tanger Outlet again. ahhaha. Alan bought his Coach handcarry luggage bag for a steal and I bought 3 pairs of Rockports for the price of 2! We did justice for Gap, Polo ralph and Old Navy as well and after a yummy KFC lunch (fastfood again??!), we drove 5.5 hours to Monterey Bay and checked into a gorgeous room with a fireplace... oooolalaaaaaa.Dinner was salad for me and a beef steak for Alan at the restaurant next door and they were both delicious!

Day 17

We went whale watching on a cruise in the bay from 9am to 130pm. Saw 5 humpbacks, sea lions, birds and the beautiful jelly fish etc... Lunch was comfort food at isabella's and it got us outside the dizzy spells subsided.. My cod melted in my mouth whilst Alan's seafood pasta was had huge 'toppings' of crab, clams, shrimp etc on it. The 17-mile drive was a beautiful experience and we stopped almost at every location to grab some shots. I bought Alan some items at Pebble beach where his idol, Tiger, plays. Then we went to check out Cannery Row and bought some groceries for dinner and bf the next day.

day 18

Checked out sadly of the monetery bay lodge hotel and then drove 45mins to Gilroy Premium outlets. hahahaha just when we thought we could not buy anymore..We hit SONY and I bought 3 more pairs of rockports. hahaha we picked up Fossil items as well and then drove to and checked into Wine Valley Lodge in Napa Valley. We visited Hess Collection Winery for wine tasting and after that had thai food in a cafe a few min's drive away. There was a small fair going on and we soaked in the sights and sounds too but it was getting dark and we made our way back to the hotel after a short while.

Day 19
We had a nice DIY breakfast in the hotel and then checked out at 10am to visit V. Sattui Wintery for wine tasting. We bought some stuff and picniced outside on the scenic lawn. The cheese went well with the ham and cheese sandwiches and chicken salad and we fed the birdies again. haahha. Next, we headed to Sutter Family Wineries were we picked up some small bottles of wine for souvenirs and personal consumption and Alan bought his boss a big bottle there too. The 6hr drive to SF was long and uneventful and we checked in at Coventry Motor inn in the early evening. We then quickly headed to Union Square. Alan bought Oakleys and then we had dinner at the Bow Hon restaurant in Chinatown again. Talk about Deja vu.

Day 20

we got up very late and then went to the Twin Peaks. It was very foggy so we left and then visited some pet shops nearby and bought our son more pressies. ahhaha. We went to Tokyo Town to have ramen lunch and then bought some stuff at Peace Plaza Ichiban Home wares (as recommended by LP again). We followed that up by Alamo square (postcard picturesque Victorian houses) and chatted with a Spanish teacher and his group of students there in the park. We went up to the Twin Peaks again and by then the fog had cleared. :) Alan insisted on driving to the Golden Gate Bridge next again but it was foggy and drizzling by the time we got there. So, what did we do? Shop again! We went to Union Square and changed Alan's Oakley cap (which was a size too small)... and then bought some Ghiaradelli chocos as souvenirs. Then, in Westfield mall, I bought sea salt body scrub and a manicure kit all made with natural ingredients from the Dead Sea. Our last dinner in USA, that night, was Korean clam noodles soup in the foodcout. Then we headed back to the hotel to try to squeeze everything we had bought into our 4 luggages.

Day 21

Our last morning in USA...we drove again to the crookiest street and then had a quick bf in a cafe. Did I mention that americans make the nicest hot chocolate??? yumz. Anyway, we drove to the SFO and returned the car to hertz. I indignantly paid USD3 to rent a trolley to ferry our bags on board the sky train to the international flights terminal. Our flight SQ15 was at 1415 and we had a stop over at Seoul before we arrived in Changi Airport at 1am on 5 October 2008.
Somethings we've learnt:

1. there are many fisherman's wharves in USA.

2. San franciscans are generally friendlier than people in LA.

3. Disneyland service people are friendlier than service personnel in universal studios.

4. usa is a coupon country- u can get discounts for almost anything with coupons. (e.g. outlet mall discounts, ripley believe it or not museum discounts, wax museum discounts, city tour discounts etc)

5. there are many poor people in usa. many homeless roaming the streets.

6. american tv programmes are very trashy. alot of reality programmes, sell-a-vision etc.

7. dont trust everything lonely planet tells u. to each his / her own.

8. mac donald's burgers are very tastless and dry in america ironically.

9. try not to sit next to a huge indian man on your 17-hour flight onboard the plane.

10. that it's possible your husband can buy more clothes than u can but u can always win him in the shoes department.

11. u dont need front of the line passes (which cost USD30/head more) during lull seaons.

12. it is possible to have more freckles on my face than I originally had.

13. coffee in usa (in starbucks n the likes) costs a fraction of what it does in spore n therefore will taste better (even though it's only in the mind).

14. Fate is a good excuse to get a Tiffany.

15. Shop in vegas- they have slightly cheaper taxes.

16. one should not shop for branded goods anywhere else except in america. therefore, i will stop shopping for the next few years at least. ehhhhhhh YOU- Stop ROLLING YOUR EYES!!!?!!

17. There are no money changers in USA so bring enuff cash!

18. Although people say Asians can order one meal and share it by two at least, Alan and I can finish one meal each and enjoy an additional appetiser as well. burpz

19. Batman may not be available for photos as he was in Knott Berry Farm whilst we were at Universal Studios.

20. Check schedule of PussinBoots when visiting Universal Studio- he may be in the Carribean on holiday.

21. Don't pinch Bart Simpson- he may be liable to push you in the arm roughly.

22. Have coins available for street parking meters. (approximately 1 quarter (25c lah) for 5 to 10mins, depending on the street).

23. Wines are cheaper than coffee in Napa. Visit Napa Valley and check coupons (again) for free tasting.

24. hair becomes softer in usa. i like~

25. Common breeds of dogs in America - pugs, strays, mongrels, 'cai4 gou3'.

26. America is a dog friendly place - they have many parks. Dogs can go shopping in the malls in LA. Like I saw one in Forever21 boutique!!??

27. try not to sign credit and pay everything in cash if possible. the exchange rate stinks.

28. it is a tipping country - tip at least 10% of your bill to prevent leftover veges thrown into your face.

29. rockports are so cheap there. you can buy 2 get 1 free wor.

and lastly:

30. Even though Elaine can see Tony Leung's ass in Hongkong, one may not be lucky enuff to see Tom Cruise's butt in LA.

The End.


Ming Keat Sng said...

Hi. I loved this post of yours. I'll be heading there this November too... by the way u mentioned car renting and right hand drive. Is it possible to rent a car there with right hand drive? How's the driving experience? First time heading to the states haha.

Sharon Goh said...

Hi! Thanks for dropping by and reminding me I had this blog! Haha. You HAVE to drive using a right hand drive car there! No others! You can get a car at the airport and drive back to the airport to return it! Which part of USA are you heading you? Remember to get your coupons ready for EVERYTHING! You can google online for those outlets and print out their couPOns before going down!
Hope you have a fabulous trip!:)

Ming Keat Sng said...

Haha... I was Googling for some info on San Francisco, that was how I chanced upon your entry here haha.

I am visiting San Francisco, then embarking on a 7-day tour to Yosemite, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon South Rim, and then Los Angeles. After that it will be another 6 days in San Francisco.

There would be a day that I want to drive down to Gilroy Premium Outlets. Hence I am looking at only renting a car for that day only, as the rest of the stay there, I would be on city tours since my GF and I are not so sure of how to move about there really.

So I would be approaching Hertz at one of the local outlets to look at the car rentals. I always thought the US ppl drive on the left hand! I didn't know there was a right hand drive for us there :D

Was it easy to find your way around driving? I intend to rent a GPS from Hertz too.

Sharon Goh said...

Sorry sorry I meant left hand drive! Paiseh! It was v easy to follow GPS and find our way ard. My husband found it easy to drive and adjust to the left hand drive... We rented a car from Thirfty instead of hertz on our second trip to USA in 2011. Good too!

Yosemite is on the news today. Some rodent virus. Life- threatening. You might want to google and read.

Ming Keat Sng said...

Haha okie dokes... That makes me feel a little more at ease about renting a car to drive there in an unfamiliar terrain.

Yes I heard of the Yosemite news. So disappointing. Maybe the tour group may change to visit Death Valley or something. Will have to wait for them to inform. :D

Sharon Goh said...

Don't worry too much! You will definitely have a great time! Think you may need another day or two at those outlets shopping- if your gf and you can shop as well as my husband and I! Hahaha

Unfortunately when we went back in 2011, our focus of shopping was on toddler's clothes ahhaha.

Ming Keat Sng said...

Hahhaa... oh dear.. we only have one day planned for the outlets... probably we need to prioritize which shop to visit haha.

Anyway thanks Sharon! hehe..

Ming Keat Sng said...

btw u have facebook, we can keep in contact through there. You can add me...

You don't have to publish this comment hehe, cos got my email address in it :D