First Trip Down to SoCal!
I don’t have a hashtag yet like my to-be-continued #TakingOverAsia series, but last weekend I finally made my way down to Southern California for my first of many trips! I realized I needed some time away from the cold winds here and stress of studying and jobs, so I invited myself to hang out with some friends from NYU who are home in SoCal for the summer!
Last minute flights are super expensive, but my friend offered to take me on her drive down with her husband! We began the 6-hour drive at 8PM because the holiday weekend traffic in San Francisco was very bad. We arrived in the famous Orange County (the OC) about 3:45AM! They dropped me off at another friend’s house and I quietly tiptoed my way in to not wake up her family.
Houses in Orange County are very different from San Franciscan houses. They give off a very relaxing and summery feel! There are palm trees planted everywhere, so every yard looks like a tropical garden.
My purple hair from the last time I posted photos has faded long, long ago. I haven’t dyed it again because the color is so difficult to maintain and I had a lot of job interviews in June. To be honest, I’m very self conscious about being blonde, but I’ve received so many compliments about it that I’m starting to really love having blonde hair.
Our first destination in the morning was Laguna Beach! Famous for being one of SoCal’s many scenic beaches, I had it on my list as a photography spot. It was super crowded though! Everybody, tourists and locals, was there for the holiday weekend. One thing about California I’ve noticed is that it’s so sunny in the summer, even in San Francisco whenever it’s not foggy, that capturing it is a challenge. The sun washes out photos and it’s too sunny to not wear sunglasses, so often times my finger is caught on camera before I notice.
The water in SoCal is a little more turquoise than San Francisco’s, but pretty icy cold. I just recently learned that the Pacific Ocean current brings water from Alaska and keeps the water temperatures a lot colder than the East Coast’s! Meanwhile, inland California is very hot, because it is either a desert or a flat valley depending on location. Coastal California being squeezed in the middle gets an interesting climate of mild rainy winters and warm dry summers. Temperatures fluctuate a lot between very short distances. This doesn’t usually happen in New York, where temperatures like to fluctuate day to day instead.
Other than the beach, Laguna Beach is a resort town with lots of cute little shops. My friend and I walked around for a bit admiring window displays, but unfortunately neither of us have a driver’s license so our mobility was limited. Taking a Lyft is pretty expensive in Orange County where the cheaper ride-sharing service hasn’t rolled out yet. However, soon after we were ready to have a low-key night, we decided to tag along with her cousin to a night market near Pasadena, famous for The Big Bang Theory.
Pasadena is just south of the mountains, so the scenery changed. I wasn’t actually trying to take photos because there were hundreds of food vendors grabbing my attention, but sometimes my favorite shots are casual / candid ones! This is probably my favorite photo from my entire trip.
It was way too crowded at the night market and we spent most of it waiting in line for food and ice cream, which were not cheap, though very yummy. I ate ice cream for the first time since I got sick, but then I got really cold. It’s surprisingly chilly in California at night! I think ube is overtaking French vanilla as my favorite ice cream flavor. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a Filipino flavor made from purple yam and yes it dyes your tongue purple. More #VioletPride for me I guess.
The next day, my friend’s cousin drove us so we had a ride to get around the actual city of Los Angeles, which is small and slightly sketchy to be honest. I’m surprised by how fancy and nice the suburbs of LA are in contrast to the city. I’ve lived in New York too long where the city is fancy while suburbs are sketchy until you get out into Long Island.
There are so many museums and murals in LA that we couldn’t possibly cover in one day, so we started near our lunch spot with The Last Bookstore, a slightly hipster secondhand bookstore that also sells vinyl records. It has a homey feeling with a lot of comfy couches and plants, as well as book setups that defy physics.
I’m not even sure how all these books stay together at that angle. There was even a tunnel made of books! I do really appreciate this bookstore’s effort to conserve rare and out-of-publish books so that we can be reminded of the nostalgic times when we actually read.
It wouldn’t be LA without boba, so we drove half an hour just to get it at Half and Half Tea, where they come in bucket shaped cups. I usually get my bubble tea with 25% sugar because the boba has a lot of sugar. I ordered the rose milk tea, and finally found a drink in the USA that tastes almost exactly like bandung, the pink rose syrup drink popular in Singapore! Unfortunately it was not pink.
Since it was already late afternoon we decided to go to Santa Monica instead of other museums. I observed something very interesting about California’s tropical flora. In one photo, I counted 3 different types of palm trees. The names I gave them are – the sea urchin, the pineapple, and the balding fan. None of them are like coconut palms – the face of all palm trees – I’ve seen in those Florida, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Singapore. I’m wondering if those only grow in hot and humid climates.
The beach was expectedly crowded, but not nearly as crowded as the Santa Monica Pier. It’s the largest pier I’ve ever seen! It is filled with shops and even an amusement park, and somehow supports the thousands of people on it. There’s so much to see even if you don’t shop or go on the rides.
We had to meet some guy friends in Koreatown for KBBQ, so we couldn’t stay for the beach sunset. I really wanted to do that in SoCal, but there’s always next time! Anyways, we tried getting a spot in a super popular KBBQ restaurants, but the wait was two hours long. We spent the first hour shopping but then gave up waiting because we were too hungry, and just went somewhere else. It was also pretty delicious and all-you-can-eat for only $21 per person.
Before heading back to Orange County, we checked out the Urban Light installation for some awkward group swag photos. It’s filled with people. Just a heads up if you want to go. Be prepared for photobombing. Los Angeles is very crowded. Hehe.
These lamps are restorations of iron lamps that used to light up LA in the 1920s and 1930s, placed in a tree-like grid. Apparently they are solar powered to light up all night long!
My friends wanted to take glam shots for me, but I have no idea how to model with props – I’m better at taking outdoorsy photos. One of my friends had met us after work so he gave me his blazer which isn’t too big on me, and it’s not crazy to wear sunglasses at night for the photo.
My last day in SoCal was 4th of July, and I could see fireworks right from the local park near my friend’s house. I heard it was very foggy in San Francisco, so I’m glad to have seen my annual summer fireworks! It wouldn’t be 4th of July without them. I’m really happy to have spent it with my friends from New York! Just in my last post I was all sentimental about missing them, but I’m reassured that we will see each other again and again.
I had several options for getting home – the cheapest option was the 7 hour bus, but I was worried about my motion sickness. The most expensive option was the Pacific Surliner train, and also the longest at 12 hours. Definitely not. I flew back instead. It wasn’t cheap either and it meant I would not be able buy much since I packed light with just a backpack and purse, but the flight was only 50 minutes. It felt like we landed right after we taking off.
My parents may be visiting me in December, so I’m already planning my next getaway to SoCal if it’s not sooner! I know the weather will stay warm, one of the many perks of the mild climate. I already put down my list to hit up Disneyland and San Diego!