The City of Angels was the final leg of our recent trip to the United States last December. We flew in from San Francisco late morning via American Airlines, which we booked through Expedia. For a one-way ticket, we paid US$94 (RM375) per person inclusive of tax. Despite its importance and enormity, the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was probably one of the most old-looking and close-to-dilapidated airports I’ve ever been to. Our experience at this airport was horrible, to say the least and I think most people would concur with us.
Unlike the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), this particular airport is not directly connected to the LA Metro. The nearest metro station to the airport is Aviation/LAX on the Green Line. We had to take a shuttle bus from the airport to the Aviation/LAX station, which journey took about 5 minutes. I’m not too certain if a shuttle bus is provided for free, but this costed us US$1.25 (RM5) per person.
The ticket vending machine at the metro station wasn’t user friendly at all. We had to crack out heads to figure out what each of its button meant. While we were struggling at it, one kind soul came up to us and offered each of us a single-ride ticket completely free of charge. Apparently, she was handing out promotional tickets for the LA Metro. We thanked God for the kind gesture of this lady when we needed it so much.
Our final destination was the Pershing Square station and that meant we had to change to the Blue Line at the Willowbrook transfer station and change another time to the Red Line at the 7th Street/Metro Centre station. Honestly, it was quite troublesome to get to the Blue Line at this transfer station as we had to tap out of the Green Line, walk about 50m to the Blue Line and purchase another ticket. On the contrary, changing over from the Blue Line to the Red Line was without such hassles. This time with the advice and help from one friendly commuter, each of us purchased a TAP card for US$1 (RM4.10) and loaded it with a 1-day pass. At US$7 (RM28.70), the 1-day pass was rather reasonable considering we were planning to take the metro to several places of interest that day. All in all, the journey from the airport to the city centre took us nearly an hour.
Accommodation in downtown Los Angeles was cheaper compared to that in San Francisco. Instead of the usual Expedia, this time hubby found an extremely good deal at the Stay on Main Hotel via CheapOStay. For a 2-night stay, we only paid US$148.28 (RM608) inclusive of taxes. This was after hubby keyed in a 15% discount code, which he found online (Tip: always look hard for the latest discount or promo codes in the internet to get the best deals).
Walking to the hotel from Pershing Square station only took us approximately 10 minutes. We arrived at the hotel just around the stipulated check-in time. For the price we paid, I must concede that this hotel was actually quite impressive and comfortable. I definitely have no qualms recommending it to any budget travellers.
Accommodation in downtown Los Angeles was cheaper compared to that in San Francisco.
As soon as we checked in and left our luggage in the room, we were ready to go out exploring again. We were going to Universal Studios Hollywood! But first, we had to fill up our hungry stomachs. We came across Springtime In New York Cafe along South Spring Street on our way to the metro station and decided to give it a try. Our takeaway was reasonably priced and turned out to be quite awesome as well. Truth be told, we were actually rushing to Universal Studios before the sun set (earlier during winter).
Hubby got our Universal Studios 2-day pass from aRes Travel for US$87 (RM356.20) per person inclusive of taxes. Not that we intentionally wanted a 2-day pass but it was actually a “Buy A Day, Get 2nd Day Free!” deal and by far the cheapest he could find online. Anyway, we reckoned there was no way we were going to finish exploring it within a day, unless we had gone there in the morning.
From Pershing Square station, we took the Red Line all the way to Universal City station. The Universal City station was uniquely adorned with many colourful tile murals, probably depicting the essence of Universal Studios. It started drizzling as soon as we exited the metro station.
Fortunately, the Universal Studios shuttle stop was just 50m across the street. You need not worry as the shuttle is completely free of charge and it takes only about 5 minutes from this stop to Universal CityWalk, which is at the front gate of Universal Studios. We didn’t waste much time at the CityWalk, but if you are there to shop or dine, then that’s exactly the place you’d wanna spend most of your time. Our interest, however, was more on the theme park.
It’s important to get hold of the park map before starting your exploration to ensure that you plan your rides and attractions well. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting a lot of time running from one place to another. Mind you, the theme park is extremely huge. However, there’s one factor which might frustrate your plan a tad bit and that’s the waiting time for each ride. The popular rides will have a waiting time as long as 90 minutes during peak hours. Good thing’s that, there are electronic boards throughout the park that provides real-time update on the waiting time.
Our first ride was Jurassic Park as its waiting time was the shortest then. It’s situated at the lower lot and accessible through a series of escalators called the Starway. We weren’t exactly prepared for this ride which involved water and yet didn’t wanna spend extra money to purchase a poncho. So, we had to position ourselves in the middle of the raft to avoid most of the splash. Having done that, we still got slightly wet.
The next ride was Revenge of the Mummy, which we waited in line for a good 60 minutes. But seriously, it was worth the long wait. We would’ve gone for a second round if not because of the queue. Following that, we proceeded to Transformers that costed us another 30-minute wait. I wouldn’t complain as its 3D special effects were so real that it felt as if we were part of the movie.
Up next was the highlight of Universal Studios Hollywood – Studio Tour. Take my advice, you can afford to miss a few rides but be sure not to miss this tour. This is where most of the Hollywood movies and TV series are produced. I’m not exactly certain how many studios are in the compound but there are at least twenty. This tour comprises a tram ride through its huge compound which features backdrops and sets used in many of the Hollywood films. Among its attractions are King Kong: 360 3-D, Fast & Furious: Supercharged, Bates Motel, Desperate Housewives, Jaws Encounter and Earthquake: The Big One. Hats off to the producers of such a fantastic tour, undoubtedly one of its kind in the world. You’ve gotta see it to believe it. But don’t be daunted by the long waiting time, it’s worth the wait.
As soon as we were done with the Studio Tour, it was noticeably dark outside as the sun had already set by then. The crowd had also partially dissipated. We had time for only 2 more rides – The Simpsons and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. These rides require 3D glasses, just like Transformers. However, in my opinion, their effects pale in comparison to that of Transformers. Perhaps, children might like them more. Anyway, after these rides we called it a day and promised ourselves to return the next day.
We had more time the following day, so we managed to walk around LA city centre in the morning. Hubby was eager to check out some rare books at The Last Bookstore, which is situated very near the Pershing Square station. After lunch, we took the metro to Hollywood/Vine station and walked down the famous Walk Of Fame. From afar, we could see the world renowned Hollywood Sign.
As soon as we were done at the Walk Of Fame, we quickly headed back to Universal Studios. Nonetheless, the weather wasn’t too favourable as it started drizzling again. Without wasting much time, we headed straight for WaterWorld. Similar to Jurassic Park, I’d advise you to prepare a waterproof attire or poncho. Otherwise, you’re sure to get drenched. Unfortunately for us, the drizzle slowly built up to light rainfall and made the situation slightly uncomfortable for us. The actors and actresses love playing with water (it’s WaterWorld after all) and occasionally they’ll splash the spectators with it (Tip: avoid sitting on the first 5 rows). Overall, this show is superbly choreographed and you must not miss it.
The last ride for us was Shrek 4-D. It features the ghost of Lord Farquaad capturing the audience to interrogate them as to the location of Princess Fiona. Yes, it’s really 4D and you can literally “feel” the show – water trickling on your skin, wind gushing through your hair, spiders tickling your feet, etc. After that, we made a short stop at Universal’s Animal Actors.
It was the month of December and Christmas was looming, so we also didn’t wanna miss out on enjoying the Christmas atmosphere. After all, Universal Studios had put in so much effort in decorating the entire park with many colourful Christmas decors. The centre stage was at Universal Plaza which featured the Grinch in what was known as Grinchmas. Regrettably, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was still under construction when we were there and was only due to open in April 2016.
As it all came to an end that night, we left Universal Studios with a heavy heart and headed back to our hotel. Stepping out of Pershing Square station, we chanced upon a food truck nearby that sold hotdogs. The aroma of the hotdogs was so tempting. Without hesitating, we grabbed 3 hotdogs for dinner. Needless to say, they were delicious. The next morning would mark the end of our fun-filled United States trip as we flew back to Kuala Lumpur.
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