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a travel blog by DanYilin

I thought this excerpt from a Visa ad (minus the commercially bits - sorry Visa, we'll be using our Mastercard) makes a pretty good introduction to our Blog:

"it's one tiny, two-letter word that makes amazing things happen. GO is action. it's the spark that starts the flame that sets everything in motion. GO gets us to try things we've always wanted to try. GO keeps us going no matter what life throws our way. GO reminds us it's a big beautiful world out there, and it's time to make the most of it.... to get out there and play. to get out there and do. to get out there and experience all the incredible things life has to offer."

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It's Not About Luck

Singapore, Singapore

First stop: some common myths about Dannie and Yi Lin and their big trip to debunk.

Myth No. 1 - Dannie & Yi Lin Are So Lucky!

People always tell us "Wah, so lucky! Can travel around the world!" We don't get to do this because we are born lucky. Lucky is when you win a prize in a lucky draw. It's not about luck. It's about making a commitment to a dream to make it happen.

But we do agree that we are blessed. Blessed to be in a marriage where we are willing to support each other's dreams, to the extent of making huge personal sacrifices (like giving up a good job.) In my case, blessed that my employer is willing to give me time off to chase a dream. Blessed that we're in good health. Blessed that our parents and families too have good health and we can leave without worry. Blessed to have loved ones and friends who support our dream in so many ways - from looking after the flat, opening our mail, giving us travel tips, thoughtful gifts to help make our trip a great one, offering to help us get in touch with people overseas, praying for us. And simply giving us the encouragement to GO cos they know this trip means alot to us. Thanks guys. Love you all. (I'm getting teary just writing this. Sniff.)

Myth No. 2 - Dannie & Yi Lin Are Rich

Haha, seriously, this couldn't be further from the truth. We are not rich. We are not using our parents' money. We have a budget to live within, which includes keeping expenses at home going (e.g. insurance premiums, car loan, service fees, home utilities, etc.) We just worked hard and saved even harder. I guess we've never lead a fancyschmancy lifestyle anyway ever since we got together (too bad for Dan that he met me when I was a freshly-minted pocket-poor ex-lawyer) so it's wasn't very painful giving things up. There were only a few items which we had to forgo... like, erm, Rockband...sigh.

Myth No. 3 - Dannie & Yi Lin Are Going On One Big Long Holiday!

Yeah, sure - if we take 'holiday' to mean a break from work. But we're not vacationing. We're traveling. It's hard work figuring out when and how to travel. It involves planning, studying, researching, budgeting, discussing, worrying, hoping, wondering, deciding, etc. It means we don't know where our next bed or meal is going to be for the next one year. Even communicating with other people is going to be a problem. But that's the difference between being a tourist and a traveler, and we know it's all going to be worth it.

Myth No. 4 - Dannie & Yi Lin Are So Brave!

We prefer the word "courageous" but really, we're frickin' scared lah. I've got paranoia built into my genetic system (gee, thanks Dad) and am damn scared of getting mugged, hurt, shot, ill, crashing, etc. But short of needing a camel to carry our massive first aid kit which is equivalent to an entire Guardian Pharmacy, stocking up on whistles and personal safety alarms and sitting through a series of painfully expensive vaccinations, we're just arming ourselves with common sense and praying for divine intervention when it's needed. And of course, the mother of all worries - making the money last.

Myth No. 5 - "I Could Never Do What You're Doing!"

Myth debunked: YOU CAN. Maybe not now, at this point of your life, but you can. Really. It's just a matter of deciding how much doing a big trip means to you and what you're willing to sacrifice for it. We probably couldn't have done this earlier in life - it wasn't a priority then anyway. Now, besides the obvious like not getting paid for the next 12 months, we're giving up precious family time and the opportunity to be hip young parents... and when we finally do attain parenthood, I've absolutely no idea how we're going to afford the tykes.

But that's a future problem - to be solved at a future time.

Upcoming blog entry: a little bit more about our trip and a glimpse into our packing nightmare...


permalink written by  DanYilin on March 25, 2009 from Singapore, Singapore
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An Interview With DanYilin (Part 1)

Singapore, Singapore

In anticipation of the possibility that we might get famous as a result of our newly acquired blogging skills, we thought we should prepare for media who might just come a-knocking on our backpacks to interview us… (NatGeo, Discovery, anyone out there? Hellooo?)

Tonight, the Imaginary Interviewer (II) will be speaking to YiLin to find out more about this fantastic journey that she and Dannie are about to embark upon. As Dannie and his trusty Vader Lightsaber are out having good clean non-alcoholic fun at Dempsey Hill with his pals from work, his imaginary interview will be featured sometime later.

II: You guys have been talking about doing this trip for a really long time. So when are you really going to walk the talk huh?

YL: We’re booked to fly this coming Saturday morning. Why pick 28 Mar? It’s really quite simplistic – if we left on a weekday, no one would be able to send us off!

II: Is this a Round-The-World trip? It is over one year after all.

YL: We would have loved it to be RTW but we are just traveling the Americas i.e. North, South, Central America and the Caribbean. One year may sound long, but it’s barely enough time to even cover this region. It’s certainly possible to try to see the world in a year but there’s not much value in rushing to see everything and not fully experiencing the unique culture, physical beauty and way of life in each place. Oh yeah, we’ll be visiting Hong Kong too (which I’ve never been to – shocking for a Singaporean, isn’t it?) simply cos it’s included in the price of our Cathay Pacific air ticket.

II: Why the Americas and not Europe or Asia? You like Mickey Mouse ah?

YL: It has always been my dream to visit South and Central America for their natural beauty, historic places and rich culture. The rest is based on very practical considerations, really. It’s cheaper in the long-run to travel the countries in the continent at one go instead of making impossibly expensive 2-week vacations from Singapore every few years or so. For North America, the beauty of the national parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, and the coastal shorelines beckon, as well as key cities like San Francisco and New York. By the way, I’ve already met the Mouse and have no desire to see him again, or any of his cutesy friends.

II: Okay, no visits to overly-cute cartoon animals (you DO look like someone who would kill Hello Kitty in one evil blink.) So what made you want to do this trip?

YL: Well, I can’t imagine living my life NOT doing this. Everyone says life’s too short, you only live once, carpe diem, yadda yadda… the usual clichés. But few people actually do something about it. On the other hand, if you were to live for 90 years, wouldn’t life be too long to be spent halfheartedly going through the motions day after day and postponing what you really wish to be doing? I felt that I was slowly but surely rolling down a straight path all laid out before me - career, marriage, kids – and the further I went, the more speed I would pick up and soon I would be hurtling on a highway into the future so fast that any attempt to brake and change my path would cause collateral damage to people I would have picked up along the way. Know what I mean?

II: Any sources of inspiration that got you going? Care to share?

YL: Hmm, the ‘Lonely Planet Story’ by founders Tony and Maurice Wheeler was one. I was amazed at how they accomplished so much with hardly any money to start with and eventually built an empire out of their travel experiences. I find Paulo Coelho’s writing very insightful and enlightening with regards to life and dreams – I’ll probably share some meaningful quotes in this blog. My all-time favourite is this one by Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Pity it was too long to be inscribed onto my iPod.

II: Any apprehensions about the trip? Besides the budget issue, which you’ve already whined about in your first entry.

YL: That I wouldn’t want to come back. That I would get addicted to living like a nomad. That I would be selfish in not wanting to keep my end of the promise that one year is all we would allow ourselves at this point of time. I read about this guy who did a trip so that he could get the urge to travel out of his system and return in peace to his daily life. But he couldn’t – and he’s still traveling.

II: What about apprehensions about traveling as a couple?

YL: Well, yes and no. Constant traveling is going to wear us out, patience will wear thin, good moods will falter, people (i.e. ME) will get snappish and might say mean things. But marriage doesn’t give us a licence to be mean and rude to each other. We never let these get to us and we will humbly make an apology when it’s called for. That’s one of the ways that being with Dan has made me a better person. (My siblings can vouch that I would have rather eaten my pencil case than say a word of sorry to them when we were younger.) Dan didn’t quit his job just so we could argue in Chile or Argentina instead of Bishan.

II: What would be the main thing that you would want to have accomplished from this journey?

YL: To have inspired others enough for them to make the first step in realising their own dreams.

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller
(This is what’s inscribed onto my iPod.)

permalink written by  DanYilin on March 26, 2009 from Singapore, Singapore
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My Backpack Makes Me Look Like a T-Rex

Singapore, Singapore

12 Steps to Packing for the Big Trip

1) Get reacquainted with backpack bought 2 months ago. Remove pricetag.

2) Place clothing items carefully selected 1 month ago inside. Attempt to zip. Freak out at sight of bag violently trying to vomit excess content.

3) Check inventory against suggested packing list in backpacker's guide. Balk at recommendation to bring ONE t-shirt and ONE pair of bottoms. Decide that cutting down to one third of original load suffices as compromise. Sadly remove new pair of Mango pants bought 1 week ago.

4) Fight urge to re-include new pair of Mango pants.

5) Re-include new pair of Mango pants. Feel guilty.

6) Decide to be practical and replace Mango pants with 2 pairs of el-cheapo cargo pants from Cotton On.

7) Decide that one shall not attain the undesirable reputation of Pepe Le Pew so early on the trip. Reinsert one more third of original contents.

8) Peruse surrounding war zone of electric cables and equipment. Instruct husband to pack those into HIS bag.

9) Seek husband's valued opinion on whether it's silly to bring 6 muesli bars from Singapore to USA. Take 3 seconds to consider husband's advice and then ignore.

10) Smugly zip, secure all clips and straps on bursting bag and snap on travel lock. Load backpack and check self in mirror. Recoil in horror at reflection depicting T-Rex species with massive torso and short arms staring back.

11) Turn around and see that husband's bag is still half empty despite completing his packing.

12) Unlock, unclip, unzip, unpack and review contents to decide what to transfer to husband's bag.

Repeat from Step 2.

permalink written by  DanYilin on March 27, 2009 from Singapore, Singapore
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Bird Talk

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

I had dinner with the family last night and was quite amused to hear my dad use the term “get emo” in reference to a farewell party for some of his staff earlier this week. (My dad has always been pretty cool that way.)

On the way to the airport today, anticipating a tearful farewell with the family at the departure gates, I showed Dan the packet of tissue that I had prepared and said:

“Baby, see the tissue here. Later I’m sure to get emo.”

“We’re getting a bird?”

“Huh? What’s a bird got to do with saying goodbye?”

“An emu is a bird right? You said that you were going to get an emu.”

This is the type of conversations I’m going to be having over the next one year. Swell.


permalink written by  DanYilin on March 28, 2009 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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Flying on Featherless Wings

Los Angeles, United States

Inflight announcement on Cathay Pacific on the Singapore – Hong Kong leg: “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise that the film “Twilight” will not be available on this flight. As a replacement, we will be screening “Four Holidays”. Thank you.”

Nooooo! We had lined up our in-flight movie list days in advance! Bummer. We grumpily clicked through the movie selection a few times and finally settled on an alternative – which will not be publicly mentioned here lest our good reputation be harmed (ok ok, we watched High School Musical 3. That should make us come across as young and cool – even if it’s only 8-year old girls who might agree.)

The transit in Hong Kong was pretty quick – just about an hour – and we found a quiet row of comfy chairs just outside the transit lounge to do some quick blogging and Facebooking (free wifi is like, the best thing on earth now.) We heard a large local family approaching from a distance and thought they were just passing through when to our horror, the distant clucking translated loudly into “Come come everybody, let’s sit here together!!” and they prompted descended upon us as though we were invisible. Hello? Do we look like blue spongy seats to you?! (okay, maybe Dannie does…)We promptly decided that it was time to head to the boarding lounge.

The flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, also on Cathay Pacific, more than made up for the first one. The aircraft was new - well-designed with comfortable adjustable headrests and seats that slide forward instead of reclining (so that you don’t get Heimlich-ed by your tray table when the passenger in front of you lowers his backrest.) The entertainment system was incredibly spiffy with a great selection of new movies (Slumdog, Quantum of Solace, Bangkok Dangerous, etc.) and TV series. I was happily indulging in the girly romantic dream of Twilight until I turned and found Dan creepily staring at me in an attempt to convey all-encompassing love and uncontrollable lust (inspired by Edward Cullin, no doubt)… and then calmly proceeded to burp into my face. My big swirly fluffy cotton-candy pink bubble of sweet romance immediately died a quick death.

All in all it was a pretty good flight with great food and prompt service – the cabin crew actually respond and bring you anything you need (unlike some airlines who call and price themselves as full-service and tell you to get your own water from the self-service stations.) Kudos to the guy wedged next to Dan in a window seat. He downed 2 cans of beer, water and drinks with every meal and asked to pass to get to the bathroom only after 11 hours on the flight. Impressive bladder control powers.


permalink written by  DanYilin on March 28, 2009 from Los Angeles, United States
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LA = Lost Already

Los Angeles, United States

We’re really making use of the free wireless Internet access at our motel. It’s 5am and we’ve both been up since 2.30am tapping away on our comps – blogging, Facebooking, buying our passes for Universal Studios, making bookings for car rental and our flight to New York in May.

A few reasons for being such wide-eyed wonders at this time of the night:
(1) It’s 7.57pm in Singapore. Dinner time.
(2) We fell asleep while marking Earth Hour in complete darkness at 8.30pm last night. It became Earth Six Hours.
(3) Saturday night traffic along Sunset Boulevard is keeping us up (I’ve heard more sirens blaring in 1 night than over 2 weeks in Singapore. More amazingly, we can still hear people’s conversations above the roar of traffic, which proves that human beings are the noisiest things on earth.)

We’re rooming at the Econo Lodge along Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood. It was a decent find off www.hotwire.com for US$50 per night – the same amount we would have paid for 2 dorm beds in a hostel in the same area.

How Hotwire works is a bit scary. It’s basically shopping for a mystery hotel - close eyes, grit teeth and click “confirm” on the cheapest option and wait with bated breath for good results. The combined suspense of waiting and fighting the urge not to check reviews on Trip Advisor is enough to make you wanna pee in your pants. I really didn’t want to know about the “cockroaches so huge that you could throw a saddle on and ride them” (Gee, thanks Dan for reading that out loud). Thankfully, the room turned out well – spacious, well equipped with a personal safe, large TV, microwave, bar fridge, walk-in closet (albeit very dark – have forewarned Dan that it’s not funny to pretend to shut your wife in a closet), attached bathroom, aircon – and everything works! And no giant insects have made any unwelcomed appearances so far.

Econo Lodge Hollywood is in West Hollywood and sits along a busy stretch between The Strip and Hollywood Boulevard. Brilliant location – which is why we’re not too fussy about the noise level. The problem was in getting here and the problem started right at LA’s International Airport. We were ever-so-happy to see our bags appear on Carousel 1 after being misinformed by the inflight announcer that they would be arriving on Carousel 3. It didn’t help that the announcer over the airport’s PA system intermittently changed her mind over whether our luggage was arriving on Carousel 1 or Carousel 2, as if it was a matter of what colour of underwear she should wear for the day. Immigration was painless and we passed quickly in search for the Tourist Arrival information counter which we found at the…. Departure Hall??! The counter staff gave us fairly clear instructions on getting to Sunset Boulevard via public bus and we followed her directions to turn left at the exit and continue walking until we see the shuttle pick-up point. After traipsing halfway through the airport without a pick-up point in sight, we approached a couple of security staff to ask for directions. Turned out that the brilliant lady at the info counter told us everything except to take the escalator back down to the Arrival Hall first before turning left. Duh. We made a beeline for Shuttle ‘C’ and then transferred to Line 3 on the Big Blue Bus for $0.75 per person.

It took us an hour to get from the transfer point into Hollywood, passing through Marina Del Rey, Venice Beach area and downtown Santa Monica. During that time, we met a very friendly garbage man (I don’t know what to call him really, he was only picking out recyclable waste from bins, so not quite a garbage man) who chatted with us and another really nice passenger on the bus who plucked a sprig of fresh rosemary from his shopping bag to let us have a whiff of its aromatic leaves. The latter related stories of interesting local personalities – like the hermit millionaire who built Marina Del Rey and whose will was faked upon his death, the roller-skating singing Indian guru who has been picking out “shy ladies” to serenade for 40 years along Venice Beach, how Mr Arnold ‘Governor of California’ Schwarzenegger used to work out at the outdoor gym at Muscle Beach, the posh café which served Hollywood celebrities soups and burgers at US$25 a pop, etc.

We dropped off where the Give-Incomplete-Information Lady told us to and tried to walk along Sunset Boulevard in the direction of Hollywood towards our hotel. We walked and walked and walked – two scruffy backpackers sticking out like sore thumbs in a spiffy neighbourhood, realized that we were lolling along slower than 2 snails on a date and decided to hop onto a bus to get us to Hollywood. Big Blue Bus came along and told us to try the Orange Metro Bus. Orange Metro Bus does not turn up. We backtrack to the nearest major intersection to try and get a cab. Orange Metro Bus whizzes past us. Damn! No cabs. Nice Local Boy taps on his iPhone and gives us the number for Sunshine Yellow Cab. Incredibly, we spot Empty Green Cab along the road and hop in.

We ask the driver whether it’s too far to walk to Hollywood. He looks at us and says “You can answer that when we reach your hotel after 30min.” 30 frickin’ minutes?! Turns out that Sunset Boulevard passes through Brentwood, Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood neighbourhoods. Now we can swear that the travel guides are speaking true when they say that no one walks in LA. I repeat, NO ONE walks in LA. The cab driver gave us a magnificent audio tour of all the areas en route and even pointed out Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner’s oh-so-famous Playboy Mansion housing his oh-so-cute female pet bunnies. We saw lines of people queuing outside popular clubs for ‘live’ Saturday night acts along The Strip and the driver gave us tips on where to go, when to go, what to eat – all while we watched the numbers on the meter jump like frogs on a hotplate. US$50 later (ouch, it hurts just typing “US$50”), we reached Econo Lodge Hollywood.

Welcome to Hollywood, Baby.


permalink written by  DanYilin on March 29, 2009 from Los Angeles, United States
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The Long-Awaited Interview with the Man

Los Angeles, United States

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for waiting so patiently for my interview. As befits a diva of my status, my interview is held in Hollywood, land of the stars.

Imaginary Interviewer (II), take it away!

II: I heard that you had to quit your job to make this trip. Are you nuts?

DC: Yes. I must be. But think about this... I like nuts, I have nuts and I am nuts. And nut-thin' seems to be able to cure this!

II: Uhh...okay, incurable ailments aside, why leave the job? Times are bad, yadda, yadda?

DC: When you ask your employer for a year's leave, they either allow it or they don't, based on the company's policy. When times are good, it's actually a higher opportunity cost for the individual - you miss out on higher wage increments, bonuses, promotions, etc. Think about it that way, I don't seem really have that much to lose.

II: It is our understanding that you have never had an argument with Yi Lin before. Do you think the close proximity you will share during this trip will break this dream relationship?

DC: You're right. We've never had a serious argument before. We've always been able to think things through calmly before it escalates into a fight. As long as Yi Lin apologises quickly enough, I don't bear grudges. I don't see why this should change. We're very emu-tionally attached and understand each other intimately. That's a blessing right there.

II: The other side of the coin then. When you share every minute of every hour of everyday like that, are you worried about running out of things to say?

DC: Well, I think there was some concern about the quality of conversation that Yi Lin will get. But I am not worried about the lack of intelligent conversation, Yi Lin is! But what I lack in depth, I make up for it in humour.

II: Nice. So, what are you looking forward to, for this trip?

DC: Well, for one, I'm looking forward to attending my cousin's graduation ceremony from University of Carnal-Mellon in Pittsburgh. I'm really proud of the dude. Gave him tuition when we were younger, you know. We always ended up playing, but hey, now he's doing games design! Oh, and I think it will be nice to hit some nude or topless beaches during this trip.

II: I have a copy of your itinerary right here. I don't see any mention of nude beaches. I do see Machu Picchu, Niagara Falls...

DC: What's all this Pikachu and Viagara Falls nonsense? We're hitting nude beaches. That's why I got my injections! Next question!

II: Okay, moving right along then. What will you miss most in Singapore?

DC: In no particular order - family, food, friends (including all those weddings and birthday parties), the toilet bowl...

II: The toilet bowl??

DC: Yup. The toilet bowl. That's where I sit every morning, nekkid, while brushing my teeth. If some toothpaste dribbles out of the mouth onto the tummy, no problem, the shower's just next to it. Here, I took a photo of it. Check it out.

When we stay in dorms with shared bathrooms, I can kiss that little freedom goodbye. Sigh, can you imagine?

II: I'm not sure I want to. Okay, any final words before we close off the interview?

DC: Well... a last shoutout to all my family and friends. Don't worry too much about missing me. There's facebook, this blog, and also the upcoming hoarding all over Marina Bay, that will feature me as the new Face of Marina Bay (as promised by the god folks at URA). I'm more concerned about missing all of you, so please post pics and comments anything else that will help us know what you are doing!


permalink written by  DanYilin on March 30, 2009 from Los Angeles, United States
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Thoughts at 4a.m

Los Angeles, United States

Our body clocks are really screwed up. It's 4am now and we both just spent the last hour or so trying to get back to sleep. I thought I had sorted out my system by sleeping away most of Monday and dutifully keeping awake till 11pm before going to sleep. But noooooo... my body has a mind of it's own and insists of keeping up with Singapore time, which is completely opposite of what's going on here.

It's all very strange seeing my friends live their lives 15 hours ahead of us. At this point, we're still very connected to Singapore and it's a bit perturbing that while winding down after a day out on Monday night, my friends had already finished sleeping, completed one meal, half a day's work and were in the midst of lunch. It's like looking into the future. Anyway, I hope we get adjusted soon. Falling asleep during the Terminator 3D show at Universal Studios today was not the coolest thing to do. Even the elderly Korean tourists were more spritely than we were.

Some thoughts that were milling around my head over the past hour while tossing and turning in bed:

Sometimes I forgot how small my world is back home. Not just in the fact that I can walk anywhere I want to and nobody tells me that it's too far. (Today, Guy At Hotel looked at us in horror when we said we would walk half a mile to the car rental company office... "NONONO!! You don't walk, you tell them to drop the car off here!" Isn't half a mile approximately 800m, which is just 2 rounds around a running track?)

I feel it in terms of scale of the things coming at us. My senses feel like they've taken a beating. At Universal Studios today, it was as if the sound systems were operating at 300%. There I was waiting my turn on the Simpsons Ride with my fingers in my ears cos Krusty the Clown was yelling at me. I was going from ride to ride with a splitting headache after awhile with no access to the Panadol which I had brilliantly left in the car, which was parked on another planet, which in turn was - you guessed it - too far to walk to.

At the hotel, the bright neon lights from nearby shops spill into the room (even through the slit of a window in the toilet) and I can't sleep. Advertising screens are bigger, brighter and louder. Even the TV advertisements seem to yell at me "BUY NOW!! EAT NOW!! SUE NOW!!" (Side note: it's very bizarre to be watching Comedy Central and all you have are advertisements for 99c fastfood, and calls for sufferers of asbestos poisoning and retirement home abuse to come forward to file class actions, then all of the sudden it becomes a relentless onslaught of trailers for girlie videos! Wait a minute - weren't we watching South Park just 2 minutes ago?!)

I guess that's all part of traveling - experiencing life in a totally different way than what you've grown so accustomed to at home. And I guess we'll get used to it soon... which leads me to my next thought.

I have to remind myself not to keep comparing life here with how things are back home. On the bright side, it makes me learn to appreciate the little comforts we have. Thank you PUB for letting me be able to drink water straight from the tap so that I don't have to buy drinking water or constantly boil it. Thank you SBS Transit for those comprehensive info boards at every bus-stop telling me which bus to take and listing every single stop on each route. Thank you LTA for not planning a useless MRT line that doesn't bring people where they really want or need to get to. It's good to be reminded of our blessings, but I just don't want to go around being comparative. Guess I'll be able to tune these thoughts out after awhile.

The great thing about being in LA is that people have been really friendly so far: offering suggestions on where to eat, what to see, areas to avoid (like downtown "cos the whole place is filled with bums!") This guy at our hotel spent 15min of his breakfast time helping us check up on car rental options on the Internet and advising us on what to do. He also helped another guest search for driving directions so that the guest could return to his room and get his stuff ready. A customer at the supermarket used his membership pin while we were making our purchase to help us get a member's discount on Reeses.

And not to forget the folks at home. It's so great that people are actually following our blog and telling us they enjoy reading it and are looking forward to updates. Friends whom we haven't been in regular contact with are coming forward to with recommendations on their favourite places to eat at in the US (bearing in mind our budget even.) Friends who have been to the places we're going to are digging out their itineraries and travel contacts from past trips to share with us. People are asking us where we're heading so that they can ask their friends staying overseas to help or host us if needed. Acquaintances made more than a decade ago have contacted us just to say "hey, I'm here in the US too - let's meet up and I can give you some travel tips."

It really is heartwarming. Thank you all very much. It brings to mind a quote from Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" about following your dream, that "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it". I've never quite been able to fully comprehend this idea.

Now I do.

'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it - boldness has genius, power and magic in it.' -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

permalink written by  DanYilin on March 31, 2009 from Los Angeles, United States
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Welcome to Hollywood Baby!

Los Angeles, United States

We spent the last couple of days visiting attractions in Hollywood - mainly the standard fare along Hollywood Boulevard and Universal Studios. I think it's all quite touristy so here are just some of the highlights:


The Walk of Fame where names of stars in the fields of radio, movies, live performances, recordings and music decorate the pavements on either side of Hollywood Boulevard in total randomness. It's quite fun reading the names on the first few stars but it get's quite tiring after awhile cos the names are set in bronze against some brown marble pattern. Like the tests they make you take for colour-blindness.

What was pretty cool to watch was the impromptu street performance by a group of B-Boys. It gathered a huge crowd and the guys involved volunteers from the audience. They pulled the people out first then went around collecting money from the spectators who paid to see what the volunteers would have to do. Smart performers.

There were quite a few costumed characters parading the street offering themselves for photo ops too. You really need to have a good costume to get the fans. A Spiderman costume that looks like kids' pajamas is an immediate failure. There were 3 Spideys wandering the street practically harassing passers-by to pay for a photo op. Not cool, Spidey, not cool. Superman cut a lonely figure in the crowd too and so did a super ugly Yoda with 4 eyes. The most popular guy, for obvious reasons, was Bumble Bee! Check out his costume! It's amazing. And he was really friendly too. No superhero harassment. Now that's the way to go.

There was loads of shopping, from the strings of souvenir shops all selling Oscar lookalikes for the anyone and everyone. Best Boyfriend, Mother, Father, Engineer, Manager, Professor, etc.

There were also some outlets at the Hollywood & Highland Centre, whose selling point is the view of the famous 'Hollywood' sign on the hill. The design of the building is freakishly bizarre though, like a confusion of Egyptian and Indian elements.

Our last stop was at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. I personally thought it was a grotesque misrepresentation of lovely traditional Chinese architecture - rather hard to identify with it except for the stone lions.

Still, it's rather fun milling around with other tourists in front of the theatre, most of whom are trying to fit their feet into the prints of their favourite movie star, and ignoring the calls of the tour attendants to sign up for tours of the theatre. Dan was thrilled to find his idol's prints!


We got our rental car - a spiffy little Japanese compact - and zipped off down the 101 Highway to Universal Studios Hollywood. Visiting a theme park is a great way to burn calories cos we were hurrying from ride to show, show to ride and only squeezed in half a hotdog each for lunch while standing in line for a show. We bought our passes online, which is pretty cool cos you get one free day to come back again and you zip straight to the turnstile with your print-at-home (or in the office, heh heh) ticket and skip the ticketing queues!

One good tip - offer to do the visitor survey at the entrance. You get rewarded with a priority pass for the Studio Tour which means you get to skip the queue and sit in the first car near the host. Super!

permalink written by  DanYilin on March 31, 2009 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: go.
tagged Hollywood and UniversalStudios

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The Simpsons and the Tan

Los Angeles, United States

So we were at Universal Studios today. After doing The Simpsons ride for the second time, we came across this cool wall mural of Bart and Milhouse.

“Hey baby”, I said, “go do some funny pose there and I will take your picture”

The wife said, “Aiyoh… so paiseh. Okay, you count, and I’ll quickly do a pose. Once.”

And I agreed.

“One… two… three!” I counted, she posed and I snapped the shot.

“Umm… baby, what the hell pose was that?”

“I was drinking from his water bottle.”

Incredulous stare. “Water bottle?!”

“Ya… “, and she turned around and noticed Bart holding the same thing in his hand… the same spray can of paint!

You could see the gears turning in her head... should she pretend that she knew it was a can of spray paint all along and was just "testing" me? Nahh.... I obviously could not be fooled by now!

After laughing my posterior off, I finally got a proper shot – of the wife sulking.


permalink written by  DanYilin on March 31, 2009 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: go.
tagged Funny, Universal, Studios and Simpsons

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