Honestly, I never knew what to expect from my first time on the USA trip. I had mixed emotions when it came to this trip.
Anxiety started when I was processing my visa and was getting a schedule in the US embassy. I was there thrice before I got my visa.
It was some technical weird thing that my DS file number was not in their records. They asked if I had a printed copy of my DS file (the entire thing!) I said I did not because it was not a requirement. Because of that, I had to reschedule my interview dates. I did not have to pay again because I did not get an interview at all.
It seems like three times a charm and I was approved and the story of how I got my US visa approved was told here.
A week or two after I got my US visa, I also got my US trip tickets and itinerary. We had a lot of things to do on the trip. It was a California mall tour for Organique Acai formal launch in the USA. I was there with Regine Tolentino and Ricky Lo and the ABS-CBN TFC crew.
My first glimpse of USA soil was, of course, the Los Angeles Airport. It was a surprise to see how easy it was in their immigration. There was a very minimal human intervention, they will only assist you if you ask for help. Scanning your passport for the immigration interview was by machine. Then you pass by immigration who will manually stamp your passport for your US entry. Plus take your photograph.
I did not have a hard time with my luggage as well. When I am about to exit the airport an airport customs officer just asked me one question. Probably he went through my deflation papers and saw that I declared I have pastries with me.
” Do you have chicharon?” he asked
“No,” I said.
“How come, most Filipino visitors I know bring those yummy things with them they arrive,” he smiled.
“Nah, I have other Filipino favorites like pulvoron, piaya and hopia,” I said.
“Alright. Have a pleasant visit. Welcome to the USA!” he said.
When I found the person who will pick me up at the airport. I told him what the airport custom officer asked me. I was told that if I said I had chicharon they will confiscate it. Unfortunately, they disallow the entry of meat and poultry products and chicharon is classified as a poultry product! Good thing I didn’t bring any and not create a scene in there!
While we were on our way to our first destination, I made a mental note of my observations which you can read on that link.
My first time in the USA was a work and leisure visit although it was the prize I did not expect to get at the big launch of Organique held in Manila. I was supposed to visit the plant but unfortunately, the time when my visa is expiring did not coincide with the production month so instead, we went on a mall tour and the grand launch. Working in the morning and doing whatever we want during the day was our itinerary.
I am glad that a PR friend who organized the big Philippine launch was in California at the time we were there. Rochelle Romero of PixRepublic with her husband Mon and friends became my tour guide and nighttime buddy when I was there. I love them to bits. They are so kind and warm and took really good care of me taking me to places they know I will enjoy.
This was my first time in Hollywood so Hollywood was our first stop. But first, we had dinner at Hot Wings, one of the most famous chicken Wingstop in LA. We had 75 pieces of hot wings shared by just the 5 of us! Yummy!
I even crossed Hollywood Street. It was such a fun experience even if it was night time and another instance I was there it was raining crazy! Did you know that rain happens sporadically in Los Angeles and the time I was there was the first! How lucky can I get? Haha!
LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Arts) Urban Lights
It was used as a location for the movie ‘No Strings Attached’ starring Aston Kutcher and Natalie Portman. The director of the film called the artwork “an extraordinary beacon that lights up a desperate part of Wilshire that felt almost abandoned at night”. The LACMA Urban Lights was also featured in the Tori Amos video Maybe California and the film Valentine’s Day.
It was understandable why a lot of tourists visit the place and get photographed there. It looks magical. The steel cast iron light poles are beautifully crafted. No first-time LA visitors would want to miss this place. Tip: Be there late at night when the crowd dies down and the Urban Light is turned on.
One of the most popular high-end shopping malls in Los Angeles features trendy retailers, restaurants & a theater amid a bustling promenade. According to my friend Nikko Panti, who took me around the place, Manny Pacquiao was banned from going here because of the lewd comment he made against the LGBT community.
Near the Grove, are popular go-to places in LA like The Farmers Market and the famous Umami Burger where we had dinner and tried their best-selling burger.
After the trip the Grove we went house shopping in Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive! It was raining hard and all we can do was go drive around. Good thing Nikko had a car! You can’t live in LA without a car. This is standard anywhere in the United States car is essential!
At Beverly Hills, we passed by what I thought was a city hall the City Jail! We shopped houses while passing by and had this joke of knocking on one of the houses and pretending I’m the girlfriend of the owner or sort. Haha! Fun times!
In LA, the higher you go to the mountains the more expensive the property becomes. Going up we passed by Madonna’s house (that’s all I remembered haha!) Too many beautiful homes of the rich and famous Hollywood celebrities live there. Manny Pacquiao has a property in LA too, we passed by it and it stretches a whole block!
Going up we headed to the Griffith Observatory. It was a foggy night with almost zero visibility. Freezing cold out there as well. The observatory is a popular tourist attraction with an excellent view of the Hollywood Sign, (but it was too foggy so we didn’t see a thing huhu!) But inside the museum was an extensive array of space and science-related displays, love it! Entrance is free since opening in 1935 in accordance with the benefactor’s will, after whom the observatory is named – Colonel Griffith J. Griffith.
Americana at the Brand at Glendale California
Shopping. I did not go shopping in LA it was too expensive there as the sales tax are high. Plus we only visited high-end shopping centers and I did not want to spend there as I will be going to a state where there’s no sales tax at all (Oregon) a few days after California. Plus, I really don’t go shopping much when abroad as I want to explore sights and visit popular places. I can do shopping anywhere we almost have all the brands they have in there so why bother? It wouldn’t be good for my check-in luggage I would have to pay double to get my stuff back in here.
If you are interested to watch my entire #DiscoverLA California trip, you may watch this vlog I made. You can see the Filipino shopping malls we visited like the Island Pacific and American Seafood (a place where you can shop mostly Filipino Asian foodie goodies) . They even have carinderia style eatery!
For this trip, we stayed at Comfort Inn & Suites at North Hollywood. You can see what my room looks like in the video as well. Across our hotel was a dollar superstore! I also stayed at Holiday Inn LAX before I went back home to Manila. I have a strong feeling that it was the receptionist of this Hotel who copied my card details and used it for a shopping spree before Christmas, swiped about Php20,000 off my account and I still have to get the funds back yet (my card skimming story here). Huhu!
I was able to try Uber in the USA as well from the airport, going to the airport and going to one of the malls in Van Nys California.
Had I had more time during this trip we consider hiring a Bakersfield party bus to go around the area and maybe spot some Hollywood celebrities to get on our bus! I wish!
The Los Angeles Airport (Tom Bradley International Airport) LAX
Of course, my trip is not complete without exploring the airport. It is huge and extensive but sadly unlike another international airport I visited, there is no place for you to standby in the airport to sleep or lounge around. As you know I do my sleeping in airports series as well. LAX has been strict and does not allow such places since 911. There are not too many chairs and restaurants, it was like NAIA Terminal 3 but with fewer restaurants and things to do while waiting for the check-in for your flight! But once you are in the place is huge, with a lot of shopping places dining areas and all. They have a prestige dining lounge you can see it in the video.
Anyway, in general, my first time to #DiscoverLA experience was surreal! Never in my wildest dream did I imagine I’d go to the US for free and visit these places. I am so thankful and blessed to have this opportunity. It was a short and sweet visit and I can’t wait to go back and explore it extensively. I have not seen the famous California West Coast beaches! Honestly, after this trip, I wanted to go back to the US some more and visit other states especially New York (But I’ve always wanted to see New York since Sex in the City)!
How about you, have you been to LA before? Which other places in LA or California would you recommend me to see the next time?
Stay gorgeous everyone!