The US Trip: Sunny Orange County.

This is the fifth post of “The US Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

Orange County is where I spent most of my days during this US trip. I stayed in Motel 6 Newport Beach – which I would gladly recommend due to its exceptional service, despite being “only” a motel.  I chose to stay in Orange County because of this TV Series! Hahaha not.. It’s because the motel rate is cheaper and I like to stay near the beach.

Anyway, in this post I’ll highlight some of the places I visited in Orange County. I was lucky that even though it’s September when I visited, I still got to enjoy sunshine and spend some time under the sun.

The first destination is Huntington Beach.

Huntington Beach is known for its surfing culture. They say you can surf all year long – that’s why it’s also famous as Surf City USA. Of all the beaches I visited, this is my favorite beach, it has white sands for as far as you can see, and also rows of palm trees.

Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach

Not a surfer? don’t worry, there are a lot of other things that you can do in Huntington Beach. I really enjoyed sun bathing ( didn’t jump to the water because the water was too cold! hahaha ), strolling down the main street where there’s a lot of cafes and small shops, and last but not least.. I really enjoyed kayak!

It was my very first experience and although it was rather hard to do at first, but when I got used to it, I really enjoyed it. You can check out Huntington Harbor Boat Rentals  if you want to try kayaking as well 🙂

Kayak
I kayaked!!

Then there’s Laguna Hills and Laguna Beach

Laguna Hills is famous because of this TV Series – but there’s more to it. I personally love the terrain, you can see the beach and the hills in one sight. It’s also nice to drive around and see the nice houses in the neighborhood, then have a stroll on the high street full of cute small shops (The high street is smaller than the one in Huntington Beach).

Laguna Hills
Laguna Hills

While in the area, I also went for a bit of hike in Top of The World Park. There are a couple of routes that you can choose, depending on how long you want to hike. I chose the easy one – which can be finished in around 45 minutes time. Even from my easy route, I could see amazing city view from the top. I guess that’s why they name it Top of The World 🙂

Top of The World Park
Top of The World Park

Last but not least, don’t forget to also stop by the beach. Compared to Huntington Beach, this one has less palm trees and (I think) is not as big. Still nice to visit though!

Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach

So.. that’s about it for Orange County. I loveee the area simply because it has a selection of wonderful beaches and a very laid back vibe – typical southern Californian style. Do visit when you’re around Los Angeles – it’s only an hour drive away 🙂

The US Trip: Las Vegas Baby!

This is the fourth post of “The US  Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

People say that when you’re in the US’ West Coast, you can NOT miss visiting Las Vegas. True? At first I kind of hesitated to visit Las Vegas, because I don’t gamble, and don’t party as much – and I thought that’s all what the town has to offer. But I was wrong. Even after only 1 night in Las Vegas, I can say that it is a MUST visit when you’re in the West Coast!

I went there on the weekend with my friends – the four of us drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and it took us around 4 hours to get there. Although I did not drive, I can say that it was an enjoyable drive. Wide road, no traffic, clear blue sky, gorgeous desert scenery – pure American road trip experience.

Road Trip - California to Nevada!
Road Trip – California to Nevada!

I was lucky that our hotel – Jockey Club Resort was located within the famous Las Vegas Strip. In fact, it is conveniently located within Bellagio and Cosmpolitan. It’s a 3 star hotel and a non-gaming one, but still within walking distance to the ‘life of Las Vegas’, so it’s perfect for me, being a non-gamer / first – timer in Las Vegas. We stayed in their studio – which on their website written as sleeps 4 but trust me they are HUGE! I think it can still conveniently sleeps up to 6, perfect for group travel.

Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas Strip

After we arrived in the afternoon, we spent some time to wander around The Cosmopolitan and also The Strip. I was amazed to see the amount of people gaming in the casinos I saw. Everywhere I look, the casinos were never empty, even though it’s in the middle of the day. They even did not wear formal/smart attire (like what I saw in the movies :p). Because we don’t have casinos in Indonesia – I found it rather odd to see people gaming in daytime wearing casual clothing. Even Singapore’s Resort World Sentosa have smart attire as their dresscode!

Ka-Chinggg!
Ka-Chinggg!

Actually, our main intention to visit Las Vegas was to eat at Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, since it’s listed no.1 in 2013’s 5 best Vegas buffet by USA Today. If that review still does not convince you enough, it has 4 stars in Yelp 😀

Caesar's Palace Lobby
Caesar’s Palace Lobby

Having seen the reviews, we were not surprised anymore to see this queue when we arrived in front of the restaurant…

The queue!
The queue!

We had to queue for 2 hours to get a seat! They say you’ll get a priority queuing line if you’re staying at Caesars Palace but for the rest of us, we had to queue patiently. We arrived at the restaurant at 6, got our seats at 8… and finished eating by 11 PM 😛  I have to say that this was the BEST buffet I’ve ever eaten in my life! All the fresh seafood, juicy meat, scrumptious dessert.. To this, all the fancy buffet in Jakarta’s 5 star hotels I’ve been to seems like nothing!

Anyway, we ended the night feeling very satisfied and full. We had a walk through the strip once again to see some bits of night life, then went straight back to the hotel.

The next day, we spent some time walking through the strip again (it’s a long road!), where we found a Coca- Cola Store! Being a Coke enthusiast, I was so happy to be in the store. We did some shopping, got our picture taken with Coke’s Polar Bear, and spent some time in the cafe where we got to try Tastes of The World. For $7, we will receive two trays each with 8 small cups consisting of different Coca – Cola Company’s products from all over the world. This is definitely a must do when you’re visiting the store, and my personal favorite is Fanta Magic from Estonia (Yes, there is such thing!).

Coca – Cola Tastes of The World
Coca-Cola Store!
Coca-Cola Store!

We left Las Vegas after visiting Coca – Cola Store, but managed to stop by the factory outlet (!!!) on the way back to Los Angeles (I’ll write more on the factory outlets I visited on this series, promise!). So yeah, I think there are more to Las Vegas than casinos and clubs. Visit when you’re into culinary experience, even more when you’re into entertainment! Too bad I did not get the chance to see some live shows – I guess it’ll be interesting to see either cabaret, cirque du soleil, or even comedy shows. Well, that simply mean I have to go back one day 🙂

The US Trip: Universal Studios Hollywood

This is the third post of “The US  Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

The trip to Universal Studios Hollywood was on the itinerary of my second day in Los Angeles. I went there with R and also Indiet, my friend from college who happened to be in town too at that time. The 1-day ticket for this theme park originally cost $84 but thanks to R’s cousin we could get special price tickets and it cost us only $59! Not bad at all 🙂

The park opened at 10AM so we tried to get there on time, to avoid crowd and queuing.  To our surprise, there was not THAT many people and we barely had to queue to get in to our rides. Plus, the sky was super bright and clear although it was September already! I guess it’s true when they say it’s always sunny in California.. (wait or is it Philadelphia? :p)

Before we went into the park, we took some time to take pictures in front of the theme park gate and of course, you know, with the famous Universal Studios globe 😉

IMG_4943
Clear blue sky!
Me and Indiet
Me and Indiet

After we went inside, we went straight to try the attractions. This was actually not my first time going to Universal Studios Hollywood, but a lot of attractions have changed! We first tried  Transformers: the Ride 3-D, which was super cool and thrilling. Then me and Indiet tried the classic Jurassic Park-The Ride – I tried it before but somehow this time was more exciting than the first one! After that, we tried attractions by attractions – from Shrek 4D, Revenge of the Mummy – the Ride,  and my favorite…. The Simpsons Ride! wooohoo! It was like being inside the TV Show!  they also have a Kwik – E – Mart in front of the ride which sells The Simpsons merchandises 🙂

Krusty Land!
The Simpsons Ride!
Inside Krustyland
Inside Krustyland! :p

We then watch the Waterworld show, which got us mesmerised. Again, Waterworld show was not new to me, but it still got me in awe.  To finish our day, we spent some time to take the famous studio tour, which also included King – Kong 360 3-D. To our surprise, the video host was Jimmy Fallon! He’s one of my favorite comedian and he made the studio tour super interesting and funny. This Studio Tour is definitely a must try when you’re in Universal Studios Hollywood, as it gives you a very “Hollywood” experience 🙂

Anyway, since we did not have to queue for long to get in to the rides, we finished quite early and had time to wander around the park. I was so happy to see a British – themed road full of British kind of replicas! We found the famous Red telephone box, tube signs, street signs, even the double Decker bus!

IMG_4938
So HAPPY to find THIS! :p

After we were finished in the park, we also took some time to have a sightseeing in Universal Walk – home of Hard Rock Cafe and lots of shops/cafes. I think it will be fun to visit the walk during night time – I imagine lots of lights from the shops would make it interesting. Maybe next time 😉

Universal Walk
IMG_4946
Hard Rock Cafe

So.. that’s it! In total we spent approximately 5 hours in the park, and we got to try everything! I guess we were lucky because there were not many people even though it was a Friday. In my opinion, this theme park is more suitable for grown ups because a lot of the rides are not child – friendly. But for us, it was a very enjoyable day, and for those theme park lovers – thrill seekers, you got to visit Universal Studios Hollywood when visiting Los Angeles!

The US Trip: Transit in Hong Kong

This is the second post of “The US  Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

As a took Cathay Pacific airline, I had to transit in Hong Kong on my way to Los Angeles from Jakarta. I took the morning flight from Jakarta and it took me around 4,5 hours to get to Hong Kong. My flight from Jakarta to Hong Kong was rather delightful, I slept almost all the time (only woke up when it’s time for a meal :p), and I liked the meal served to me.

As soon as I got off the plane , I immediately searched for transit guide. I could find it easily, but I had to go through some immigration and security check before I was able to enter the departures terminal. I remember queuing for quite a while for these checks, which made me began to feel tired. Walking slowly, I had no expectation when I entered the terminal. Guess what “greeted” me in front of the elevator? This.

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Zara outlet

Wooohooo the airport has Zara outlet! That moment my expectation went up drastically. I began to love the airport already.. and forgot my tiredness, hahaha. My love increased when I found out that it has free wi-fi (with super speed!) everywhere! Near my departure gate, I also found a MAC outlet, two bookshops, some retail shops, and a lot of chairs. That way my transit period was almost like a leisure! I had no problem in killing time at all. Even though I did not shop, but at least I got to enjoy window shopping while killing time.

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Departures terminal

Now, feeling hungry after all those window shopping? no worries at all! the airport has a selection of fast food joints (I think there are some restaurants too.. but I didn’t see it) which can keep you full in between your flihgts. My favorite – the one which also confirmed my super duper love for this airport – is Popeyes! This fast food joint, located in Departures area level 7, used to have some branches in Jakarta, but closed a couple years ago. I loved their biscuits soooo much and I couldn’t help but buy a pack for my snack while waiting for my next flight 😛 Let’s just say my 15 hours flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles went realllly smooth , partly because of my happy tummy after eating those biscuits 😀

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Popeyes’ biscuits !!!

So.. that’s all for my transit in Hong Kong experience. I’ll start writing my US experience soon 🙂

The US Trip: Pre – Departure

Note : This is the first post of “The US Trip” series – stories from my solo trip to US last year. Some posts (like this one), will be in Bahasa Indonesia, and some in English. Hopefully you’ll find both versions useful and enjoyable! -c

Tulisan tentang perjalanan saya ke Amerika Serikat ini harusnya sudah saya post sejak tahun lalu – segera setelah saya pulang ke Indonesia, di blog saya yang lama. Tetapiiii, banyak hal yang membuat tulisan ini terlambat, bahkan tulisan ini sudah “nangkring” di blog ini sejak bulan Januari! Yah, seperti pepatah yang terkenal “better late than never“, mari kita mulai cerita perjalanan saya ke Amerika Serikat.. dimulai dari “kehebohan” sebelum saya berangkat ya! 🙂

Visa 
Sebagai warga negara Indonesia, saya butuh visa untuk memasuki Amerika Serikat (AS). Walaupun saya sudah pernah pergi ke AS dua kali sebelumnya, waktu itu saya masih kecil – masih ikut orang tua. Kemarin adalah pengalaman pertama saya mengajukan permohonan visa dan juga berangkat sendirian, jadi saya rada deg – degan.

Saya deg – degan karena pasca kejadian 9/11, saya banyak mendengar cerita – cerita betapa susahnya mendapatkan visa turis AS – cerita penolakan yang absurd, juga cerita keribetan untuk apply visa turis tersebut. Jadi, saya berusaha mencari sebanyak – banyaknya informasi di internet, dengan harapan mematahkan gosip – gosip yang saya dengar. Yang pertama saya lakukan adalah browsing website nya Kedubes AS di Jakarta. Karena perjalanan saya ini murni perjalanan jalan – jalan, jenis visa yang saya butuhkan adalah visa turis – yang jika menurut website ini disebut dengan Visa Bisnis / Wisatawan (B1/B2). Disitu juga ditulis syarat – syarat yang diperlukan (tips: siapkan waktu untuk mengisi formulir DS-160 dengan menyeluruh!), dan setelah menyiapkan semua syarat nya, saya pun membuat perjanjian untuk wawancara di kantor kedubes AS di Jakarta.

Pada hari wawancara, saya juga membawa supporting documents yang sekiranya menurut saya bisa memperkuat aplikasi visa turis saya. Yang saya bawa adalah slip gaji dari kantor, buku tabungan, bukti pemesanan tiket pulang pergi (kebetulan saya sudah punya tiket Jakarta – Los Angeles PP sebelum bikin visa), dan juga paspor – paspor lama saya yang ada visa AS nya waktu saya berangkat kesana dengan  orang tua. Last time I checked, tidak ada halaman di website resmi pemerintah AS yang menyebutkan dengan spesifik jenis supporting documents yang harus dibawa – yang penting tiap aplikan visa turis  punya bukti yang konkrit bahwa perjalanan nya memang hanya sementara, murni jalan – jalan, dan bukan untuk berimigrasi ke AS!

Singkat cerita, wawancara saya di kedubes AS berjalan lancar. Saya sengaja memilih jam wawancara paling pagi. Jam 7 kurang saya sudah sampai, kemudian sekitar jam 9 saya sudah bisa pulang. Wawancara nya juga berjalan lancar – jauh sekali dari gosip – gosip yang saya dengar. Aplikasi visa turis saya pun disetujui hari itu juga! Wooohooo! Kabar baiknya, saya dapat visa multiple entry! jadii saya masih punya kesempatan untuk jalan – jalan mengelilingi AS di kemudian harinya. Ternyata, mengajukan aplikasi visa turis ke AS tidak seram, dan tidak juga seribet gosip – gosip yang saya dengar. Hore! 🙂

Tiket Pesawat Pulang – Pergi

Nah, soal tiket pesawat ini rada unik. Kenapa unik? karena saya sudah beli tiket pesawat PP sebelum saya bikin visa! Nekat? mungkin. Tetapi begini ceritanya. Saya memang sudah nabung untuk jalan – jalan ke AS sejak saya mulai bekerja di kantor yang sekarang. Kurang lebih nabung nya 2 tahun! Ngecek website tiket murah hampir – hampir jadi langganan setiap lagi merasa jenuh dengan aktifitas (atau setiap ada godaan untuk mecahin tabungan! :p), tetapi selama sekitar 2 tahun itu, tiket nya belum kebeli juga. Well, selain emang belum cukup uang nya, saya juga belum menemukan waktu cuti panjang yang tepat.

Sekitar bulan Juni 2013, saya merasa tabungan sudah cukup, dan hasrat pergi ke AS juga sudah semakin besar. Karena saya memang seorang planner, saya sudah merencanakan untuk apply visa turis AS, lalu jika sudah dapat, beli tiket pesawat dan kemudian benar – benar merencanakan perjalanan saya. Tetapi, di hari itu saya sedang iseng – iseng browsing dan menemukan promosi tiket dari Cathay Pacific yang harganya jauh lebih murah dari maskapai penerbangan lain. 

Tanpa pikir panjang, saya langsung memutuskan untuk membeli tiket tersebut – karena selama saya ngecek tiket 2 tahun kebelakang, saya belum pernah menemukan tiket Cathay semurah itu.  Kalaupun pernah menemukan tiket dengan harga segitu, maskapai penerbangan nya tidak se-bonafid Cathay Pacific dan mengharuskan saya untuk transit berjam – jam.

Tips dari saya untuk pencari tiket murah, sering – sering ngecek website maskapai penerbangan yang kamu inginkan, jangan hanya terpaku pada website penerbangan murah, karena kadang – kadang promo yang menarik justru bisa kamu temukan di website maskapai penerbangan tersebut!

Mata Uang

Saya rada apes, pas banget sebelum jadwal perjalanan saya ke AS, nilai tukar rupiah melemah dan menembus Rp.10.000 untuk USD 1! Dengan demikian, budget liburan saya terpotong sekitar 20% karena selama ini saya menabung menggunakan rupiah. Ada baiknya, kedepannya, kamu mempersiapkan tabungan dalam bentuk USD sehingga tidak harus terkena imbas nilai tukar seperti saya 🙂

Oke, sekian cerita persiapan saya sebelum berangkat ke AS. Cerita – cerita selanjutnya dalam seri “The US Trip” menyusul yaa! 🙂