Come Visit My City :)

Hello April! Spring has sprung and for some of us it’s the perfect time for a break. This month, the topic for Stories from The West is about travel. I’m sharing a quick travel guide to Orange County, where I am currently residing. You can also read Dixie’s guide to Gothenburg here

If you plan to visit Los Angeles, I’d gladly suggest you to not skip visiting Orange County. Located 45 minutes away from downtown LA, Orange County has its own charm and can really make your LA vacation more special! While I know people mostly come here to go to Disneyland, but there are far more things to do here in OC than just visiting Disneyland. Here’s a list of some things that  that you can do in Orange County (Disneyland excluded!).

#1 Spend a Day at The Beach

Orange County has several beaches, each with its own charm. I might write a separate post about the beaches in OC, but if you only have a day to be spent at the beach, I’d say Laguna Beach is your go – to. Laguna Beach is situated in the south of OC, it’s a bit far from LA, but only a short drive from Disneyland Anaheim. Start your day by having breakfast or brunch at downtown Laguna Beach. Even there you can already feel the laid-back beach atmosphere. There are a lot of small cafes and breakfast places that you can choose, but I personally love Moulin – a small French cafe with delicious pastries. While you’re walking around downtown Laguna, you can stop by Laguna Coffee Company for a cuppa!

There are a handful of smaller beaches in Laguna Beach, you can choose the Main Beach if you want to immerse yourself in the crowd. Main Beach can get really crowded especially during warmer days but I think it’s always fun to people watch.

However, my personal favourite spot in Laguna Beach has got to be Treasure Island Beach. To get here, you can find Montage Laguna Beach hotel, park there, and then take a short walk to the beach. This spot is less crowded, with white sands, and amazing view!

Once you get tired of the beach (but really, how could one gets tired of the beach? :P), next on the itinerary is to check out local cliffside cafes to watch the sunset and have an early dinner. I like Driftwood Kitchen, but there are other great places that you can go to.

#2 Try Hiking

Another thing that you must do while you are in Orange County is to go on a hike. There are several great hiking spots in the area, each with different categories. Well, I’m new to hiking as I just started to hike frequently since I moved here. So I know I haven’t been to a lot of hiking spots, but I’ve been to a few that are easy to do for starters like me, with great views as well.

The first spot is Top of The World in Laguna Beach. It has a few treks, ranging from easy to hard. For starters like me, there’s even a short route that can be done in 30 minutes. The view is beautiful and it’s no hassle to get here, surely this place is hard to miss. 

Another great spot is Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. It is located just 5 minutes drive from downtown Huntington Beach, just by the Pacific Coast Highway (remember the song?) It’s flat trek with pretty ocean views where you can also do some bird spotting if you are a fan. 

#3 Embark on a Culinary Adventure

I have to say that food is one of Orange County’s greatest treasures. As LA’s neighbour, this area is pretty much just as multicultural, and I might be biased, but I actually found some of the best international tastes here instead of in LA. 

Westminster and Garden Grove is the place to start if you are craving for Asian food. It’s the hub for Southeast and South Asian communities in Orange County, so you’ll find lots of great Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino, and Indian food here. Sadly, no Indonesian restaurant in this area, but I can’t complain as I can still get food with familiar Asian taste just a short drive away. 

If you are more of a fan of Chinese and Japanese food, then your go-to place is Irvine and Costa Mesa. Irvine is a college town, famous for international students because of UC Irvine’s reputation. Costa Mesa is hard to miss because there’s South Coast Plaza, possibly SoCal’s best mall – definitely worth the drive if you want to spend some $$$ while traveling. 

Of course as an Asian I have to start with pointing out Asian food, but actually Orange County has so much more than just Asian food. Santa Ana and Orange (yes, there is a city called Orange) should not be missed if you are interested to try Mexican / South American food. 

It’s really hard for me to choose one favorite restaurant in Orange County – it really depends on what kind of food you are looking for. Bottomline is, you will never feel hungry in Orange County because there is just so much great food! Take a trip around the world by trying out different kinds of food, all just a short drive away within each other.

Anyway, to sum up this quick travel guide to Orange County – there’s really so much to see / do besides Disneyland. Hit me up if you are ever in the area and need some recommendations, I’d gladly share more of my favorites! See you in the next Stories from The West posts 🙂

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The US Trip: Food Fiesta!

This is the eighth post of ” The Us Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

In this post, I will simply list down the best restaurants and food joints I visited during my trip to the West Coast! Enjoy 🙂

KogiKing BBQ

I visited KogiKing right after I landed in LA. In fact, it was my first meal after more than 10 hours flight. I’m already a big fan of meat and Korean BBQ, plus I was so hungry and tired from the long journey, so I was so excited when I found out that this restaurant offers all you can eat buffet! I actually forget how much did it cost per person, but I’m sure it’s below $20. I think it’s somewhere between $15-18, which I think is a very good deal considering it would normally cost me around $15 when I eat Korean BBQ in Jakarta (not all you can eat). If you’re into meat, this is a must visit as they serve high-quality meat. If you still have some room in your tummy for side dish, do try their kimchi “lunch box” which I supposed resembles old school Korean lunch box (not Korean so I’m not sure.. hahaha). Although not my very favorite dish, the lunch box is indeed a unique dish because it’s not common in Jakarta’s Korean restaurants that I’ve been.

kogiking LA
Kogi King!

Fred 62

Still in downtown LA, Fred 62 is a typical American Diner that you’d normally see in the movies. It opens 24 hours every day… in other words, they never close! I visited Fred 62 twice during my stay in LA. The first was for breakfast where me and my friends ordered two of their breakfast menu to be shared (For me, their portion is quite big so it’s safe to share). It was delicioussss!

Big breakfast!
Big breakfast!

Then I came back again a couple days after for a late night snack after going to Local Natives’ concert. This time I had their famous bossa nova waffle. Now I’m talking about serious waffle business here. Their waffle was sooo good, fluffy and crispy at the same time.

Fred 62 waffle
Bossa Nova Waffle

Oh, one other thing! Not only they have excellent food.. Fred 62 is also the location set for Hollywood movie and TV series. You might find it familiar if you have seen the 2009 movie Spread and have been following Dexter the TV series (season 6).

In – N – Out Burger

If the East Coast has the famous Shake Shack burger.. California has In – N – Out! Many foodie articles have mentioned that this joint is one of the must visits when you’re in California. I had Animal Style burger PLUS a vanilla Milkshake. Classic American style burger, a total yummmm! 🙂

In N Out!
In N Out!

Umami Burger

Another burger joint, this one serves more fancy and unique menu. One of the must try is their truffle burger – with truffle cheese and truffle glaze. However, since I visited their Santa Monica branch, I tried the branch’s specialty instead – Oxtail Burger. It’s basically a beef burger with shredded oxtail and truffle cheese topping, which was soooo gooood. If I told you that In – N – Out is a total yum, this one too! They can’t actually be compared, both has different taste. But let me put it this way, try In – N – Out for a classic American burger, but don’t forget Umami for a feast of toppings.

Umami Burger
Umami Burger

Pampas Grill

Now this is another meat joint. Located inside LA’s farmers market, they serve Brazillian BBQ  by the pound. I can’t say much about this place except they offer one of the best meats I’ve tasted. Sooo juicy, with affordable price 😀

Pampas Grill
Meat Frenzy at Pampas Grill – Farmers Market

NBC Seafood Restaurant

Though it is originally a chinese – seafood restaurant, I visited only for their dimsum. Dimsum is only served there from 8AM – 3PM. Since they are quite famous in LA’s chinese food scene, be prepared to queue when you’re going there. The queue will be worth it though, they serve an extensive selection of yummy dimsum..

Dimsum
Dimsum Galore at NBC

Now, the next restaurants will not have any pictures simply because I forgot to take some. Hahaha. But keep reading, There are more yummy restaurants still to be reviewed 🙂

Gyutan Tsukasa 

Located inside Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa – Orange County, they serve the BEST beef tongue plate that I’ve ever tasted. It is juicy, tender, and very flavorful. Beef tongue is getting more and more popular in Jakarta’s Japanese food scene and I can tell you that no one tops Gyutan Tsukasa so far.

Phil’s BBQ

This restaurant is originally located in San Diego. I did not get the chance to visit San Diego though, but I managed to visit their San Marcos branch. Serving American classic BBQ, their ribs is to die for!!! It is voted top 10 restaurants in San Diego, so be prepared to queue. Don’t worry, the queue will be worth it!

The Kickin’ Crab

Serving Cajun style seafood.. this is truly the place to have seafood fiesta. Their specialty is the seasonings, and I had the Kickin Style – Extra Mild (Hahaha.. I can’t eat spicy food). Basically you pick your seafood of choice, pick one of the available seasonings and your spice level. They have Lemon Pepper, Cajun, Louisiana, Garlic Butter, and last but not least.. Kickin Style, which is a mix of  all the mentioned seasonings. You can also choose some extras, and I would recommend you to choose corn on the cob and garlic noodles for a different experience of eating seafood.

Native Foods

If you have been reading this post and my blog.. you’d know that I’m no Vegetarian nor Vegan. However, my boyfriend successfully persuaded me to visit this restaurant – a Vegan restaurant. At first I felt hesitant, because I’ve never tasted Vegan food before, nor am I used to the lifestyle. But I finally visited just out of curiosity… and I have to say that the food was delicious! It might not be my favorite food… but it’s nice to visit for a different experience 🙂 P.S – don’t worry if you’re a first timer like me, their staffs are very friendly and would gladly recommend you some options that will suit first timers like us!

So, that’s it! I hope I can give you some ideas to visit if you happen to be around Los Angeles… 🙂

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 🙂