April 27, 2008

Theme Parks

April 23, 2008 Wednesday American time
Today we go to the famous Universal Studios in Hollywood. But before that, we got to see the exterior of Hollywood's famous theaters such as the Kodak and the Chinese Theater. Then, we got to see the stars in the Walk of Fame. To be frank, Hollywood's a bit overrated, really. But if you expected star sightings there, it's a better bet to go there at night.

Afterwards, we drove up to Universal Studios and it's definitely a hybrid of real film studio and theme park. If you go there in late May, you'll also get to see the newest Simpsons attraction which looks promising. We first went to the world-famous Studio Tour which literally gave people a look at its sets which replicate different places in different countries, or build a different world altogether. Sets we visited include a segment of the Indiana Jones 4 set, the New York you see in Spiderman 2 (and Superhero Movie), a set that was used in the first season of Heroes, the War of the Worlds demolition set, Wisteria Lane which was being prepared for shooting in the same day (Desperate Housewives), Amity Island from Spielberg's Jaws, the ocean facade used in Pirates of the Carribean, Evan Almighty and a horde of other movies, and a special effects test of exploding cars in Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. These are just a few of the places you'll visit in the Universal lot, but some of the sets are very much closed, which means they're in the privacy of big buildings called Sound Stages. Shows like CSI, Life and Ghost Whisperer use these buildings.

When we got to the tour's exit, we then got the chance to watch Terminator 2: 3D which was very cool because they got to successfully mix live actors with the 3D screen. They initiate this facade of being able to get inside the screen and out and make use of 3 screens. And hey, it wouldn't be complete without the famous line of "I'll be back.".

We actually had to go to the Waterworld show afterwards and bring our food, but we chose to eat the food outside the stage then go there. Unfortunately we were too late, but we got to watch it, like, 4 hours later.

In between those 4 hours, we went through rides, watched Shrek 4-D and saw how special effects in movies were done (that was really cool). However, the Haunted House was one attraction we really wanted to go in to but didn't have time. It's a shame since people say that it's definitely scary unlike the one in Disneyland.

If you want a break from cheesy or preachy shows and nostalgia from Disney, Universal Studios is the park to go.

April 24, 2008 American time
We didn't have to get up as early as we used to, and we didn't have to hurry as fast as the day before because we were to stay 'till 9pm in Disneyland California. But what's the difference between that and Hong Kong Disneyland? Well, it's obviously bigger but it's also significantly older, and it shows in its restrooms. We got to ride its famous Indiana Jones roller coaster, the Jungle Cruise (Hong Kong's was better, though), the Pirates of the Carribean, the "Haunted" mansion, Splash Mountain, and myriads more. Its Autopia tracks are longer, and its 3D movie just fine, but Disneyland isn't the kind of park that you can go through in one day, and we had to avoid the wedding being held there (yes, a wedding) because it was very much crowded already, and you know what happens when crowds get big.

Overall, if you've gone to Hong Kong Disneyland, there's a lot of stuff you've missed that's found right here. And the rides that already exist in Hong Kong Disneyland are mostly inferior to their California counterpart- except the Jungle Cruise.

But holy cow is the gift shop expensive. Still, it's cheaper than the one in Universal...

April 25, 2008 American time
San Diego... Why do you have to be so far??? We had to be ready by 7:30 because the journey had to reach about 6 hours, kinda like going to Las Vegas, only that Vegas is farther. No, we weren't to stay the night in San Diego and yet it left us burned. Yes, the sun there is hot but the wind touching your face is very pleasant.

Anyway, the first destination we had to go in San Diego was a cruise around the area which lasted an hour. After that, we went to a Chinese Buffet and had to eat it all in just 20 minutes. I want to enjoy eating at least!

After a few minutes, we finally got to SeaWorld where its biggest attraction is a whale named Shamu. Remember White Chicks? "Throw Shamu back into the ocean!" Yeah, this is where that line came from.

The only thing we were to do there is to only watch shows because we had to go home by 5. First one was a "Pet Olympics" show, then a dolphin show, a roleplay involving seals and walruses, and Shamu. In between the seal roleplay and Shamu, my little brother got lost. He has been losing stuff the past few days: the mug with his name and his new Reebok jacket 2 days ago, the jacket we thought he lost but was in my bag during the parade in Disneyland, and now it has all come full circle: He lost himself. Luckily, he had a brain and was in the Lost and Found. My aunt and uncle were there to help and thought of it (my brother being in the Lost and Found) and, well, you know what happens.

4 hours later, we got back to Monterey Park, LA and we had to meet up with my dad's batchmates. We ate, they talked and went back to the hotel and got to sleep after watching the Simpsons.

April 26, 2008 American time 9:26AM
We're on the road again and bound for San Francisco. We're making a few stops along the way to this certain castle which has a name I can't remember, and... yeah, that's the itinerary for today. Later.

A few hours later, we went to this sort of European town in California to eat lunch. It was in a "Viking Restaurant" and we ate 2 chickens, fried rice and veggies for a value of 6 dollars and bought some pastries and delicious fudge.

It was 2:00 when we arrived at Hearst Castle and boy what a castle it is! It actually has 3 parts available on tour but we only toured one part due to time constraints. If we were to tour all 3, it would take all day. Who's this Hearst guy anyway? Well, he was the biggest media mogul in his time owning a horde of publications and a movie production studio. He would get a lot of guests in his many bungalows and watch the latest movie or play tennis. It didn't matter whether he or she was young or old, as long as one would have a remarkable achievement would he/she get an invitation.

Not only did he own just a big house, he bought a hell of a lot of ancient art and carvings coming from the Mediterranean (or countries near the Mediterranean Sea) like Egypt or Italy or Spain. It was the guy's passion and it would be passed down for generations and generations to come.

The Hearsts don't live there anymore especially since that controversy involving one family member joining a cult, but whatever, the original man donated the whole estate to the government so it's state-owned. However, the land surrounding it, all up to the next county is still theirs and a sister-in-law is still breeding horses in the Hearst Ranch.

But now we are to go to Fresno for a buffet then a night of slumber...

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