Last year I had the opportunity to finally visit the US. It was a customer of mine here in Shanghai who invited me. Even though I had to pay by myself she was an excellent tour guide showing me everything from hockey in San Jose to Balboa Park in San Diego. We even stopped in Los Angeles on our way down the coast and I got to see all the classic tourist sights.
Ok, lets start from the beginning. We boarded the airplane in Shanghai and settled in for the long flight to Los Angeles. The flight took almost 13 hours!
After several cups of coffee and movies we finally arrived in Los Angeles. I don’t know why but I felt very happy to arrive there after almost one year in China. Los Angeles felt more like home than Shanghai ever will. I think I felt this way mostly because of the language barrier in China but in part it is also a matter of culture. I will give one example, taxis. If your destination address is in the suburbs of Shanghai you will have to ask several drivers before you get one who will drive you. Most likely you will have to discuss the price also as well. And keep an eye on the taximeter to see if it is moving at normal speed or not.
At the airport in Los Angeles I simply ordered an Uber who drove me all the way to San Diego where I was staying. I know this function exist in China as well, Didi, but the English version of the app is faulty and it is obvious they really didn’t give it much thought. Again I know, it is the language issue. But still it is one thing that makes me feel less at home in China.
Daily things that are simple and quick for me to achieve in a western country is a big ordeal in China. I know it is my fault, if I knew how to read and speak Chinese it would be easier. But I am too old to learn! However these challenges are part of the reason why live abroad, facing some challenges daily makes you stronger and you learn that there are basically nothing in life you can call a problem. Just small obstacles you can always find a way to get past.
Anyway, let’s get back to the topic. So the nice Uber driver drop me off in San Diego just outside the hotel. He even gave me three bottles of water and a map of the Los Angeles area. I arrived at the hotel around 1AM so after checking in I fell asleep right away.
My first day in San Diego.
I got up early and went outside looking for food. I found my favorite place, Starbucks. So I had my classic breakfast, Venti Cappucino and skinny blueberry muffin. After breakfast I walked around central San Diego for a while checking out the classic gaslamp quarters.
When I was walking around San Diego I felt it is a very nice city. Very clean and calm. One thing however that surprised me was the number of homeless people sleeping on benches and beside the sidewalks in the city center. I had no idea there were so many poor homeless people in San Diego.. However, all of the ones I interacted with were very nice and polite. One man who obviously have a very tough life told us that we should go check out Balboa Park before we leave San Diego. So after a very relaxed first day this was the plan for the next day.
San Diego, day 2, Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a urban cultural park where there are more than fifteen museums as well as large open spaces, natural vegetation zones, gardens and walking paths. The park is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational. The park is namned after the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa.
From our hotel in the city center we ones again used the Uber app to get a ride to the park. Less than 10 minutes and less than 5 dollar late we arrived.
Like I mentioned before after almost one year in Shanghai I really enjoyed my time in California and especially in places like Balboa Park. Walking around in the park looking at the nature as well as visiting the various museums was a very nice way of spending the day. The highlight for me this day was meeting the extremely talanted street performer Big Slim John Anderson. I bought one of his CD’s and its on every day on my laptop while I am working.
What do you think? He is pretty awesome right?
After spending the entire day looking around in Balboa Park we decided to have dinner at a Mexican style restaurant in the Old Town. The food was really very nice and the price quite OK compared to other tourist areas I have been to.
And of course, from Balboa Park to the Old Town, we used Uber. Really very convenient and not too pricey.
Day 2 in San Diego, going to San Jose
Day two I woke up with painful feet after walking all the previous day in Balboa Park. Maybe too weak after the long flight from Shanghai?
Anyway, day 2. We packed our stuff and went to Lindbergh Field, the San Diego International airport, to catch a flight to San Jose in northern California. At least northern compared to San Diego. This time we decided to give the traditional taxis a chance so we took our luggage and walked down Horton Plaza and got a taxi right away. A nice driver who took us all the way to the door at Terminal 1 which serves Southwest Airlines.
Getting out from the taxi at the airport our eyes got very big when we saw the huuuge (as Trump would say) line of people waiting outside the terminal. This trip was around Christmas and New Years so peak season for travelling. Turns out the line to the Southwest check-in was so long that it went through the door and out on the sidewalk. To our surprise there were also self-check-in machines available inside the terminal with basically no line at all so we of course went there. We scanned our passports quick and easy, got our boarding passes and went through the security control. Security controls at American airports are quite an experience, the staff working there are usually very happy and talkative (like most Americans) but the security check is more serious than in most other countries. Each airport in the United States uses full-body scanners to check the passengers. First time I felt a bit uneasy going through the machine but after you have done it a couple of times it is nothing. Impressing piece of machinery actually who can detect the smallest scar on your body. I have done surgery on my shoulder and lower back and because of this I obviously have some scar tissue in those areas, each time the machine marked them on my beautiful “naked” picture and I had to go through some more manual control by the security people. I don’t mind, the way the world is these days I prefer more security checks at airports to make sure the bad people get caught.
Anyway, though security we quickly find out that our flight to San Jose was delayed approximately two hours. For us it was no big deal as we were just travelling but others who were flying home for Christmas to see their families were more unhappy about the delay.
To kill some time we decided to have breakfast at the gate and am I happy we did. We sat down in the only restaurant at the gate and ordered a traditional American breakfast, ham and cheese omelette! It was the best omelette I have ever had, probably not so healthy but it was tasty! After this trip to California I have a new found love for ham and cheese omelette and Karl Strauss beer!
With a happy stomach full of ham and cheese omelette we finally boarded the flight to San Jose.
Part two is here.Tags: airport, american breakfast, balboa park, cultural differences, flight, full-body scan, gaslamp quarter, karl strauss, language barriers, lax, lindbergh, los angeles, pudong airport, san diego, security, shanghai, southwest airlines, taxis