At the end of April, I took a trip to LA to attend the VRTL Summit! It ended up being a workcation since neither S nor I had taken a vacation since starting Mana Marketing.
I won’t touch too much about the VRTL Summit other than it was well organized, not to mention it was inspiring and eye-opening to hear from industry experts in the VR and gaming scene. It was held at Paramount Pictures, so the environment, in general, was really picturesque (picture in the banner)! I also did a write-up of the event over at the Mana Marketing blog if you wanted to check that out.
Honestly, we were there for just three days. I guess technically it was four, but 1 day was all used up for transportation. We did try to make the most out of the two days that we had (we had 1 day reserved for the VRTL Summit)!
We visited one of our favorite spots in LA: Little Tokyo. I was sad to see that Mikawaya Mochi downsized their offerings, but they still had their deliciously creamy mochis. We had a few and moved on to a hidden gem called Urth Caffé.
Their food was a little pricey, but the ambiance was wonderful. We sat outside and enjoyed a smoked salmon pizza and matcha bubble teas!
We walked back to Little Tokyo afterward to grab dinner at Daikokuya Ramen. We went early knowing that there are crazy lines during dinner. I got the spicy broth and S got the original Daikokuya broth—I regret this so much because the original broth tasted so much better. Solid ramen in general though!
We bought a bunch of Asian snacks to take back to our hotel and was about to call it a day when we decided we’d also visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After all, we didn’t have that much time in LA!
It was weird going to the Walk of Fame after dark. It was about 11 PM when we got there and unlike the previous time I visited, it was vastly different. Many of the shops were closed and the streets were taken over by people asking if we had change to spare. The colorful street artists and actors were no longer there, but we did see someone dressed up as the Joker (which was pretty creepy given how quiet and late it was). It was our last stop of the day and we got home at around midnight.
The next day was reserved for Universal Studios! Our hotel is quite close to an LA Metro station and we realized we weren’t far from Universal. Obviously, we had to make a trip out.
Since it was low season, our tickets were discounted. I was so flipping excited to visit the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter I almost cried (just kidding, I actually did cry). The Forbidden Journey ride was amazing. It’s a motion-based dark ride and I’m such a chicken when it comes to rides but I knew I had to give it a shot. I’m pretty sure I was screaming the entire time, but looking back, that ride felt magical. How did they make everything so real?
A not-so-fond memory from my childhood at Universal Studios Hollywood was losing my sister. I remember that moment so vividly—my family and I were talking at the top of a set of escalators and then we all realized my sister was missing. The grown ups frantically split up to look for her and I remember one of my aunts worriedly saying “She’s so young. This is it—we’re never going to find her.” I was probably 7 years old (my sister was 3). My dad’s plan was to run to the front gates and look out for anyone who may be walking by with any bag/box/etc. that could fit a small child. He was worried someone would try to kidnap her. Eventually, one of my uncles found her with a nice family who was trying to help her find her family.
This memory was from so long ago, and while I had almost no recollection of Universal Studios, when we went by the escalator I suddenly remembered that one incident vividly. The escalators looked exactly the same as it did all those years ago and the fear once again made my heart feel heavy. I had to remind myself that this time around, there was nothing to worry about.
We went to almost all the places in the park (save for the area with the intense rides) in the day that we were there. We also saw all the shows we had wanted to see. I guess I would’ve liked to return the next day since a 2-day pass and a 1-day pass only differed by about $20 in price. Sadly, there was no time for that. I do suspect that I would’ve simply spent many more hours at Hogsmead though if we did get a 2-day ticket.
Something that I definitely don’t recall from my last time at Universal was the Universal CityWalk. Outside the gates of Universal Studios were lots of shops and restaurants! We ended up stopping by Voodoo Doughnut before we left and also checked out a few of the stores. It was a neat walk since there were also quite a few sidewalk performers, singing and selling their arts.
After leaving Universal, we took an Uber to check out the Urban Light exhibit and had to take some touristy photos. I had completely skipped Urban Light the last time I was in LA because I think I chose ramen rather than a trip there. It really was very pretty, but there wasn’t too much around the exhibit so we ended up heading back to the hotel for a dinner of Pizza Hut.
The next day was basically our last day in LA and it was also the VRTL Summit. Again, I have a summary of that linked at the beginning of the blog post, but after the summit, we managed to squeeze in a few activities.
Firstly, we stopped by K-Town to eat some of their famously cheap all-you-can-eats. It’s about $12USD and you can get unlimited meat to grill! We ended up going to Moon BBQ #2 (weird name, I know). They had an appetizer bar where you could help yourself to Korean side dishes such as kimchi, bean sprouts, and seaweed. Meats came free flowing. The restaurant was a little dingy and could’ve felt cleaner, but overall, it was decent given the price.
We then took an Uber out to the Santa Monica Pier. This was another spot I had skipped the last time I was in LA because of time constraints. When we got to the pier, most of the stalls were closed since it was getting late. The waves were roaring in the background as we walked down the long pier. It was really pretty seeing Pacific Park’s Ferris wheel lit up though! I was tempted to throw money at the arcade along the boardwalk but eventually held myself back.
The Uber ride back was interesting. We were picked up by some guy who got really angry at us because we didn’t meet him immediately at the pickup spot. Truth be told, the only reason for that was because we had no idea where any of the streets were (or where we were for that matter). He was honking at us and was super angry when he called us on the phone. We were terrified when we finally slipped into his car.
During the ride, we explained we were tourists and he started to get really chatty. He told us he has a degree at like 3 Ivy League universities in the US, and that he used to sell expensive art to rich people. We were nodding and at that point, I was still believing most of what he was saying. And then his stories started to get more and more unbelievable. He told us he has a gold mine somewhere and he’s waiting for the money to come in. He also talked about how rich he was. Whenever he asked us about our personal lives, we were careful to remain very vague. There was a very threatening vibe to him overall. There was definitely something off about that guy!
Luckily, we got back to our hotel in one piece. And we had to pack our bags. Sadly, our short workcation was over. I was glad that we got to visit LA again and I feel we made the most of our time there!
Till next time!