Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier are probably two of the best-known beach areas in the world, simply due to the amount of exposure they receive in movies and tv series. Both beaches are quite different, Santa Monica’s pier area is far more family-friendly tourism. Venice Beach, on the other hand, is quite a unique experience where you will meet and see some very interesting people, stores, and performances. The Santa Monica Pier offers restaurants, a small amusement park with a roller coaster and small nicknack and souvenir stores along with a few more traditional performers and artists. You will probably want to spend about an hour (or two if you have children) there. Venice beach, on the other hand, can provide an entire afternoon worth of entertainment. Walking along Venice Beach’s esplanade you will find every manner of souvenir store, particularly t-shirt shops which the beach is well known for. You will also find plenty of places to eat, a large number of tattoo parlors, marijuana dispensaries and small galleries. What the beach is most famous for though are its performers, artists and small stall owners. You will see everything from classic dance performances and magic shows to people on rollerblades wearing amps shredding heir way along the beach and people who simply play music, pretend to be statues and then scream uncontrollably when someone gives them money. As far as store owners and artists go, one of the most famous things for sale on the beach are hand painted Mexican skulls in all shapes, sizes, and colors, these normally go for a reasonable price. Then, as always with touristy areas in the US you will have struggling and up and coming musicians trying to sell you their mixtapes in everything from jazz, hip hop, rap to rock and RnB. Venice Beach is also home to the famous Muscle Beach, which moved from its original location on Santa Monica Beach to Venice Beach and is where world famous bodybuilders and athletes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger have worked out and trained. If you have time I highly suggest paying a visit to these beaches, especially as they are only a 5-minute drive apart.
Beverly Hills is a whole other level of Hollywood within Hollywood itself. This is where the Hollywood elite lives and shops. Almost every store in this area is boutique/luxury shopping and most of the homes are mansions. This is home to the famous Rodeo Drive, a hub of designer brands and sports cars. While in Hollywood it is definitely worth visiting, even if you just walk down Rodeo Drive or drive through the suburbs of Beverly Hills to see how some of the wealthiest people in the world live. Downtown LA is not a far drive from Hollywood has enough to do and see to spend an afternoon there. I personally as a music lover spent my time at the Grammy Museum which features artifacts from artists such as Michael Jackson, Elvis, Bob Dylan, the Ramones and Daft Punk among others. The museum always features one special exhibit so it’s worth seeing who is on display before going. At the time of my visit, the special exhibit was The Ramones and so the museum had a fantastic collection of their merchandise, instruments, outfits, and posters. While visiting that area, I suggest you also pay a visit to the famous Staples Center and its surrounding courtyard areas.
Hollywood is a place that needs no introduction, it’s a brand that sells itself to the world without even needing to try. Hollywood Boulevard is probably one of the best-known streets in the world and attracts millions of visitors every year. I won’t bother going into detail regarding what and where Hollywood is, aside from saying that it is a suburb of central Los Angeles and the central hub for most of the worlds media. I would suggest spending at least a full day, maybe two exploring Hollywood Boulevard and the surrounding suburbs. On the Boulevard itself you can find famous theatres such as the TCL Chinese Theatre, Dolby Theatre and Disney’s El Capitan Theatre amongst others. As well as these you will find the world-famous Walk of Fame, the strip in Hollywood featuring the stars of celebrities throughout Hollywoods history deemed worthy of recognition. In addition to these, you will find high-end wax museums, Ripleys Believe it or Not, Hard Rock Cafe and other great ways to spend a day. If you are looking to do some shopping, the Hollywood and Highland Center is the place to go, the mall features a three tory replica of the Babylon scene from DW Griffiths 1916 masterpiece Intolerance. Make sure to soak in the atmosphere of the Boulevard and the people that you see and meet on this street. You will find everything from low budget spidermen and Elmos, to high-end Star Wars characters, from street artists who are selling their wares to struggling rappers trying to get their mixtape out there; not to mention doomsday protestors and Scientologists amongst others. If you leave the central area of Hollywood you will find the famous palm-lined roads throughout the surrounding suburbs. I suggest visiting the La Brea Tar Pits for a taste of something different. The tar pits have naturally existed in this location for centuries, the oldest material found in the pits dates back 38,000 years. If you enjoy archaeology, paleontology or just like mammoths and other animals from the glacial period then this is something you will enjoy. Additionally, if you are still interested in shopping then The Grove near La Brea, is the mall that you should visit. This is an extremely high-end shopping experience and features a fantastic outdoor food market. A key attraction of the area is Universal Studios which will be discussed further in another article. Overall, I think that at least once in a person’s lifetime, they should visit Hollywood and see where movie, film and music’s magic happens.
Ho Chi Minh’s War Remnants Museum is one of the most impressive collections of military history that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. The museum is not just impressive, but highly moving, if you are faint of heart, I would advise caution in visiting due to some of the content of the museum being highly graphic in nature. I have made sure not to upload any photographs displaying content that I regard as being overly graphic. The museum houses some of the key war machines used in the Vietnam War, these are kept in fantastic condition. They also house a highly impressive collection of Vietnam War weaponry, including weapons ranging from pistols, right through to bazookas, chain guns, and mortars. A key part of the museum that some may have a problem with, is the section of the museum dedicated to Agent Orange and its ongoing effects on the people of Vietnam. This section includes numerous photographs of deformity and diseases caused by the dumping of the chemical throughout the country. They also house several deformed babies that are kept preserved in glass cases. The other key section that may upset some visitors is the room dedicated to war crimes/atrocities, this room features some highly graphic photographs that I have chosen not to include in this article. As well as these sections, the museum also houses an extensive propaganda section with documents from both sides of the war, as well as a torture section demonstrating what POWs went through when captured.
Located just outside of Da Lat are several fantastic attractions such as Datanla Falls, Trúc Lâm Temple, Robin Hill and Tuyền Lâm Lake. All of these attractions are within a short driving distance of the city if you rent a bike or scooter. Located at Datanla Falls is an awesome land based rollercoaster that takes you through the forest and down to a cable care. The cable car takes you through a small valley to the falls themselves. The falls are beautiful and are a very relaxing way to spend the day. Trúc Lâm Temple can be accessed via a cable car that departs from the Robin Hill cable car station. The view from the car is stunning and takes you over valleys, hills and alpine forest, ending at Trúc Lâm Temple located on the shores of Tuyền Lâm Lake. The temple complex is beautiful and is surrounded by forest area. Overall you can have a fantastic day exploring these attractions while still spending very little money. The only real cost involved is the roller coaster ticket and cable car tickets, which amount to very little.
Marble Mountain is located just outside of the city center and is well worth the visit. The site (as the name suggests) is a collection of five large marble and limestone hills, housing caves, and temples. You will find beautiful architecture, statues and art work throughout the complex. You will also find fantastic views overlooking the surrounding area, including the other limestone and marble hills. Chùa Linh Ứng is a large temple complex located out of the city on the peninsula. The complex houses numerous beautiful statues, stunning architecture and one enormous Buddhist statue overlooking the bay. You will need a few hours to cover Marble Mountain and around an hour to see Chùa Linh Ứng, both are highly worth the visit.
Da Nang is the third largest city in Vietnam and is located in the center of the country on the coast. While Da Nang is not the most touristy city in Vietnam it is an extremely pleasant city. I ended up spending a few days there just because of how nice the city was. Having said that there is plenty to do in the city, such as Marbel Mountain, Chùa Linh Ứng (a large temple complex with an enormous Buddhist statue), the Sun Wheel and beautiful beachfronts. The city is also filled with Communist monuments, propaganda billboards, stunning arty bridges and fantastic restaurants and bakeries. The city has a very livable feeling to it and if I were to live somewhere in Vietnam it would probably be Da Nang. In Da Nang you will also see Vietnamese daily life go on all around you, seeing sights such as scooters transporting massively oversized loads of planks, garden supplies fans and almost anything that you can think of. The city’s attractions will be covered in the following articles.