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.
Vanuatu has had one of the most turbulent histories of any island nation in the region due to repeat recolonization. As a result, the country has an unusual mix of cultures and buildings present and sadly has a lower population than when the first contact was made with Europeans. In my opinion, Vanuatu has a fantastic atmosphere to it, a very happy and welcoming atmosphere, more so than New Caledonia. A key highlight of visiting Port Vila is the central marketplace, which acts as a hub for the entire town. In this market, you will find every fruit, vegetable, and meat available in the country. Additionally, you will find a traditional food area serving all local dishes, as well as goods market which sells every manner of tourist nicknacks and garments. I also suggest making the walk to the top of the central hill in town as it offers a beautiful view of the island in all directions. The city also has a fantastic kava shop, stocking every variation of kava available. If you are not familiar with kava, it is a traditional substance consumed throughout the Pacific. It is a sedative that causes relaxation and numbness and is normally used in large social settings. Port Vila overall is a nice place to spend a relaxing day and take in Vanuatu’s culture and cuisine.
New Caledonia is a Pacific Island nation located just east of Brisbane Australia. The nation is a former French colony and has a rich mix of French and traditional tribal culture. Noumea is the largest and most developed city in the country, as well as being the nations capital city. In Noumea, you will find some fantastic markets and some great French and traditional cuisine. If you have some time, make sure to visit St Josephs Cathedral in the center of the city, aside from being a beautiful and historic building, it offers a great view of the city. Mare, by contrast, is mostly undeveloped and still has a traditional tribal feel to it. Most residents either still live in traditional thatched huts or small more modern shacks. The island is home to beautiful beaches and palm/pine forests. Here you will find traditional foods and beverages, along with fresh coconuts and French beer. Mare is a fantastic way to spend a day on the beach, eating traditional food and drinking cheap French beer, soaking in the Pacific Island sun and making the most of the clear blue waters surrounding the island.
Ben Tre is located in what is known as the Mekong Delta, a lush sprawling agricultural area interwoven by rivers and tributaries. Located throughout this region you will find small villages surrounded by farms and workshops of all natures. For instance, on the day tour I took, we visited several coconut, honey, and fruit farms, along with a coconut candy workshop. Shrimp farming is also extremely popular in the region. As far as entertainment goes, cockfighting is extremely popular here, as it is in many rural areas in SE Asia and you will find that a large number of people keep roosters on their property in small cages. If you manage to visit this area try to take a small paddled boat ride through the regions palm-lined canals as it is a very enjoyable experience. Additionally, if you haven’t had a chance to see them up until now you will be able to see plenty of water buffalo on the farm properties here. Ben Tre definitely makes for a nice way to get out of Ho Chi Minh hustle and bustle for a day.
The Củ Chi tunnels are located outside of Ho Chi Minh City in a large forested/jungle area. This is a historical site dating back to the Vietnam War, housing the tunnel system used by the Viet Cong against American forces. The tunnel system is immense, including tunnel networks stretching several kilometers long and stories deep. Included in this tunnel network are bunkers, underground bomb-making facilities, water supply system tapping into underground rivers, etc. The entire area was once boobytrapped using numerous styles of traps. At the modern-day facility, these traps have been replicated for visitors to view and are operated to show their effect. The tunnels have been reinforced and expanded so as to allow visitors to travel through them and really experience how vast these networks were. Also located on the premises is a very impressive shooting range with a vast array of guns to fire. I personally chose to use a jeep mounted M30 machine gun, which I was able to fire down a range at targets. The main weapon to be found in plenty is the AK47 in numerous models. The tunnels are a must visit if you find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City.
Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens are a cheap and really enjoyable way to spend the day in Ho Chi Minh. The zoo is a little dated as far as the enclosures go and still has a bit of an old colonial feel to it. As far as the animals go, you can see quite a wide variety of species from multiple continents. The actual zoo itself is built inside of the city’s botanical garden and that means a lot of beautiful trees and gardens throughout the zoo. Amongst the best collections at the zoo are the big cats, African Savannah animals, monkeys, and an extensive goat collection. Additionally Dam Sen Water Park is a great way to spend a day in Ho Chi Minh. The entry fee to the park is only a few dollars and there are enough slides, pools, and rivers to really enjoy yourself. The best thing about this water park is that it doesn’t follow the safety regulations of any other water park I’ve been to and that means that you can pick up some real speed and even get some air on the slides in the park. Between Saigon Zoo and Dam Sen Water Park, you can fill an entire day and spend very little money.