Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier


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/Downtown LA

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: Port Vila

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: Noumea and Mare

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.


Ho Chi Minh War Remnants Museum (Content Warning)

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.



Da Lat Surrounding Attractions

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.