Kaya Street Kitchen, Los Angeles

Being Malaysian, I’m so accustomed to just walking out onto the street for amazing food – Malay, Chinese or Indian – that I tend to take it for granted. After 10 days in LA, I was sorely craving for some authentic Asian food. The ones that we tried (especially the Chinese takeaway) was horrendously bad. 😛

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Thankfully, LA redeemed itself with Kaya Street Kitchen – a small, simple-looking eatery along Fairfax Avenue that serves South East Asian food (Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean). You won’t believe how happy I was when I saw the word Malaysia lol. Finally, a taste of home! The restaurant serves dishes Subway-style – meaning that you get to choose from either a rice bowl or a taco and fill it up with veges, meats and sauces.

I got the coconut lime rice (which is basically nasi lemak – Jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk with a fragrant, creamy taste) and coconut lemongrass steak (inspired by beef rendang, the dish is cooked in serai, but unlike the Malay version, the one here is non-spicy). I opted for more meat so I skimped on the veggies. The serving is large and can feed two small eaters.

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E got chicken satay. The rice is topped with fried garlic that lends it a real oomph, as well as a side of sambal (mixed chilli paste. You can go for mild, medium or hot. What can I say, the food was amazingly delicious! You best believe that when a Malaysian says food is good, it is: Because we live to eat and we love our street food. The meat (both beef and chicken) was tender and flavourful, while the rice was done well (no clumped up bits or soggy grains!). Although the beef dish was not traditional, it was great! Sort of catering to new customers with a not-so-accustomed palate to spicy food, but still with that great flavour that locals love. Great job, Kaya Street Kitchen!

If you, like me – and any other Malaysian worth their salt – like your food hot and spicy, they have original condiments like Sambal, all the way from Indonesia. This really packed a punch, even for someone who eats spicy food often.

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They even have Kaya (coconut egg jam) toast for dessert! I always feel that kaya has a great potential to be popular overseas because it is so underrated. To those who don’t know, Kaya is a Malaysian dessert spread made from coconut, eggs, sugar and sometimes pandan flavour. We serve it with a fat pat of butter on toast, and down it with coffee or Milo. Staple breakfast right there. Anyway, if you’re looking for good Asian food, DROP. BY. THIS. PLACE.

Kaya Street Kitchen

FAIRFAX 109 North Fairfax Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90036

Open: 11am – 10pm

Phone:+1 323-879-9288

More details: http://www.kayakitchen.com

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After our meal we took a flight to Sacramento. The airport is a lot smaller than LAX, but they have this interesting ‘baggage pillar’ at the conveyor belt area.

Had dinner at Denny’s before finally going back to Vacaville.

What an awesome time in LA! 🙂

Union Station, Los Angeles

When you see something everyday, it loses a bit of its charm (That’s kinda how I feel when I see the Petronas Twin towers lol). For Los Angelinos, Union Station is probably just another part of their daily commute – but for tourists like myself, it was a wonderful piece of architecture and history.

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Opened in 1939, it is the main railway station in LA and the largest railroad passenger terminal on the West Coast. Built to consolidate various railway services, it was considered one of the ‘Last Great Railway Stations’ in the United States.

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The building is surrounded by gardens and (guess what?) palm trees. Palm trees are everywhere in LA, there is no escaping.

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Memorial for the fallen.

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The inside is spacious and has hues of gold, yellow, brown and grey. The ceiling looks like it is made of wooden beams, but they are actually steel. The place gives off a classic 1940s vibe, with its chandelier lights and patterned tile designs.

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The Union Station is very convenient for those wanting to get around the city. Just nearby are the tourist attractions of Olvera Street, Chinatown and Los Angeles State Historic Park.

 

 

Getty Museum, Los Angeles

For a beautiful view of the Los Angeles skyline + a nice art museum and garden to boot, there’s no other place than The Getty Museum in Brentwood. The place is far out from the city center: there are no direct buses there; we got lost and had to walk more than a mile in the hot Californian sun before we finally found it. But the hassle was worth it. 🙂

Founded by wealthy American industrailist J.Paul Getty, the museum is perched on a hill and is accessible via funicular train. It houses art, manuscripts and sculptures from all over the world, particularly 19th and 20th century European/American works, as well as medieval pieces.

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The grounds are pretty huge. Other than the museum, there is also the Getty Research Institute and a Central Garden. There is also a Getty Villa under the same umbrella of museums, but located in the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood. I wanted to visit that too but it was too far 😦

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Layout of the Getty Museum/GRI.

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The courtyard. Water features were turned off as California regularly experiences drought and it’s best to conserve water.

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Inside the massive museum, we made our way through hundreds of art pieces. The gallery was quiet and patrolled by strict-looking curators. Some pieces are not allowed to be photographed… I wish they had clearer indications in each room because we got told off (rather rudely lol) by the staff every time. How am I supposed to know which rooms allow photography and which don’t if there aren’t proper signages? >-> (I wasn’t using flash either coz I know how sensitive some pieces are towards light).

I’d just admire the art pieces, but then you wouldn’t be reading this post with pictures lol.

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Many beautiful European paintings from the 16th century to early 20th century. This was a time when ‘art’ meant drawing subjects that are detailed and discernible – as opposed to a splash of paint across canvas that any two year old can do. Sorry, I can’t figure out why people call that ‘art’ (art critics out there will probably kill me).

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Exiting from the gallery, there is a windy patio where visitors can get an amazing view of the whole of Los Angeles. Cloudless blue skies!

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A very interesting sculpture lol.

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Went back inside for the cool, air-conditioned comfort. Here are some fluffy guinea pigs.

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The galleries have seats where you can chill and view the paintings. There is so much detail in each picture that you can literally stare at a wall for half an hour and discover new details with each passing minute.

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There was a fun and interactive area where visitors can draw stuff. The room had several paintings and sculptures for reference, easels, tables and low stools. The museum even provides paper and sketching materials for free. Now that’s what I call a world-class art museum.

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Work by visitors. I’m guessing some are from art students – super creative and amazing.

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I tried my hand and failed miserably. Ended up drawing manga lol.

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Moving on to another section of the museum, where they had art tools on display. Here are some of the raw ingredients used to create different coloured inks.

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When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing – the fact that all these were handmade. Painstakingly carved and crafted by someone. Which might have taken months or years. The power of the human mind, imagination and skill.

I think while machines have made things more convenient, it has also limited people and made some of us lazier lol.

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It was such a bright and sunny day! Would have been a shame not to visit the Central Garden.

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The garden has a spiral pool in the center, with patterns formed from flowery shrubs.

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A small ‘river’ flows from the museum to the lower gardens below. The place has the feel of carefully ‘curated’ plants made to look like art – like a Japanese bonsai garden.

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The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90049

Admission: Free

  • Gallery and Garden Hours: Tuesday–Friday and Sunday 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.Saturday 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
  • Closed Mondays

Getting There 

Take Metro Rapid Line 761, which stops at the main gate on Sepulveda Boulevard

Angel’s Flight/Central Market/Broadway, Los Angeles

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WHILE walking down the streets of LA, one might notice a bright pink funicular train and a short stretch of track heading up to Bunker Hill. Originally built in the 1940s, Angel’s Flight was dismantled and rebuilt several times – the most recent being 1996 – but is now permanently closed after a passenger died in an accident involving two colliding trains.

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The old structure is surrounded by a small park and looks out-of-place but charming amidst high-rise, modern skyscrapers; like a secret garden in the middle of a concrete jungle.

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Just across the road is Grand Central Market, another old landmark that has been operating since 1917. Besides groceries and fresh produce, one will be spoilt for choice with food stalls, ranging from the mom-and-pop variety to hipster joints.

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Colourful displays of juicy fruit and vegetables abound, while the smell of food and cooking fills the air 🙂

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The place is a melting pot of cuisines from different cultures – Asian, Mexican, American, you name it, they got it.

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There was also the quirkily named ‘Eggslut’, specialising in all things eggy. It had good reviews but we didn’t get to try it coz they were closing for the day.

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Home made preserves and jams!

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Treats from the four-corners of the world right here in LA.

Central Market is open daily from Sun – Weds (8am – 6pm) and Thurs – Sat (8am – 9pm).

317 S. BROADWAY
LOS ANGELES, CA 90013

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Moving on, we made our way to another historic part of Downtown: one where dreams have lived and died for generations of actors, actresses and entertainers. Broadway is considered one of the oldest parts of LA, having been founded as early as 1847. It was America’s first theater and cinema district.

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I imagined that in its heydays, the place was full of colourful characters, bright lights and glitzy theatres. Sadly, Broadway is now a shadow of its former self. Although still a busy part of town, the shops have been replaced with ones selling cheap goods and dusty prom dresses,  and homeless people line the street pushing carts that hold all of their worldly possessions.

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Many of the buildings looked run-down. Some had windows which had not been cleaned in ages. Once upon a time, mannequins must have lined those very windows with fancy clothing and the latest trends – now empty panes stared sadly down at visitors.

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There are still a couple of historic theatres, for the nostalgic tourist.

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Next to Broadway is the Jewelry district – so we passed by many gold and jewelry shops too.

Getting to Broadway

Metro Gold Line – Bus 745

Avila Adobe, Olvera Street Los Angeles

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It’s easy to miss the entrance to the Avila Adobe while walking down Olvera Street in Downtown LA. The main door is closed and you can only enter through a tiny side door that is quite hidden from the main path. Go hunt for it though – it’s worth it. We’re talking about visiting the oldest existing house in Los Angeles! So much history waiting to be discovered.

Built in 1818 by a wealthy Mexican ranchero (ranch owner) called Francisco Avila, the building has a well-kept wooden and adobe brick facade. Although simple in appearance on the outside, it is well kept and spacious on the inside.

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The walls are thick and sturdy-looking, as they were built from sun-baked adobe (mud) bricks. In California’s hot and dry weather, this was perfect and that’s why the building has lasted until today. Even so, the place we see now is not as it was back in the 18th century. The roof, for example, is slanted – while the original roof was flat, typical of Mexican architecture in the early days. The vineyard in the rear courtyard is also gone.

What we do see is a large courtyard in the center, surrounded by rooms. This layout is similar to traditional Chinese homes.

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We went inside for a quick peek, because it was near closing time. The villa is divided into several rooms, including kitchen, bedroom, office, etc. There are heavy Catholic-Spanish influences, evidenced by the many cross figures and paintings of either Jesus or Mary hanging on the walls. The house was considered a very luxurious one for someone of their time and status.

After Avila’s death and the Mexican-American war,  Avila’s daughter and her husband moved in. By then, the house had fallen into decay. They moved out and rented it to tenants, but a major earthquake in the 1870s destroyed much of the home. By 1928, LA county was raring to demolish the eyesore. Thanks to the efforts of Christine Sterling, an English woman, it was restored to its former glory in 1930. Olvera Street, which used to be a ‘skid row’ (aka ghetto area) also became a centre of culture and a major tourist attraction.

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Rooms are recreated to give tourists a feel of how life was like in the house during its heyday.

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The kitchen, complete with its own cooking wooden stove.

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Replica of a wooden wagon, such as one that was used by ranchers in the olden days.

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Gourd-shaped clay pots, jars and earthern bowls.

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Fenced off front patio.

Avila Adobe 

East 10 Olvera Street,Los Angeles, California

Entrance: Free

Olvera Street, Los Angeles

Stepping into the stretch that is Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles feels like walking into a tiny slice of Mexico (albeit a very touristy one!). Most of Southern California was once the domain of Spanish and Mexican governments, so its not surprising to see a large Latino population here. As Malaysia doesn’t have much of a Latin American crowd, visiting Olvera Street and taking in the sights and sounds of its culture was a new thing for me. 🙂

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The first thing one notices upon stepping into this historical area is the bright, vivid colours and patterns. Traditional dresses are hung outside squarish, brick shops – and they look all ready to be worn to a fiesta or party! A faint but lively music wafts into the air from someone’s radio.

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Stalls selling all manner of clothing and souvenirs line the street. Although it was typical touristy stuff, it was still fascinating to browse through. Bringing a heavy Spanish influence, there were figures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus everywhere. The peddlers weren’t picky though – they also had lots of South American Indian paraphernalia, like Incan and Mayan masks and tribal decorations.

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Olvera Street is the oldest section in Downtown LA and was the commercial and social hub for the Mexican immigrant community in the olden days. The present ‘form’ we see has only been around since the 1930s, when a major revitalisation project took place. People applauded the effort, calling it ‘a street which recalls old Mexico’. Today, it is listed as one of the top five streets to visit in the USA.

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Brick buildings line the entire stretch of Olvera Street. Most of them are two storied, with the second one slightly lower than the pavement.

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It’s a great place to buy souvenirs, like string puppets, skull-faced dolls, guitars and whatnot.

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Sundial 🙂

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At the very end of the street, the walkway opens up into a plaza. Simply called ‘La Plaza’, it has giant, shady trees surrounding a gazebo that is decorated with strings of colourful flags.

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And nearby is the Pico House, a luxury hotel built by the last Mexican Governer of California; which is now a museum. In its golden days, it even had an aviary of exotic birds !

Olvera Street is an interesting place to visit for those who want to know more about LA’s history, as well as an introduction to the culture of the Mexican people in America. Worth a visit 🙂

Olvera Street 

125 Paseo de la Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Mon-Sun 10 am – 7 pm

Directions

Take the Metro to Union Station. Olvera Street is just 3mins away.

Los Angeles Library & Walt Disney Concert Hall

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It rarely rains in California – hence the drought – but the warm weather in LA reminds me of home. Had breakfast, then took a bus to Downtown LA.

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Americans are big on convenience –  almost everything has a drive-through or other. It was my first time seeing a Drive Thru Pharmacy… ironically, it was right next to a Fatburger drive-thru lol.

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Downtown LA is a busy metropolis, with its tall shiny buildings and modern amenities. Despite this, one can still observe poorer parts of the city where there are many homeless people pushing carts or sleeping on the street.

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I dunno if I’ve mentioned, but I love reading books; So I couldn’t miss out on visiting one of the largest public-funded libraries in the world -the Los Angeles Public Library. Built in the 1920s, the library has a massive six million books. That’s one book for each person in Kuala Lumpur!

The interior is massive and divided into many sections. We explored a bit, taking care to make as little noise as possible as there were many visitors reading and doing work.

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A computer station where you can do research and look up titles.

I like how everything is so well kept. There are even wooden booths with comfy chairs for privacy. Definitely a world-class library.

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There’s a nice little park with a water feature once you step outside the library.

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View from Flower Street. You can see influences of Egyptian and Mediterranean architecture in its facade.

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We went to visit the Walt Disney Concert Hall next. On the way we spotted lots of beautiful purple trees in bloom. They are called Jacaranda and are found all over the city – sort of LA’s version of Japanese sakura.

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The building is massive. An iconic landmark in LA, it is often featured in pop culture, movies and tv shows. They were running some show but we didn’t go in because we hadn’t budgeted the time and money for tickets. But I recommend coming here just to gawk at the architecture alone. It has an odd shape, uneven shape, which I think resembles a lotus flower. Maybe it’s just one of those Rorscarch things. What do you think it looks like?

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It’s sunny and I’m feeling small and touristy in LA. 🙂

DIRECTIONS 

to library:

Take the Metro Red/Purple, Expo or Blue Line to 7th St. Metro Central Station and walk three blocks north on Hope Street.

to Hall:

Get down at the Red Line Civic Center Metro Stop at 101 S.Hill St (southwest corner of First and Hill)

 

Trying Balut – Filipino Street food @ Dollar Hits, Los Angeles

While I like LA and its relatively less congested roads, convenient public transportation, parks and facilities – during my two week stay I found myself missing Malaysia – for the food.

The loud, noisy hawker stalls and food courts, enjoying coffee at 1am in the morning at chic cafes, street food at bustling night markets, and just the overall food scene in general. There wasn’t much in terms of entertainment after dark in America, unless you count bars and clubs.

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We went to Temple Street Market at Historic Filipinotown for a good ol’ fashioned outdoor street food barbecue, so I was pretty psyched.

Dollar Hits sells cheap and tasty Filipino favourites from a food truck. Customers place their orders and collect them before grilling them on several barbecue pits set up in the area. No seats, standing room only. The truck blasts OPM (Original Pilipino Music) while you cook and eat – giving the feeling that you’re really just somewhere in the Phils having dinner (if not for the freakishly cold weather!)

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Soft drinks and melon juice + fruits.

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I had chicken and pork isaw (intestines), Betamax (pork blood cubes), Adidas (chicken feet) and kwek kwek (battered quail eggs), among other things. I like chicken isaw the best because it doesnt have an offal-y smell and has a chewy texture. Not a big fan of the pork isaw because it wasn’t cleaned well. I think my least favourite was the Adidas – it was just tough, rubbery and tasteless.

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I was feeling adventurous, so I tried… balut! E taught me how to open and suck out the juice and sprinkle some salt before eating.

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Duck foetus gah D:

Tbh, it didn’t taste bad. It tasted like cooked poultry, except with lots of tiny bones. There was barely any meat on it to begin with. The yolk tasted creamy and fermented. I think it was just the idea of eating a baby thing that makes it repulsive to many. I had qualms about it myself lol.

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There are no designated tables : everyone just cooks where there is an available grille. It adds to the whole ‘communal eating’ experience. The servers (and random people) here were friendly, but I think if you look Asian they assume you’re Filipino  I had a few people coming up and talking to me in Tagalog lolol.

DOLLAR HITS

  • 422 W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90026, United States
  • Closed Mon – Weds
  • Operating hours: 630pm – 11pm