2015 in Pictures

Since everyone is posting their ‘Year in Review’ on FB, I thought of doing one too. 🙂

2015 has been interesting, to say the least. It has been a year of travelling, life-changing decisions, changes, and self-understanding. I’m glad I made it through safe and sound, and (hopefully!) a better, more mature person.

Here are some highlights:

JANUARY

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Went glamping with colleagues at the Putrajaya Wetlands.

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FEBRUARY 

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Celebrated Chinese New Year in Ipoh, Perak. Visited the Temple Caves – Kek Lok Tong and Kuan Yin Tong.

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MARCH 

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Visited the Telekom Museum in KL.

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Maternal grandma passed away aged 90 after a year-long battle with liver cancer. Went back to Ipoh for funeral rites.

APRIL 

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Big trip that took a whole year of planning. Hello, land of the free. Hello, America.

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Sunny Los Angeles with it’s palm trees, art museums, beaches and Hollywood.

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Tried balot for the first time at LA’s Filipinotown. It didn’t taste bad at all.

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Then traveled further North to foggy, hipster San Francisco. 

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Rode in an SF tram for the first time.

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Finally met Jeppeh the Fluff Boll Master Cat. 

MAY – JUNE

Recovered from Post-Holiday-Depression-Syndrome. Scary experience when I got sexually harassed by a prick who tailed my car. Also ate a lot of food.

JULY

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Went to Bukit Malawati to chill with monkeys, eat seafood and watch fireflies.

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Met up with ex-collegemates at a wedding.

AUGUST

Quit a stable, well-paying job as a journalist at the largest news organisation in the country. Moved to a small start-up. Felt that time with family + sanity > working long nights, crazy weekends and no time for friends/fam. Parents still went berserk because traditional Chinese. Anyway, no regrets.

SEPTEMBER 

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Birthday month! Turned 25 🙂 Simple celebration with close friends and fam.

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Met Luilui Evelyn who came all the way from Johor to visit.

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Got tatted as a birthday present. Parents went berserk again. Oh well.

OCTOBER

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Solo weekend excursions to the National Planetarium and Royal Malaysian Police Museum in KL. Haze was extremely bad in the Peninsula.

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Some asshole broke my car window. Nothing to steal, but left with few hundred in repairs. Bastard -_-

NOVEMBER 

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Went island hopping in Krabi. Beaches and waters so beautiful heart felt like breaking.

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Walked down the red light district in Phuket. Rode pillion on a bike, just like the locals.

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Touched a cobra and lived to tell the tale.

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DECEMBER 

20151213_091313-tile 20151213_123628-tile Visited the paddy fields of Sekinchan.

There are only a few more days left to 2015. How was your year ? 🙂

 

The Exploratorium, San Francisco

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WE’RE almost at the end of our San Francisco trip! One of our last stops in the city was the Exploratorium, a massive science and discovery centre located at Piers 15 and 17, Embacadero. A modern, blockish-looking building, the centre was first opened in the 1960s and was relocated to its new place in 2013.

We actually got here late and had to rush through a lot of the exhibits. I recommend spending half a day or more here because there are so many things to try and interact with. Great place for families, geeks, and those who like to experiment with stuff.

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The centre is divided into many sections, each dedicated to a certain science, such as Light and Sound, Human Behaviour, Living Systems and Tinkering (electricity and magnetism). Almost every exhibit can be interacted with, so it was a lot of fun!

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The inside is massive. Here we enter the Human Behaviour section. There were things like card games, experiments related to emotion and psychology, etc.

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E and I sat on opposite sides of a counter where you had to ‘match’ genders with specific keywords/items, such as ‘occupation’ and ‘roles’ which tend to be viewed as either masculine or feminine. For example, the word ‘family’ is often associated with females, and ‘career’ tends to be associated with males.

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Apparently watching yourself in the mirror crying will create feelings of sadness..

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Chairs of differing sizes

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I like how spacious the place is, despite housing thousands of exhibits. The ventilation is good and there’s lots of sunlight.

I couldn’t help but compare it with Malaysia’s old Petrosains… which has not seen an upgrade since 1999.

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The machinery section was closed off to the public, but we could view it from behind a barrier.

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The Exploratorium definitely needed more… exploring, but we ran out of time. Would like to come back for a proper walk through the next time I’m in SF. Great place for the kids and the curious. 🙂

EXPLORATORIUM

Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111, United States

Open 10am – 5pm

Admission: 29$ (pricey, but I think its worth it provided u spend a longer time trying out all the experiments and stuff.)

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For dinner, all you can eat hotpot! Nothing better than that in cold weather.

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Left San Fran with a heavy heart. It was my second last day in America.

Time to pack for the long flight home. The US has been an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to go back and explore the rest of it’s 50 states.

Cruising Down The Bay: San Francisco’s Cable Cars

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SAN Francisco’s cable cars are as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge itself, so no way was I gonna miss the experience of riding on one!

The city’s steep slopes and hilly terrain meant that going about was a dangerous business for people (and horses) in the 1800s – and deaths occured frequently from horse carriages or streetcars sliding backwards on wet cobblestone paths.

Enter Andrew Hallidie, an industrious British-born engineer  who, together with several partners, came up with a cable car system using wire-rope tech. Thus, these famous cable cars that have been part of San Francisco’s transport system and tourism attractions for decades – was born.

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After our visit to Chinatown, E and I walked through the very busy Downtown area to get to Powell station, the first and last stop for trams on the Powell/Hyde line. Downtown San Francisco is full of tall, corporate-looking buildings, glitzy high-end brands and luxury designer good stores.

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On the way to the station we stopped at Union Square, a public plaza bordered by various shopping malls, posh hotels and restaurants. The place was once used for rallies and showing support for the Union Army during the American Civil War (hence the name). In the middle of the square is a statue of Nike, the goddess of Victory, on a tall pillar. The entire structure is called Dewey Monument.

The big building is The Westin St Francis Hotel, a luxury and historic hotel built in 1904.

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Whenever anyone mentions Saks Fifth Avenue, people often think about their flagship store in New York. Turns out San Fran has a big one as well, just next to Tiffany & Co.

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Walking to Powell Street Station. It was pretty damn cold as evening approached.

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Cable cars!

Price for a one-way ticket to the Fisherman’s Wharf (where we were headed) was 6$ per person, and this is collected by a ticket conductor just like old-school buses. We got good outdoor seats for a better view instead of inside the enclosed carriage. It was quite scary because there were no railings. If the tram gets crowded, you  can even stand on the side and grab on the handles.

I wondered if anyone ever had an accident falling off the vehicle.

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Because Powell St is the last stop, the trams are rotated on a large wooden platform. It was interesting to watch how the train staff pushed the heavy tram car around so that it faced the other way again.

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And onto the tram we go.

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Riding on the tram was a breeze, with the wind whipping our faces as we looked at the beautiful sights and sounds the city had to offer. When passengers wanted to get down they rang a pulley thing, just like in old buses.

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Passing by the famous Lombard Street.

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Some of the hills were very steep and going down was scary! I can’t imagine driving stick around here with my shitty manual skills lol.

It was dark by the time we got off at Fisherman’s Wharf. Had dinner at Chipotle and then shopped for some souvenirs to take home.

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Saw this in a candy shop. I thought they were just worm-shaped candy.. turns out they were real worms. .___.

It was late by the time we got back to Chinatown, and we kind of forgot where our car was parked so we were walking around like a couple of lost souls. As we walked through Chinatown, there were gangs of young Asians smoking cigarette and pot. It was kinda scary lol. You won’t believe how relieved I was when we were finally in the car! I guess safety is a concern these days, even in the US.

More of San Fran to come!

What to Do in Chinatown, San Francisco – The Oldest & Largest Chinatown in the United States

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I find it hard to imagine ever being bored of San Francisco. I fell in love with it from Day 1, when I looked out the window of the rented car and stared up at the Golden Gate Bridge, its tops lost in the bay’s infamous fog. I fell in love with the city’s steep, hilly streets, the small apartments and the hipster hole-in-the-wall cafes, its tourist scene, and its chilly weather which feels so much like the UK.

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With little space, the houses in SF are tall, very close together and narrow. They are more reminiscent of Victorian era buildings, with wooden panels and narrow windows – Very different from Los Angeles’ strong Hispanic influences.

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Real estate in SF is among the highest in the world due to limited space and high demand. I heard rents go upwards of $4000!

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When you look at how it is today, it’s hard to imagine that all of this was once almost 80% destroyed by a quake and a fire at the turn of the century.

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Our stop for the day was San Francisco Chinatown – the largest outside of Asia and the oldest in North America, having started in 1848. Sprawled across a whopping 24 blocks, it houses many restaurants, businesses, schools, hospitals, houses of worship and residential buildings. We parked at Portsmouth Square and emerged at a park, with the Transamerica Pyramid (the tallest, most iconic building in SF) looming in the distance.

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Narrow three to four-storey buildings with dual language signage abound at every corner. Lots of things to see, do and shop for the consummate tourist. In fact, San Francisco’s Chinatown draws more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge.

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An old man carrying grocery bags standing near a mural of Chinatown depicting old Chinatown, while a tourist snaps a picture.

San Francisco Chinatown’s residents came from Guangdong province to work as coolies and business owners, or to strike rich in the gold rush. Much later on, many Hong Kong immigrants came here as well, so the people here speak mostly Cantonese.

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One of the main streets, which had many souvenir and clothing shops. Some of the T-shirts/sweaters were expensive so we didn’t get any. The magnets were cheap though.

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Everything has a Chinese flavour to it, even the street lamps and the bank building. The Bank of America in Chinatown is painted in red, an auspicious colour for the Chinese, with curved, tiled roofing. We also saw a large church.

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Like many immigrant communities, it has not been an easy journey for the American-Chinese people of SF’s Chinatown. In its early days, there were triad activities, prostitution, gambling, opium dens and all manner of vice lurking underneath honest citizens trying to make a living. There were race riots and gang wars. But all of that has contributed to a rich history, culture and a legacy for the Asian American people in the US today.

Getting There 

  • Buses: 1 California, 12 folsom, 30 Stockton, 45 Union-Stockton
  • Cable car : Powell-Mason line

Attractions in Sacramento: Learn about the California Gold Rush at Sacramento History Museum, California

Hello and welcome to the next part of my post on Sacramento. We’re still exploring the Old part of town. After a heavy lunch, E & I walked off the calories at the Sacramento History Museum, a museum dedicated to the California Gold Rush and the city’s history. It was nearly closing time and we only had an hour, so we breezed through many of the exhibits.

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The Sacramento Bee was founded in 1857 and is still running today as one of the city’s major newspapers. Inside the museum, visitors will get a glimpse of the old printing presses and machinery. Before the advent of ink and modern printers, newspapers were printed with a heavy metal mold.

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The museum houses a variety of collections, including everyday items used by gold miners during the gold rush…

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….To actual gold nuggets and jewelry. The displays are equipped with alarms and cameras to prevent thieves.

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Fur pelts from animals, which were used to keep warm.

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Other everyday items used in the 19th century, such as makeup, mirrors and clothing.

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Horse-drawn carriage replicas.

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Black and white photos and children’s toys. I always find old toys to be super creepy .___.

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Remedies used during that era, sold at apothecaries (ie modern day pharmacies)

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Food processing is a major industry in Sacramento, so there was a section dedicated to explaining its history.

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It was an educational visit, even though the exhibits were mostly static. There is also an underground tour, which we were unfortunately not able to join.

SACRAMENTO HISTORY MUSEUM

01 I St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Ticket price: A reasonable 6$

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Time to go home! We drove past the California State Capitol building, which looks just like the one in Washington but much smaller.

Fun tidbit: Sacramento is California’s capital city! And I always thought somewhere bigger like LA or San Fran would be its administrative capital.

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It was a really fun day trip to Sacramento. I rather like the city – it’s not as hectic or fast paced as LA or San Fran, but still modern enough for a city girl like me. Maybe I’ll move there someday?

Food Review: Joe’s Crab Shack, Old Sacramento California

We allocated a day to explore Sacramento Old Town  good call, seeing that there are plenty of things to see and do here. Apart from museums and buildings with interesting architecture and history, there are also loads of shops selling everything from traditional Native American crafts aand costumes to souvenirs and even joke items.

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Sacramento Bridge.

It was a hot, sunny afternoon and it was high time for lunch, so we popped into Joe’s Crab Shack for some food. It’s a popular seafood chain with a waterfront concept and they have branches all over the States.

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Cosy and colourful, with wooden decor made to resemble a fishing shack and fish floating from the ceiling. Neon signs adorn the walls, like the type you usually find at beach bars. The place was quite empty because it was a weekday.

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You know how you tend to order way too much food when you’re starving? In Chinese, we have a proverb for that : “Big eyes, small stomach” – meaning that when you’re hungry, your brain tends to tell you that the food isn’t enough when you can only fit so much into your stomach. 😀

For starters, we had a Classic Sampler: nachos, creamy crab dip, hush puppies and fried calamari.

You know, I’ve been in the States for a couple of weeks and I still can’t get over how big the meal portions are. This was massive and would have been enough for two as a main meal.

The food was tasty enough. The crab dip was creamy and a tad too salty, but the nachos evened it out. The calamari was well flavoured, fresh and springy. It was my first time seeing a ‘hush puppy’. The ones here are made from seafood, stuffed with jalapenos and cream cheese before they were coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Sounds like an artery clogging nightmare, but it was goodddd.

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Garlicky Mussels – served in garlic butter sauce and a side of garlic bread. This was a hit and miss – too salty and too oily, even though the mussels were sizable.

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Fish and chips. I prefer ranch > mayo, so fattening. The fish was okay, soft and juicy on the inside, crunchy on the outside.

Extremely stuffed and with a lot left over, we got a doggie bag to go for dinner.

JOE’S CRAB SHACK 

210 Front St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
Sat – Sun : 10:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Mon – Fri: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM

Candy Heaven, Old Sacramento – The Sweetest Place on Earth

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A place where you can eat candy and chocolate to your heart’s content – sounds like every child’s (and even some adults!) dream. And Candy Heaven in Old Sacramento, California is exactly that.

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Sweets and candy of every shade and flavor imaginable line the colorful walls, which are painted over with rainbows and flying wizards…..

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….Along with some not-so-friendly deco that might give children nightmares. An evil looking clown sits on the second floor, overseeing patrons. The set looks like it might have been thought up by someone on LSD, with the giant tie-dye tapestries. 

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The best part about American candy stores?  You get to try stuff before buying them. As much as you want. (PS: You can’t do this in Malaysian candy stores.) You can even eat inside the store and then leave after you’ve had your fill, but why would you do that when you’re faced with an armada of lovely, sweet treats to bring home?

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Americans love their taffy. Which is not very big in Malaysia. Some flavors are fine, but others taste quite odd. It was an interesting experience walking around the candy store and just fishing sweets out and eating them on the spot. I thought E was pulling my leg at first when he said I could unwrap them lol.

Ended up buying some chocolates to munch on, and some more to take home.

CANDY HEAVEN 

1201 Front St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States

Attractions in Old Sacramento, California

Growing up as a child in Malaysia, I often watched westerns on TV, with rugged, gun-toting cowboys, rowdy salon bars, and horse-drawn carriages. After two weeks in the US, I got my first taste of the American West on a one-day trip to the city of Sacramento.

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Okay, so there were no gunfights in the middle of a dusty street, nor were there bar brawls. Instead, we learnt about the Californian Gold Rush and the rich legacy it left behind.

Old Sacramento, or Old Sac as the locals call it, is a historic part of town that looks like it came straight out of a movie set. Founded in the 19th century, it sits next to the River Sacramento. It was a bustling town during its heyday, with a railroad service running through it, courier service, post office, hotels, printing press, theatre, school and various businesses.

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The architecture reflects Sacramento’s diverse roots; from its early Spanish and Mexican settlers and which brought about building characteristics similar to those found in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Spain. Expect uniform, close-fitted windows, wide arched doors and short balconies.

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Since it was developed into an attraction in the 1960s, many restaurants, souvenir shops and  other bric-a-brac outlets have opened to cater to tourists. Most have adopted large wooden signage with old font to suit the American West theme.   SAM_9280-tile SAM_9281-tile

Old Sacramento isn’t very big, but its not small either. Visitors can opt to drive here where there’s ample parking space. The only annoyance is that there is a set limit of two hours, so we had to constantly re-park the vehicle somewhere else. There are carriage rides available for a fee, if you’re into the tourist thing. If you hate walking, bike rentals are also available.

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There is a Wells Fargo museum with a recreated 19th century office. Aside from being an important part of the city’s trade, they also catered to the Pony Express service. Riders would spend days galloping across the route with mail in their saddlebags.

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The main square in town is now a parking lot. The lot is much lower than ground level, but it was actually Old Sacramento’s original height.

The problem with having your city next to a fertile river is the constant flooding, so the residents of Old Sacramento piled earth upon earth, brick by brick, to raise all the buildings to the height we see them today. The power of human resilience and ingenuity never fails to impress me.

SAM_9297-tile  Across the road is the California State Railroad Museum. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to check it out.

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Schoolkids going for an excursion.

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Imagine a time when ladies in fluffy skirts paraded through the streets under their parasols, while carriages trundled down the roads and men went about their daily errands. It was a very different time; a different universe for someone in the modern world. Would have been interesting to time-travel and see how it was back then.

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Old Sacramento’s first and only theatre, the Eagle Theatre is a simple, whitewashed wooden structure. This is where the populace enjoyed entertainment in their free time.

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A small grotto in the middle of two buildings. There were remnants of columns and random bricks and pieces of wood scattered around. The grotto was much lower than the buildings next to it, as this was the original level of Old Sac.

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Next to the river are a dozen eateries and remnants of the railroad which used to run through town. There is an actual (non-functioning) train car as well as a dock for boats.

More of Sacramento to come!

Getting There /details at http://oldsacramento.com/