One thing I did not realise when I booked a hotel next door to the National Stadium Skytrain Station in Bangkok was that I would be next door to the most expansive shopping mall I had ever seen. I had heard of the MBK Center but until I experienced it I did not appreciate how unbelievably immense with an unexhaustable range of small stalls and shops it was. There are 7 floors and each floor seems to go on for ever, each time you think you have reached the end another bazaar of stalls and shops seems to open up before you.
The entrance to the MBK Center at night
Skytrains on multiple levels above the street outside the Siam Paragon
Inside the MBK Center, escalators everywhere and you can not see all the floors!
The escalators to the lower floors of the MBK Center
You can buy just about anything you can think of in the MBK Center, the free directory of shops is 20 pages long! I wanted an off the shelf pair of specs to replace my tatty 2nd pair and instead ended up with my old pair fixed up as good as new for next to nothing while I waited; a concave piece of glass to my prescription was lazer cut and fitted to my frames right there in front of me. I never appreciated before how complex the process was - facinating! Thai Street Food is rightly famed across the world but for the mega lazy there is an international food hall at the MBK Center where you take a ticket, get anything you want to eat from the stalls - Greek, Japanese etc. as well as the more usual Thai and Chinese and then present your ticket to pay when you leave.
Crowds shopping in the MBK Center
Shops and stalls as far as the eye can see (and further) in the MBK Center
Descending down onto the Ground Floor of the MBK Center
Anyhow enough with shopping! Equally interesting was how all the shopping centres competed with each other to attract shoppers. On my first night I stumbled on a Thai Boxing Tournament outside the MBK Center, not something on my list but a spectacle none the less.
Thai Boxing underway outside the MBK Center
One of the boxers is floored during a Thai Boxing Bout
The final Thai Boxing bout of the night was Female
Meanwhile the large more convential shopping centres next door had a free fashion show for a new product launch while another had a pop concert being broadcast live on radio.
The Entrance to the Siam Paragon Shopping Mall
Fashion Show at the Siam Center
Fashion Show at the Siam Center Shopping Mall
Free Concert underway by the dancing fountains between the Siam Center and Siam Paragon Shopping Malls
The Hollywood Park Race Track was opened in 1938 by the Hollywood Turf Club which included many stars, directors and producers of the film world amongst its shareholders. That year the legendary Seabiscuit (on whom the 2003 film of the same name was based) won the inaugural running of the Hollywood Gold Cup, the track’s signature race. Unfortunately it has been announced that the track will close at the end of 2013 for good so our visit was the last chance to see it before it is built over with condos.
The Turf Club Entrance at the Hollywood Park Race Track
My spectacular first view of the Hollywood Park Race Track
Rows of seat boxes at the Hollywood Park Race Track
The dated elegance of the track was stunning with row upon row of very smart boxes for spectators all the way down to track side although it was pretty empty the day we were there. We were in the Turf Club with excellent views of the course and finishing post along with personal waiter service at our table. Beneath the seats it was also very well kept with the frequent references to the Gold Cup reminding me of the Cheltenham Gold Cup back home.
The Turf Club Terrace at the Hollywood Park Race Track
Studying the Form (and Menu) at our table on the Turf Club Terrace of the Hollywood Park Race Track
Escalator upto the Gold Cup Restaurant at the Hollywood Park Race Track
The track itself was immaculate and like a picture postcard with two pretty lakes and palm trees in the centre. The occasional aircraft flew low overhead as the track is directly under the final 3 miles of the flight path into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Watering the track between races at Hollywood Park
Hollywood Park Race Track with a plane coming into land at LAX overhead
Before each race there was an opportunity to go down to the paddock and view the horses as they warmed up. We were allowed into the centre of the ring so I think they mistook us for owners! Before each race a trumpeter would announce it with a blast of his trumpet and the horses would then be loaded into the starting gate.
Horse being led around the Paddock at Hollywood Park before the 7th Race
Trumpeter uses his trumpet to herald the next race while TV Commentators debate it in their tent in the foreground
Loading the horses into the Starting Gate at Hollywood Park Race Track
Before each race we placed small bets at the betting desk behind the Turf Club Terrace, very different from the rows of bookies with boards quoting their odds I am use to back home. The starting gates would then open and the race get underway with the horses galloping around the track. We actually did quite well, I placed 5 bets and came away with 1 winner and 2 second place!
Horses racing around the Hollywood Park Race Track - One Lap to Go!
Horses racing around the Hollywood Park Race Track - The final dash for the finishing line, it's looking close!
After a successful afternoon at the races we drove into the heart of Hollywood in search of the Hollywood Sign and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On the way we passed the Capitol Records Tower built in 1956 when EMI acquired Capital Records and now a heritage listed building. Where best to see the sign wasn't obvious but after a drive around the narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills and asking a local we got our postcard shot from Beechwood Drive.
The intersection of Sunset and Vine at the heart of Hollywood
The Capital Records Tower in Hollywood
A Police Black-and-White on patrol in Hollywood
The Hollywood Sign from Beechwood Drive
It was then time for a stroll along the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. Started in 1958, it consists of over 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard honouring achievement in the entertainment industry.
Where the Hollywood Walk of Fame began in 1958
Steven Spielberg's Star on Hollywood Boulevard
Sylvester Stalone's Star on Hollywood Boulevard
Bruce Lee's Star on Hollywood Boulevard
Part of the way along the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the famous Chinese Theatre built in 1927. In its forecourt there are concrete blocks which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of famous movie stars from the 1920s up until the present day.
The Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard
The Hollywood Sign viewed through a shopping centre on Hollywood Boulevard
I enjoy watching baseball so I was excited to be invited to go and see the LA Dodgers play the Milwaukee Brewers at the Dodgers Stadium in Downtown Los Angeles. However beforehand there was the little matter of a 30th Birthday Party! Now I don't normally blog family get-to-togethers but this was a little different as it had a Mexican theme.
There were sombreros, lanterns and Mexican food of course (and the red plastic "Solo" beer cups that seem to be used at every American party) but what I had not seen before were pinatas. These are fancy papier-mache shapes normally filled with small toys or candy that a child normally hits blindfold with a bat until it breaks and then everyone dives in and grabs the contents spewed all over the ground. Being an adult birthday the toys and candy were replaced with tequila miniatures, party poppers and cigars!
Mexican themed party time and I'm asked to don a Sombrero!
Party Time - trying to break open the Pinata by hitting it with a bat
A bit later on I was introduced to the quaint American drinking game of beer pong in which players throw a ping pong ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in a cup of beer on the other end with forfeits of drinking the beer until one side or the other clears all their opponents cups. We actually did quite well and finally lost in the final :-)
It's getting late - time for Beer Pong!
Me posing behind a cut-out at a Mexican Restaurant
Partying done and after a good night's rest it was time to make our way downtown to the Dodgers Stadium for the game. On the way we drove past the Staples Centre home of the LA Lakers NBA Basketball Team and saw some of the skyscrapers of LA close up.
Making our way down the Freeway - Dodgers Stadium next exit
The Staples Center - home of the LA Lakers NBA Basketball Team
Skyscrapers in Downtown LA
After a short wait at the barrier we had our first proper view of the stadium. We parked up in the enormous open air parking lot outside and then made our way to through security into the stadium to find our seats not far behind the Dodgers dugout.
In the queue for the Stadium Parking Lot
Our first view of the Dodgers Stadium
View outside the Dodgers Stadium
Major League Baseball stadiums are always impressive and it was a bright sunny day in Southern California. Warning, now follows my attempt as a foreigner to explain Baseball! Baseball is a bat and ball game played between 2 teams of 9 players on a diamond of four bases. The pitcher throws the ball at a batter who has 3 attempts to hit the ball before running around the bases as far as he can while the other team tries to get him out by catching or tagging him or the base he is running to. Runs are scored when the batter gets all the way around or if he hits the ball out of the ground (a home run). Each innings lasts as long as it takes to get 3 batters out and the teams then switch sides with the game lasting 9 innings (or longer to get a result).
Our first view of the game
The Dodgers pitcher pitching at the Milwaukee Brewers
Close up of the LA Pitcher pitching the ball
The Dodgers were pitching at the Brewers when we got to our seats with me wearing my newly purchased LA Dodgers T-shirt and carrying the traditional baseball match fare of beer, Dodger Dog and bag of unshelled peanuts. The Dodgers dominated the game with their pitcher Clayton Kershaw not allowing anyone to score against him while Carl Crawford batted 2 home runs. At the end of the 7th innings everyone stood up and had a stretch joining in the traditional corny song of Take me out to the ball game. The Dodgers went on to win the game 2-0 in just two hours, very quick for a baseball game!
The stadium scorerboard, the Dodgers are ahead :-)
It's the Milwaukee Brewers turn to pitch at the LA Dodgers
Enjoying the game with my cousins wearing my new LA Dodgers T-Shirt