All that glitters isn’t gold in La La Land

All that glitters isn’t gold in La La Land

The first thing I see from the safety of my cab on the way to Los Angeles’ famous Farmers’ Markets is a woman wearing a grubby g-string with tattered bandages wrapped around her calves trying to strip tease passengers at a bus stop.

The woman is clearly affected by drugs. Commuters recoil as she stumbles while dancing to a tune only in her head.

Welcome to Los Angeles.

It’s known as the city of angels but are also plenty of devils to be found.

LA may be La La Land for those who can afford to indulge in its riches and to sip champagne at the pool bar on top of the Roosevelt Hotel. For others it’s a place of shattered dreams, broken promises and extreme poverty.

This is not a city that you can walk around. It’s not a city to explore and delve into without a plan. It’s not a city to go “off the beaten track”. It’s too big, too dirty and in parts, too dangerous, to deviate from the tourist route.

The big red hop-on-hop-off bus is a great way to explore the city. For $45 the bus takes tourists around LA with a commentary that focuses on movie stars and celebrity.

But while it’s safe to hop off at each tourist stop, walking between them is really not an option. What may look like five blocks on the map could actually take an hour to walk.

LA has a distinct lack of public transport and there are no cabs to hail to get you out of trouble should you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, next to a half naked woman doing a strip tease.

This is a city where the desperate go to make themselves.

From the cab driver who tried to sell me his life story for thousands of dollars, to the men and women dressed up as film characters on the streets of Hollywood asking for cash for a photo – everyone is chasing a dollar.

For the few who succeed in landing the American dream there are thousands that fail.

Homeless men and women push shopping trolleys past Ferraris on Rodeo Drive and no-one bats an eyelid.

Beneath towering California palms and billboards of movie stars, buildings crumble and decay.

LA promises decadence and luxury. But the city only offers up those jewels to the lucky few.


*Don’t walk between bus stops.

It’s further than it looks. A block on a map is actually “a city block” and contains numerous streets in between. And it’s not always safe.

*Don’t expect to get public transport.

Before leaving Australia, upload Uber onto your phone. All the locals in Los Angeles use Uber cars to get around. Why? Because there is hardly any public transport and spotting a cab on the street is harder than finding Santa Claus.

* Don’t take photos of the characters on Hollywood Boulevard.

Refrain unless of course you are prepared to shell out the cash.

* Watch your back.

Want to take a photo? Make sure that if you have a backpack on, you put your back against a wall or pole. That way, you’re belongings stay safe.

* Choose accommodation carefully.

Location is everything in LA. Find a hotel that is on the big red bus route and your life will be easier.

* Catch the big red bus.

The big red hop-on-hop-off bus will take you to all the destinations you are likely to want to visit in LA and it’s only $45 for the day.

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