I have said it before, and I’ll say it again.
Traveling alone, while completely thrilling in a scary-adrenaline-pumping-whoa-I-just-had-sex-without-a-condom kind of way, is best when punctuated with familiar faces. Even better when those faces happen to be local.
See, when you have access to a local, and I mean more than a quick information exchange on an airplane or subway though that’s certainly helpful too, you have access to the heart of a place. The keys to the Camaro. The ear to its secrets.
And in San Diego, not only did I meet up with long-lost non-local friends, but I met a friend I’d never actually met — an online friend and someone whose words I’ve been reading for over two years, so really it seemed like we’d never not met because honesty, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is kind of hard for a blogger to avoid.
So it’s like we’re in each others’ heads.
Dennis Hong is the founder of Musings on Life and Love, as well as a new relationship advice site called Lemon Vibe, and a regular contributor to Cracked.com and Dear Wendy and probably another one or two or seven that I’m forgetting. He’s a molecular biologist-turned-high-school-teacher or something along those lines, the American kind of Asian, argumentative, wicked smart, swing dancer, lover of scotch and unwitting connoisseur of saki, has a lovely girlfriend named Melissa, and is an exceedingly talented and prolific writer.
See? Must mean I know him like the back of my hand.
Which doesn’t really mean much, when I think about it, because I doubt I could pick my hand out in a lineup.
Like I said. While exploring an unknown place on your own can be an incredible, mind opening experience, consulting with a local is, more often than not, the most efficient way to dig around its guts.
He showed me one of the best places for food.
(More on this place HERE.)
He told me one of the best places for drinks.
(More on this place HERE.)
He showed me his mad swing dancing skills at a place whose surface screamed I’m just a pub! by day but hiked up its poodle skirt by night.
He showed me saki. And made me drink it.
Uhh… Don’t remember the name of this restaurant.
And he left me with advice of other places to check out, like Kansas City Barbecue, the locale where Goose sings Great Balls of Fire to his kids and the lovely Meg Ryan in Top Gun:
And the Top of the Hyatt, which is a FREE — yes I said FREE — elevator excursion to arguably the best view in San Diego.
It took me no less than 3 elevator rides from the Hyatt’s impressive lobby to get into the correct one — the one that would take me to the top.
This is me. Bored in an elevator. You can’t tell, but I was really excited to get in the right one.
Are we there, yet?
Oh, yes. We are most certainly there.
There’s also a bar up there called — get this — Top of the Hyatt. I didn’t get a drink or even go inside because the place is über fancy which made my jean shorts feel a little Daisy Duke but not as sexy so I skipped it, but here’s my take: If you’re in San Diego, go to the top of the Hyatt (the floor). If you’re in San Diego and have money to spend on drinks and are wearing something nicer than Jean Shorts and don’t smell like Saki, go to the Top of the Hyatt (the bar). Even if they’re extra pricey (they probably are) and not that great (they’re probably not), the euphoric view more than makes up for it.
Since I have an intense aversion to travel research, I never would have known this existed if it weren’t for Dennis. It was kind of awesome, completely free, and kind of awesome.
Find yourself a local.
And if your local happens to be a swing dancin’ Asian, consider yourself extra lucky.