Secret side of Los Angeles

Secret side of Los Angeles

You may think you know as much about Los Angeles as the Kardashians, but this famous city still has some secrets up its glitzy sleeves. Sure, every tourist and their aunt may flock to Hollywood Boulevard or Rodeo Drive, but read on to find out where the real Angelenos go.

(If you’re looking for flights, China Airlines flies every day from Singapore to Los Angeles, via Taipei Airport.)

Secret Sites

If you find that Beverly Hills or Hollywood just aren’t giving you the same thrills, perhaps it’s time to venture off the beaten path to see the underbelly of Los Angeles.

For the few bookworms out there, check out Mystery Pier Books. The shop is a trove of first-edition books, priced from US$7-1000 or more. Even if you aren’t a lover of literature, you might be interested to know some of its fans include Johnny Depp, Daniel Craig and Bono.

Getting to the store, however, is a whole new quest on its own – a way to weed out the worthy. Wander along the sunset strip in West Hollywood until you see an alley with a inconspicuous black awning with the inscription ‘MP First Edition’. Turn down the alley, and when you reach a sort of dead end, make a right down some steps. Continue down a second alley and eventually you’ll see a quaint forest-green house with ‘Mystery Pier Books’ painted in white Old English font. Go forth, young explorer!

For those of you who prefer the real world treasures, venture to the Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, just under an hour’s drive from central LA. Though a considerable commute, the Wayfarers Chapel looks like a place where elves and fairies come out to play.

The interior of the Wayfarers Chapel.

(Photo credit: Ryan Stavely)

The chapel is made mostly of glass, so you have an unimpeded view of the surrounding flower gardens, lush forest, or cliffs that fall away to the expansive Pacific ocean. Bottom line: you’d be hard pressed to find a more magical place on Earth. The chapel and its grounds are open from 9am to 5pm daily, but as it is a religious site, please be respectful of the services carried out in the chapel.

Secret Scenes

In the days of social media and insta-fame, the importance of a good holiday photo cannot be underestimated. But don’t worry, we’re hooking you up with two locations to snap the perfect Los Angeles skyline shots.

360 view of Los Angeles County? Check. Exciting Cold War history? Check. Easy 20 minute hike through the scenic Santa Monica Mountains? Check. Where is this perfect place, you ask? It’s the San Vicente Mountain Park, just a half hour out of the city. The observation tower at the top of San Vicente Peak was a Cold War era observation tower that was once part of the U.S. Army’s Project Nike anti-aircraft missile defense system, which guarded American cities against possible air strikes.

LA96C observation tower at San Vicente Peak

Hopefully you won’t see any missiles while at the LA96C observation tower.
(Photo credit: J Jakobson)

Now the lookout offers panoramic views of Los Angeles City. To get to San Vicente, head to the San Fernando Valley and drive to the top of Encino Hills Drive. From there, take the 20 minutes hike west to the site.

If you don’t have the liberty of a car, however, there’s still a great view waiting right in the heart of the city. Check out the City Hall Observation Deck in downtown LA on Main Street, where from 8-5pm every weekday you can get a great view of the city. The best part: it’s absolutely free! When you get to City Hall, check in at the security desk at the Main Street entrance, where they will issue a visitor badge and give you a leaflet with directions to the Observation Deck on the 27th floor.

View from Los Angeles City Hall's Observation Deck

If you look really hard, you could probably see your reflection in the shiny building.
(Photo credit: Jeffery Scism)


In fact, the City Hall itself is worth a visit, as the stark white concrete pinnacle makes quite an impressive addition to Los Angeles. Built in 1928, the building was LA’s tallest until the 1960s, and its concrete was sourced from all 58 counties in California.

Los Angeles City Hall

(Photo credit: Kansas Sebastian)

Secret Saloon

After spending the day exploring the LA’s secrets, it’s time to kick back and relax at a classic speakeasy. Speakeasies came about in the prohibition of the 1920s, when all drinking had to be on the down-low. Hence, some of the best bars in town can be found in the least expected places.

Take the Varnish in Downtown LA, for instance. What you’ll need to do to find what is easily LA’s best speakeasy is locate Cole’s Diner on East Sixth Street, between South Main and South Los Angeles street.

Cole's diner in Los Angeles

Hint: follow the arrow to find the cocktails.
(Photo credit: Alejandro De La Cruz)

Once you’ve found it, maybe have some dinner to line your stomach, then head to the back wall. Like the smooth criminal you are, look for the section of wall engraved with a cocktail glass, and push open the Varnish’s secret entrance.

Cocktails at Col's diner

What’s he making? Who knows, who cares? We know it’s gonna be delicious.
(Photo credit: Tannazie)

This bar will bring you back to the 1920s; jazz plays softly in the dimly lit club while bartenders mix classic prohibition mixes. In fact, the bartenders in the Varnish are reportedly good enough to be trusted with a surprise creation, as their motto is “Allow us”. Drinks are US$13 each, which is on the pricey side for the States, but nothing a Singaporean shouldn’t be familiar with.

Getting there

Flying over long distances can be a pain, especially on the longer Taipei – Los Angeles flight. Avoid all the hassle with China Airlines’ daily Los Angeles route, with easy connection timings of two hours both ways. You can search your flight and book directly at


What’s more, avoid cramping and discomfort from squeezing in tiny seats with China Airlines’ new Boeing 777 aircraft, equipped with Premium Economy seats (longer leg room and recline!) and the Family Couch (three economy class seats converted in a wide flat bed – great for kids!).

China Airlines Premium Economy Seats on the Boeing 777

China Airlines Premium Economy Seats on the Boeing 777

China Airlines Family Couch

China Airlines Family Couch on the Boeing 777. Wider and flat, perfect for kids.

This article is supported by China Airlines.

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