Stevio...LA LA Lovin' It?

I'm British-born Chinese from Bristol, UK. I’m LA-based. I’m a hip hop aficionado. After 15 years in London I moved to LA to pursue a new career and outlook on life.

Back in the 80s I was a DJ. In the 90s I contributed to the world's first street style exhibition at London's Victoria & Albert Museum. In 2011, I had my first interviews published. Today, I’m keeping busy with music, art, photos and writing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

LA->OC->TJ - Adventures south of the border

I decided to get my H-1B visa renewal done "locally" before Christmas mainly because London's US Embassy takes days to process. And since I got it completed on the same day in Tijuana (affectionately known as TJ in American circles) back in 2006 I thought I'd give it another go.

This time was different though...

* I was going to drive and park the car in Ysidro, CA on the US border to Mexico near the Americana Mall rather than go the night before ($8 a night in Camino de la Plaza...last stop before "Meh-he-co." Even has ok toilets for $0.25.)
* The application process has a new form DS-160 that replaces three other forms (after November 9th.)
* Applicants need to confirm that your approval has been logged in the system ahead of any visit - It's called PIMS (Petition Information Management Service) otherwise might delay your return to the US?!
* The US Consulate has moved since 2006?! (I didn't know until the taxi asked me which one to drive to...No biggie, as I had the address and a print out of useful info in my back pocket)
* Last, but not least...I had to wait until the next day at 3pm for the visa to be processed.

Scared? There were stories earlier this year about how the Marines are banned from R&R in Tijuana since it's too dangerous, and the threat of the H1N1 virus. But, I didn't think the US Consulate would be in a warzone, and no one told me a local policeman had been shot outside Pockets billiards hall 50 steps from my hotel in a drug related killing?! Glad to say I wandered around oblivious to the recent violence and enjoyed the hospitality of the local businesses near the US Consulate in Zona Rio.

Where to stay My first stop was athe chic, renovated Real Del Rio hotel listed in a blogger's notes which a better choice than the corporate looking Lucerno hotel nearby. What sealed the deal for me was the offer of a US$80 rate and upgraded to a double room vs. the US$118 rate for a single room. You can keep the gym access, but I'll have the free internet :)) There's a restaurant and an under patronized bar (how about no one!?)

How to kill time There were a few interesting places to eat and be merry like the popular Los Remedios Cantina. Less popular was La Inmortal karaoke bar/restaurant and I didn't check put the Pockets billiards hall (before I found out about the shooting.) For snacks you can't beat the Los Troncos tacos spot with its "Jugo de Res," a rich beef consomme and Carne Clasiqueada and Pechuguita al Mezquite tacos. There's even a Sushi Itto across the street, which has transplanted itself from San Diego. For breakfast I went to the first Starbucks in Tijuana which hard stronger coffee than the US Starbucks...and even the muffin Navideno tasted better :) Oh and the decor and cliente are just a step above US branches.

I'm not saying come to Tijuana for a weekend trip instead of Santa Barbara, but if you have to stay for any reason it's not so bad.

Someone's pointless video of Zona Rio, Tijuana

6.10 minutes is where the Starbucks is (not built at the time of this video) and at 8.30 minutes is the Benjamin Franklin statue which is a landmark for those looking for the Banamex and US Consulate.

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