Wednesday, June 30, 2010



California is the most populous state in the United States, and the third largest by land area, after Alaska and Texas; it is also the second most populous sub-national entity in the Americas, behind only São Paulo, Brazil. California is located on the West Coast of the United States, bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the northeast, Arizona to the southeast, the Mexican state of Baja California to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Its four largest cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco. The state is home to the nation's second and sixth largest census statistical areas as well as eight of the nation's fifty most populous cities. California has a varied climate and geography, and a diverse population with multi racial.

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The regions

Central Valley
Coastal California
Northern California:
1. Central California
2. San Francisco Bay Area
3. Sierra Nevada
4. Upstate California
Eastern California
Inland Empire (Also included in Southern California)
Southern California
1. Greater Los Angeles
2. Inland Empire (Also included in Eastern California)
3. Border Region

Human occupation in California goes back 50000 years; California was home to thirty different tribal groups prior to the arrival of European explorers in the 1500s and now only over 120 tribes are left. The first Europeans were the Spanish and Portuguese, who built a settlement in California, establishing twenty-one missions in California by the late 1700s. Many of these missions survive today, including that in Santa Barbara.

After the Mexican War for Independence in 1821, California became a part of Mexico for 25 years until 1846 where it briefly became a sovereign nation, California Republic, before it was annexed by the United States in 1846. In 1848 the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada mountains kicked off the California Gold Rush, and California's non-native population surged from 15,000 to over 300,000 within two years.

California was recognized as a state in 1850, and its population increased steadily since then. Today California is the most populous state in the US with over 38 million residents.

The California Constitution states that English is the official language of the state of California, but in reality, this rule is treated as a floor rather than a ceiling, and one should regard California as a multilingual state. Californian English is the main language and Spanish is the de facto second language, and a knowledge of even rudimentary Spanish is useful in most cities from the Sacramento South, which has some of the largest hispanic populations north of Mexico. The state is highly influenced by Spanish culture, as California was one part of the Spanish empire until 1821, and then to Mexico for a short while after until ceded to the USA in 1848. In fact, some of its residents declared it an independent country for about a month (The Bear Flag Republic) in the midst of the Mexican-American War 1846-1848, and many of California's cities were named after saints or phrases in Spanish (such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose). Store and street signs are sometimes written in both English and Spanish in major metropolitan areas, and "Spanglish" (a mixture of English and Spanish) is often used and heard throughout the state. Most businesses in California have at least a few employees that are bilingual in English and Spanish. Also, Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, Punjabi, and Khmer are also widely spoken among Asian Californian populations.

Travel Risks

(i) Earthquake risk
Earthquakes large enough to cause damage are rare. The biggest dangers in an earthquake are falling objects and windows which shatter explosively. In the event of an earthquake, face away from windows and hide under any sturdy table or desk that may be available. If you are indoors, do not run outside! Falling building facades are more likely to cause severe injuries than anything inside. Contrary to popular belief do not stand in a door frame it is not safe at all, this is merely a myth. You're more likely to get your fingers caught in the frame from all the shaking and swinging of the door than gain protection from a falling object. If outdoors, stay away from buildings and stay out from under power lines.

(ii) Climate Risks

On maps of the Sierra, some roads will be marked "Closed in winter." Travelers are often advised to "carry chains in winter." You might think that such advice refers to that time of year the rest of the world calls "winter" which lasts from Winter Solstice through Spring Equinox. You would be wrong.

What Californians are referring to is the time of year when it snows in the Sierra. Snow can begin as early as October, and last as late as May. Roads may be closed as late as July. When snow falls in mid October, it usually kills a few unprepared backpackers in the Sierra who hadn't carefully checked the weather reports. If you don't have chains during an early October or late May snowstorm, continuing to drive may kill you too.

Wildfires are common between May and October.

(iii) Security risks

Both the City of Los Angeles and the county of the same name are, unfortunately, the gang capital of America. Gangs generally confine themselves to certain areas and should be of little concern to the typical traveler, who is unlikely to venture into such areas. Gangs will usually identify their territory with graffiti markings. While most visitors to LA will not visit neighborhoods where gang violence is a concern, common-sense precautions apply should you become lost and end up in a bad neighborhood: remain on high-visibility roads or freeways, avoid confrontations with groups of young men, and should a confrontation arise flee immediately. Similarly, use common-sense on freeways to avoid incidences of road rage, which accounts for ten or so deaths per year. The usual inner city crime can be found in the worst parts of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. Central Valley cities, such as Sacramento, Stockton, and Fresno also have gang problems. However, most California cities are very safe. As long as you take basic precautions against petty crime and stay out of obviously run-down neighborhoods, you will probably have a safe and pleasant visit. Beware of pick pocket especially in LA and San Francisco.

The bus stations in San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego are all well-located, but in Los Angeles the station is over a mile east of the downtown core.

Most homeless individuals are harmless; they will likely only ask you for money and if you refuse, will simply go on to the next person. They are most heavily concentrated in Hollywood and Skid Row. Avoid walking along Skid Row near Downtown at any time of day or night.

The price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:

Budget $10 or less(about RM33 or less)
Mid-range $10–20(RM33- RM66)
Splurge $20 or more(RM66 or more)

Transport is however not difficult, either within the city or out of city. There are guided tour available from San Francisco, and Los Angeles, to Nevada, Arizona, Utah and even Yellowstone Park, Mt Rushmore, Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Universal City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Yosemite Natural Park etc

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