All abroad on a 6am flight bound to San Francisco (SFO). I made sure I had 2 alarms just in case. I cannot afford to miss this long-awaited flight 🙂
A good read is my The Prep Up entry to give you an idea what to do and bring prior to your trip. As a recap on San Francisco websites that might be useful, they are:
- For public transportation: BART,Caltrain and MUNI.
- Shuttle to and from the airport: Supershuttle.
- Attractions: http://staysf.com/ and http://www.sanfrancisco.travel/
I’m flying with United airlines. I have heard of United’s bad reputation so I guess I can be considered stubborn. It was cheap and one of the Star Alliance (for flight points) so I took my chance. Might as well experience the “worst” on the 1st long haul flight and then compare as I take more trips. Total flight cost was 1,792.70USD
There was a stopover at Hong Kong for less than an hour in each way. The few annoyances I found on my airline experience were
- There was a delay when heading back
- The system changed some of my selected seats (I am an aisle person) and I cannot seem change it back
- Only 1 luggage was inclusive of the plane ticket. Luckily, I didn’t lose my luggage (but some did) and that I managed to get my 2nd luggage checked-in for free on the way back.
The leg room was bigger (for an Asian) as compared to usual Asia budget carriers. Meals on board was so-so. I had 1 main meal and snacks every few hours. It would have been nice to have 2 main meals since it is a long haul flight but I can’t complain that I got hungry. Overall rating: not complaining (I can’t say I am satisfied though)
I anticipated the jet lag so I made sure I “trained” myself to adjust quickly. My friends were skeptical but I did manage to adjust nicely to the weather and time difference as if I lived in San Francisco my whole life. I stayed at colder areas in Singapore before I headed of, slept as much as I can on the flight, and adjusted to California time zone once I hit air bound.
Time zone: Pacific Time Zone UTC-8
December temperature: 4 degrees Celsius
Weather was a mixture of rain and sunny days so I made sure to plan my days wisely. I was outdoors when it was sunny while I did my shopping when it rained. I was not in a hurry to see all the sites as I made a decision to make this as go with the flow and have less thinking on what to do. I did have a list of the things I would want to see but my schedule was pretty much flexible.
I am thankful I have a friend who was available to pick me up in the airport. I tried my best to orient myself on the roads and places should I need to travel by my own. Still, I am glad to have a car that takes me to places. My relatives were free on most cases due to Christmas break and work shift changes. San Francisco is huge and travel time is long, especially since I stayed on the southern area, not in the city. It would probably take me 3 hours for a 1 way trip to the city. Public transportation is not easy and frequent as Singapore. As we took a car heading to the city, it took less an hour. Highway drive is a breeze, the roads are wide enough to navigate and GPS does help on finding the best route. If you are not planning on renting the car, you can check out this site: http://www.bigbustours.com. It is a hop on hop off bus that tours around the city.
Houses, malls and shops are mostly block shaped. Not architecturally pretty but functional nonetheless. In the city, I get to see more of the tall buildings and Victorian architecture so it was more appealing to the eyes. San Francisco have many (steep) hills so make sure you are on the right direction and good shoes (plus warm clothes)
There are so many variety of food available. You cannot go wrong with Mexican food here though. Delicious fast food – I can see why people do gain few pounds every US trip (luckily I didn’t, must be from all the walking).
People are friendly and customer service is quite good. I was actually shock to see a lot of Asians. I was expecting not to be back in Asia that quick lol
Outlet shopping is the bomb. One huge mall that has several outlets (discount) shops is too much temptation. Sometimes, you will find a cluster with outlet malls side by side. Couple the fact that it is Christmas and end of the year season, prices drop like crazy! Majority of the check out counters accept credit and its easy to swipe and sign. I had my list must-buy things since they are sold cheaper in the States. Best discovery: if you don’t like what you bought, you can return it and get your money back. Back in Asia, you can only exchange it for another item. Another great discovery is Amazon: bargain items delivered right to your doorstep. The bad side of shopping in California would be the sales tax to the dollar and no tax refund for tourist.
So here is the details of my trip:
Day 1: The tour of the outlet malls and the usual giants like Walmart, Target etc near the house. So many discounts, so many things to buy. I can’t decide! Well I got the basics like coat, mobile phone plan and shoes to start with. Outlet mall, I will be back! (indeed I came back 3x hehe) I got to try Chipotle Grill which is a Mexican fastfood chain. Good chunk of serving. I met my friend’s lovely family with the extended family of 2 corgis. With the ever so active little boy, you can never be bored. TV cable for free?! Man, so that’s how life is here huh. TV shows are just at a click of a button with Netflix (membership required)
Golden Gate Bridge
Lombard Street and Victorian Ladies
Day 2: Trip to downtown San Francisco city with relatives (technically its uptown since we were heading up geographically). I did the usual tour of the city. I wish I took down notes at the places but everything was in a blur and we were doing it like a hop off hop on car version style. Golden gate, Victorian Ladies, Lombard Street, City Hall just to name some of the famous tourist sites. Christmas Filipino dinner with relatives and their friends at Kamayan sa Ongpin. I find it funny that I came all the way from Asia and still had an Asian celebration. My uncle took us to a good ice cream place Birite Creamery (a must try).
Day 3: Headed to Santa Clara for a quick road trip to the view of the beach and pretty landscapes. And then a continuation of my shopping spree 🙂 Credit card, you tempt me on how easy it is.
Day 4: Christmas day mass service and Japanese lunch. Yes I know it is weird but I just had to try out the Western version of sushi (they were huge btw, barely considered as bite size). There are few shops are open today as it is a holiday. My relatives showed me Stanford University and my! they have huge acres of land just waiting to be develop. It looks like a nice university to be accepted into. We went to the grocery to buy ingredients and had nice dinner at home. Then, we headed to where they show the Christmas lights. The weather was cool and we bought hot coco at the park to warm up. It was delicious.
Day 5: Onward to Fisherman’s Wharf where I had the clam chowder and sour dough in Boudin. So good. Ghirardelli was selling chocolates at a discount. I bought a cool spraypaint art from a street performer. He was really good. Dinner was at In N Out Burger. Good burger! We topped the day with buying fortune cookies at Chinatown. I took the adult version 🙂 We had a laugh at our fortunes.
Something I would like to see on the next time I visit: Yosemite Park
To continue the journey, head over to Part 3: I Took A Bite Out of the Big Apple