One Week in the Bay City

I spent a week in San Francisco because airlines cancelled flights left right and center in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy. Unlike Seattle, there wasn’t much of a plan. I did a little research about the touristy things I wanted to see, but I was mainly there to accompany Alan to a seminar and to recce the city for my parents before they come for my grad trip. So I didn’t do Napa Valley and all the outside-of-SF style, mainly just walked around (because I have never seen a less functioning bus network haha) and chilled and had a good time.

The weather on our first few days was incredibly good. Warm sun and cool winds. There’s a funny story about our adventure on SF’s famed cable cars. Basically what we thought when the guidebooks said cable cars was this (we grew up in Singapore after all):

Image from Treehugger.com

We walked around the streets in circles wondering where the cable car “station” was. I looked overhead and saw no cables of any sort. When I typed “cable car SF” into Google on my smartphone, I ignored these pictures:

Image from TravelMaestro.com

I mean, those things are trolleys in Philadelphia, not cable cars… I don’t know when exactly it was that we put two and two together but finally we figured it out and sheepishly waited at one of these stops for our $6 ride, which was honestly, fairly underwhelming because we had skipped the ridiculously long lines and got on halfway. Which meant we got a rather poor view. But still. I think the story is hilarious.

San Fran is hilly. Not hilly like I thought Hong Kong or Seattle were, but worse. I think I hiked more in this city than in the mountains (which I wrote about here) in Seattle. From certain vantage points, things can look like the view from a roller coaster, though, thankfully, a little less heart-stopping.

(We ate super well on this trip but I’m a little fatigued blogging about foodporn. I do have to give a shoutout to Thai House Xpress though, which has the most legit, yummiest Thai food I’ve ever eaten and I dare say it’s comparable to, if not better than, the things I ate in Bangkok. The yum woon sen was so goooooood, as was the duck larb. I MISS IT. Anyway, one reason why we made good dining choices (for the most part) was because of Yelp, which started in SF, interestingly enough.)

Back to my cable car story. We boarded it and took it to the last stop, Fisherman’s Wharf and walked. But first I wanted Alan to try what is apparently the first Irish coffee joint to open up in the city, Buena Vista Cafe. What I didn’t know was that Irish coffee is alcoholic, so poor Alan started the day a little red (he gets Asian glow super easily) and with a bitter taste in his mouth. No embarrassing photos here:

Then we started making our way down to the long pier. The sun was shining and there were plenty of old boats you could board for an admission fee. I’m not good with the maritime stuff, which is a polite way of saying I can’t be bothered, haha.

While we were snapping pictures I noticed the Ghirardelli sign. Apparently the Ghirardelli Square used to be an entire chocolate factory; now it’s given way to a host of shops, though there’s still a tiny production center, restaurant and requisite gift store to purchase cheap chocolate.

We got a giant mint chocolate shake, which was a little too jelat even for the both of us, but it didn’t stop us from making a beeline for… In-n-Out. We first had In-n-Out at a Vegas drive-through, and that experience blew our minds, what with the secret recipe (Animal Style, oh yeah) and I guess hunger (we had driven to the Grand Canyon and back in a day). Alan was psyched. So was I.

Sadly it wasn’t as delicious as I remembered, but I’m heartened that Shake Shack is in Philly now. AND I JUST HAD IT LAST WEEK and it was awesome. We continued down the Wharf and espied Alcatraz, which looks like a nice house to me. I’m saving the touristy trip to the prison for next year when I come again with my parents.

We did visit the Musee Mecanique, which was a completely random find filled with kitschy games you could play for a quarter. Alan and I competed against each other in the Road Racer, where you have to align your car so it stays on the right side of the road as long as possible. I went first, and throughout the game, he kept giving me instructions on “how to keep the car straight”. GUESS WHO WON. It’s exactly like the time where I was a little nervous about my SAT 2 results, and he was like, “Don’t worry, everything’s gonna be fine” —— you know, your slightly condescending, comforting pat on the back, with the presumed knowledge that no matter what, you’re going to come out better than the other person. GUESS WHAT. I GOT 800 FOR MY MATH AND HE GOT 780. HAH. HAH. HAH. Hahaha I can’t believe I can still remember this stupid story.

We finally reached Pier 39, which is basically the sea lion equivalent of an opium den. They all sleep, smell a little funny, and occasionally there are fights when the sea lions try to push off a surfacing ‘friend’. It was so fascinating we stood there for 30 minutes or so.

After that we had a mother-steep climb to Lombard, the Crookedest Street in the World! This photo doesn’t really do the scene full justice. All I can say is, it must be annoying to live on a street where people crowd your sidewalk and driveway trying to take pictures all year round. Which Alan and I were guilty of… I had to delete close to a 100 crappy photos off my camera.

And then it was off to Chinatown, the largest in the States if I’m not wrong. We had the best egg tarts in the US at Golden Gate Bakery, and Alan was happy because he has “now consumed amazing egg tarts on three different continents.” (Hong Kong in Asia, Lisbon in Europe for the other two, in case you were wondering.)

We also did some catching up in Boston… Went to North Beach and had yummy thin-crust pizza with Kuangli…

… met my lovely Pan-Asian alums who are doing grown-up stuff like working and living in nice adult-y apartments… Teddy was incredibly sweet and made a super long journey from Mountain View just to have dinner and chat.

That evening the Halloween partygoers were out in full swing and B and Annie and I caught a lot of hilarious people boarding the bus with us, when it finally came. I also met up with Pach and Daryl (and Yeongwei) to watch Cloud Atlas, which I loved (!!) but you have to read the book to understand it.

Then we got wind that Hurricane Sandy was going to be more serious than it had looked, and flights started getting cancelled, as was school (Penn had two days off, straight out). So that meant more food adventures, including dim sum, though the place where we had this was just disappointing. (Delicious Dim Sum… which I guess it could be, if you like your xiao long bao skin to be 1 cm thick or something.)

After all the eating adventures, we decided to bike to the Golden Gate Bridge too. Sadly, the one day we chose to go it was incredibly foggy and never let up at all. The fog/mist was so thick we couldn’t see the bridge’s signature red metal structures till we were actually on it. It did lend a certain ephemeral air to the experience though… It also made it super cold, though Alan managed to warm himself up by taking very unusual “jump shot” pictures.

View from the other side… See how foggy it is! You can’t see the high beams at all. I started giving one of those spiels about you cannot overcome the force of nature and Alan told me to please shut up so I’m repeating it here one last time. Heh. Here goes: You can build the tallest, grandest, biggest thing in the world and in an instant it can cease to exist if the winds choose to cover it up… It’s like it was never there at all. /end

Over the next couple of days, we caught excited kids getting ready for Trick or Treating…

… citizens celebrating their double win (go Giants I guess)…

… visited the iconic City Lights bookstore, home to Beat writers like Jack Kerouac… (I couldn’t find this store for like five days and then Alan took over with his navigation skills. Facepalm.)

And that pretty much sums up my week in SF. I didn’t have as many photographs as I did for Seattle because I was mainly eating and talking and feeling scared I’d get overwhelmed by work when I got back, but there, it’s immortalized here until servers crash and forever lose these posts.

In the past few days since I wrote this I have been ridiculously moody and emotional. I finished the Hunger Games trilogy and at the end of it I just burst into tears. I want to say they were tiny, quiet gasps like it was when I read The Notebook (don’t judge) or Time Traveller’s Wife, but no, I, like, burst into tears and told Alan over and over again “but its so sad…” before wailing. Alan just laughed and then told me about how he cried when he read Charlotte’s Web, which made me think of the poor sad spider who saved Wilbur’s life, and then I started crying again. By the time election results came out I started tearing when I saw Obama hug Michelle. I don’t know what is wrong with me. Sometimes I get really lost in a world and I can’t get out for a while. And I don’t know but I don’t think the Hunger Games trilogy is about hope, like everyone seems to say. It’s about settling, and resignation, knowing that any attempt at normalcy can never be achieved. And I think that’s the worst part, because it’s essentially a depressing “innocence once lost can never be regained” story. YOU WILL BE FUCKED UP FOREVER. Am I over-thinking? Probably. I need school to be over but I don’t want to go back.

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