Day 10: San Francisco | Day 11: Leaving For Asia

Sugar, yes please ...
Sugar - Maroon 5

Day 10 was the last day of vacation. The next day I was to go back to real life. Since I was pretty lazy, the plan was just to take the hop on and hop off bus and explore San Francisco. So I woke up, not so early, not so late and without the hurry, I was quite slow in getting ready. I made it out of the door, then off to breakfast. I debated if I should go to IHOP again. I love it so much but then the day before I didn't give them any tip, so I wasn't sure if I should show my face again there. The thing is the day before they didn't give me small change, so I was confused about how to tip. I didn't feel like giving them money and asking for change, I thought that would be rude, so in the end I just didn't tip. Tipping is something that I will never get used to in America and the reason for it is I think I am a very stingy person. I really think my brother and cousin are more generous than me. Even my mom seems to be more easy going about this. I hate it because it's confusing for me to always have to calculate how much to give and again because I'm stingy I gave not with a light heart. I could just hear my cousin and brother talk about karma and what if I'm in those places. The thing is I would rather they just put 10% or whatever % of service charge there and be done with it. Having to count 10-20% sucks, I don't think the service was exceptional and yet I have to add in that 20%, why? The amount can be big for me and so my heart was not light. Having to add tips to a more than 60 dollar taxi ride, or adding 5 bucks to $20 something meal just makes my heart break because it's adding costs. It's different when the service charge is included in the bill because I didn't have to think more about it. I really find it weird having to tip taxi driver, isn't their job to drive? When they have done what they suppose to do, isn't the fare the reward for the job done? A tip of 6 dollar and more is just too much for me, but I did, I actually did all this. One of the annoying thing in a restaurant is when they asked if they should give me change, what? Seriously?!? Yes perhaps for an American, I am mean for being annoyed at this, but I think why don't you just give me change and then let me decide how much tips I want to give. Also if we have to reward people who did good, can pay less when the service or meal was not as good? I am seriously mean yes for being this calculative? Anyway, I was quite diligent in my tipping when I was in America lest people think I am rude or stingy (which deep down I somewhat am) and this included giving $2/day to housekeeping, every day I was there. I have never done this in other country ever! The housekeeping in San Francisco was nice that she left me a thank you note twice, which I stupidly didn't think to keep. Those thank you notes did make me feel good about tipping them. Really restaurants should just put service charge on the bill. Establishments that provide service should just pay their employees enough and charge the customers accordingly to make that happen. I want to tip if I am truly grateful for the service rendered not be forced by social convention or because these people are not making enough. If they're not making enough then shouldn't their employers look into that and adjust their business model? I know this is a rambling of a very mean calculative stingy person and when in Rome ... I'm sorry for this.

In the end I braved myself to go to IHOP again. My plan was, I did enjoy their food and the staff were really nice the day before so that day I was going to tip more and explained that's because I didn't tip them the day before. See I felt guilty for not tipping which logically I shouldn't because it's not like I ran out without paying. So anyway arrived there, the staff were different, so I felt somewhat relieved because I was really worried if the staff from the day before would recognize me and gave me the evil eyes. I didn't want to sit at the counter so I had to wait awhile. Ended up sitting at the same seat as the day before, so that was nice. I surprised myself when I realized my head was pretty much empty as I was looking at the street outside waiting for my food - it's a surprise because I usually have many things running inside it. That day I chose omelette with bacon, cheese, and tomato, it came with a stack of 3 pancakes, and I also chose orange juice. The omelette was big, I wonder if they used 3 eggs. I didn't like the tomato, it did occur to me to ask without the tomato but I thought I should be healthier. As expected the portion was big, but when I saw the big and tall stack of pancakes, I still managed to be in disbelief. I seriously wonder if Americans who try McDonald's Singapore big breakfast or the pancake breakfast think that these are kids meal. I tried, I really did, but I couldn't finish the pancakes. I forget if I managed to finish the omelette. So after that I went to pay, gave 5 bucks for tips explaining that I didn't tip them the day before, sorry about that. The cashier kinda laughed and she just put it in a glass. So I don't think it's gonna get shared with the crew from the day before but I cleared my guilty conscience and I could leave in peace, lighter heart, heavier tummy.

Next was to get ticket to the hop on hop off bus, I chose the Big Bus. Stupid me didn't get the ticket online because it's actually cheaper. I booked most of everything before my trip online that I thought I should leave some things when I was in the city, but this one shouldn't have been one of it. My first time taking the hop on hop off bus was in Barcelona and I think it was very convenient and since I didn't research much about San Francisco and had any place in mind I really wanted to go to, I thought using the hop on hop off bus was quite a good plan. It was really not bad. I chose to sit on top because really one should really do that when they ride the open top hop on hop off bus. I knew it would be windy and rather cold because even in the hot Barcelona summer, the wind made it quite cold when I took the bus last time. I did have some stops planned, but then I got lazy and only got off when I got to the Golden Gate Park.

The stop here was near 2 museums, de Young (an arts museum) and California Academy of Sciences. Having had my fill of arts and sciences in New York, I wasn't interested to visit them. As I walked I found the Japanese Tea Garden which I also didn't visit because I've been to Japan. Then I stumbled into the rose garden which was great but not very big, but the roses were nice.

In the rose garden, there's a map of the park and I thought I'd try to see if I can walk to the bison paddock. I followed the direction indicated by the map which was to go straight. The path didn't seem right because I ended up on the streets with many houses. Stupid stubborn me walked a few blocks of this before deciding it's all wrong and I should go back. So I went back, went to the map again and I just couldn't understand it, I walked the direction indicated by the map. After I got back here in Singapore and with that failure still bothering me even after many days, I looked up google maps. The map in google map is horizontal and the map in the rose garden was vertical, so instead of walking straight, I should have walked to my left. What the fuck America? Okay to be specific, what the fuck San Francisco? Okay perhaps maybe there were indicators in that rose garden map that the map should be read a certain way but who does map that way, so confusing!!!

I was demoralized, so sad and annoyed by Golden Gate Park that I decided to just leave. Went to the meeting point again and waited for the bus. Not only sad and annoyed, I was now confused about what to do with the rest of the day. I had hoped to spend some time at the park, but that's not happening, so what's next. I decided that I should really visit Alamo Square and see the rows of houses. I should have stopped earlier that morning, but in my hesitation I gave in to laziness. So then I needed to figure out the nearest stop where I could change bus. The nearest stop was pretty far away, but since I had nothing to do, I really had to do it. First from the Golden Gate Park, the bus crossed the Golden Gate bridge. Being on top, it was crazy windy, I was pretty scared my camera or other things would fly off so I tried not to take so many pictures. After crossing the bridge, it's a loop back to the city. I had to go all the way to Union Square and cross the square to the other bus stop. Luckily a bus was coming in, so I didn't have to be all confused on where the stop was.

So this time, I really got off at the stop to Alamo Square. I think the reason why that morning I didn't get off was because the square wasn't visible straight away, so I didn't want to get all confused on where to find it. This time that I stopped, I didn't straight away look for it because at the stop in Fell Street, there's actually this great wall of tiled mosaics. I think America has a secret love affair with tile mosaic (all the subway stations in New York as I far as I can tell use tile mosaic) and also revolving doors (they seem to have many of this, I wonder if after watching The Walking Dead, they would feel differently about this, it really doesn't make for an easy evacuation). Anyway, so I took some time taking pictures of this mosaic which was very cool and in different themes. I think they're also done by volunteer kids.

After that I made my way to Alamo Square. By luck I walked to the correct direction and found it without difficulty. Alamo square is actually quite tiny. It's this little green space in which you can see a rows of Victorian houses which are collectively called The Painted Ladies. There's this scene in the opening credit of the TV series of childhood days, Full House, which features the square and the houses. So that was one reason why I wanted to go there. I have to say I was quite disappointed being there because the square is small and the houses are not exceptionally beautiful in my opinion. So I didn't stay long, took some pictures, and went back to the bus stop.

After that I just had to ride the bus again, passing Golden Gate Park and Golden Gate bridge again all the way to the starting / end point near my hotel. Since it was so windy the first time I crossed the Golden Gate bridge sitting at the top deck, this time around I decided to sit below. There's actually some places where I could stop like Palace of Fine Arts and the stop near Lombard Street, but since I was lazy and the street wasn't visible directly from the bus stop, I decided to just skip this. In the end I chose to stop at Pier 39 and see the sea lions again. They were still sleeping around, seriously do they even eat? Do they try to do something to find food? I don't think people feed them. They're like the opposite of the sheep in New Zealand who spend all day and perhaps night eating, these sea lions just lounge around sleeping. I ended up taking pictures of birds around there.

Then I decided to get food and call it the day. I decided on In-N-Out Burger because the day before I found out that there's one nearby. I passed a McDonald's on the way there, but decided to stick to the plan. I'm actually not a burger person, very rarely I ate a burger and I ate 3 burgers in my short trip to America, that's like the most amount of burger I ate in the past year. I think the reason why I got to be interested was because Oshie asked me before I left if I was excited about trying all the junk food we know coming from America. I never thought of that and yes it was an intriguing prospect, I do wonder what KFC taste like in America and was really tempted by the Popeyes ad on TV, but I didn't get a chance to. Part of it was because I just didn't see them and that was surprising for me when I start to think about it. Here in Singapore, McDonald's is as ubiquitous as a mosque is in Indonesia. In New York, I didn't recall ever seeing a McDonald's that seeing that one in San Francisco did trigger a reaction in me, ah finally I see a McDonald's. Again perhaps because I didn't really look for them, but my point is shouldn't they just be everywhere in America that I don't even have to look, they're just there? Some people may abhor the idea of travelling to a country and choosing to eat junk food, but since all these junk food come from America, I think the curiosity is valid. By the way, one of the things I was most excited about coming to America was watching American TV. Unfortunately sometime the timing didn't fit me and in the early days I got sleepy easily and in the case of San Francisco, my hotel room didn't have HBO or even AMC for that matter, so no Game of Thrones or Mad Men for me. I may also have arrived too late for them anyway the evening they were shown. Also in San Francisco, I was confused of the timing. I remember seeing American Idol in San Francisco and thinking it's quite late. I also have yet to figure out the TV there, there seems to be a channel which shows a lot of Law and Order. I don't know what's with the fascination and if they will ever run out of episodes. One morning I saw Gilmore Girls, that was nice but I couldn't stay around and watch it.

I've digressed a whole paragraph away. So anyway, reached In-N-Out and there was quite a queue. I chose the cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate shake. The same as Shake Shack, we had to wait for our food. I wonder if it's also like this in McDonald's. If so, then it doesn't seem so fast food for me. Unlike Shake Shack which gave you a beeper which will light up and vibrate when your order is ready (which I think is super helpful for tourists who don't speak English well), this branch of In-N-Out had this cute staff (so cute I purposely looked at his name tag, it's Carlos) to call out numbers. So I got to him when he called my number, told me he's gonna make my shake and asked me if I needed anything else. He's really handsome that I loved this little interaction *silly me!!!* Anyway, just like in Shake Shack, I also got this order to go because I didn't know if I was going to get any seat and also in general I just have this habit of getting my junk food to go.

Got to my hotel and got the burger out and first thing I noticed was the lettuce because I was rather surprised to see it's the same as what McDonald's here in Singapore use. I think I shouldn't be surprised if not for Shake Shack using a different type of lettuce and made me think that's just the norm. I'm sorry for being ignorant, I just don't really eat vegetable so my knowledge of it is rather low. Shake Shack lettuce did get me thinking about its burger especially the second time I ate it. It's this nice green color, there's a bite to it and it's kinda bitter (for me maybe not for you), its taste made me think of this is the exact reason I don't like vegetable, but then I realized it helps balance out the burger and cut the meatiness or the fattiness of the rich beef and cheese. Since I'm not a burger lover, I didn't really think much about whether the burger I ate was outstanding or not, but then after trying In-N-Out and got to thinking of Shake Shack, I think I like Shake Shack more. Perhaps I also have this bias towards the nicer graphically designed Shake Shack. In general I also think it just seems to be operated and presented better, though this perhaps varies from branch to branch and really I have no complain on the In-N-Out branch that I visited. Shake Shack's green color scheme may also make you think they're somewhat healthier. They just look cooler than In-N-Out. I know I should be evaluating based on taste, so let me try, on taste alone I think I still prefer Shake Shack and I do miss it quite a lot, which is weird because I was not a burger person, did it manage to change me? Well, if I can have a Shake Shack burger tomorrow, I will be so happy to :D

So I finished my day early that day and spent the rest of the day packing and relaxing. For pictures of San Francisco, you can go here. The next day, day 11 was when vacation ended and it was time to go back to Asia. I got ready quite early actually and ended up sitting down awhile in my room before I got down. Chose to take Supershuttle this time to save cost. When I got down, apparently the shuttle was already waiting for me and that's great. I was the first to be picked and ended up waiting for some time in the van as the driver picked up a group of Indian family (there's a lot of Indian tourists in San Francisco, they're all visiting their programmers friends and family?) and another lady. While waiting for the Indian family, I listened to my ipod and Matt Simons - Catch & Release was on, it's the first song in my playlist and I set it that way because when I first heard the song I felt like it's telling me to be brave, as written here. That song has been playing a lot before and throughout the trip, but then as I sat there in the van, I felt like the song sounded so perfect, perfectly there to sum up the trip.
So let it wash over me
I'm ready to lose my feet
Take me on to the place where one reviews life's mistery
Steady on down the line
Lose every sense of time
Take it all in and wake up that small part of me
Day to day I'm blind to see
And find how far
To go


My plane ride to get back to Asia was San Francisco - Seattle - Tokyo - Singapore. I think it was in Narita Tokyo, at my last leg of a really tiring flight that I thought I couldn't believe I did all this. In the past 3 years, I have been travelling alone, while those are feats on their own rights, I really felt a big sense of accomplishment with this America trip. I think it came because I seriously had a lot of worries before going in, I was really scared and felt like it's going to be so daunting. I guess that's what determine your level of accomplishment. The more frightening it is or the harder it is, the greater that feeling of accomplishment will be and this was big for me. This was comparable to that first alone trip ever to Italy (that trip will always be special because its my first). It's good, it's really good to be feeling so accomplished because reality is I haven't felt accomplished in anything for a long time and it is a waste to live your life that way (I am really sorry dear universe). I'm thankful to God for everything, for the blessing, for the opportunity, for keeping me safe. He has never let me down in all my trips, sometime I think my luck will run out, but He's always been kind.

I got to thinking about San Francisco as I was leaving and decided that I love New York more. Maybe I'm being unfair because I didn't explore much of San Francisco, didn't ride their public transportation as what common people do, so I know very little of it. It's just I feel like there's this isolation feel about New York that I like. When you walk the streets of New York, it's very possible you wouldn't hear English, you would hear other languages, I happened to hear a lot of french. It's alright to not understand what you hear because most probably other people don't either. Everyone in the subway seems to be on their own, most of the time looking tired, somehow all this for the anti social me seems so perfect. You could just be on your own, your individual self. You're different but everyone else is also different. In a way, it's easier to blend in even though I have never felt like I blended in. I don't know if I'm explaining myself well here, it's like it's easier to be alone in New York because a lot of things about it feel alone, San Francisco doesn't feel like that to me somehow and for the alone me, I felt more out of place. Now I wonder if this exercise in writing in this blog is helping me at all, I still don't feel I can explain myself well.

So anyway, first flight was to Seattle. My last meal in America was crepes with nutella and banana and the lady making it is a Philippine and she was talking to another Philippine colleague in Tagalog and I was thinking this scene in front of me is so familiar, just like what one would feel in Singapore. No surprise I couldn't finish the crepes. The flight from San Francisco to Seattle was around 2 hours, it just had snack and no in-flight entertainment. So I spent most of the time reading The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro which I brought specifically to fill time during this flight. I finished reading that by the way. I love the ending because I thought it was leading up to some romantic happy ending, I'm glad it didn't which is perhaps a sadder end to have, but it's more realistic I feel. Arriving in Seattle, I only had around half an hour to get to my next flight, so I was really nervous about this. A staff waited by the gate when we got off the plane and was telling the transferring passengers which gate their next flight was. My gate was in a whole different terminal so I had to take the train, luckily it was easy enough to find and it was quite fast. I only had time to pee and then off I went to another plane.

Arriving in Narita, for some reasons the security there insist on checking security for all transferring passengers. That took awhile and when I was done, I saw that it's the final call sign for my next flight. I thought I had more transfer time in Narita, but in the end I was really rushing so I only had time to pee. The security check really dashed all my hope of getting some Tokyo Banana, why Narita, why? I was among the last getting on the plane. There were a lot of Singaporeans on the plane. Initially I was seated with these 2 aunties, but since the plane wasn't really full, one of them went to another seat. I have to say, I really hated it when the younger Singaporeans were like meerkats (not in a cute way) siting straight up eyeing which empty seats to take, ready to pounce on it. A reminder of reality and I began to hate the fact that I had to go back to that reality. Luckily the Singaporean auntie I was left with was pretty nice and cute that she made me laugh, she made me feel so much better. She doesn't really speak English and my Chinese is so tiny, but somehow we're able to have some conversation. When she found out I was travelling alone, she used this Chinese word to describe me which I had never heard before. I don't know what the word means and she didn't know how to say it in English, so I just assume it's something complementary.

Arriving back in Singapore, I sped off the plane as I usually do because I didn't want to get stuck in a long taxi queue. I wonder if I look suspicious for eagerly wanting to leave the airport, luckily I never get stopped. The taxi driver took me on a different route but he got me back really really fast. I have to say it's rather good to be in Asia simply because I feel belong here. It's weird and surprising for me to come up with that realization, but really being in a place where you know how things work and you get what you expect is a really good thing and you realize you miss it when you're off on your adventure trying new things. Maybe it's just because I'm older now that I get tired of trying to always have to figure stuff out. Some weeks ago in Japanese class during one of our exercises, we had to fill in which city we wanted to live, surprisingly I filled in Jakarta. I have to admit it's kinda unimaginative. One of my classmate put London and I thought oh that's cool. I see my answer as a sign of me getting older really. I've experienced a bit of this and that, I've been to places though I understand been to places is so different from been living in places, but in the end after all these experiences in life I have had and hope to continue to have, living in Indonesia, in the city I was born is getting more and more intriguing. It has somewhat become another adventure that I want to try, somehow it's made it to the list of things I want to do. Really, the you 10 years ago could be so different from where you are now. I wonder how I feel about things when I'm in my 40s. So that's it guys, the last post from the trip. For all the albums from this trip, you can go here. I guess I'll be back to posting less and less now since I'm so lazy. I will try not to, we'll see. Hope you guys have a great life :)

:) eKa @ 9:31:00 PM •

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