death by paper cut

{December 15, 2009}   San Francisco, CA

transiting in hong kong airport. i have one more hour before boarding my 2nd leg of travel from san francisco to singapore. a hot cup of mocha from pacific coffee company and free wifi will definitely eat up the remaining minutes before long.

i’ve previously blogged about san diego, so this post will be mostly for san francisco.

in a little more than a week, i covered almost everything mentioned in guide books about san francisco, and a little more. the city of san francisco is fondly referred to as 7 by 7 i.e. it covers a squarish area of 7 miles by 7 miles. within this area is rather easy to get from one attraction to another by walking if you have time (like i did) or via public transport – bus, train, tram, and a morph between a bus and train – that i took sometimes. except for the bart and cable car, you can hop on and off any other public transport for a flat fee of $2 within a 90 minute span.

having the city arranged as a grid makes getting around even easier.

my cousins in california said i’ve seen more of san francisco then they have. that’s probably true. for most of my time there i’ve been blessed with clear blue skies and cool weather. interestingly the locals told me that san francisco was experiencing an unusually chilly december while i found it moderately cool, the harsher melbournian winters have conditioned me well.

i visited the obligatory touristy sites of alcatraz, fisherman’s wharf, coit tower (lookout point of the city), golden gate vista (lookout point for the gate), etc. but i also managed to balance that with out of town places like muir woods (primary redwood forest), sausalito (seaside town previously hippy hang out), and yosemite national park. i got to the out of town places on day tours. i recommend extranomical as a choice tour operator for yosemite national park. day tours in “western countries” tend to travel in small groups, they are also usually personable, they provide useful information and bring you to off the beaten track places. often independent and young traveler engage their services. i find that they are not tacky, loud and massively grouped as asian tour operators.



fisherman’s wharf

Fisherman's Wharf - Pier 39 24

golden gate

Golden Gate Vista 5

coit tower

Coit Tower at Telegraph Hill 8

Coit Tower at Telegraph Hill 27

Coit Tower at Telegraph Hill 24

muir woods

Muir Woods 19

Muir Woods 15


Sausalito 14

Sausalito 1

yosemite national park

Yosemite National Park 161

Yosemite National Park 123

Yosemite National Park 148

Yosemite National Park 126

Yosemite Panorama

i was really fortunate to have visited yosemite national park on a day like i did. most of the US experienced usually heavy precipitation the day before in the form of rain, hail and snow storms. the storms cleared the day i visited the national park and left behind thick soft fresh layers of snow. the tour operator said that in all his 15 years conducting tours to yosemite he has never seen so much snow so early in winter and such snow fall in the lower altitudes. the tourist crowd dwindles to a trickle in the harsher winter conditions but i loved it all the better because i got to walk around in pristine white snow and spotted wild life. it really felt like the chronicles narnia. i wouldn’t be surprised if a fawn came ambling by.

when i am back in the the city of san francisco, i’d walk from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. equipped with NFT san francisco, fordor’s san francisco (thanks qinz) and other maps, i got oriented pretty fast and was on my way through the many many crests and trough of the cityscape.

Streets of San Francisco 3

Castro 17

seriously, i’ve never scaled so many inclines so often before. good thing its winter and dry so i don’t perspire very much. walking allows me to take my time to take photos and really get to know the city beyond face value. my favourite two walks were along castro street from the castro suburb to noe valley and the precita eyes mural art guided walk at the missions district.

the castro

Castro 3

Castro 6

noe valley

Noe Valley 3

Noe Valley 6

Noe Valley 7


Murals at Mission 23

Murals at Mission 109

Murals at Mission 113

Murals at Mission 35

Murals at Mission 87

Murals at Mission 63

since the sun sets at before 5pm in winter i find myself making my way home by then. that’s when my wonderful hostess with the mostest kim brings me out to chic and up & coming restaurants where her friends are the chefs and managers and to art gallery openings where her other friends are the artists. we also had an invite to a ramen sampling session prepared by her chef friend, richie whose day job is at nopa.

ramen from scratch

Richie's Ramen 11

ramen done

Richie's Ramen 20

at richie’s place we met other foodies and people in the F&B industry. one of which is a sushi chef michael black from sushi sebo featured in anthony bourdain’s no reservation. i did not get to eat at sushi sebo, but upon arrival at san francisco, kim did bring me to another really good sushi place where kim knows the chef – ryoko’s. we ordered omokase (my first time) where you let the sushi chef decide what to prepare for you, even items not listed on the standard menu. our options were: not very hungry, medium hungry and very hungry. i never had japanese food done so exquisitely. i’m not sure of the names of the dishes so i couldn’t look it up online, suffice to say i’ve never known about those dished before that night.

other food places of interest are red’s java house, organic mexican food at farmer’s market, chow, and bob’s donuts. the former two places are featured in no reservations so i’ll just make a mention about chow and bob’s douts.

i went to the chow branch at castro. chow has a very fun vibe. the food is pretty good with a decent variety and at a great price. the wait staff ooze a professional coolness and are very attentive. the one who served us accommodated to our requested to settle the bill among 4 credit cards in a complicated way. and the place is packed with chatter all night long. its fun just being there.

bob’s donuts opens 24 hours and is originally managed solely by a couple. they have recently expanded their staff size to a grand total of 4. so the place remains intimate and personal. the donuts are made from scratch and by hand. kim brought me to bob’s donuts on my last night in san francisco at the stroke of midnight where the magic begins – the frying and glazing of fresh donuts. we sat at the counter and watched the different types of donuts emerge golden brown from the sizzling oil, poured over with sugary glaze and then dipped onto one side into either hot maple or chocolate liquid. we couldn’t have had it any fresher. the fame of bob’s donuts rests squarely on word of mouth. shortly after we arrived, customers from all walks of life started streaming in. we saw students who were taking a break from studying, other young people coming in from clubbing, loud and tipsy, and tranny prostitutes beginning their shift. i’ll never have donuts again if they are not made and served this fresh.

red’s java house

Food - Red's Java House 6

Food - Red's Java House 10

mexican food at farmer’s market

Farmer's Market 38

Farmer's Market 39


Food - Chow 3

Food - Chow 11

Food - Chow 14

Food - Chow 15

bob’s donuts

Food - Bob's Donuts 22

Food - Bob's Donuts 19

Food - Bob's Donuts 30

Food - Bob's Donuts 27

in between all the feasting, gallivanting, and sight seeing, i managed to visit the apple store several times. it is located in the heart of downtown and next to the major subway station. many people come in to use the free internet. i even saw a homeless person settle opposite me logging online. the apple staff were cool about it. my purchase from the apple store were a kensington international adaptor and a magic mouse for the geek. but the most thrilling thing at the apple store for me was the genius bar i.e. trouble shooting help desk. naturally since there is a queue, you’ll have to make an appointment.

i happened to have experienced charger problems with my macbook when i was in san francisco. it would have been horrific if my macbook ran out of power – no internet! oh no!

so i set aside one morning to troop down to the apple store with my macbook and charger. an apple staff did a preliminary check for me and said that since i had apple care, i could get a charger replaced free of charge right now. all i needed to do was make an appointment at the genius bar and have a technical guy see to it. the next available appointment slot was in an hour, so i settled for that and while waiting, watched an on going live tutorial on apple products. soon enough, it was my turn and as promised, i had a charger replaced promptly. it was only on my return to singapore that i realised that a new charger would have cost me about SGD120. if the problem occurred in singapore, i doubt if the iconcierge here could provide such prompt service or issue me a free replacement.

Apple Store in San Francisco 4

Apple Store in San Francisco 14

Apple Store in San Francisco 15

my holiday didn’t actually end in san francisco. what started as an arrangement for dinner with some relatives became an invite to stay with them in san jose for my last two days. i was pretty much done with san francisco (if there is such a thing) and the rainy season began in ernest anyway, so why not see another city in california while at it?

the stay in silicon valley was definitely a different experience from sensational san francisco but it was enjoyable and nice in a homey, laid back way. dimsum with the family, some i encountered for the first time, was on the agenda. the two families in san jose are my dad’s cousins. they saw to all my needs and helped with the check-in of my growing luggage at my final goodbye to california at SFO. interestingly, it was at san jose that i spotted the most dramatic skies.

San Jose 1

San Jose 3

San Jose 5

2190 photo uploads, 46 hours of flying, 27,188 km covered in the air,  3 full weeks, 3 cities, 40kg of stuff lugged back, unprecedented newly acquired clothes, 44 freshly minted genius mixes on itunes, some relatives i got to know for the first time, many amazing meals, lotsa love and hospitality all around, countless fond memories, 1 geek waiting for me to come home.


Squeezily happy to have you back!

[…] time visiting the famed markets. and the year concluded with 3 full weeks in the west coast of the states which was nothing short of exhilarating – i enjoyed free accommodation and the best […]

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