Stayed San Jose Marriott Hotel, review

As you might know from my blog, I’m a budget traveler. Or maybe I should say, a miserly traveler.

So why am I reviewing the San Jose Marriott? Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those phantom posts about places the writer has never been to.

I had the chance to stay at this hotel chain during my business trip in May to San Jose. I clocked five luxurious nights among the soft bed and fluffy pillows, then I went back to earth in San Francisco.

Anyway, let’s head to the review:

Two beds for one person and her luggage

I’m not sure why they always give two beds on business trips for a single traveler. Even if I do invite someone to stay over, the other bed wouldn’t be too useful, would it? ;)

The bed was very comfortable and I spent a ridiculous amount of non-work hours propped up my pillows watching TV (The kids show in the morning were really fun but the shows at night were scandalous!).

Bathroom with a tub!

I do not have a bathtub at home so whenever I see a bathtub, my heart swells with joy. But when taking a bath, I would feel guilty about wasting so much water. Dilemma!

Bath and Beyond’s great smelling set

The thing I liked best about the room was the bath set. The orange-ginger combination smells really heavenly. I kind of regret not buying a whole bottle from Bath and Beyong.

Every morning, I would hide the tiny bottles in my suitcase and hope the room service tips I left were enough to pacify the chambermaids.

My non-view

I had a relatively low floor so my view wasn’t great. I’m not the type to open my curtains anyway so it suited me well.

My room also had a coffee machine that only accepts its own coffee bags. The coffee was really good stuff though, not like the limp coffee found in Southeast Asia. (Heck, even the conference coffee was awesome!)

Now that I’ve finished all my praises, the bad news comes.

I had to pay a lot of money for Internet (well, the host paid for the Internet but the fact that the guest needs to pay for Web access makes me really angry).

Not only was the Wi-Fi expensive, it drops off very often. I would need to relogin Marriott’s page again and again because it cuts me off too often.

A good thing that came out of this was that I had a story idea to work on when I was back at work.


Stayed: San Jose Marriott
Pro: All the stuff a four-star hotel has, lovely bath toiletries collection
Cons: Not for the budget traveler, the Internet fee is too damn high!

Other accommodation reviews (for the budget travelers)

Splurging on musicals and performances

I’ve been known to be a penny pincher during my regular days. While I don’t become worse when travelling, I do keep an eye on my budget.

Fortunately, I am not too sporty so I do not spend my extra budget on anything that requires me to move my arms or legs too much. (Cycling does not really count as exercise as it is considered transportation.) I’m immune to theme parks so that’s another savings.

I love to eat but my unfortunate purse means I only eat cheap food–never 3-star Michelin restaurants. Visiting museums is my weakness but most are afforably priced.

So where do I splurge when I travel? Musicals and performances.

A musical in France

Since I first heard Le Roi Soleil‘s soundtrack, I swore to myself: “I will see a French musical live!” (A sample from the soundtrack, also the most romantic song on earth.)

Mozart l”opera rock

When I was planning my trip to Paris last year, I accidentally found out that Mozart, L’opera rock was performing in the country. I had been listening to the soundtrack of the musical ever since I accidentally (again!) stumbled upon the music video for L’assasymphonie which I thought was tres bizarre in the beginning.

Unfortunately, the troupe ended their Paris performances and were travelling around the country. I checked out their schedule and, on a whim, I bought a ticket for the show in Nantes.

It was now or never! While the show, the TGV ride and hotel stay set me back an extra few hundreds of euros, the chance to watch a real life performance was priceless.

The show rocked my socks off, though I was wearing none. I didn’t understand half the dialogue but music, gestures, dances and costumes do not need translation.

Being in the audience, peering at the stage was very different from watching it on Youtube which is still better than nothing. I felt goosebumps listening to the familiar songs.

The trip was also not a waste as it was in Nantes that I first “met” my travel idol, Nellie Bly, although my first impression of her was not great because of my poor French.

A burlesque in San Francisco

As mentioned in my post on money saving tips for San Francisco, I caught a once-in-a-lifetime show in The City.

Dita von Teese

Dita von Teese’s “Strip Strip Hooray” show was on for two days when I was in SF. I could not get the tickets online but managed to get them from the box office.

Despite standing through the whole 3 hours, the show was fabulous. Not only were the burlesque performers entertaining, even the audience was really sporting. (Not so sure about the girl standing in front of me with a large headdress though.)

There was much booze and weed going on. The audience catcalled and cheered at the right moments. I felt like I peeped into a part of San Francisco that’s not found on the streets.

In the end, it was worth spending the $35 which meant three meals or an extra hostel’s night stay. Thank you for the incredible night.

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
This week’s topic: What do you splurge on when you travel?.

Other #indie2012 posts:

Money saving tips for San Francisco

Before I went to the US, I thought travelling there would be really expensive. But I realized that budget travel in San Francisco is possible after spending 8 nights in The City as a side trip of a business event.

While I’m not The Frugal Traveler, for the trip, my goal was to spend less than US$100 a day, including accommodation. I think I might have exceeded that budget because I bought tickets for some once-in-a-lifetime activities, shows and tours which easily costs about US$30 each.

In any case, I’m a frugal person to begin with so the trip was probably a budget travel success. Probably.

Save on accommodation with hostels

Instead of the usual cheap hotels I stay in when I travel in Malaysia, I had to bunk in hostels during my 8-night stay. Luckily, Pacific Tradewinds Backpacker Hostel and the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel were both under US$30 per night.

A short summary of the hostel reviews:
-Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel wins at free breakfast and nice view
-Pacific Tradewinds wins at having a fantastic location (and a cosy group, if you are a sociable person, which I am not).

Save on transportation and museums with CityPass

$6 for a ride?

The CityPass (US$69) was a good investment since I was in the city for 8 full days. It includes 7-days of transportation on MUNI buses and trams and the cable car, but not on BART, as well as 9-days admission to five different museums.

I did a spreadsheet before I headed off, taking away things like the aquarium and the one-hour cruise in the bay, but I realized that I would save money getting the pass.

Sure, it was quite expensive. But it includes cable car rides which are US$6 one way–unfortunately, taken only by tourists. Just by taking the cable car 12 times, I would get my money back, not that I actually did it.

Turns out, the aquarium was actually very lovely. The other museums were even better. Sadly, I missed out on the California Academy of Science because there was other more exciting stuff for me.

There’s also an option for an Alcatraz Island tour with CityPass but you’ll need to personally head down to Pier 33 to get the booklet.

Save on food with Yelp

Thanks for the coffee

I love food too much to eat only cheap fast food while in San Francisco. Luckily, I have Yelp on my iPhone to guide me to good locations.

I usually narrow down my food choices to eateries with only one dollar sign (cheap!). I also use the checkin coupons to save on drinks. Since I do not have 3G on my phone, I would redeem the coupon first then show the folks at the restaurant my coupon later.

I’ve managed to save 50% on my latte at M Cafe, grab a free coffee at Sushi Taka and 15 percent off some stuff at a shop-which-will-not-be-named.

Save on sunscreen with Walmart

2 for $5? How can it be this cheap?

Surprisingly, sunscreen is a lot cheaper in the US than in Singapore or Malaysia.

Walmart was selling its homebranded baby sunscreen at 2 for US$5. It took all my willpower to only take four in my basket. I wanted to take 10.

The sunscreen worked very well. I didn’t get sunburnt on my cycling trip to Sausolito. (OK, maybe wrapping myself in an oversized cardigan, a scarf around my neck and tights helped.)

Save on clothes with thrift shops

Thrift Town

K introduced me to thirft stores in San Francisco. I was in luck that day because I immediately found an oversized cardigan at the first store we stopped at. It was only $5 after I rounded to price up for donation.

The blue and white cardigan was only $5

Unlike Kota Kinabalu’s second hand clothes stalls, thirft shops in San Francisco are very organized. Instead of musty old clothes smell, their stuff are perfumed with softener.

Since I wore my clothes immediately, I felt very conscious of other people smelling the thrift store smell on me. (But it’s probably all in my head.)

I also bought two dresses from Thrift Town and a vintage belt from this other place.

Favorite store: Thrift Town
2101 Mission St
(between 17th St & Clarion Aly)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Neighborhood: Mission

Save on books with second hand bookstores

Adobe Bookstore

Similar to thrift shops, I love the second hand bookstore I found in San Francisco.

I picked up two books. One was the Spanish version of Bridget Jones’ Diary which is pretty much priceless in Singapore because it cannot be found.

There was also a 30 percent discount at Adobe Bookstore because it was closing down. It was rather sad that the building owner was raising the rent too high for the bookstore owner.

3166 16th St
(at Albion St)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Neighborhood: Mission

Save on once-in-a-lifetime experiences by reading local papers

This was actually in San Jose

I picked up a free SF Weekly as reading material from one of the newspaper-dispensing things. I flipped through the events listing while having breakfast and almost had a heart attack when I saw that Dita von Teese’s Strip Strip Hooray show was in town for a two-night performance.

The last time Dita was in Singapore, it was a local star-studded event! And I believe tickets weren’t even for sale. So this show was a not-to-be missed for me.

For SF, the standing-room ticket was only US$35. When I tried buying online, tickets were sold out. I decided to try my luck at the box office and tickets were still available.

Strip strip hooray

While I had to stand for a full three hours and look past other people’s head to peep at the stage, the atmosphere was amazing. People cheered and I cheered myself almost hoarse. The host was funny, the audience who were asked to go on stage for a dance competition were really sporting too.

And I got to breathe the same air as Dita von Teese! OK, that might be a bit stalkerish, but it’s DITA (Warning: That video is more Fatal Frame rather than sexy.)

What’s your budget travel tips for San Francisco?

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
This week’s topic: Traveling to and within the USA..

More about the USof A

Stayed: Pacific Tradewinds Backpacker Hostel, San Francisco review

Pacific Tradewinds Hostel was my second hostel in San Francisco but I booked it a lot earlier than I did San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel.

I spent seven nights there and loved the location. It’s between Chinatown and the Financial District. Plus, Union Square and Market Street is within walking distance. For the facilities and location, the less-than-US$30 rate is darn cheap.

The area’s also safe for a solo woman traveller since I didn’t see many shady characters hanging around at night.

The rooms

I was given the Haigh Ashbury bed in one of the two rooms on the fourth floor. There are six beds in each room. I believe the third floor has extra rooms (and showers) as well.

The room is not tiny as there’s still space for everyone of us in the room to open our luggage. There’s also storage underneath the bed. Remember to bring your lock.

My bed was comfortable. The room is nice and toasty at night if we keep the windows shut. Sheets were clean. Two mirrors in the room, in case you are a mirror person.

There were two power outlets which were shared among six girls who probably each have 2 devices. Other power source is available in the hangout area.

Hostel folks


If you are a people person who LOVEa making new friends, this is the perfect place for you. You’ll make lots of friends with the guests and staff in the kitchen/hangout area.

Unfortunately for me, I’m not that much of a people person so I kept to myself most of the time. (The hostel actually inspired my ealier post on ISFPs and hostels.)


The fourth floor is the hangout area. Unfortunately, the hangout area is the thing between me and the bathroom. So most of the time, I have to not-so-discreetly walk to the bathroom while everyone’s chatting about. (Psst, the shower next to the toilet has hotter water than the other one.)

If you are a light sleeper, the hostel has lights out at 12 midnight (hurray!) and most people leave the hangout area for some place else. Just in case, bring earplugs for snory roomies. I got mine from Daiso which has a branch right on Market Street.

Overall, the Pacific Tradewinds Hostel is a great place to stay. Do remember to make advanced bookings because they had to turn down a lot of people while I was there.

Pacific Tradewinds Hostel

Pro: Great location, cheap (<US$30), safe area, near good food
Cons: More power points please.

Heading to San Francisco? Here are some money saving tips for SF.

Stayed: San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel review

During my San Francisco trip, I had the chance to stay at two different hostel. Well, “chance” doesn’t really describe my situation. I had to book separate places because I misinterpreted my work schedule.

Since I had already booked Pacific Tradewinds Hostel for seven nights so I thought that I should give San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel a try for my first night in San Francisco.

This is the Fort Mason branch of Hostelling International’s three hostels in the city. I didn’t pick the other two because they seem to be in shady locations. For a solo woman traveler, safety is always a priority.

I got off one bus stop too early and had to drag my luggage up an extra slope. (I should have stopped at Van Ness instead of Polk.)

After I reached the Fort Mason entrance, there was another slope to conquer. The slope’s not too bad and there’s a beautiful community garden along the way to distract me.

The hostel front desk is on top of the hill. There’s plenty of parking space around.

I lived in this building. The stairs leads to the breakfast room.

The front desk person is curt but I don’t expect hostel staff to fawn over me so it was the right amount of civility. She used a marker to write that day’s date on my receipt for use as an entrance pass and my breakfast slip.


I was lucky enough to get one of the smaller dorm rooms. There was only six beds instead of some other’s 10 to 12. There’s a radiator in the room for those cold San Franciscan nights.

I had the lower bunk which is good because there’s no ladder to climb up the upper bunk. You’ll have to step on the rungs (which were quite high). Under the bed is a luggage space which I locked with my padlock. I couldn’t find a power point in the room.

Room access is with an electronic card. My Room 13 was right outside the bathroom so it was convenient for showers. The bathroom was bright with three showers with three toilets.

There’s a theater and a large kitchen. I did a bit of blogging in the kitchen since there was Internet connection there.

Hostel with a view

The view from the hostel itself is not too fantastic as it’s covered up by trees. But if you stand at the edge of the hill, you’ll get a great faraway look of the Golden Gate Bridge (if the weather is gracious with low fog).

In the mornings, cyclists will ride past the hostel since it’s along the way to the bridge.

Breakfast was great. I had a bagel with peanut butter, a fruit (which I forgot to take away), unlimited coffee and juice. The breakfast lasted me from 11am to 3pm.

One thing cool about Fort Mason on Friday is Off the Grid. At least there was one the Friday I was there.

The event brings the street cards and food trucks around the city in a central location. Head banging music and crowd expected. I had the chance to try out the Creme Brulee Cart there.

Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel

Pro: Good view, great breakfast, space, cheap (US$29.99), safe area
Cons: Far from most sights, a bit of a trek from nearest bus stop, slopes, no power point in room

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Glutton in San Francisco

Hiya turtle brings you good food

During my week vacation in San Francisco, I relied a lot on Yelp and its local reviewers for advice on what to eat. The app was also very useful to narrow down eateries that were still open at the time I want to visit. A lot of the stores seem to operate at a very specific time range.

Yelp, with its HQ in San Francisco, is also promoted a lot by the restaurant themselves. A lot of the shops proudly display Yelp stickers or have Yelp-related promotions, such as the half price-coffee I got at M Cafe. I am not sure how both parties benefit but it sure benefits me as a consumer.

I want to be married to Yelp, in a polygamous marriage with TripIt too.

Thanks to Yelp and one or two IRL (in real life) local recommendations, I had some very amazing meals while in SF.

Bon appetit!

Sammich, panini, torta, burger

Torta from La Grande Torta in Mission district
I made one friend at the hostel! (Good job YQ!) K brought me to thirft stores and to eat real Mexican food.

My torta was stuffed with all sorts of meat. I washed it down with hot chocolate spiced with cinnamon. Mmmm…

The Godfather Panini from M Cafe
Found the shop through Yelp. The sandwich was dripping sauce when I ate it. Good but not absolutely fantastic. I love the warm toasted bread. (Psst, Wi-Fi password there is godfather.)

Sandwich from Freddie’s Sandwich at Pine Street
Daily special at the highly rated Freddie’s Sandwich. It was so big I packed half of it in a container for dinner. Yummy!

Philly Cheese Steak from Buster’s
I was looking for real steak but ended up with a sandwich. (Stupid non-local me.) Surprisingly nice with melted cheese and bits of beef.

In-N-Out Burger

Hamburger from In-N-Out Burger
Do burgers count as sandwiches? In my book, bread with meat in between equals a sandwich, so here it is. Jesse from Discovery Walks recommended the place as the best burger place.

Instead of cheeseburger, I went with hamburger because I am clueless about which burger to choose. It was alright. The fries felt a bit flat.

Hotdog from Zog’s Dog
Accidentally stumbled upon the stand while waiting for a walking tour to start. My first American hotdog! The meat was hot from the pan and my mustard flavored the plain bun very well.


Plain vanilla creme brulee

From the crème brûlée cart. Stalk them at @cremebruleecart
The cart and its goodies were something I’ve heard about even before the work trip was known. It’s quite fun to know that a food cart would announce its location on twitter for its fan to look for it.

I had the dessert when Off the Grid was happening at Fort Mason. Off the Grid gathers about 10 food carts/trucks in one location with head banging music and not much moving space.

I also picked up a nutella and strawberry creme brulee when I saw the card downtown. Sweet!

Chocolate croissant with coffee from Ghirardelli.

Not my best meal in SF .I just arrived in San Francisco from San Jose and I was really hungry for food so I picked the cheap set.

Supermarket strawberries
Straberries were humongous. I ate all, except four, in one sitting. It washed away the bad sushi taste.

Main meals

Pizza from The Golden Boy
Another Discovery Walks guide recommendatiom: a Sicilian pizza joint.

I picked the one with clam garlic topping. It tastes of salty seafood but the crunchy crust tempers the saltiness. I got one to go and sat on the grass at Washington Square while the locals lounge about soaking up the sun. (I was in the shade.) It was a very satisfying meal.

Clam chowder in sourdough bowl from Bordin at Pier 39

I had a coupon for a free drink at Pier 39’s Bordin so I got myself a clam chowder in sourdough bowl.

After a taste of the bread, I am now in love with sourdough. But the soup was already cold by the time I got it so it wasn’t fantastic.

Pho from Golden Star Vietnamese Restaurant
My very first Yelp-referenced meal, also my first sit-down meals in SF.

I was hungry for something soupy and checked for good and cheap food places around the hostel. Turns out the restaurant is around some corners so I grabbed my jacket and went in search of the place.

I was served a medium pot of tea. It wasn’t really good tea but I drank probably the three-quarters of the pot because I am that thirsty.

The dish itself wasn’t salted enough. But it was satisfying because of the hot soup and the large chunks of meat. Mmmm….

Breakfast at M’oz Cafe near Union Square
I was heading to the SF MOMA on Bay to Breakers day so I looked up breakfast places around the area.

The hash brown is flaky and tastes 10 times better than the piece of potato McDonald’s gives me when I order its breakfast set.

Sushi burrito

Royal prince burrito at Sushi Taka on Kearny-Sacramento Street
A sushi place just around the corner of my hostel. I found it funny that its opening hours was from 8am to 2.30pm on weekdays. It feels like they don’t need to earn money.

The sushi was so much better than the crap I bought from the supermarket. The rice flavored and the salmon sweet.

My picnic was at the square which I don’t remember while I wait for the Chinatown tour to start. I felt like I was intruding on the local old Chinese granpas’ place.

Lunch set at Scoma, Sausolito
My most expensive meal in San Francisco area. It was a posh seaside restaurant at Sausolitio which is opposite San Francisco.

I had cycled there and was hungry. I got the clam chowder lunch set as well as three raw oyster.



Caramel macchiato
I like the stamped logo. The coffee is good too but I probably should have ordered something more plain.

Can’t get enough of San Francisco? Me neither!

What do you think is the best meal in San Francisco?

Falling in love…with San Francisco

I was planning to go with “I left my heart in San Francisco” as my blog title so it would mirror my San Jose entry’s song title as blog title. In the end, I decided to skip the cheesiness since it’s too predictable to use that.

Anyway, I’ve fallen in love with San Francisco. Although it’s blasphemous to say this, but, yes, I’ve fallen in love with the City more than I did Paris.

Before the trip, all I ever heard from people was how much they loved San Francisco. Not a bad word was said.

It was annoying and also scary. How is it possible for everyone to like a place so much?

So I decided I would buck the trend and not like SF. I came to the place expecting to dislike the weather, the buildings, the smell of the subway (Paris’s Metro smells like piss), the touristy Golden Gate Bridge. Basically, I was being a psycho.

But in the end, I didn’t. I fell in love instead.

Beautiful things

Church of Scientology

At first glance, the City feels like any other city. The buildings are not as nice as Europe where the old buildings are amazingly gorgeous.

But San Francisco grew on me.

At every other corner, there’s something beautiful. Mostly the sea, sometimes bushes of flowers (lavender grow aplenty here), murals, the sky, metrosexual men and cute babies.

The museums and exhibits are great too. I never thought I would like the Aquarium but the beautiful jellyfish made me stop and stare.

Beautiful jellyfish at Aquarium at the Bay

Yelp is heavily promoted by businesses and that’s what I used to help me find good food. I had lots of great food–not the stuff I see on American shows but good stuff.

The place is also walking friendly (if you don’t think about the hills). I got lost about once everyday but with each turn, I would get closer to my destination so it was alright.

Checking the To-Do list

I went back to my pre-US blog post and found the list of To-Do’s. Here’s a check to see how many I’ve conquered.

eat burgers at McDonald’s
+I ate In N’ Out burgers, also had breakfast at McD’s. That counts, right?

eat hotdogs from hot dog stands
+I had a Zog’s Dog.

–run for cover while super aliens destroy the city
+Hmm… Planet of Apes didn’t happen.

drink soda (what flavor is it?)
+Had a watermelon-flavored soda.

–buy Old Spice
+As I tweeted: bought @OldSpice shower gel to bring back to Singapore. Need to find a man to make him smell like “the man your man could smell like”

–watch Mad Men on TV
+My hotel didn’t have AMC. :(

watch Game of Thrones on TV
+I only caught bits of it at the hotel. The hostel is TV-less.

–drink lemonade
+I didn’t!!! OH NO

#FoodFri California rolls are undeniable

Who says my #FoodFri has to be about good food? Not everything I put in my mouth taste yummy–especially that mouthful of detergent I once accidentally sipped.

So today, I shall show you one of the most disgusting meals I had in the US. Hmm… I think it’s the *only* disgusting meal I had.

I knew I needed to eat sushi in San Francisco but I was too timid to enter posh looking shops. In the end, I picked up a sushi set from Safeway supermarket.

If I could travel back in time, I would devote all my energy to change the course of my life around 8-9pm May 23. I would stop myself from buying this set even if it means physically forcing Marty McFly out of the time machine.

The wasabi tasted suspiciously like chilli. I wonder if they put jalapenos in it.

The California roll was sad. It has the traditional avocado in it–leaving me feeling “UH?”. The not yummy taste could not be covered up by the wasabi. Sad!

The salmon. Is this San Francisco? How could your fish taste so bad? They must have been made in China.

But what can I expect? It’s supermarket sushi. (Although I still can’t believe Cold Storage sushi can be better.)

A hostel is not an ISFP’s natural habitat

Despite my blog title being “YQ, travelling ISFP”, I haven’t talked much about being an ISFP while travelling.

Nobody wants to be lonely?

Part of the reason was that I’ve been travelling with my friends so the shy-ISFP part of me is dormant.

But for this trip, I needed to stay in hostels to save money. Since day 1 of hostelling, I realized how serious the introvert part of me could be.

It’s a bit of a generalization to say all ISFPs are like me, but here’s a few things I found out about myself during this trip:

  • I am comfortable being alone.
  • I can talk to strangers but only in a small groups (of two).
  • I try to avoid crowds (difficult when the hang out area is on the way to the bathroom).
  • I smile at people but avoid actively greeting them in case I’m brought into a conversation (or maybe that’s the Asian part of me).
  • I take an extra 15 minutes pretending to pack my stuff for the shower, all this while, I’m bracing myself for the walk past the crowd.
  • When I walk past the crowd at the hangout area, I look at the floor or my destination and AVOID EYE CONTACT.
  • After showering/washing my hands, I stare at the mirror. Again, bracing myself for the crowd.
  • I cringe when I am brought to attention among a crowd.
  • I dislike being in crowds, just thinking about it makes my stomach churn in a bad way.
  • I think it’s very nice that other people can be carefree when they are in a crowd. I want to do that but just thinking about it stresses me out.
  • I cannot flirt even if I think if someone in the hostel is cute. (Usually my flirting skills involve AVOID EYE CONTACT or a faint smile that looks like I have muscle cramps.)
  • Even if there is only one wall socket in the room, I’d rather not go out into the hangout area to charge my laptop.

I would say I am comfortable being socially awkward so I’m not very sure if I want to be hyperactive and friendly while on the road.

What’s your personality type and how are you like when you travel?

Related post:
Zero meaningful connection on the road

Toured: Fisherman’s Wharf Tour with Discovery Walks SF

I picked up a pamphlet for Discovery Walks SF when I was at the airport. Since I had no plans for the day I checked in, I decided to join the Fisherman’s Wharf tour since my hostel was just nearby.

I don’t think I’ve ever joined a walking tour before. Hmmm… I did try to join one in Paris but I was too stingy to pay the tips so I didn’t.

I’m glad I did for this tour. I didn’t have breakfast so I grabbed a small bite (croissant and coffee at Ghirardelli, a combo offer) before heading to the meeting point.

Chocolate croissant

I looked around to find someone wearing orange. I saw a girl in an orange T-shirt and a dark jacket taking pictures. She then walked away so I had to look some more.

Then I saw a guy with a lump of orange next to him. The lump of bright orange turned out to be a vest and he zipped it on.

Putting on my not-shy, cheerful face, I went to ask if he was from the tour and he was. Jesse, the bearded tour guide.

No one else went up to him so we started the tour with only one participant (me!). It was great because I didn’t have to share tour guides with other people.

The tour was great. The sun bright and warm while the wind chilly.

Jesse was a very engaging guide too, always accommodating even when I ask questions like: “What do they call Irish coffee in Ireland?” “What is the size of San Francisco when compared to London?”

The greatest tip I got from him was that Bay to Breakers was happening this Sunday. (I had the impression that it was a weekly event but turns out it’s only an annual thing.)

He said the event is one of the two in SFO where “everybody” would have the same amount of fun. Other events, take Gay Pride parade for example, makes people happy but the most happy would be the GLBT folks. The other everybody happy event is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

While I’ve read a lot of guidebooks about San Francisco. Jesse shared other tips that I haven’t come across. These include

  • Don’t stir your Irish coffee.
  • The company which made glasses for Irish coffee went bankrupt and one of the coffeeshops bought ALL the leftover stock and is not letting them go.
  • Don’t drink the Irish coffee if it’s in a mug. Tastes not as good.
  • In N Out serves the best burger in the US and its special menu doesn’t sound too appealing to me.
  • Berkely will make a really nice day trip (though I’m still more into Sonoma.)
  • Tram is better than cable car as it passes cooler neighborhood.
  • Locals don’t visit Fisherman’s Wharf’s Pier 39 as much as tourists do.

Interestingly, I’m liking the US more than I thought I would. Blame it on the TV and the dark side of the Internet for making me think that the country’s weird.