USA West Coast Travel Part I (San Francisco City)

USA West Coast Travel Part I (San Francisco City)

Day 1

Travel to USA West Coast

EVA Air route from Malaysia to USA via Taiwan

For the first time, my wife and I were going to USA on 23.5.2014 for a short tour in its western region. We were going to visit several popular tourists’ places, like San Francisco City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Grand Canyon to name a few. We would spend about 11 days touring those places.

Map showing the route taken by the tour group in West USA

Departure from KLIA

On 23rd. May 2014, we went to Kuala Lumpur International Airport(KLIA) and joined a small group of Malaysian tourists under a capable guide, Jay Ho, from a travel agency, Travelcaya International Sdn. Bhd., in Kuala Lumpur.

Writer with wife and fellow-tour members

Writer(L) and tour guide(R), Jay Ho, from Travelcaya International Sdn. Bhd., Kulala Lumpur at KLIA, Sepang, Malaysia

Writer and wife joining a USA West Coast tour planned by Travelcaya International Sdn. Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

At 4.00 p.m. an Eva airline belonging to a Taiwanese company, EVA Airways Corporation, took off at KLIA  and flew us straight to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan. It took about 4 1/2 hours to arrive at the airport.

Departure point at KLIA, Sepang, Malaysia

EVA Air, a plane belonging to EVA Airways Corporation of Taiwan at KLIA, is preparing to fly to Taiwan

Writer’s dinner on the plane three hours before reaching Taiwan

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

At the airport we waited for another plane that would carry us to USA. After 4 hours of waiting, we, finally, resumed our journey to USA at 12.45 a.m. It would be a very long journey of about 10 200 km over the wide Pacific Ocean taking about 9 hours to reach San Francisco, our first destination in USA.

A cabin-screen showing the plane leaving Taipei, Taiwan, for San Francisco in USA

During that long hours of flight, I slept on and off, ate two meals, went to toilet two or three times, walked a few times on the aisle, watched a few movies and listened to some musics provided by the in-flight entertainment.

Writer’s dinner on the plane two hours before reaching San Francisco in USA

International Date Line

At 6.35 a.m.(Malaysia time) we crossed the International Date Line gaining a day, and five hours later we landed, safely, at the San Francisco International Airport, California, USA. Looking at my watch, it was 11.50 a.m.(Malaysia time). To follow the local time in San Francisco, I adjusted my watch to 8.50 p.m.(a difference of 15 hours).

At 6.45 a.m.(Malaysia time), the plane crossed the International Date Line gaining a day

Writer’s wife arriving at San Francisco International Airport

Wang, a patient and friendly coach-driver, bringing the group for the tour of the west coast of USA

Marriott Marquis Hotel, San Francisco City

At the airport immigration checkpoint, there was a long queue. We, patiently, waited for more than an hour before our passports were stamped by friendly officers. At 12 midnight we left the airport on a coach driven by Wang, an American. It brought us to a hotel, Marriott Marquis, located along Mission Street in the city centre. As the hotel rooms were large and the beds were comfortable, we had a good sleep throughout the night.

Marriott Marquis along Mission Street in San Francisco, USA

A cosy bedroom in Marriott Marquis Hotel in San Fransico, USA

San Francisco is a vibrant city with a population of over 800 000. It is a cultural and financial hub in California. Besides, it has many places of attraction. On the following day, we were going to visit some of them.

Day 2
( Date and time in California, USA, will now be used.)

Day 2 in San Francisco was going to be very busy for all of us. We were going to visit several well-known places in the city. The following were the ones we visited.

Civic Centre

Civic Centre was the first place we visited. It is a place where the important government buildings and cultural institutions are located. Most of them are of neoclassical architecture, Beaux-Arts, that is taught in Paris, France.

City Hall behind writer and wife in Civic Centre in San Francisco, USA

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in Civic Centre, San Francisco, USA

Among them are City Hall(1915) for government offices, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium(1915) which is a multi-purpose arena, War Memorial Opera House(1932),  Public(Main) Library and Asian Art Museum(1966) that houses a large collection of Asian art objects.

Pioneer Monument(R) and Public Library(L) in Civic Centre, San Francisco, USA

In an open area between the Public Library and Asian Art Museum, there is  a monument, Pioneer Monument, which was a posthumous gift by a prominent and wealthy pioneer, James Lick(died in 1876) to the city-folks. It was built by a famous sculptor, Frank H. Happersberger(1859-1915).

Pioneer Monument between the Public Library and Asian Art Museum in Civic Centre

Three gold prospectors in serious discussion in the “Early Days” at Pioneer Monument in Civic Centre, San Francisco

Pioneer Monument

In the centre of the monument is a high cylindrical, telescopic column with a statue of a Roman goddess, Minerva, atop. Surrounding its base are four white pedestals with life-size human statues: three gold prospectors of the “49” having a serious discussion on top of one of them, a padre talking to a native and a Mexican cowboy watching his cattle in the “Early Days” on another, a woman in a Roman dress holding a cornucopia on one more to show the importance of agriculture, and another woman in the same Roman dress holding an oar on the last one to show the importance of trade in the “Early Days”.

A padre talking to a native and Mexican cowboy watching his cattle at the Pioneer Monument in Civic Centre, San Francisco

Statue of a lady in Roman dress holding an oar, a symbol of the importance of commerce in the “Early Days” in USA

Civic Centre is a place where massive political rallies, civilians’ protests, festival parades, and other big events are usually held. A historic agreement was signed in 1945 in Hersbt Theatre in the War Memorial and Performing Arts Centre in Civic Centre, viz. “The UN Charter” that created “The United Nations”. An important treaty, “The Treaty of San Francisco”, was signed between Japan and Allied Powers at War Memorial Opera House in 1951 that, officially, ended the war with Japan.

Lombard Street

After the Civic Center visit, we went to see a short, steep stretch of Lombard Street which the local people claim it to be “the crookedest road in the world”. It is 180m long and has 8 hair-pin bends with well-kept flower-beds. Visitors can walk up about 250 steps on either side of it from Leavenworth Street to Hyde Street. Visitors may drive their cars down this winding road at a very low speed, 8 kph, as a challenge.

Crossroads of Lombard Street and Columbus Avenue where writer and others alight the coach and walk up Lombard Street, San Francisco

To see that unusual road, our coach left the Civic Centre and went to the crossroads of Lombard Street and Columbus Avenue where it stopped for us to alight. Then we walked up Lombard Street to the crooked stretch which was about a km away. As we were walking up further we saw houses in Victorian architechural style along the road that became steeper. Half an hour later, we reached the crossroads of Lombard Street and Leavenworth Street where the “the world’s crookedest” road began. As we were walking up over 200 steps on the right side of the crooked road, we saw beautiful and well-kept flower-beds beside it, and some cars moving down it, very slowly.

Visitors walking up Lombard Street to the crooked road which is a few hundred metres away

Houses in Victorian architecture along a steep part of Lombard Street in San Francisco

“The world’s crookedest street” with manicured flower-beds in San Francisco, USA

Scenery from Lombard and Hyde Crossroads

Soon we reached the end of the winding road at the crossroads of Lombard Street and Hyde Street. Standing at that crossroads and looking beyond the long Lombard Street, we saw a breathtaking view of Coit Tower, the skyline of the vibrant city and Bay Bridge. Standing at the same crossroads, but looking beyond and down Hyde Street, we saw another breathtaking view of the islands of Alcatraz and Angel and San Francisco Bay.

Breathtaking view of the crooked street of Lombard Street in the foreground and the city-skyline in the background, San Francisco, USA

Alcatraz Island and Angel Island in the distance as seen from the top of the crooked street of Lombard Street, San Francisco, USA

Cars moving down the “world’s crookedest road”, Lombard Street, in San Francisco

Several minutes later, we walked down Lombard Street with ease, and reached the crossroads where our coach that had been waiting for us at the same spot where we alighted earlier. We boarded the coach and left for another tourists’ spot, Palace of Fine Arts.

Palace of Fine Arts

After the interesting crooked part of Lombard Street visit, we went to see “Palace of Fine Arts” which is located along Lyon Street near San Francisco Bay. Bernard Maybeck(1862 – 1957), an architect, designed this beautiful Palace, a masterpiece, “to evoke the sadness and beauty of looking at a Roman ruin” and integrate the architecture and landscape of the place.

Plan of Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, USA

Panama-Pacific Expo

The Palace was built of wood and plaster to last a year for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition(Expo). It had several rows of colonnades in a semi-circle and a large high rotunda in the middle. The structures were built in Roman and Greek architectural styles. A lake was created right in front of it in a lush surrounding.

Writer and wife at the Palace of Fine Arts along Lyon Street, San Francisco, USA

A row of colonnades of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, USA

Statues of weeping women atop colonnades at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, USA

After the Expo, that masterpiece was supposed to be demolished. Owing to the appeal to save the Palace for the enjoyment of future generations by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, only a part of it was preserved. But over many years the Palace deteriorated. In 1964 it was completely demolished . Later it was rebuilt with steel and cement to last a long time from generous public donations. Since then more improvements and restoration works were done. Now it looks grand and elegant in a scenic environment that attracts many tourists from near and far. Its serene and clean lake with trees round it attracts birds and racoons which make it their permanent home. Brides and grooms like to take photos together at this beautiful and romantic place.

Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo in San Francisco, USA

A beautiful lake in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, USA

The lake of the Palace has become a sanctuary for birds and racoons

The Golden Gate Bridge

After visiting Palace of Fine Arts, we went straight to San Francisco’s iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. It is 1 280 m long and ranks the world’s 12th. longest suspension bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opened to public in 1937

Chief Engineer

The chief engineer, Joseph B. Strauss, together with his large work-force took 4 years to construct and complete the bridge. It was built over the Golden Gate Strait that is 2 042 m wide connecting San Francisco Peninsula in the south and Marin County in the north. Completed in 1937, it was opened to traffic in the same year for the convenience of the inhabitants on both sides.

The chief engineer, Joseph B. Strauss, who built the Bridge from 1927 til 1937

Location of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco City, USA

Width of the Bridge is 27.4 m taken up by 6 motor-lanes and 2 pedestrian-walks

The bridge is painted in international orange, its signature colour, that makes it easily recognisable from a distance. It has two tall towers, each 227 m high, supporting long thick cables of diameter 92.4 cm with vertical suspenders that hold the road-deck. It is one of the world’s greatest modern engineering feats. The width of the bridge is 27.4 m that is taken up by six motor-lanes and two pedestrian-walkways.

Warning Notices


Consequences of Jumping off the Bridge



San Francisco Bay

From the bridge, visitors can see a spectacular panoramic view of San Francisco Bay, islands of Alcatraz and Angel, and the city skyline in the distance.

San Francisco Bay as seen from the Bridge

When we reached the bridge, our tour-coach brought us across it and then back making us feel excited and glad to have crossed that famous bridge in the world. Then it left us at the bridge to join the tourists from near and far to see the magnificent steel-structure and the breathtaking scenery of the bay, Alcatraz and Angel Islands and the city in the distance.

At 12.45 p.m. we left the bridge and went to another popular tourist spot, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, about six km east of the bridge.

Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

Plan of Pier 39, a popular tourists’ spot in San Francisco, USA

A large bronze crab at the entrance of Pier 39 welcoming tourists

Tourists visiting Pier 39 in San Francisco, USA

In the olden days between the mid and later 1800’s, Italian immigrants came to San Francisco and settled down in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. They became fishermen catching fish and crustaceans, especially Dungeness crabs in the Pacific Ocean, for the inhabitants in San Francisco city. Later, seafood restaurants were opened on Pier 39 near the wharf and attracted local people to dine on fresh seafood. Then shops selling souvenirs, apparels, fruits, etc. appeared there. Now Pier 39 has more attractions such as street-performances, carousel, aquarium, virtual 3-D rides, bungee-trampoline, etc. attracting more tourists.

A street of shops and seafood restaurants at Pier 39, San Francisco, USA

A fruit-stall at Pier 39, San Francisco, USA

A street-entertainer at Pier 39 in San Francisco, USA


At Pier 39, there is a colony of noisy sea-lions. Visitors will see them on floating wooden docks basking, comfortably, in the sun. They come from Seal Rocks which are off the Ocean Beach near Pier 39.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant

When we arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 at 1.30 p.m. we saw the place crowded with tourists. Then we headed straight to a food chain restaurant, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Restaurant on the front of Pier 39 for lunch. This food-establishment was inspired by a 1994 movie, “Forrest Gump”. In this movie, Bubba suggested a shrimp-business. When Bubba died in Vietnam War(1955-1975), Forrest remembered Bubba’s suggestion and started a shrimp-business.

Shops, restaurants, aquarium, etc. at Pier 39, San Francisco, USA

After lunch, we toured Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf for a while. Then we walked to a ferry-terminal next to the pier and boarded a boat to cruise at San Francisco Bay at 3.15 p.m..

Tourists queuing up for a boat cruise at a ferry-terminal next to Pier 39, San Francisco, USA

Passengers alighting a cruise-boat at a terminal next to Pier 39

San Francisco Bay Boat Cruise

As soon as we were in the boat, it started to move to San Francisco Bay. As it was moving away from the terminal, slowly, we saw over 100 sea-lions on floating docks basking, comfortably, in the sun and tourists who were at Pier 39 watching them with curiosity and without caring for the smell from the animals.

Passengers behind writer’s wife boarding a cruise-boat at a terminal next to Pier 39 in San Francisco, USA

Sea-lions basking in the sun and tourists watching them at Pier 39, San Francisco, USA

Beautiful Sights

While the boat was cruising westwards at the large bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge, we could see beautiful sights of Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, the city skyline and the Bay Bridge in the east. Then we passed an island, Alcatraz Island, which was notable for a federal prison for the most notorious criminals in USA. It was used from 1934 until 1963. Now it is a tourist attraction.

Skyline of San Francisco City as seen from a cruise-boat at the Bay

Alcatraz Island with a former federal prison for notorious criminals as seen from a cruise-boat at the Bay

A para-surfer was showing off his skill at the Bay, as passengers on the boat were watching him.


As we sailed on, we saw a few para-surfers showing off their skills at the Bay. There was a moment when we were feeling amused to see two seagulls flying and following our boat, closely. for a few minutes.

A curious seagull looking at the passengers on the boat, closely

Later, our boat slowed down when it was near San Francisco’s iconic bridge, Golden Gate Bridge. Then it went under it and made a U-turn to head back to the ferry-terminal. The long bridge was an awesome sight making my boat-cruise experience an unforgettable one.

Union Square

At 5 p.m. in the evening, Jay Ho, our tour-guide, walked us from our hotel to a public park, Union Square, which was a few streets away in the city-centre. The park got its name from Union Army as it was used as a venue for rallies and support for the army during the American Civil War(1861 – 1865). It is now a popular tourists’ place which is surrounded by shops that sell branded goods, theatres, art-galleries, department stores, restaurants, etc.

The Westin St. Francis Hotel, Union Square, San Francisco, USA

Macy’s, a large department store, Union Square, San Francisco, USA

More department stores, Union Square, San Francisco, USA

Dewey Monument

In the centre of Union Square stands a tall column with a statue of a lady holding a laurel wreath and trident atop. It is known as Dewey Monument erected by the Franciscans to commemorate the victory of the American Navy under Commodore George Dewey(1837 – 1917) at Manila Bay on 1st. May 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

Dewey Monument, Union Square, San Francisco, USA

Cable Car Ride

Cable cars are an icon in fascinating San Francisco City. They run on railway lines in the city but pulled by moving cables under the streets. The cables are continuously pulled by powerful electric motors in a power-house located between Washington and Jackson Streets.

A cable-car running on the Powell-Mason Street Line(2.6 km long), San Francisco City, USA

A driver(or gripman) and a conductor work on a cable-car which can carry about 60 passengers. The fare for a single ride is USD6.00 and their top speed is about 15 kph. Besides, they can climb steep hills.

An over-crowded cable car on the Powell-Hyde Line(3.4 km long), San Francisco City, USA

There were 23 lines in the period between 1873 and 1890, but now only 3 are left and in active operation, viz. Powell-Hyde Street Line(3,4 km), Powell-Mason Street Line(2.6 km)  and California Street Line(2,3 km).

Visitors scrambling onto a cable-car to experience a ride at the Powell-Hyde Line Terminal, San Francisco City, USA

Now the cable-cars are mostly used by tourists as they find them antique, unique and fascinating, and a ride on it will be an unforgettable experience to them.

Cold Night

On a cold night of 23.5.2014, my wife and I could not resist a cable-car ride. We boarded one at the Powell-Market Terminal, paid USD6.00 and soon we were moving up Powell Street. Then we crossed the California Street Line, moved downhill, uphill again on Jackson Street, downhill again on Hyde Street and finally stopped at the Hyde-Beach Street Terminal. It was a wonderful feeling  to have ridden on such a unique vehicle.

Writer and wife taking a cable-car ride from Market Street to Hyde Street and back

A few minutes later, we boarded another cable-car to return to the Powell-Market Terminal. That was truly a satisfying and memorable return cable-car ride.

(Continued in USA West Coast Travel Part II (San Francisco-Fresno-Las Vegas City))

Written by Choo Chaw, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia

Home / Next

U.S.A West Coast Travel:

Part I    San Francisco City

Part II  San Francisco, Fresno. Las Vegas

Part III Grand Canyon

Part IV  Las Vegas City

Part V   Premium Outlets in S, California

Part VI  Disneyland Resort, Anaheim

Part VII Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles

Part VIII Universal Studios Hollywood

Part IX   Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park