Day 13: Hollywood

Skipped day 12 as we only spend our day in the car, driving back to Los Angeles.

Next day, we visited Hollywood. It is a tourist attraction with nothing much to see. The 2 ends of Hollywood are pretty rundown, you wouldn’t want to be there. Only the theater area is packed with tourists taking photos and buskers disguising as famous movie characters. If you want to take a picture with them, remember to tip.

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Welcome to Hollywood
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Faraway Hollywood Sign
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The Walk of Fame
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Grauman’s Chinese Theater

We take about 1 hour to finish Hollywood. Went to catch a movie in the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. You can basically sit anywhere you like since the theater is big.

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Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
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Grauman’s Chinese Theater Interior

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Grauman’s Chinese Theater with 2 Level of Seats

Day 11: Grand Canyon

We book our Grand Canyon day trip online. Our US $140 package include:

  1. Breakfast: Light snacks + drinks
  2. Lunch at Grand Canyon
  3. Transportation pick up from hotel lobby
  4. Tickets to Grand Canyon Skywalk
  5. Visiting: Grand Canyon West, Eagle Rock, Hoover Dam

We wait for our transportation pick-up at 6:30am. A mini bus goes around different hotels, picking passengers who signed up for this day trip to the assembly area. In the assembly area, we will be assigned to a coach, given 1 drink and 1 light snack for breakfast. Then we embark on a 4 hour coach ride to Grand Canyon.

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Pick Up at Hotel Lobby
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Breakfast Include Snacks & Drinks
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Grand Canyon Tour Stickers
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Transfer to Big Coach
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Catch Some Sleep

Grand Canyon is in the state of Arizona and it’s time is 1 hour behind Las Vegas. It is managed by Hualapai Tribal Nation. We are dropped at the “interchange”  where 2 other bus services bring us to: (i) Guano Point and Eagle Point and (ii) Hualapai Ranch. From there, you are free to plan your time and meet back again to return to Vegas.

I suggest to go for the Skywalk first. Skywalk usually comes with a queue. It will be a pity if you missed it because you need to rush back to catch your coach.

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Collect Skywalk & Lunch Tickets
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Wristband for Skywalk
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Grand Canyon West
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Starting Point
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Bus Service to Skywalk

You are not allow to bring in any video recording gadgets like cameras, mobile phones, food and drinks to the Skywalk. Complimentary lockers are provided. Long objects like tripod can be passed to the helper if they do not fit the locker.

Pictures will be taken by the Grand Canyon photographers. If you have the intention to buy these photos in printed and digital copies, you should take as many pictures as possible. The digital package cost around USD $100, if I never remember wrongly.

The queue is break into smaller groups. Legs are wrapped with a nylon shoe wrap to prevent scratches and dirt from shoes on the glass of Skywalk.

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No Cameras to the Skywalk. Lockers Provided.
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Start of Skywalk Queue
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Magnificant View
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Strike a Pose
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Hugs

We spend some time taking picture in front of the Canyon. But the cliff is not fenced up, whatever you do is at your own risk.

IMG_4041Sitting by the Rock
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The Furtherest Lester Dares to Stand

We headed to Hualapai Ranch for outdoor lunch. There are only 2 meal options: chicken or beef. Drinks are free flow. Pretty decent food. I’m curious how often do they reorder their food supplies and drive all the way to the Canyon? Hmm…

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Lunch Area
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Lunch – Chicken Option
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Lunch – Beef Option

There are Grand Canyon North, South, East, West rim. If you are driving, you might want to do some read up like this.

After lunch, we walk about 10 to 15 minutes to Guano Point. It is a quiet spot where you can see the winding Colorado river.  

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Grand Canyon West
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Colorado River at Guano Point

We are back on the coach by 3:30pm Vegas time. 5 hours at Grand Canyon doesn’t seem adequate.

We pass by Hoover Dam on our way back. It looks magnificient but we can only stay in the coach. 🙁

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Night Starts to Fall
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Hoover Dam

Day 10: Las Vegas

Today is wedding chapel scouting day! We googled a few chapels and went for an onsite visit to the chapels.

There are kazillion couples who get married in Vegas every year. The chapels already know what to advice, what are the procedures and services they can provide. For the benefits of all, I’m going to share our experience here.

Registering at Marriage Bureau of Nevada
Like in every country, couples will have to register their names with the marriage office before the wedding. This is part of the administrative procedure. Couple will have to fill in the forms, produce your IDs or passports and make a payment of USD $60 at the counter. Make sure you know which is your first or last name, at least this is the naming convention you need to follow.

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Marriage Bureau of Nevada
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Marriage Bureau of Nevada
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Fill in Couples’s Details
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Wait in the Line
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Office does not provide recommendations to wedding chapels & services

Administrative staff will request you to check all details and authorise with both your signatures. Last but not least, couples will be given a big white envelop. Inside contains 3 documents: 2 to be passed to the wedding chapel and 1 of them is your marriage certificate. This is a souvenir certificate which means that the certificate is for remembrance only, no legal binding.

You will have to order the actual wedding certificate online after your wedding JP (Justice of Peace) filed your marriage with the authority. Each wedding certificate costs USD $15 not including postage.

One more important thing: once you’ve registered with the Nevada’s Marriage Bureau, you have 1 year to hold your ceremony within the State of Nevada.

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Done
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Given 3 documents in a white envelop.
This is the souvenir marriage certificate.

Visit Wedding Chapel & Discuss Packages
You can now find a chapel to hold the ceremony after all these administrative procedure.

We engaged our wedding service from Chapels of the Flowers. During our first visit, we talk to a wedding planner, Michelle Meyer. She shows us the packages and follow through all the arrangements. I like the fact that Michelle is not pushy, believe she has been in this trade for a long time.

The packages here work like a base, you can add on or change some stuff. You’ll have to negotiate and tell your planner what you want. Of course, all you need to pay is $$$. Money can make wonders in Vegas.

Our Wedding Package
We wanted to choose the simplest package, Simplicity Ceremony, but the bride’s bouquet consist of only 1 stalk of rose, photos are not enough to select and no limo transportation before and after ceremony. We then opted for Traditional Ceremony which includes 6 stalks of roses, a wedding DVD of the ceremony, 8 hours of internet viewing and limo to-fro transportation. We also added a posed one-to-one photography session with the photographer. The whole package costs USD 512.71.

The planner printed the quotation for us to think about, as we are leaving Vegas 2 days later. There will be no refund once payment is made.

Our date and package confirmations are communicate via email. This give us sometime to settle our thoughts, email Michelle with more queries, arrange our date, domestic flight and accommodation on our next return. Full payment is then made electronically.

Before we end our consultation with Michelle, she notifies us that the chapel doesn’t pay salaries to the JP, limo drivers and photographers. They worked on a tipping system. She suggests an amount we can contribute: USD $60 to the JP, USD $40 to the driver and USD $30 to photographer. Ahem~ Money again!

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Chapel of Flowers

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Limousines All Lined Up

Things to Note
I suggest a few things to take note if you want to get hitched in Vegas:-

  1. Research.
    Do your research on the wedding chapels and the packages they provide before coming to Vegas. Most of these chapels have a website.
  2. Email.
    You can email the chapels and check on the venue available dates and time for your ceremony.
  3. Plan Las Vegas trip and visit wedding chapel.
    Plan at least a 4 days to 1 week stay in Vegas for your wedding. You would need to spend 1 day going to the Marriage Bureau of Nevada and visit the chapel venue, talk to the wedding planner. I realise you get to know what you want when you meet the planner in person. Sometime there are stuff in the package they can swop in or out for you. But of course, you might end up being up sell, paying more, because you know the basic package doesn’t satisfy you, speaking of myself. In any case, a good wedding chapel will accept your opinion graciously and will not push you further with services that you won’t need.
  4. Wedding day.
    1 day is set for your wedding. After that, couples can celebrate with either a good dinner or watch a show. We were too shag from the preparation, wedding nervousness, and collapse into dreamland after the wedding.
  5. Return to chapel.
    The consecutive day is usually a return to the chapel. For my case, to view photographs taken on the ceremony and select them. Half a day is gone.
  6. Bring credit card.
    Self explanatory. We *kaching* on our wedding ceremony, then the photos that they try to sell. We wanted the digital copies so much.
  7. Time check.
    Above suggestions will take up 2 1/2 days to complete. You have 1 1/2 days to tour Vegas if you choose a compact 4 days stay. That doesn’t include 1 day to Grand Canyon. Ahem~

I will post more in-depth details on our big day. Watch this space.

Tomorrow we are heading to Grand Canyon.

Day 09: Las Vegas

We drove to Las Vegas on Boxing Day. It should normally take about 4 hours, but it’s holiday season, everyone is going somewhere. The highway gets a little jammed up and I’m not sure how long have we been driving. Stopped by 1 or 2 premium outlets, by the time we reached Vegas, the sun has set.

Vegas is indeed astonishing. Big amazing archietectures, great amount of human traffic, wine & dine, shopping malls and entertainment hub. However, the greatness doesn’t hit me, I guess I’m just too tired travelling on the road. There is one thing for sure: these buildings look extrememly close, but they are deceivingly far away in actual distance.

We shared a room with Lester’s uncle at Monte Carlo in Vegas. It’s on the Strip but towards the end. When you want to walk back after all the shopping, your legs will break. I personally prefer Caesars Palace on our 2nd visit. Room and location are better.

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Room at Monte Carlo
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TV Console & Luggage Area
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Bathroom Facility
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Shower Area

We didn’t do much on the day or arrival, except booking our Grand Canyon day trip and planning to scout for wedding chapel for our big day.

Day 07 & 08: Los Angeles

Our 8th day in USA is Christmas day. We had a heart warming gathering at Lester’s uncle house with his friends. But preparation starts on the eve of Christmas as businesses are closed on Christmas day itself.

Leaving Ventura Beach, we take an hour drive to Los Angeles. Immediately after we parked our car, we headed out for grocery shopping. To save the food preparation hassle, most people tend to “ta-bao” signature dishes from their favorite restaurants. We did the same.

Went to Porto’s Bakery & Cafe which is famous for their pies and cakes. Queuing alone to collect your reserved order take us 1 hour.

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Queue Starts from Porto’s Bakery & Cafe Backdoor
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Customers Queuing to Collect Orders

Dinner at Din Tai Fung. Gosh~ They taste even better here than any of their Asia branches. They have fish and chicken xiao long bao! There are more dish variety, I am so spoilt with choices here. My revisit to Din Tai Feng in the last few days of my trip, I ate 10 chicken xiao long bao by myself. Blurp~

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Ding Tai Feng Dumpling Mascot
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Dumplings Feast
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Fish Dumplings
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Chicken Dumplings Taste Better

We had an early rest on the eve. Christmas decoration is all done up in the house already. I only assist to heat up food and do the dish washing.

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Christmas Decoration in the House
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Busy in the Kitchen
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Crackers to Munch Before Meal
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Christmas Dinner
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Log Cake
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Pumpkin Pie

We sit around the tv, eat, talk, drink to pass our family time. 🙂

Going to spend the next 4 days 3 nights at Las Vegas, the Wonderland!

Day 06: San Francisco

We visited Monterary Bay Aquarium, approximately an hour drive from San Fransisco. This attraction is along our route to Los Angles. You may want to check out the programmes and feeding times line up before visiting the aquarium.

We reached in time for the African penguins feeding. Guests are welcomed to sit casually on the floor or go to the glass dome areas to watch these cute penguins eat. Aquarium staff will also explain what they do and observe during each feed.

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African Penguins Feeding

Marine organisms are always fascinating. The aquarium has set up several spots for the visiting guests to interact with these marine animals. Timid me, I do not dare.

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Touch the Starfish
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Touch the Crabs
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Bat Ray Touch Pool

I love this super big panel of water tank view. Time seems to slow down in front of the big blue water.

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Big Water Tank
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Me Dazing
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Lester Dazing

We dine in the aquarium’s cafeteria. Simple food but delicious. You can also dine outside the aquarium. Before you exit, remember to get a hand stamp, so that your re-entry is valid.

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Pizza & Milk
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Burger & Orange Juice

A 4 hours plus drive brings us to Ventura Beach. We are settling here for a night before heading to Los Angeles.

IMG_6879Comfort Inn at Ventura Beach
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Room
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Bathroom Facility
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Shower Area

Our next base station is Los Angeles where we’ll be staying with Lester’s uncle for the remaining weeks.

Day 05: San Francisco

We are pretty done with the city and shopping in San Francisco by day 4. Today is like going through the checklist and see what we have left out.

We dined in The Cliff House for brunch. This place is by the coastline. It takes us around 30 minutes Muni ride and 20 minutes walking before we reach. Got lost a little along the way (never forget to use Google Maps), but the view is so nice. Worth it!

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By the CoastlineIMG_6698
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The Cliff HouseIMG_3835
The Cliff House Interior

Despite this is so out of the way, the reservation queue is close to an hour wait. We are served with a basket of special bread once seated. They are warm, hallowed and light. Doesn’t have much taste but they go well with soup and whipped butter. We each had a breakfast main course. Blurp full~ Ambience is excellent especially if you get to sit beside the windows, food is terrifically good!

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Special Bread
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Famous Cliff House Clam ChowderIMG_6687
Amercian BreakfastIMG_6691
Seafood Omelet

We then spend the rest of the day in Legion of Honor museum. This museum has more galleries than de Young museum, hosting galleries after galleries of artifacts and paintings. The collection is magnificent. Wish we have a whole day there. We stayed through till the sunset, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Legion of HonorIMG_6704
Legion of Honor EntranceIMG_3975
Sunset at Legion of Honor

This is our last night in San Francisco. We’ll be visiting Monterary Bay Aquarium, then takes another 4 hours long drive to Ventura Beach and stay over for a night.

Day 04: San Francisco

Today is sightseeing day. We are travelled by Muni bus, bringing us to Chinatown, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, these places of interest without a hassle.

After 3 days of western cuisine, we decide to eat Asian food. Took a Muni to Chinatown in San Francisco, it is a total different world. I would say it resembles streets of Hong Kong, a little old, dirty, cluttered and pack with Chinese.

We picked a dining place which labelled itself as Hong Kong cafe, pinning hopes for some good Hong Kong food. Everything we ordered goes wrong, service sucks, we don’t even feel like tipping and probably not even worth mentioning.

We then embark on our Golden Gate Bridge walkathon. One end of the bridge provides the bicycle renting service, the other end provides open top bus tour service. We did a miscalculation thinking that both ends have the bicycle renting services. And we walked to and fro the bridge. Hectic. The return journey took us 30min walk, only if you walk at Lester’s speed. Restrooms are available on both ends. Sun is pretty strong, windy on the bridge. Do put on sun block, sun glasses and a coat. View is magnificent. Definitely a must visit
place.

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Specifications of Golden Gate BridgeIMG_3640
Golden Gate Bridge
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“Happy” Walking

Took a Muni to Lincoln Street where Golden Gate Park is. It is probably a 10 minutes bus ride, but you need to walk into the park to the other attractions.

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One of the Entrances

I actually love Golden Gate Park the most. You can practically spend your whole day there. There are Japanese Tea House, Botanical Garden, de Young Museum, Academy of Science… You would want to come here early in the day. Most of these attractions close promptly at 6pm and admission fees are sold separately.

For museum lovers, additional USD 2 discount for museum admission tickets if you keep and show them a Muni ticket. For students with student ID, do produce them upon ticket purchase, you’ll get admission tickets at student price. International student ID is also welcomed. We visited de Young Museum, hosting the exhibition “Masters of Venice”.

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de Young Fine Arts MuseumIMG_3762
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Masters of Venice Tickets at Student Price

Lester researched a Japanese ramen restaurant for dinner, Katana-ya, near our hotel through yelp.com. The restaurant might not have a reception area, but you can help yourself by writing your name, number of people on the waiting list. Wait for your call when the table is ready.

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Katana-ya
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Self-help Waiting List

They serve pretty decent ramen, exactly what you’ll crave for on cold winter nights. They also serve sushi and other rice options.

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Ramen

Day 05 is arranged just for me. We are going to The Cliff House to have a wonderful breakfast and then head on to Legion of Honor museum.

Day 02: San Francisco

No jet lag but was too tired to wake up in the morning. Mess up a little of our planning.

Lester embarks his journey of worship to Timbuk2 shop at Hayes Street with Muni bus. An adult requires to pay USD 2  for Muni, regardless of the number of stations you are going to travel. Within the time frame given on the ticket, you can transfer and hop on to another Muni without paying (we only get to understand this on day 03).

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Muni ticket states between now to 4:30pm, your transfer to another Muni is FREE!

Loves Hayes Street! It is very quiet town with blooming creative boutique shops.

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Timbuk2 Store
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Timbuk2’s Interior

Dinner at Blue Mermaid restaurant at Fisherman Wharf. But of course, there are a lot more dining choices available. Probably the 1 and only 1 meal for the day, we ordered 1 sample soups (select 3 soups), Seafood Trio with shrimps, crab cake, salmon and seasonal vegetable. I chose garlic parmesan french fries while Lester chooses mashed potato.

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Blue Mermaid Chowder House & Bar
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Mascot Mermaid
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3 Sample Soups
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My Seafood Trio
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Lester’s Seafood Trio

Took a stroll along Fisherman Wharf. Hmm… Can’t see much as the night has fall pretty early. We get to pop in and out souvenir shops. Ghirardeli Square is another must visit place. Architecture is romantic, especially with Christmas lightings, very much like Singapore’s Boat Quay. Ghirardeli is a famous chocolate brand in San Francisco, and so we went to its cafe for chocolate drinks.

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One of the Ghirardeli stores at Ghirardeli Square

As Fisherman Wharf is one of the terminals of the cable car, we decided to take a ride back to our hotel. Each ride cost USD 6 for each passenger, regardless where you alight.

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Cable Car Ticket
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Cable Car Terminal at Fisherman Wharf
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Cable Car Ride

Slightly into shopping mood, bought some sleeping pants from Old Navy for me and my sister.

Day 03, Lester will be driving to geek’s paradise: Google HQ and Apple company store. Night!

Day 01: San Francisco

My first extremely long flight to a faraway Christmas land, USA. Will be staying there for close to a month long.

My flight from Singapore is transited at Incheon International Airport, Korea, after a flight time of 6 hours. Then another 12 hours flight to San Francisco International Airport. I thought my power of sleeping anywhere should make sleeping on jet painless. But my sleep is repeatedly disturbed by meal serving, noise around me, inadequate leg space and uncomfortable head rest. Nah~~~

IMG_6260Transit at Incheon International Airport
IMG_6280Reached San Francisco

We finally reached San Francisco and co-shared a van to shuffle us to Chancellor Hotel near Union Square. Rooms are not ready before 2pm. We walked around to get our prepaid SIM card from T-Mobile (with unlimited local calls, texts and data) and Garmin’s GPS. Lethargically, I have to take 5 (actually close to 1 hour) in the room after we’ve checked-in.

IMG_6284Co-Shared Van from San Francisco Airport
IMG_6291Chancellor Hotel
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Our Room

Dragging my feet, we shopped around Union Square and had The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Food is no doubt GREAT! We have to share our main dish though. I didn’t make much purchases except a Forever 21 bathroom slipper. Still adapting to the cold weather, tiredness and environment.

IMG_6313The Cheesecake Factory’s reservation counter. Always packed.
IMG_6315Whoo~ Cheesecakes!