We flew in from Vegas via JetBlue Airways which we booked through Expedia and it actually didn’t cost us that much – US$35 (RM137) per person inclusive of tax for a one-way ticket. It was around 5pm when we arrived at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The temperature was around 10 degrees Celsius and it was drizzling outside. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to retrieve our luggage and very soon we got onto the AirTrain heading towards International Terminal Garage G to board the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to downtown.
A single-ride fare to the Powell Street station costed us US$8.65 per person and the journey took about 30 minutes. When we eventually arrived at downtown San Francisco, it was close to 9pm and mind you, we hadn’t had our dinner yet. Upon exiting Powell St station, we had our first glimpse of the Powell-Hyde/Mason cable car turntable. The cable car surely didn’t look like the conventional cable car, but more like a tram. We had to quickly locate our hotel and check it as the night was getting late. Hubby had previously arranged for our hotel to be as near as possible to the subway line, so that we need not worry about travelling around the city.
Accommodation in San Francisco was the most expensive among all places that we’d been in the US (Vegas & LA). We were just going to spend 2 days here and most of the time we would be out exploring the city anyway. Thus, we thought there was really no point in getting a more luxurious hotel. After much research for the most central and yet affordable hotel, hubby finally booked the Youth Hostel Central & Hotel via Expedia which was just a 5-minute walk from Powell St station. Guess what we paid for this 1.5 star accommodation? US$58.36 (RM228.50) per night inclusive of tax. It wasn’t fantastic, but satisfactory for us (we’d stayed in worse hotels). Quickly got ourselves checked in, then we had to rush out to pacify our hunger pangs, by which time it was almost 10pm.
In most western countries, when you need food late at night, the only places you can reliably seek out are Asian restaurants. We quickly googled for the nearest Chinese restaurant as soon as we had wifi at the hotel. Thanks to google map, it wasn’t that difficult to find. When we entered the restaurant, it was almost empty except for one gentleman who was waiting for his Chinese takeaway. The waitress with a noticeable Beijing accent, quickly walked over to pass us the menu and took our orders within 5 minutes. It wasn’t long before our dishes were served. They weren’t particularly special but any hot dish would taste yummy with a growling stomach in a cold weather.
After dinner, we intentionally took a slightly longer route back to the hotel just to explore the surrounding area a little bit. The sight of so many vagrants in this city troubled me for the next few days. In fact, I’ve never even seen that many of them in Kuala Lumpur. Made me wonder if all these vagrants were taking the easy way out by depending on welfare benefits.
That aside, back at the hotel we searched through the internet for the cheapest ticket to Alcatraz Island the next morning. Hubby was extremely intrigued by this island since watching Escape from Alcatraz, a 1979-Clint Eastwood movie when he was much younger. The thought of ever exploring this island indeed never occurred to him until this very time. Got our tickets from Alcatraz Cruises for US$31 (RM122) per person inclusive of tax. To my knowledge, there wasn’t any other sites that offered such a deal. We purchased the earliest cruise at 8:45am and I must tell you that if you’re ever going on this adventure, make sure you take the earliest cruise, otherwise the island’s going to be jam-packed with people later on.
Oh, by the way, sometimes it’s quite fun to allow room for certain trivial last-minute planning (such as this) to allow some flexibility in our travel itinerary. After all, that’s what a vacation is all about – flexibility and not rigidity, right? Anyway, there was going to be a long day ahead of us the next day and we finally hit the sack at close to midnight.
The next morning, we dragged ourselves out of the bed at 6am and quickly got ready for a day that was going to be filled with adventures. We took the F-Market & Wharves Historic Streetcar Line (similar to a tram) to Pier 33 (Alcatraz Landing). The nearest stop to us was Market St & 5th St and a single-ride fare to Embarcadero & Sansome St stop (nearest to Pier 33) costed US$2.25 (RM8.80) per person. Of note was the striking view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (known locally as the Bay Bridge) when the streetcar made a turn around the San Francisco Railway Museum. If not careful, you can mistake this bridge for the Golden Gate Bridge.
That morning was chilly and wet as it was raining the night before. We were amongst the first few visitors to arrive for the earliest cruise to Alcatraz. How much more kiasu could we be? Since boarding wasn’t going to be anytime soon, we resorted to having breakfast at a nearby cafe.
After a long wait, the cruise finally departed for Alcatraz at 8:45am. The journey took about 30 minutes, however, besides Alcatraz Island it also granted us a picturesque view of downtown San Francisco, Treasure Island, Angel Island and Golden Gate Bridge.
As the cruise approached Alcatraz Island, we were all getting too excited to disembark and start exploring every nook and cranny of it. If you want to know why this island which once housed a maximum high-security federal penitentiary was dubbed “inescapable” (somewhat like the modern day Guantanamo Bay), continue to follow my adventure in the next post.
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