Day 4: San Francisco where the hippies live

Beautiful mural we spotted randomly walking down some street

One whole day spent in San Francisco. Where do we go?

Where the hippies live. Or used to live. Maybe even still live. Although now it is super commercialised and main stream. Not surprisingly what happens to ever counter-culture that gets co-opted.

M with a lovely purple dino on Haight-Ashbury

M and I make our way to Haight-Ashbury. Also known as The Haight, or Haight and Ashbury. For the longest time I had no idea what this was. But everybody talked about it as an area worth seeing. I also didn’t know why they would name it that, until I found out it’s the name of the cross streets! So The Haight is famous for hippie life especially during the late 50s to 60s. In particular, the summer of ’67 was the Summer of Love where hippies for all over North America (LA, Seattle, Chicago, Washington DC, and more), including Canada (Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto) and even Europe came to stage a hippie revolution. It was filled with people, drug (ab)use, free free love and psychedelic music. There was communal living and rebellion against the status quo, the culture and political system of the conforming 50s I suppose.

Whatever their revolution was about seems to have trickled down and left remnants on the buildings and streets of Haight-Ashbury today. The buildings are bright and multi-coloured with rich pinks, blues, purples, and generally any colour you’re highly unlikely to see on a respectable street you can find here.

They have the strangest shops, but in a cool way. There are a bunch of 2nd hand clothing stores. One store was huge and strangely enough organized by the year and style e.g. prom dresses 1980s. Sure enough, the dresses under that category were all dresses from the ’80s. There was a clothing store which looked like a costume store (there were a couple of these around actually) except on closer inspection, it was more of a hooker/stripper store with bright bright neon pants, assorted bikini things and the general go-to for any drag queen I’m sure. It was in other words, FANTASTIC. I’ve never seen these types of items in shops before. It was a refreshing experience to see these items proudly consolidated in one place. And at least I know where to go if I’m ever invited to a crazy ’80s disco party or a marilyn monroe party, etc.

M and I spent the rest of the day casually strolling down the streets in the residential areas. I can’t really call it the “hood”. Because it doesn’t feel like a neighbourhood. As in there is no real communal feeling in the area as if when I walk into an area, these people are friendly neighbours who identify with each other. I mean other than being a hippie. But that doesn’t really count since that’s most of SF.

Some interesting observations: crazy coloured apartment buildings. Love it!

A familiar paradox. A run-down, somewhat old looking building with a BMW car outside. I mean, fine, the car isn’t the newest model. But it’s still kind of funny for me to see certain places that are trying to look kinda of authentic, hippie and whatever  and then it has a nice European car outside. Isn’t that the exemplar of the hipster sell out?

And we noticed how expensive and rich everybody in SF is. It’s funny the city thrives on this idea of environmentalism and eco-friendly products, intense liberal politics and an open-mindedness to just about…anything. And yet it all comes at a price tag. It really reminds me of the episode of Southpark, “Smug Alert!“, about people in San Francisco who drive Toyota Priuses. Very funny and pretty accurate I reckon.

Quick stop at a crêpe shack (can't even really call it a café) for some quick lunch. There are so many places selling crêpes in SF. Wonder if it's the supposed European influence or people just like that.

This sign was kind of a hahahah…FAIL. There are also some pretty racy ads in SF you’d never see in comparatively conservative LA (and that’s saying something cos LA ain’t so conservative compared to the Midwest, the South and other places in the US).

By the way before you look, WARNING: may offend some people. And the rest of this post may also offend, so um well I already told you, so read at your own peril.

And finally a peaceful stroll in Golden Gate Park. This man is walking his cute dog. The rest of it is all just green and trees so I didn’t bother including more photos. One thing I wish I could’ve taken a photo of is the smell. It smells like some serious grass action is happening there all the time. People even blew plumes of smoke in my face as they walked past. M and I actually were used as bait to bust up some people who were dealing supposedly. Can you believe I got used by the San Francisco police as bait? Lol I find that hard to believe since I’m probably the last person you’d approach. But whatever, it gave us a cool story to tell anyway.

Golden Gate Park


Day 3: Berkeley & San Francisco – Happy Pi Day

We finally really hung out in Berkeley for the first time on Sunday morning. My roommate’s friend R told us about a Thai Buddhist temple in South Berkeley (which is a 5 min drive away because Berkeley is that small – Wikipedia says population of Berkeley according to 2000 census is 102,743 people).

The temple is called Wat Mongkolratanaram. Quite a mouthful so I’ll refer to it as WM. The temple is trying to raise funds for the temple. I believe they are trying to renovate the current temple or possibly even build a new one because it’s currently in an establishment that looks like a house.

Anyway, they can’t actually sell food because of some legal whatever (probably not a legally incorporated non-profit). So they exchange tokens for cash and you can redeem the tokens for food. 

The temple itself was beautiful. But the food was even better.

thanks steven t. on yelp

They have gigantic posters where they display the menu with how much each meal costs in terms of tokens. You exchange tokens for cash (only) and then go crazy with whatever you want.

Thanks Mitch A. from yelp Some of the best things they serve are thai iced tea (of course, an orange beverage also known as iced goodness), any of the curries, pad thai, and the desserts. They had yellow and red curries the day I went. I also hopped into the vegetarian line which was much faster than the meat-eaters’ line. Honestly there wasn’t a huge difference in terms of selection, except tofu substituted meat. And the tofu was amazing. So if you don’t want to wait, it might be worth it. The curry had coconut milk and was amazingly fragrant. Comes with white rice. The pad thai tastes like what pad thai should really taste like, unlike the orange sticky stuff overcooked you get at Thai fast food takeaways. And I also got some vegetable bean dish. It was all very yummy. They have other dishes which are very tasty like the pineapple chicken curry and spring rolls. Mmmm…I also got dessert. And that was possibly even better than the main meal. I’ve had a lot of experience with eating Thai food. My mum used to work at a Thai food shop and so I’ve grown up eating a lot of delicious Thai food. And the desserts were authentic and bursting with flavour, waiting to be eaten. I got the mango black glutinous rice pudding which was goooood. They cook the rice in coconut milk and add some pudding and mango. Some of the best rice pudding I’ve had in years and surprisingly hard to find unless you know where to go for some real Thai food.

My friends got some glutinous rice/mochi balls dipped in coconut. That was not so good; kind of bland actually. So definitely shoot for the rice pudding if you ever go.

Later I found out the monks and volunteer cooks prepare the food and take Friday and Saturday to do it. So you really taste the homemade style of loving cooking. And the ambiance is really zen and relaxed. You don’t mind waiting in line for the food. Everybody is sitting on the grass next to each other enjoying brunch. And it’s a really nice place to hang out and meet new people. I highly recommend it.

For the afternoon, we decided to visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco because we heard there would be some fun science things to do. And being nerds (self-identified, yes), we decided to go to see if we could play with some cool experiments. 

The drive there was longer than expected especially on Sunday afternoon with the traffic. So if you’re in SF on the weekends, avoid driving! When we finally arrived, the area was very nice. It’s right  next to the waterfront so the view is already amazing. Additionally, there is an artificial point, water fountain and the building itself is very beautiful. We went in bought tickets (it’s kinda of expensive, even with the student ID) and I let my inner child run wild. Incidentally it was also pi day 3/14 (March 14th) so they gave away free pie from a bakery in SF.

Some waited in line while the rest of us ran about playing with all the cool gadgets. There was a car that made funny noises I enjoyed. There was a guy from a local pizzeria who bought dough and taught us how to spin it into a thin disc to make pizza.

Exhibit revealing secrets our eyes give away without you even knowing it!

I really liked the exhibit with huge metal hoops you dip into bubble water and run around creating huge bubbles. That was amazing. M and I even managed to join 2 bubbles together to great a big crazy looking one.

We left when they kicked us out at closing time and went to Little Italy where M had mentioned she wanted to check out an Italian bakery that sold cannoli. They’re a sweet hard pastry, one end dipped in chocolate in this case, rolled into a tube, filled with sweet cream with chocolate chips. Seriously, rich and heavy stuff. So I tried half of one and I liked it. But it’s not something I recommend eating regularly or even the entire thing. Might make you sick from the sugar and cream, unless you have a stomach of steel. There were some other lovely baked goodies the store sold like pastries and other Italian desserts I feel grossly under-qualified to talk about. So I’ll just leave you with the pictures.

As a side note, not only is traffic horrible in SF, don’t expect to find parking either. We ended up having to pay….$20 or something ridiculous like that for about 45min – 1 hour parking and had a fight with the parking attendant. Since there was 5 of us, we split it. But we were pretty unhappy about the whole thing.

Eventually we made it back and were really tired. M and I visited the Crepevine, a restaurant we had passed by a number of times in Berkeley. It looked cute and we decided to try it. Plus the name of the place was a fun play on words. The food was delicious. And the menu was so daunting you can definitely get whatever you want. The next day we saw another one in SF actually so knowing it was a franchise killed a bit of the magic. But still, good dependable resto open until late late at night for the college students. 

Day 2: San Francisco (Part 2)

View from Treasure Island. A left turn from the freeway not many people know about. It's a manmade island and has an amazing view of the Bay bridge and San Francisco

Excuse my brief hiatus. Post-exams, I have much more time to catch up on blogging my SF trip (and the myriad of other posts I’ve neglected…it’s going to be a busy month). I’m sure you’re hanging off your seats waiting for the second installment of day 2 in San Francisco, so without further ado…

After the Ferry building, we joined the St. Patrick’s Day parade on it’s way to the Civic Center. The parade was lined with hundred of people on both sides of the street stretching from the Ferry Building to the Civic Center. And let me tell you, that’s not a short walk. In fact we had to climb some hilly areas and walk 1/4 of the way across town to get there.

The sight which greeted us was…surprisingly respectable. No drunken Irish blokes stumbling around. A few red heads with pale freckled skin sprinkled around the place. And (not) surprisingly no leprechaun. Instead there were a number of well made costumes and vehicles completely decked out. Many performers such as the baton girls above and Irish dance troop (tap dancing, River dance?). Quite an amicable parade. I heard the same company organizes a number each year including the Gay Pride parade and the Love parade in the same place.

Later we got hungry. So we hunted down the restaurant that started it all. Boudin bakery. This bakery, located on the Fisherman’s Wharf, is famous for inventing San Francisco sour dough bread (thanks Anarchangel). Later we visited the headquarters and saw the bakers bake bread from their kitchen, through a glass wall. The operation was very elaborate and there was so much bread I was confounded they were able to sell so much in a day.

There was bread of all cute shapes and sizes. Particularly a number of shamrock shaped sourdough loaves just in time for St. Patty’s Day.

Even though the bakery had ridiculously awesome conveyor belts transporting bread from A to B, we didn’t actually eat there. Too packed. So went to a smaller franchise in the middle of SF opened by the same folks. I got a salad and their clam chowder, which incidentally is what they’re the most famous for: sourdough bread bowls and clam chowder.

And yes it was good and delicious. I was disappointed I still couldn’t eat bread from my Lenten promise. But you know, gotta leave something to do next time I go back there.

Afterwards, we decided to explore a bit of Fisherman’s Wharf. Very touristy place. It’s still nice but not much happened there except 1. I saw a hippy car decked out in embellishments and crazy accessories,

and 2. there is a man famous for hiding behind branches of trees he has cut off . He carries the branches and hides himself, mostly his face and upper body behind. Then he creeps up to unsuspecting tourists and yells, “BOO!” His job is to give them a fright, people standing watch and give him money. It’s a homeless man making supposedly 70k a year or something ridiculous I heard (I don’t believe it, but I guess tourists are rich). And people love this stuff! They like to watch him scare people. And you never know where he’s hiding so you always have to be on guard!

And there rest of the day…well the photos will tell their own story.

Cool bag made completely out of candy wrappers! Exactly the type of thing found in San Francisco

Giant turkey drumsticks on the grill. You only see this in America

Mmmm Ghirardelli chocolate

Lazy seals at Pier 39

Stopped by the AT&T baseball field. Quite beautiful

Entrance of AT&T Park with an amazing view

Glorious and beautiful Pier 39. The whole pier practically feels like a carnival with icecream shops and games to play

Good night San Francisco

**********And 5 hours later…***********

Hello crazy party in Berkeley at some random Frat (we had to try it, just once)