RetroTravel: San Francisco

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Summer has always been memorable to me. Especially when it comes to travel, it always provides "first times." My summer in 2001 was a living proof. And Friday the 13th prove to be quite lucky to me on that day as I spent my summer in visiting USA for the first time in its major cities in the west coast - San Francisco and Los Angeles in California. On my first visit to US, I visited San Francisco and Los Angeles for a 3-week vacation trip. On this post I will focus on my San Francisco trip. My Los Angeles trip will be on the part two of this post.

Our clan at the iconic at San Francisco's Gold Gate Bridge.
On April 13, it was Friday the 13th that I won't forget. I'm with my whole family on this vacation trip to US. Our plane to use for San Francisco had a technical problem that causes to use the Los Angeles plane that will fly on the night. What happened was since there are only few San Francisco bound passengers, they add it to Los Angeles bound passengers to make a one plane for the same flight. We boarded on the flight. It was long trip that were first bound to LAX (Los Angeles). We arrived by 6 pass in the evening. The flight will continue to go on to San Francisco but we decided to stay in Los Angeles as we have relatives to stay there. We both have relatives to stay in both places so there is no problem if our itineraries switch.

We just worry for the hotel reservation reserved to us by my uncle in San Francisco (SFO) because it was just an overnight accomodation. However, we inform them about what happened and we stay with my mom's cousin and my "ninang" in Gardena. But on the next day, we'll catch the first flight to SFO because it is really the first place where we should stay plus the hotel reserve for us was able to extend for the next day. We stay in Gardena for a night and meet my Ninang Yoly's family. She my moms' cousin. The next morning, April 14, we fly to San Francisco to Oakland International Airport via Southwest Airlines.

At the airport we were fetched by my Uncle Raul and his wife Tita Lucy, along with his sister Tita Lourdes and her husband Tito Gary. They are siblings of my father. On that same day, we tour the famous landmark of San Francisco - the Golden Gate Bridge. We cross the bridge to reach a park on the other side where we have good view of the bridge and island of Alcatraz by overlooking at the bay. It looks golden in color but in close look it is colored bright orange. The Golden Gate Bridge, located at the Golden Gate, is perhaps the most recognizable landmark in San Francisco and one of the most famous bridges in the United States, and has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The bridge spans the Golden Gate, a strait between San Francisco and Marin County to the north, and is one of the major road routes into and out of the city.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco's iconic landmark.
By night we at one of restaurants in Fisherman's Wharf. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but their specialty was seafood dishes. I also remember one of the name of the dishes on the menu was Manila Clams which is difficult to eat. Fisherman's Wharf is San Francisco's most popular destination among travelers, with circa 12 million visitors flocking here each year. For over a century its historic waterfront was the hub of the city's fishing fleet and is still famous for the depth and variety of its harvest, as well as for having some of the best seafood restaurants in the city. Today, it's also renowned for its numerous tourist attractions such as museums, souvenir stores, historical buildings and piers, and scenic vistas over the Bay. It is located at the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, along the San Francisco Bay. It runs all the way from Pier 39 through to Municipal Pier at the end of Aquatic Park. It is bordered by Van Ness Ave to the east and Bay St to the south.


We had an overnight after at Holiday Inn - the hotel my uncle reserve for the whole family. That's why didn't spend to sleep at my uncle's residence in San Leandro. At the hotel, my Aunt Lourdes and his husband Uncle Gary with their daugther Nikki stayed on the seperate room. The next day their going to fetch to their residence the next day in Yuba City.

It was almost a four hour drive to Yuba City. It is far from San Francisco. My aunt lives their with her family as her husband's employment is base there. Yuba City is in Sutter County, California in the Sacramento Valley. Yuba City is the principal city of the Yuba City Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Sutter County and Yuba County. The metro area's population is 164,138. It is the 21st largest metropolitan area in California ranked behind Redding and Chico.

It was Easter Sunday on that day. Uncle Gary cooked a whole roasted turkey to celebrate the feast of easter. It was my first time to taste a turkey. It taste like chicken but serving is huge since turkey is bigger than chicken. We spend a week in Yuba City before returning again to San Francisco to my uncle. I didn't see much of Yuba City tourist places but it looks quite a modern province in the USA. There are no farm or rice fields but houses are simple and the surroundings are quite. On our last day at Yuba City we were treated on a buffet restaurant.

Exploring Marina Park.
We return to San Francisco by April 20. We tour this time the city of San Leandro. This is where my uncle's residence is located. San Leandro is a city in Alameda County, California, United States. The climate of the city is mild throughout the year. Historically a town with dozens of huge cherry farms and a Spanish missionary ranch, San Leandro today is a rapidly growing city of worldwide industries and a suburb of Oakland. We had a stop at Marina Park, where there is a wide circular road for jogglers and a wide area overlooking the bay. It was so cold on that day. I was shivering as we walk a tour of the park. But it was a good place to comtemplate as it was quite and not crowdy.

Family bonding at San Francisco.
Marina Park, San Leandro, California.
We then visited Redwood City. We meet Uncle Loloy and his family. He is my mom's cousin. See, there are so many Filipinos in US. Redwood City is a suburb located on the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Redwood City is the county seat of San Mateo County. It was originally part of the Rancho de las Pulgas. In downtown, Redwood is a modern city with high-rise buildings, facilities and numerous establishments. Uncle Loloy treat us for a lunch and dinner. He also let us stay at their residence for a night before we left SFO. Of course, what happens next is never-ending sharing of stories of the good past. He also paid for our bus trip to Los Angeles via Greyhound on the next day since we already use our air tickets. But what comes along with are pasalubongs from them and for their relatives in our hometown in Cavite.

 With relatives from Redwood City.
Meeting other relatives living in San Francisco.
What I left in San Francisco are... the places that I haven't visit in San Francisco during my trip but wish I have been to. These tourist places like Alamo Square Park where the the row of Pink Ladies (Victorian houses) are located, Presidio where the Palace of Fine Arts and historical sites are located, Union Square and Yerba Buena Gardens where there are nearby shopping centers and mall for visitors to check around. A next time opportunity trip to visit those places is always welcome in my future trip plans. At least I saw the famous Golden Gate Bridge which is a real architectural wonder. That landmark is a must-see when visiting San Francisco.
Famed Victorian houses in San Francisco.
The trip has been a grand reunion with our relatives in the United States It was a good opportunity to meet other relatives as well. My pictures on this travel are not clear as during that time I don't have a digital camera yet but I hope you do appreciate them.


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RetroTravel: San Francisco is a 2-part travel recollection of my first trip to USA last April 13-28, 2001. The second part is RetroTravel: Los Angeles in which I chronicle my first trip in Los Angeles. Both stories is part of my RetroTravel series in which I share my old trips in the past during the pre-digital era of pictures but memories of it are vivid and enjoyable.  


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Davao Delight

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Davao became the center of my summer 2009 when my first foot landed there last April 3-4 on a short travel trip. It was my first trip to Mindanao and my first travel trip for this year. And I wonder what surprises is waiting for me later this year. This trip was unexpected. I earlier foresee that I won't have a summer escapade this year as I am in job transition right now but alas, life is full of surprises. It was really unexpected as it just a sudden decision. My mom is going to celebrate her birthday on April 4. She wants to celebrate it in a different place. Davao was her choice as it has multiple daily flights, wide open seats available and she has been there twice already. So we have our open tickets issued a day before departure. Then hopped on the 10am flight the next day. For this trip, my bro is with us too.

Actually were getting the earliest 4am flight but since all flights available has wide positive seat spaces we opted in 3rd flight at 10:15am. In the turn of events we were given passes to the Mabuhay Lounge of Philippines Airlines (PAL). I'm delighted because it was my first time to be there. We're not even Mabuhay Miles members (PAL's frequent flyer club), just strong connections at the check-in counters hehe.. Anyway, it was almost 30 minutes before boarding when we got there. We indulge in snacks provided at center buffet table. All food were delicious. We also did try the free internet computer services of the lounge. For personal laptops the lounge is free wi-fi or wireless broadband.

By the time we board, I'm surprise were on PAL's A340. But to be honest, their domestic service is downgraded. Only peanuts and a cracker with complimentary choice of drinks were served for the 1 hour and 35 minute flight. Not to mention juice was cut from the drinks offered which I often drink onboard PAL. Only tea, coffee and water were offered now. Before snacks were "snack pack" with more snacks inside a pack or Goldilocks treats were served. Talking about recession... it's a good thing that we eat already in the lounge.

Welcome to Davao!
Departure area of Davao Airport.

What surprises me in this plane trip is the spectacular view of Mount Apo that can clearly seen from the window of the plane as it approaches Davao City. I took several shots of it. From surrounded by clouds or vague captures... it was truly majestic. Mount Apo is the highest peak in the Philippines. It is one of the most popular climbing destination of the Philippines. Declared national park, it is also home to a thousand species of endemic birds including the rare Philippine Eagle.

Mt. Apo from the airplane window.
Philippines'highest peak as our plane descends the airport.

PR811 arrived at 12 noon in Davao's international airport. The colorful banner ads of SMART mobile made the outside facade of of the airport more appealing. Inside, the airport is five star for me. It is for its relax ambience, clean surroundings, white choice of palatte and very symbolic architectural design of triangles and pointed-styles (especially the durian landmark outside the airport). Staffs are friendly too. The terminal is big enough to handle both international and domestic flights. It opened last 2003. I just hope more international flights opens in Davao.

Davao is a premier city in Mindanao of the southern Philippines. It is considered to be the world's biggest city with an area of 2,440 square kilometers. Davao is dubbed as "The City of Royalties" or "The Royal City", because of the presence of the kings and queens of nature present in Davao referring to Waling-waling - The Queen of Philippine Orchids, Durian - the King of Exotic Fruits, Mt. Apo - The King and Grandfather of Philippine mountains and Philippine Eagle - the largest eagle in the world and the King of Philippine skies. In recent years, Davao has emerged as the business, investment and tourism hub for the entire southern Philippines. The city boasts of some of the finest beaches and mountain resorts in the country, and proximity to the Philippines’ most captivating diving spots as well as its highest peak, Mount Apo.

Sasa Wharf enroute to Samal Island.

The first place we visited is the Island Garden City of Samal. Samal Island is a 2nd class island city off the coast of Davao City pier. From Sasa Wharf is a 7 minute boat ride to Paradise Island Nature and Park Resort located in Samal Island. It is 15php one-way fare. It was quite rainy when we cross the sea to the island so waves were also quite strong. Paradise Island Nature and Park Resort is a popular beach resort in Samal Island. Mainly because its is cheap but the place is good. You'll just pay 100php per person for the entrance that included free usage of beach table. Don't worry about the hut, the resort provided a wide fix cover to the whole picnic area to protect from sun's heat.

Aside from swimming, you can also do renting water bicycle, banana boat and jet ski to enjoy water sport activities. There's also a restaurant in the resort for food as bringing food in the resort is not allowed when you spend an overnight. Hotel accommodation of the resort is available. Before we leave, we checked the Bird Country of Paradise Island. It is an aviary with numerous bird displays in the area like peacocks, crown pigeons and cockatoos. At the back also is an under contruction water theme park. When completed, it will add another reason why Paradise Island is the resort choice in Samal Island.























But please note that Samal Island is also dotted with other numerous beach resorts and hotels including the famous Pearl Farm Resort (which is also an attraction by itself) and also the attention gaining Talikud Island for its dive spots. Going to Samal Island resorts depend on which wharf to depart. Each resort has designated wharfs to board so know the resort's wharf first before going there.












A whole day trip is enough to spend in Paradise Island Resort. Eating "Halo-halo" while watching the beauty of the beach and sea is a perfect summer scene for a perfect summer mood. Samal Island is definitely a suitable place to spend your summer. After an almost whole day spend in Samal Island, we wend back to Sasa Wharf and headed to Agdao near Magsaysay Park to check-in at Evergreen Hotel.

We took a jeepney ride to Agdao by just asking the locals. Here, I observed that Dabawenyos are friendly and helpful. They are really helpful especially when they know tourists asking for directions around the city. The thing is even when you ask them in Tagalog they will still answer you in Bisaya dialect so knowing few Bisayan dialect would be helpful. But nonetheless Dabawenyos will try to help you as long as they can which I really like. Davao City is a clean city. Cleanliness is maintain to the whole city so it also maintain a pollution-free surrounding. The cleanliness of the city is another thing that I like in Davao. I also read from a feature magazine that the city is also the most crime-free area in the country. All of these efforts is throgh the leadership of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

People's Park





















The following day is my mom's birthday. This is a different way to celebrate her birthday as this is the first time she spend it in another place. We started the day by going to the city center and visit the famous People's Park. The park is distinct for its numerous statues of Davao icons like the Philippine Eagle and Durian. Another distinct statues were the children monuments that seems playing around. Inside the park one can already see the high-rise building the famous hotel - Marco Polo Davao. People's Park is larger than ordinary parks that you saw. There are artificial 10ft falls, lined pine trees and Japanese themed gardens. There is also man-made lakes with ducks freely swims in it. The park also takes care pigeons that freely goes in the1 park. Another feature of the park is the bridge facing the dancing fountains that every visitors will enjoy. Lastly, it is better to visit the Durian Dome with spikey-design open ceilings at night as the ceilings are lighted but in the morning you'll easily appreciate its surgary rainbow colors around.












Durian Dome at People's Park and Street scene in Davao.

People's Park also has large ground grass areas and benches to sit. You'll never feel tired of seeing the park as there a lot of areas to explore. There is even a "bahay kubo" over a lake with a fountain view that you can rest for a while before continuing exploring the park. The park has a maintained schedule on its opening days. It usually starts to open at 1:00pm onwards. We visited it in the morning and it was closed at that time. We pleaded to see the park as we will depart to Manila by evening. We were permitted. I learned it was closed for that morning because a local tv station is shooting their summer station ID at the park. Entrance to the park is free of course!

After visiting the park we went to SM Davao at Ecoland to eat lunch. But before we took a jeepney ride to Ecoland, we saw a new hotel - Sampaguita Inn which is near in People's Park. Sampaguita Inn offers cheaper accomodation prices than the hotel we stayed. It has a better facility than the former like wi-fi service and coffee shop plus the proximity to the city proper and transporation areas. We will definitely stay there on a next visit. In SM (Shoemart), we took a breakfast then lunch. Restaurants are quite far from the hotel we stayed in Agdao. The mall is similar to its other counterpart branches in the country. We also bought some souvenir items their but other souvenir shops are available throughout the city proper.























After lunch, we went back to the hotel. Then we visit Puentespina Orchids Garden at noon located at Bolcan St, Agdao. I believe it is a must-see in Davao to see one of its nature "royalties" - the Waling-Waling orchid flower which you will see in Puentespina Orchids Garden. You will also see other varieties of the orchid of all colors that some resembles to small butterflies. Vanda sanderiana (Waling-waling's scientific name) is the best known endemic orchid in the Philippines which is mostly found at Davao. Waling-waling is an ethnic term that means the "graceful movement" of a butterfly in flight. Other species of the orchid are also beautiful and delightful to see especially the red variety that I saw that day. Davao's orchids are really must-see when visiting Davao especially to orchid-lovers. Entrance is free plus you will see other ornamental garden plants in display for visitors' appreciation. You can also buy fully grown orchid plants or seedlings of Waling-waling and other orchid varieties at the garden as they really cater in selling it. Other plant species are available for sale too. Just ask the caretakers for the price lists.

Other noteworthy places to see in Davao are Malagos Garden Resort, a garden resort with exotic birds on display, coffee shops, swimming pool, butterfly santuary and features a bird show located at Calinan, Philippine Eagle Conservation Centre in Baguio District where you can see the Philippine Eagle in their special habitat areas, Mount Apo National Park, home of the tallest mountain in the Philippines where visitors can arrange tours and gentler climbs through the tourist office, Eden Nature Park, located at the foot of Mt. Apo offers various adventurous activities but also offers a great way to relax away from the city and Samal Island, dubbed as an island garden city, it offers a wide array of beach resort attractions including the famoust Pearl Farm Resort whom by itself is an attraction to see that promises a high quality service. Also check out Talikud Island it is famed for diving activity and beach resort too. Except Samal Island, I never been to these places during my visit but I recommend these places to put in your itineraries when you visit Davao. All are must-see places.

Durian Galore at Magsasasay Fruit Market.
Pomelo galore as well...
A visit to Davao is not complete without tasting and buying its exotic fruits like durian, pomelo and mangosteen. We bought some as pasalubong at Magsaysay Fruit Vendor Association market near Magsaysay Park. Many people don't like durian because of its strong smell but I love its taste. I just clip my nose everytime I take a bite.^^ Durian has been a recognized icon symbol in Davao. From the airport building architecture of pine-designed, to the Durian monument located outside the facade of the airport to the landmarks of People's Park, one can already reflect durian's strong association as an icon. Other treats were made out of durian. I'm sure you'll love durian cake, durian empanada and durian pastillas. All treats are available in special stores and at SM Mall.

I recommend Davao as an ideal place to spend your summer. It offers a lot from beach resorts to garden resorts to historical trips to exotic food trips, Davao 's offer is endless. After packing properly the fruits to bring home we went to Davao airport for our departure at 04:35pm and arrive in Manila at 6pm. It was a wonderful airplane trip where I got to a chance to see sunset from the air. What a unforgetable view in my sight to end my Davao summer trip.


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