Back in 2001 just two weeks before the 911 event, I made a tour to USA along with four friends. That was my first time in USA and I had a fantastic experience touring the country in a four-wheel -drive car. It is around 11 days tour in US with 3 days on flight. It is something very nostalgic as it is a different kind of environment that is a stark contrast with Singapore. USA is indeed a very beautiful and wonderful country. The fact that I grew up in Singapore where politics are stymied and oppressive to the point that citizens are made believe that Singapore is the best in the world can offer with, and meritocracy and having stellar academic result are keys to flourish in the tiny small state, but only when I get to travel in a country of freedom and nature that I begin to see that there is more life than economic growth and materialistic possession, and change my perception of what I want to do in life. Should I squander my whole life worrying for my own rice bowl to survive in the pragmatic and harsh environment of Singapore, or should I start doing the thing that I love to do irrespective of whatever outcome ? Okay, that’s another matter.
Anyway, this is my recollection of the tour in 2001. Our was a free-n-easy tour starting from the following route:
San Francisco => Monterey => Las Vegas => Los Angeles.
[Note that the following image are not part of captured photo. Only those from Web Album are.]
There were some popular places along the way that I could not recall. And we took the Ocean Road.
That day I remember waking up in early morning at 3am and taking a taxi to Changi Airport to await my flight to USA. I met the rest of my friends there and we waited for another hour or so before boarding the plane. It is around 19 hours of flight (If I recalled correctly( from Singapore to San Francisco with a transit in Japan through Narita Airport where we stay another hour intriguing and fascinated by what we seen in Japanese airport. The Japanese are busy and polite people and scurrying like ant from one place to another.
After arriving in San Francisco airport in the morning around 10am, we saw a bunch of China tourists that had problems communicating with custom officers and it took us about 45 mins before we successfully checked out. We took a bus to a city where we got our car that we booked online. We were asked to choose the car from a multi-storey-car-park warehouse. Every of one is stunned because most of the cars had their gear on the steering wheel which we were not accustomed to. We finally choose a 4WD (Yes, this was the car we used) Suzuki Vitara that suit us better with gear-change that resided beside the sit. We placed our luggage at luggage compartment. The arrangement was three passengers at back seat and it really feel small. Eventually one of smaller one sit in the luggage compartment.
So off we set to find our hotel. The road was much wider and cars were travelling on average of 120km/hr. As we travelled, I admired the beautiful scenery of the place. It really look like Fairy Tales, so natural and gorgeous. After many round of detour, we finally found our hotel. We put our belonging and quickly off we went to explore the state. As we travelled, we exhaled the fresh cool air. The whole place was air-conditioned and we joked how much electricity bills we could save in a lifetime here. California was also a place where the dot.com fever start and end. Due to dot.com burst, there were a lot of vacant buildings on rent. One of few prominent I noticed was Excite or Lycos. Imagine the excitement of encountering those building that once so prominently featured in magazine. Very surreal indeed ! Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to see Oracle headquarter or any technological company due to lack of time, we did not explore vicinity of Silicon Valley. Much to my disappointment as I thought I could capture the vibrancy of Silicon Valley on camcorder.
We visited the Intel Museum and found out a lot of interesting history and photo. A display shown a Pentium design and some multimedia on Intel’s technology. Cool stuff.
On the second day, we wake up in the morning around 7am, and start to roam San Francisco city. It was a sunny and cool day. We travelled along a very stretch of highway to the city and heavy gush of wind hit our face with very loud booming sound. I watched the sparkling sea water glittering under the sun as I admired the fabulous scenery. From afar, I saw the famous Hollywood sign implanted on the hill top and wondered what in there. We finally arrived in the city and we saw the local busily moving to and fro the street . The whole place was jammed and we found ways to detour to move around. We did not have a destination yet, just roaming around and watched the day event. It was a interesting sight because we passed by rows of shops and finally spotted the MacDonald I came to frequent in Singapore. My first thought is whether it was cheaper or more expensive in US or in Singapore after currency conversion (I think the rate then was $1.42US to S$1). Tramps and tramps everywhere !
By then our stomach were crunching for food, and we knew it was time to go the the famous Fisherman’s Wharf . It was exhilarating sight as we approached near the wharf . To my surprise, I saw lazy seals lazily basking in the sun , un-shy of the tourists looking at them . We also saw a huge submarine though we are not allowed to go into the submarine. From afar we saw the Alcatraz prison , the famous island that used to accommodate the most notorious criminal in history of America. Oh boy, it is known to be haunted too as many died there and their soul been keep eternally on the island they lived. Anyway, we did not visit the prison but did get a clear glimpse as we take the boat tour around the region. We took a two-storey tour boat and stay on top of the boat. It was not long before we had to return to our seat because the sea and vapour water fall so hard that it our body so painfully . Moreover, the sea became rougher and rougher that we might just flew off into the sea. Now something from the history. There were records of criminal attempting to escape from the island swimming the icy cold and shark-infested water. Most can kill even halfway reaching the other side of shore, and never to be heard again. One of the most famous gangster leader in history of America, Al Capone who inspired many of the Hollywood mafia movie , was once locked up in this prison for seven years. Even to this day, Al Capone remains a legendary figure of America. So overall, the whole journey took about 30 minutes and I really enjoyed such a ride because these experience could not find in Singapore.
Later, we have a lunch at the wet market where we ordered the famous chip-&-chips . It was very fresh and delicious though burning much of my pocket hole. We visited some retailer shops to buy some souvenirs and we found that most of the stuff were ways too expensive. Hmmm, what do we expect from tourist shop anyway ?
On the very next day, we took 3 hours to reach Stanford University . To my dismay, Stanford University was undergoing upgrading work and hence the atmosphere was not as vibrant as what I had read from the internet. There was a large field at the main entrance greeting visitors however due to sunny hot weather, no students are there to lay down on the grass or playing games there. At times, I had to ask myself if this was really Stanford University because everything here was so quiet and felt desolated in contrast to those exciting news on Stanford. Where were all the smart geeks and genius ? I visited the Stanford Bookstore (taken from http://www.fheg.follett.com/retail/design/studies-stanford.cfm) and it was very large and spacious. Unfortunately I did not get to explore the whole of Stanford due to time constraint. Well, one day I will visit this again and visit every inch of this wonderful famous landmark university.
TO BE CONTINUED
Photo captured during the tour
These are some of the photo from the tour. I will have put all of them here if not that I lost many of them due to storage card damage.Vodpod videos no longer available.
TO BE CONTINUED