After the Seattle part of the trip, I reunited with family for the final leg of the trip where we all be hanging around the San Francisco bay area. We were based in my uncle’s place in Vacaville, which one of my friends kindly described as “in the sticks”, i.e. basically far away from everything. Like Houston, we had to rely on the kindness of relatives who were willing and available to drive us around.
This was the laziest part of the trip by far: not much walking, most of it either just driving to places and taking pictures; or going to outlets for shopping.
We spent a few days near Monterey, staying at a cousin’s house. This let us visit some nearby stuff like cannery row, the 17-mile drive and pebble beach. Climbed some rocks, saw some squirrels, walked by the wharf, that kind of stuff. After that, we also visited San Jose for a day to meet some other relatives, then the next day we drove over to San Francisco and visited the Golden Gate Bridge area, the Palace of Fine Arts (sadly closed on that day, but the exteriors were nice), and drove around the SF roads for a bit too. I was a bit underwhelmed by the Golden Gate bridge, it wasn’t as long nor as wide as I imagined it would be, but from the exhibits there I can imagine what a big deal of an engineering feat it was at that time. The streets of SF were even steeper than Seattle’s were! I’m glad I didn’t have to walk them.
The rest of the day was just hanging out the Vacaville area and visiting (and revisiting) the outlets for shopping. Apparently Vacaville is known for the outlets. I’m not much of a shopper myself - I don’t have the patience to sift through rows of clothes or shoes looking for bargains - it’s mostly my parents who bought a bunch of stuff. I just walked around mostly looking at things.
I did make a couple of electronics purchases, one was a cheap gaming mouse (not as cheap as the ones in the PH, but not like a $60 razer either), and the bigger purchase was a 2018 iPad from Best Buy. I wanted to get a new tablet because my current iPad Pro was falling apart (I literally had some tape at the seams to hold it together), and the battery was in horrible shape. I was hesitating because the iPad Pro was actually still perfectly usable - as long as it was plugged in and the tape held. At first I wanted to get a new iPad Pro, since I wanted the pencil support, but those were wildly expensive, and even the refurbished 9.7-inch ones would have cost as much as a new 2018 iPad. Luckily, I found out that the 2018 iPad did in fact support the Apple Pencil, so I ended up getting a new one of those instead.
We had a fourth of July barbecue at my uncle’s house, and I stayed the night at a friend’s house in Hercules, then more lazy days of shopping to wind down our US trip. Some overall impressions of the US and random stories follow:
- everything is so far apart. During our Houston and Vacaville legs we basically had to be driven everywhere. Probably basically impossible to live without a car (as I prefer) unless you’re willing to pay the higher rents in the downtown areas. There’s also so much idle land everywhere. Basically the opposite of congested Metro Manila. I have a better understanding now of why Americans are so obsessed with cars (and pickup trucks apparently) (Slight tangent: interesting article I read on why Americans are basically forced into car dependency by laws, infrastructure and big oil)
- no bidets! This is why Japan is superior
- I suppose it’s only logical given how far apart things are, but this is the first country I’ve visited with wildly different climates in different zones. SF and LA were manageable hot - cool in the shade, but close to PH temps if you’re in the sun in the afternoons. Vegas and Houston were very, very hot. Seattle was cold in the mornings and never got too hot during the day.
- Americans are very chatty, even with strangers. I didn’t expect them to be as chatty as Filipinos since we allegedly have a reputation for being “warm and hospitable”, but Filipinos don’t randomly ask how my day is going the way random people on the street do in the US. In Las Vegas, a large black woman was trying to chat up me and my brother while we were on a food run and we were ignoring her and she asked us why we were being so antisocial
- Apparently Filipino expats in the US watch a lot of TFC and Telenovelas and Pinoy movies. Reminds them of home I guess. I actually sat through a couple of Pinoy movies myself, I’ll write about them in the next watching lately.
- There are so many, um, shall we say, “large” Americans. Not in terms of height, but in terms of width! Not that I’m fat shaming or anything like that - I mean, I’m a huge guy myself, but seeing so many larger folk around made me feel a bit more comfortable with myself. Some of the stores we went to had shirt sizes that went as high as 6x! I think the larger Americans I saw were mostly in the theme parks and the city areas, not so much in the suburbs, not sure if that’s indicative of anything.
- I used Southwest for all the domestic flights. SW is interesting because they don’t have reserved seatings for their flights - you’re assigned a boarding priority and when you board you just pick from whatever seat is available. Also apparently they let me bring free checked baggage whereas other airlines don’t so I guess I randomly made a good decision.
- US airports don’t seem very interesting, or maybe I’m just spoiled by airports like Singapore’s Changi or HKIA where I don’t mind spending a lot of time there
- I didn’t spend as much as I thought I would (mostly due to the hospitality of our hosts), but still the fact that food is so expensive here really tells me a lot about how Americans view things financially. A decent meal is typically $10-$15, maybe more. Compare that to the cost of things that would be considered luxuries in the Philippines: a new video game is $60, basically 4 or 5 meals worth; a month’s Netflix sub or a comic book are less than the cost of a meal; and so on. It basically makes it so easy to impulse buy say, a $1 chocolate bar or a $4 bag of chips since these are so inexpensive compared to normal meals, but over here I’d balk at P35 chocolate bars or P150 bag of chips. I guess I’m worried that having spent time in the US, I’d be more spendy when I get back lol.
- in summary, I was able to visit 4 states: California, Nevada, Texas, and Washington. (Arizona for a layover). Not bad! I didn’t get to visit the East Coast during this trip, so maybe that’s something to look forward to in the future. I am not yet sure if I even want to go back; maybe one trip is already plently, just enough to experience what life is like over there.