San Francisco – Walking Tour

I’ve talked about the food in San Francisco, I’ve talked about the bus tours in San Francisco, I’ve also talked about the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Today I am going to tell you about how I walked almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) from my hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf to Chinatown and Union Square.

It was a pretty difficult walk, let me tell you. In fact, when I made that walk, I kept thinking: This is going to be the most epic walk that I have ever made in my life!

You see, San Francisco is a city that is built on a hill. There is a reason why this city is also known among the Cantonese speaking fraternity as 旧金山, literally translates as Old Gold Hill. This means not all the roads in this city are flat.

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Half of the roads here are steep

And I don’t mean those 10 or 20 degrees gradient. We’re talking 45 degrees slope here. Half of my 2 miles walk were on these roads, climbing and descending, climbing and descending.

Okay, let’s talk about the landmarks..

The first place that I walked to was Lombard Street, otherwise known as the most crooked street in the world. This place is actually not too far from my hotel, about 300 meters I reckon. But that 300 meters was the steepest 300 meters of my walk. Hell of a great start!

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World’s most crooked street

It’s actually an open street, cars travel through this road for practical reasons.

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Well, mostly..

I was lucky enough because on one of my previous trips, I met up with a friend who drives. So she took me for a drive here. The photo above was from that previous trip.

If you don’t have access to a car, there is another way for you to get a closer look of this road.

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There’s a staircase beside the road which you can use.

You see the houses on both sides of the road? Those are real houses. People live in there. I can’t imagine why they built this touristy street in the middle of a housing area. I would not want to live in one of these houses, the nuisance that are the tourists would be too much to bear.

Another thing is that, when we talk about Lombard Street, most people only think of this crooked section. In actual, Lombard Street is a very long street.

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This whole thing is Lombard Street

Can you see that tower on top of a hill in the far end of the picture? That’s Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. It is another famous tourist attraction of San Francisco. That tower is one of the best vantage point to get a nice panoramic city view. Sadly, it was also one of the places that I did not manage to visit. Beyond Telegraph Hill is the seafront.

I descended from Lombard Street to make my way to one of the main road of San Francisco, the Columbus Avenue.

I absolutely love this street. Maybe it was early morning, the trams have not started operations and there were not many cars so it felt more peaceful. I can’t explain why, I just love this street. This street is probably my most favorite place in San Francisco!

As we walk along this street, we will be able to see a church. In fact, one should first visit, for finding things to do in SF as well as such interesting places. I have absolutely no idea what church is this. It may or may not be another famous tourist attraction. Probably not famous, since I did not know about it. But it is kind of beautiful. I mean, since I came back from England, I have not seen a nice church in a very long time, so I felt this one is quite pretty.

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Right next to the church there is a small recreational park called the Washington Square.

Actually, I did now know what park this is either, but there was a signpost there, so now I know. I saw a statue of a few men there. I could not find any descriptions for the statue anywhere around it. Since the statue is in Washington Square, I presume it is the statue of George Washington and his honchos.

There’s quite a bit of people doing their morning walk here. I also spotted a group of uncles and aunties doing tai chi. The Chinese people must be living in this vicinity. I guess I must be pretty close to Chinatown.

And I was right. I walked for another 100 meters and found myself staring at the first hints of Chinatown. Lots of Asian faces and shops with Chinese names.

Actually, the easiest way to know whether you have arrived at the Chinatown or not is to look at how crowded the streets are. I came from a relatively peaceful and empty street,

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to this.

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And this.

Yup. Bustling with people and activity, even in the mornings. I actually went into a couple of shops to see if there were any good bargains here so I was able to talk to some of the Chinese shopkeepers here. Here’s what I learned from them:

  • Most of the grandparents generation here are early Chinese immigrants who came from Hong Kong and Guangdong, much like Malaysia actually. Some of them came during the early 1900s gold rush and some during World War II, trying to escape the war back home.
  • Like in Malaysia, most of the younger generation Chinese here have already assimilated into American culture. They are American citizens, speak perfect American English and calls the United States home instead of China.
  • The immigrant generations though, are faced with a disheartening conundrum. Most of them came here with zero knowledge and English and you can see that they haven’t improved much. They have been here for 40, 50 years yet they still speak minimal English with a broken accent. That’s why they can only limit themselves to hanging out in Chinatown. At the same time, they yearn to return home to China. But because they have left for so long, there is actually nothing left for them back home. And they can no longer speak Mandarin or Cantonese properly due to lack of practice, so they will immediately be shunned if they go back to China. So the only thing that they can do is stay here in San Francisco and lament until they die.

I don’t know, when I hear their stories, I can’t help but feel: us Malaysians have had it good compared to these guys.

Okay, moving on. There’s three streets with a strong concentration of Chinese shops: Clay Street, Stockton Street and Grant Street. As we walk towards the end of Grant Street, we would come to this monument that would prove that we are indeed in Chinatown.

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Dragon’s Gate

Yes, this is actually the official entrance to Chinatown. Funny how if we come from the Columbus Avenue, we actually enter from the back end of Chinatown and exit through the front entrance.

I was not done walking yet, the Chinatown was not my final destination, so I kept walking. I saw another interesting thing as I walked.

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If this is Malaysia and Obama is replaced with you-know-who, then you know those involved would definitely win themselves a one way ticket to Kamunting (Malaysian equivalent of the old Alcatraz).

But not here in the United States. They are showing these posters in full view of the public and it’s alright! Definitely a sign of a matured democracy.

And then I arrive at my final destination for the day, the Union Square.

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Union Square

I have to admit that the main reason that I walked all the way here was because of these love shaped sculptures. They say San Francisco is the city of love, so these love sculptures are definitely very iconic to the city.

Actually now that I mentioned this, I think there are many cities in the world who self-proclaim to be the city of love.

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Anyway, here’s more love for you.

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Even more love for you. Spread the love!

Actually, if you are into shopping, then Union Square is the place for you. All the high street names are concentrated here. 

Girls, you watched those American TV series, where the ladies walk along the high street, coffee in one hand and purse in another, and they go into the shops and buy till they drop? That’s every ladies’ dreams, isn’t it? This is the place for you to do that! Guys, cut up your credit cards to prevent your wife/girlfriend from stealing them!

Lucky for me, I came here alone, so I dodged that bullet! For me, I just went into Macy’s. Not for shopping, but for this shot..

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Taken from Macy’s 7th Floor, overlooking the Union Square

Okay, there was one store that got me intrigued though..

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Nope, they don’t sell the real sports car here. This is actually a store selling Ferrari merchandises..

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Including this toy car for babies

If you look closely at this toy car, you will see that there isn’t even a motor, it is just a normal toy car with pedals. Can you guess how much this thing was selling? Because this is a Ferrari, it was selling at US$ 2995. Or RM 10 000.

So, parents, if you are feeling rich and want to put those parents who buy iPads for their children to shame, come here and buy one of these for your child! 😉

That was pretty much the end of my walk. I was planning to take the S.F. Tram back to the Fisherman’s Wharf, but the queue at the tram station was insane! Basically, I waited for half an hour and found myself only progressed 20% of the queue. And the tram was actually moving quite slowly, I reckon it was about the same speed as me walking. So I did the only sensible thing that I could think of,

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I took a picture of the tram,

then got out of the queue, and made my way back to the hotel, by foot, doing that 2 miles walk in reverse direction. In other words, I actually walked 4 miles (6 kilometers) that day. Upon reaching the hotel, I collapsed in a heap and woke up 6 hours later for dinner.

So, yeah, this was how my walking tour of San Francisco went. And this will the last of my San Francisco posts for now. I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

I was actually going to cheat by breaking this post into two parts, but when I looked into the logistics of editing and moving the pictures, it felt like even more work than this, so I did not cheat in the end…


  1. I think walking is the best way to check out any place. You can stop to take pics, you can enjoy the place at your own pace, and it gives you an excuse to eat more [you are burning calories off as you go.]

    Your post presents a lot of great information and thoughts about San Francisco. I have heard about the street before but the hearts are awesome. I would totally check them out as well.

    • Exactly! That’s why I didn’t feel too bad finishing up the fried rice and then feasting on crabs for dinner that night! 😀

  2. So you had a good workout that day 😀 This is the sort of tour that I like, Just walking and taking in the sights and sounds. I love walking and and what you did sounds fun to me (though tiring). Was it cool then? Or else you would be sweating buckets!

    • It wasn’t that cool, but it wasn’t humid either, so I did not sweat as much as I expected it to.

  3. I left my Hearts In San Francisco! You could see how much I love that city and wrote in my blog profile. No wonder it became a gay’s haven for all its lovely sights and lifestyles. I remember the culture shocks seeing men french kissed along the streets. Eeewww!

    All your photos brought me memories as I also walked 5-10 miles everyday for many weeks. Every morning I followed my Thai cousin from his home at Oakland Hills via the Bart train to his office at Embarcadero Building. I would cover all corners of touristy places alone before following him back at 5pm.

    I believe you have more photos to share!

    • I do have more photos, but they are not of sharing quality lah hahaha!

      You know, I did not find any gays or lesbians here, but I did see an old man walking around naked at the Fisherman’s Wharf! 😀

  4. Walk? Omg!! Not going to happen! The thing I remembered most about San Francisco were the streets…up and down….just like that iconic TV show “The Streets of San Francisco”. I think I’ll pengsan ;D

  5. Wah the roads very steep leh.. Don’t say you la, I walk one staircase up to the lift from the carpark also already ‘chuen hei’ liao..But the weather so cool, I think it’s ok to walk, but I don’t like steep roads la.. But walking slowly while holding hands with loved one, I think I want also la, hehe, will walk also geh..

    • You don’t like vegetables, and you don’t work out. I’m surprised that you are not a big fat auntie! XD

      Nei siong dim jek? In San Francisco, it can sometimes be cool but sometimes hot. And the roads are sometimes flat and sometimes very steep. I know, when it gets steep then you nau gai to your husband, ask him carry you up the hill. Ultimate proof of love! 😀

        • I mean she does not look like a big fat auntie lah. Which is surprising to me, because usually those woman who eats fast food only and does not work out, you know… yet our Princess here looks like perfectly proportionate! 😀

    • There’s half of uphills over here. And San Francisco is not exactly cool. Yes at night is can be freezing, but in the day, when it gets sunny, it is just like over here minus the humidity.

  6. Thank you for this walk post. I truly enjoyed it. Seeing the houses on the slope makes me think of the tv series Charmed (about the witch sisters – not sure whether you have seen this series before or not).

    If I go to SF, I will definitely want to walk the stairs alongside the crooked street. What you say about those old Chinese people are so true, we really have it better here.

    The love sculptures look so far and round, like bursting with love. Maybe one day if I am going to die, I will apply for Visa to go to USA to see these views for myself. Thanks again.

    • I did watch a few episodes of Charmed on Netflix when I was in Loveland! 😀

      I’m not sure if those love sculptures are permanent or not. I think when I went there, they were new. If you (touch wood) really plan to go, make sure to do some research first, else you go and the loves are gone then you will be disappointed. 😐

  7. ah.. walking is a nice way to see more of a place, i actually prefer doing that and i usually choose to walk than taking transport when i go travel.. but of course, that has to depend on the weather, Malaysia type of weather, errrr, i strongly have to rethink, haha!!

    yes, those love sculptures are familiar, i have seen them in a movie i watched lately, haha~~

    • Hahaha! I think we cannot tahan our own weather, regardless of whether it is Malaysians like us, or Americans or Europeans. The white backpackers who come here enjoy walking and sightseeing under the lovely sun (as they say it), it is us who are fed up with it! 😀

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