How I Escape from South Bay to San Francisco

Illustration by Cassandra Cheng

I was tired of my South Bay. We’d been together too long.

Even though I have been wandering around the San Francisco Bay Area for nearly five years, if you don’t include my fugitive 2020 in Vancouver Canada, The City still seems a mystery to me. Searching for “27 Best Things to do in San Francisco” or “20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in San Francisco”, the places on the front page are the few I know about — Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Tower, you name it. It’s not that I mean to be disrespectful — I like Golden Gate Bridge, Fishermans’ Wharf, and Coit Tower. But I don’t want to fall into the same old dull routine.

I want something new. Something that only exists between me and The City. Some secrets are only shared and revealed when we bump into each other’s feet and make a silent exchange of smiles on a Sunday morning brunch time. Something I can convince myself this will be the place for me to set roots for another five years. Something that I can tell myself this will be my city. Something I can call me, me.

What has kept me from exploring more in San Francisco? Is it the easy commute, free meals, and the all-inclusive office? Is it the subconscious desire to blend in with the vast majority of techies? Or is it simply my reluctance to change?

The unknown brings fear. We feel secure when we have control over our environment. After two years of Covid, I suddenly realized the world is folded. While we think we live in a holistic universe, we are only living in an enclosed mirror reflection centered around ourselves. The first time I worked in the South Bay tech industry, I subconsciously assumed that everybody on Castro St Mountain View should have a big tech name badge on their waist. Is that how the world is? If the tech/information sector only comprises 13% of all jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area, where is the rest of the world? I moved to San Francisco — it’s time to live more realistically.

Things I am doing

1. Row on the Bay — Dolphin Club SF

Mark Robinson’s essay on Monocle SF reveals a treasure for me — the Dolphin Club San Francisco. I’m not a good swimmer, but rowing is special to me. While I waved to and fro on False Creek last summer, a sense of tranquility that I haven’t experienced in a while swept over me. So yes, I’ll join Dolphin Club, attend the rowing sessions, and volunteer for fleet maintenance night. Let’s see where it takes me soon.

Image by Dolphin Club SF

2. Explore cafés and restaurants

If you’re a foodie like me, there are so many great places to walk into. So far, here is a shortlist of Li’s endorsed places:

Coffee: Linea

As an Asian, I adore drinking hot water and tea. To be honest, it’s my first time experiencing true pleasure when the Linea coffee hits my taste buds. The acidity is crisp, bright, and pleasant, with a floral undertone and a rich chocolate finish. Every morning is a new beginning.

Image by Linea

Pastry: B Patisserie

The Kouign Amann is unmistakable. Even today, I struggle with the proper pronunciation and always blurt out “coin a man.” Anyway. You get my point, and I get the pastry I prefer.

Image by B Patisserie

Izakaya: Rintaro

Ice-cold Asahi beers and savory yakitori are made with every part of the chicken. I can’t imagine a better place to laugh and play with your best friends.

Image by Rintaro

Wagyu: The Butcher Shop by Niku Steakhouse

If you can’t resist the marbling and buttery tenderness of Japanese A5 Wagyu Beef like me — check out this place. Don’t forget to grab a bottle of sake.

Image by Niku Butcher Shop

3. Watch The Joy Luck Club and Blue Jasmine

This weekend, I watched The Joy Luck Club. Even though everyone around me keeps telling me, “Oh, you have to watch these SF movies,” I’m like, fine, I’ll add them to my never-ending to-do list. Lindo slams into me. She is always conscious of who she is and what she desires. She never chooses the least tasty crab on the table. Get the best because you are more deserving than others.

Image by The Joy Luck Club

Things I plan to do

1. Watch movies in Roxie Theater

Just extraordinary films are played. Just ought-to-be-seen films are shown. Be cool. Be old-school.

Image by Roxie

2. Join a local writer’s club

Writing is my outlet. My thoughts and emotions melt into my words. As of yet, I’m not very skilled, but I’m confident that I can improve, so I’m determined to keep trying.

3. Explore more cafés and restaurants

Here are the places on my to-explore list

Image by Li Miao

Last Word

Live hard and love harder, my dear friends.

Welcome to follow my blog! I’d share more of my learning and growth soon.





Data Scientist in Silicon Valley. Welcome to my personal blog!

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Li Miao

Li Miao

Data Scientist in Silicon Valley. Welcome to my personal blog!

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