California Dreamin’

Editor’s note:1 This is an unfinished piece of writing. I plan on updating it periodically until it’s finished, then this note will be removed.

When in the course of human events,2 where one gets to visit the United States and participate in the American experience — a multi-state roadtrip — one must document and write about it.

In December 2023, my family and I left home for San Francisco. We took off from Singapore via an Airbus A350-900 of China Airlines. Before boarding, I knew that the A350 was a relatively new aircraft and that it was Airbus’s response to the Boeing 787, but I was still surprised at just how quiet the plane was. There was little wind noise and barely any engine noise. I certainly wasn’t used to it. Being a bit of an avgeek, I was also surprised at our cruising altitude which started at 40,000 feet and slowly inched higher.3

After the sun had set, we touched down in Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport for a four hour dinner-time stopover. The international transit area we were restricted to wasn’t very large, but it was enough to serve as a delicious reminder of Taiwan’s cuisine. After a hot bowl of Taiwan beef noodles and a shared cold bubble tea drink, we boarded our second flight to San Francisco. This time we got onboard the Boeing 777-300ER, a long-haul workhorse. Unlike the previous A350, this wide-body jet made sure all its passengers knew, the entire 13 hours, that it had two massive GE engines powering the metal tube over the Pacific Ocean.

After experiencing a sunrise and another sunset in flight, we touched down under the clear night skies of San Francisco. Because we had crossed the international date line, we had “traveled back in time”. We left Singapore at 2PM on December 13 and we arrived in San Francisco at 7PM of the same day.

At the immigration counters, we had prepared our printed documents in expectation of terse, probing questions asked by a Customs & Border Protection Officer, but we were pleasantly surprised by his friendliness and laidback demeanor.4 He even shared that he had just come back from a holiday in Malaysia the day before.

San Francisco and the Bay Area

We made the one and a half hour drive from SFO to the satellite city of Antioch. At Antioch, we made an intentional stop at Chick-fil-A for a late dinner. Ever since my family and I moved back to Singapore from Texas in 2015, I had missed the chicken sandwiches and waffle fries at the Southern fast food restaurant.

Antioch is not a place that gets a lot of international tourists. It seems like a working city more than anything. But I felt like I was in a theme park as I walked to the ordering counter, which was devoid of any self-ordering kiosks, and placed an order for my old time favorite of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. And it was just how I remembered it.5 The waffle fries were crispy, the chicken sandwich was deliciously simple, and the employees were friendly.6

We soon “checked in” to our accommodation and headed to bed. We were kindly hosted by our relatives in Antioch.

Editor’s note:7 This is an unfinished piece of writing. I plan on updating it periodically until it’s finished, then this note will be removed.

Comments? Text or email me.

Published: March 13, 2024. Finished: TBD.


  1. There is no editor. It’s just me. ↩︎
  2. See the first sentence of the American Declaration of Independence. ↩︎
  3. I guess I’m not enough of an avgeek to know what is the maximum cruising altitude of the A350. And I am recalling these altitudes from memory, not from a flight tracker, which means I may be slightly off. ↩︎
  4. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of these Customs officers asking such probing questions to people who were trying to legally visit their country when at the same time, there were an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants already inside their country. That’s greater than the population of 40 of the 50 US states. What should be done? That’s not for me to say; that’s for their political system to resolve. ↩︎
  5. Except for the unmistakably higher prices. I don’t remember exactly how much a Chick-fil-A meal had cost in 2015, but it wasn’t this much. ↩︎
  6. It looks like Chick-fil-A has definite plans to open in Singapore and may even be their first in Asia. I think they’re the type of company that is going to take their own sweet time doing so though. There are no shareholders to appease every quarter. ↩︎
  7. Again, there’s no editor. It’s just me. ↩︎