Late last year, my friend (let's call her Milk) and I embarked on a whirlwind 2 week trip to the U.S. and Canada. It's whirlwind, because we had less than a week to plan our itinerary, buy all the necessary tickets, exchange currency, pack, etc etc. I've had at least 2 groups of friends planning to go U.S. this year and asking me for itineraries, so I thought I might as well blog about the trip here in greater detail.
Empire State Building
For first timers (under the visa waiver program, like us Singaporeans) planning to visit U.S., do remember to register online here. I've heard this wasn't required in the past, but I'm not sure what kind of consequences would ensue if you don't register.
Despite being so last minute, we found very reasonably priced ANA air tickets to Washington D.C. at S$1.6k, stop-over at Narita, Tokyo. ANA's service was excellent, by the way. We spent a night at Narita Garden Hotel, located very close to the airport, so that we could easily take our next flight to Washington D.C. From DC, we took the Bolt bus, which took approximately 4 hours to arrive at NYC. The bus ticket costs about US$25, and the bus is fully wi-fi and toilet enabled. By the time we arrived at NYC, it was dark and very cold (about 6 degree Celsius).
To someone who's accustomed to an all-year-round tropical climate, dragging our luggages in the freezing cold at night in a foreign country wasn't a very pleasant encounter. The Bolt bus dropped us near Penn Station, which is still some distance from our hostel and so we took the subway. The subway station had a few exits and so Milk had me wait at one of the exits with our luggages while she went checking out which was the correct direction. While waiting near the steps, a young woman passing by asked me if I needed help with the luggages. I was taken aback, but gratefully declined. Just moments later, another elderly man asked me the same question. I declined as well. New Yorkers have made a very favourable first impression on me, and I thank you for your warmth and kindness!
Our hostel is Vanderbilt YMCA located at 224 East 47th Street. It's clean, no-nonsense, has free wi-fi and in a relatively good location. We had a private room for 2 (bunk bed), but no attached bathroom. Overall it's a relatively comfortable accomodation. Only 1 complain though - the heater makes the weirdest noise sporadically at night. All I have to say is, thank goodness for my ear plugs!
The next day, we were up early and ready to explore the city. Milk had purchased citysights passes for us both, which includes ticket prices to most of the major attractions in NYC and the city tour bus which we could hop on/off at convenient stops.
Here are some snapshots.
We hopped off the bus for our first destination of the day, Empire State Building. Not surprisingly, it was packed with tourists and we spent large part of the morning queueing to catch a view from the top floors of the building.
Frankly, I'm not sure if the view is worth spending so much time (half the day gone) queueing for, but as a professional tourist, if we did not ascend the Empire State Building while in NY, it would be tantamount to not visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris or not checking out the pyramids in Egypt or not going to the Coloseum in Rome. I could go on forever, but you get my drift.
We hopped back on the citysights bus in the direction of downtown and saw more interesting sights. Downtown meant Chinatown, Soho, Wall Street, Brooklyn bridge, so there were plenty of sights to keep our cameras busy.
9/11 Memorial tiles (one of the sombre reminders of that day)
Typical external staircases of NY apartments
Wall Street Bull at Bowling Green (courtesy of Milk's camera)
We alighted at Fulton Street, near Brooklyn Bridge to view the Bodies Exhibit. No cameras were allowed, so you'd just have to take my word that it's highly educational, as well as being highly unsuitable for viewing on a full stomach if you have a *weak one*. Milk and I had lunch at a restaurant on ground level, in the same building as the exhibition. We shared fish and chips and salad and they were superb. I can't remember the restaurant name, but rest assure you won't miss it.
And now, I leave you with some droolsome food porn.
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