Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New York New York

And finally after almost 7 weeks of work assignment, I'm off on my holidays!! To start off with The Big Apple - New York City! So excited, my 1st time in New York, the city that never sleeps, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, Musuems, Statue of Liberty etc etc..All sounds so exciting!

First thing first, to get to the airport and to New York! It's a tough battle with 2 big suitcases to pull around, and no carts @ the airport to help. Apparently in US, everything is NOT free! Even at the BIG airport like Newark, a cart costs 5 bloody USD to rent for a short while! Extortion! So I had to physically pull my suitcases along, with my backpack & tripod on my back. It was physical torture to my body, but luckily i had years of training in the gym to compensate for the hardwork..Unfortch, it also resulted in triggering an old ailment - My shoulder started spasming abit, probably pulled a nerve as a result. But i'm not one to give up easily, just endure that short distance (actually not that short), up the train and bus and deposit in the hotel!

I chose to stay at Sheraton Newark International Airport Hotel for a couple of reasons - I have free nights (due to my frequent visits to China, I had earned enough points to redeem free nights); It's near the airport which means less travelling with the 2 big suitcases; I didnt want to tackle the subway ride in NY with 2 suitcases + backpack+tripod + walking in the cold; I'm near the airport which means less travelling time. Anyway it's not THAT far from NYC, only 40mins by bus and subway so it's reasonable! And well, I get a room to myself to enjoy for a fair bit b4 I move to Paris and stay in the hostels.

So straight off after dropping my bags, wash up and dress up for the cold, I head out to explore NYC with whatever time I had left! I decided to take it slow, I've got time on my hands, so no rush here!

Options to get the best out of NYC attractions - There are basically 3 types of passes you can buy:

1 - City pass. Where you get standard 6 attractions: 3 musuems and entrance to Empire State Building and 2 out of 4 other choices at 1 price. Well, if you make it to 3, you have earned back the discount. However, this is rather restrictive 'cos you may not be that interested in all or most of the attractions.

2 - NYC Pass. You can choose between 1,2,3,5,7 days pass where you have access to basically ALL attractions. Different prices or different number of days. If you have consecutive days and like to visit as much as you want, this is actually a good option as you have everything on the menu! Of cos it would be more beneficial to choose 3 days cos u'll have more time to visit the places!

3 - Explorer Pass. It's kinda a combination of (1) and (2). You have a choice of selecting 3, 5 or 7 attractions at specified prices. You just buy the passes, and you can select ANY attractions you want to visit within the next 30 days! It's kinda better than (1) cos you choose what you want, and less restrictive in terms of duration as compared to (2). It kinda offers you the flexibility of choice and time. Of cos, it may not be as worth it as (2) since you only have restricted number of attractions, but if you don't have consecutive days to spare, this is a good option! Which was what I chose! I took the 5 attraction pass, with 3 comfirmed attractions in mind...

So since I only had effectively a couple of hours left of the 1st day (by the time i found the ticket office it was like 2.30pm), I decided to take the city explorer bus to give myself an idea of the places to visit, where they're located and if they're worth another visit personally! It turned out to be a good idea as the bus went through the entire downtown area - Chinatown, Little Italy, Greenwich (it's pronounced as Green-Nich), Soho, Wall Street etc. So I basically saw the whole NYC downtown in 3hours! But I supposed it's not that great on a cold, cloudy day. I was freezing throughout the whole journey as it's an open air bus (good for tourist sight seeing not good for warmth).

The famous Xmas tree @ Rockefeller Center. Damn crowded

Times Square. Very happening all day

So after a good night's sleep, i started out early the next day to explore more of new york! Seeing that the day was cloudy and not so great for outdoor activities, I decided to be more cultured and start my musuem day! 1st stop - MET, the famous musuem in NYC! It's HUGE! And luckily i was there early, cos the crowd started to gather when I checked out! For those who plan to go there, please check on the restrictions of items that can be brought in. No big backpacks, all bags (slightly big) must be checked in. No glass bottles, small plastic bottles can be brought in.

Central Park. Would be definitely nicer during summer

This is a very interesting sculpture. It's abt a prisoned father and his sons, and his sons offering themselves to feed his father, who's very anguished over that fact

I'm not really a musuem person, I mean I enjoy visiting some, but not all, and I don't really know how to appreciate real art. I mean i can go 'Wow, this is amazing' but not like those art appreciaters when they go 'Wow'. But i like looking at sculptures and be amazed at how sculptors can achieve that kinda look. Of cos I don't understand the art of sculpting. And I don't really like classical paintings, you know those paintings of ancient pple, of Jesus etc etc. I simply don't understand. Yes, they were drawn beautifully and some looked quite life like, but I don't appreciate them. Modern art? Ehmmm, sometimes you wonder 'Wow, so this is art?' Seems like just blotting a few paints can make an art, or crushing a few newspaper and pasting them together to form some shapes! But then again, u're always amazed at what you find in musuems! Still that's not going to stop me from going to musuems. FYI, i've never really been to musuems in Singapore Haha.....

This is modern art, Aug calendar makes it to Musuem! Now how abt a Nov calendar with special emphasis on the 28th??

After a whole day of cultured musuem, I decided to be educated once again, in a different sense... The Musuem of Sex. That's educational as well! Thinking that it probably talks more about the anatomy or history of sex, or how opposites attract etc etc, I walked in waiting to be educated. However, the 1st section that greeted me was PORNOGRAPHY. Yes, i said it. Pictures of porn movies, short clips of porn films, naked women running about. Well, they said it was the progression of sex on film, but it looked more like pornography education to me. There was a section where they simply just showed pple having sex (the real things were shown explicitly) - Same sex and opposite sex. So it was alot of nakedness and banging, if you know what I mean. FYI, I went in by myself. And it was kinda funny and sad at the same time cos of the things that were exhibited. I wasn't embarrassed, I was more amused by what they call 'Musuem of Sex'. The other sections showed sex tools (you pple out there know what I mean), and animal sex lives.. Well, If you had nothing better to do, you can go in, else don't bother. Rent an 'X' rated film and you'll get all the sex education you need! Ha

Musuem of Sex

Very funny and meaningful poster

Empire state @ night

After a night of sex (metophorically speaking), I decided I'm tired enough. The girl needs some rest after 2hrs of sex education to rejuvenate her energy for more action the next day, which was forecasted to be fine and sunny!

The next day, it was exploration day! A day of no paid attractions. A day of ferry and walking! Off to the staten island ferry (it's FREE) which gives you a glimpse of the statue of liberty (though slightly far away) and Manhattan! Nice day for a ferry ride as the sun was shining, though the wind was chilly!

After the ferry ride, it was walking time! And crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. I've heard abt the Brooklyn bridge, pple have told me it's not a grand as it's made out to be, and I fully concur with that statement! It's kinda run-down and they're apparently doing some restoration works. Its neighbour - Manhattan Bridge is alot grander and nicer in my opinion. But still, You've gota try Brooklyn Bridge. So I Did! Walked across it to Brooklyn (which was kinda a dead town compared to NYC) and viewed Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge from the other side!

The rather dilapidated Brooklyn Bridge

You can see some construction being done on Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan Bridge, so much classier I feel

Then it's time to head back to NYC again for more exploration! And that's when I lost one of my nice, white fluffy glove. Super Sad! Lost it in the train station. Must have dropped it when I was fumbling through my bag for the map. Damn, didnt realized I dropped it until I felt coldness in my right hand. Super sad cos the glove was damn pretty and fit into my whole image! Yes I was kinda white from head to toe (like tyra said, modelling H-to-T) White hat, white jacket, white gloves! Only thing missing was my whitish beigh boots which I didnt bring due to space constraints. Luckily it was not that extremely cold so I could still don my left glove and stick my right hand in my pocket for warmth. But i'm not going to let that deter or dampen my spirits!

Ground Zero, some construction going on

Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps

And the next day happened to be shopping day! Yes, as I had a conference call in the morning which lasted due late morning, I decided, let's make it a shopping day! So off i went to Jersey Garden Outlet Mall and Shopped!! I bought a new pair of gloves (unfortch they didnt have white so I was stuck with Blue, and you'll find out the fate of the Blue later in the other episodes). Had a great time shopping, but mind you, I'm a cautious and thinking shopper, not mindless spree. I bought what I absolutely decided that I'll wear and need and was happy with my choices! It was a short day but meaningful haha! When you've shopped in US, you kinda feel disappointed back home in Singapore!

After a day of shopping, it was onto more of NYC the next day! And as it happened to be a Wednesday, it was the perfect day to visit Grand Central Terminal! Because they have free tours every Wed and Fri at 12.30pm! So if it's free, you have to go! Although at the end of the tour you're encouraged to give a little donation... But the tour was worth the time and effort. It was almsot 2hours and the tour guide brings you through the entire Grand Central Terminal and talked about the history, the architecture etc etc. Did you know that GCT almost didnt make it to this time? Yes, they had planned to destroy the GCT for more modern development but luckily it was saved! Phew!

Grand Central Terminal

After the GCT, I walked to UN HQ, which was not that far off! Did you know that UN HQ is effectively NOT USA? So it means, when you stepped into UN HQ, you're kinda NOT in US anymore! So you can tell pple that you were NOT in US for like 5mins and they'll think you're crazy but you're actually not crazy! Haha so yes, I travelled out of US for like 10mins on Wednesday 22 Dec around 2.30pm! There are 192 flags on display and I found Singapore fairly quickly! By happenstance, I met a German Friend, Mario, there and was glad to have company for the rest of the day. It gets abit boring when you're travelling alone, so it was great meeting a fren!

After a day of travelling, finally it's time to eat at 4pm in the afternoon. Thing you need to know about me when I'm travelling, esp when I'm alone. I like to walk alot, explore everything that I plan to achieve b4 I actually stop and rest. So that means most of the time, I don't eat alot or I don't stop to eat until I suddenly look at the watch and go 'Geez, look at the time' and 'Hmm I think i'm hungry'. Ha I'm the kind of person who'll walk and walk and look and explore the whole day and not think about eating! And most often, I'll just buy some bread or sandwich and eat as I walk! I know I prob should stop and enjoy my food and pple watch, but I feel like I have alot to do and sitting down eating is going to take up some of my time! Haha, I just can't really sit and relax, but mayb I should learn to do that more! Then again, when u'r alone, it's kinda lonely to do that...But ok I'll try the next time. That's y I lost quite abit of weight after I returned.

Me @ UN HQ

Me @ Flatiron Building

The last official full day in NYC (i was heading to Niagara falls for my whirlwind 1 day trip. More of that in the next episode). Started off hectic as I rushed over to Greyhound station to change my departure time (i was going to watch STOMP with Mario and was afraid i might miss the bus if I didnt change it). And also, I had to settle my return bus ticket which was totally screwed up. The story goes, I ordered online and the only option was 'Deliver to address' which I put as my Charlotte hotel. That was like 5weeks ago. And they screwed me up by either NOT mailing out or lost it or whatever! I didnt receive and the stupid Customer Assistance center is bloody slow in responding and there was absolutely no follow up or news to the ticket even though I called about it. Ended up I had to engage in a long long conversation with them to get my return ticket, to which they replied 'We'll contact the manager in Canada who will give you more information. Bye' Thanks man! What can I do, but cross my fingers and PRAY that I can return! Anyway, the manager didnt call me back. But I still got back (i'll explain more in the next episode)

After all was done, I felt slightly more relieved. Then i headed to Mdm Tussaud's! Yes! I was looking forward to this visit man! To be surrounded by celebrities! Lucky for me, I met a Korean guy who was touring on his own as well. So we sorta paired up so that we can take photos for each other! It was fun meeting Tyra Banks, Britney Spears, Johnny Depp, George Clooney etc etc. Although I would have liked to meet Ryan Reynolds (he's recently single again Woohoo!!) or Hugh Jackman or Orlando Bloom, but I s'pose they've not had their wax figure made...

I Kissed George Clooney (sorta) Not that i'm estatic over it

After mingling with celebrities, it's time to learn about where the film was made. By the film, I mean 'Sex and The City'. I joined the SATC On Location tour and visited all the filming sites of the series and the movie. It was an ok tour, nothing much, just brings u ard NYC to where some of the series and movie was filmed and we got to taste cupcakes and cosmopolitan! Ok way to spend an afternoon, esp when the weather just turned really really cold and cloudy, so it was nice to sit in the bus and enjoy the warmth!

Then after the tour, it was off to watch STOMP!! It was FANTASTIC!!! Sorry, u'r not s'posed to take photos inside, so I only have photo of me outside. The show was very loud but good! And we got the best seat in the house! Front row seats! And I didnt even know our seats when I ordered the tickets!

After the show, we still had some time to spare b4 my bus ride, so we went up Top of the Rock Observation Tower for the view of NYC at night! I highly recommend going up there cos the view is FANTASTIC!! You can see everything and Empire State Building being lit up!! It was very very cold up there but the view was worth it! Just remember that YOu can actually go up to the very top! When you first go up the escalator, you may think that you're already up there, but no! You still can go up a flight of steps to the very top where u have uncovered view and great spot for photo taking! The wind was damn strong that night, so even tho you place your camera on the ledge and set timer, the wind was still able to sway your camera, resulted in slightly burry shots...

Then of cos, it was bye bye to my German Friend, and Hello to 12hours bus journey to Niagara Falls... Stay Tuned to the next episode..

After 4 days in NYC, i have to say 'I LOVE NY'!! Yes, it's a city that's easy to fall in love with. It's so vibrant, full of activities and just bustling with sights and sound. & pple there are friendly! Any moment in time, u can strike a conversation with strangers and they'll tell you their live stories! Just like when I was waiting for the bus, I met this sweet couple who were stuck in NY due to weather and in the short 5mins, i knew their name, where they came from, where they were heading to, what their son was doing and living, what they had done the previous day and what they planned to do that day! Not just waiting for the bus, even waiting in cashier Q, u can just start talking to the person in front about anything! And I've sorta gota used to 'Hello, how are you doing today' and start yakking about something! Haha, that's not sth we're used to in Singapore, we don't go greet e'ryone, but it's like the norm in US, and you just get used to it! Now, instead of waiting for pple to greet me, I start the ball rolling! But of cos, when u'r back here, you don't do it, cos pple will look at you weird hahaha

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