So if you notice, the heading says “New York City”… coz talking about the state of New York and about New York city are two completely different talking points. While the state offers natural beauty, scenic mountains, laid back suburbs and clean transportation to roam around, NYC is more about the madness of being at the Mecca of Finance, about why the city is called the “land of opportunities”, about the rush of the Wall Street and where every building “tells you” that NYC has indeed been the power-centre of 20th century commerce.
Travelled in: 2011
A unique feeling about New York City:
The city is one where I almost instantaneously felt I probably will not like it, but it is also one which grows on you, the more you live in it. But yes, staying in one place and visiting it is lot different, so I will keep the scope of this blog to just that, though with some insights how I felt after being there for three weeks on the trot. In short – it is a city I would love to hate. But not hate to love.
Best way around: Cabs are easily available to go far away places in NYC, while subways system (metro/MTR/MRT/Tube) is a quick way to beat the traffic for far away destinations, but I thought walking the well-numbered streets (and avenues) of NYC was the best way forward, especially if the weather is supportive.
So hit the healthy route and feel the city… walk around! That said, will not suggest doing that very late in evening and especially in downtown and isolated places.
Sightseeing in New York City
So we stayed in New Jersey with our relatives and did New York in day trips – it was only an hour’s train each day and intern-state train connectivity from/to NYC’s Penn station is quite good. The trains are quite comfortable as well, though finding which platform the trains has to be boarded from, was a bit of an adventure to find. And yes, the tall and large frame body guy approaching us from nowhere to “help him buy a burger” did take us aback at the Penn station. We gave $5 which he politely took and went away but not that the incident was a problem, it was certainly astonishing and made us careful of our NY trip, especially after all what we have heard about NY.
The New York trip started with a trip to the downtown Manhattan area which gave pretty much the same feeling as that of being in Hong Kong, although felt that Hong Kong downtown area (Central) gives a feeling of being in a newly built city while New York has that 20th century feeling and charm to it. Hard to say which one is better as both have their own charm.
So from there we took the cab to the New York Battery Park, from where we boarded the ferry to the Liberty island. As usual, the security was quite tight but smooth process (though I read from internet I was lucky with my experience). Airport like security but lockers available. No outside food or water, although the ferry served them and there are options at the Liberty island, so not an issue.
We spent about 2-3 hours on the Statue of Liberty and the view of the NY skyline from there was quite amazing, especially in the evening with the sun setting in.
In the above pic, I tried taking the statue’s picture with the sun in the background, trying to give a feeling of “Halo effect”. Didn’t come exactly as I wanted but think it is not bad either.
New York Street food
Every country, or rather city has its own street food charm and New York’s cosmopolitan nature is very much depicted in the ample variety of street food stalls it has. From mexican wraps to Indian kebabs to American hot dogs, there are ample food stalls all around New York and especially around mid-town and shopping/hang out areas such as Times Square (duh, isn’t it obvious!!!).
Won’t say they did seem to be best of healthy or hygienic food, but they were yummyyyyy… on average, the food was US$1-6 (in 2011) depending on what you order. If you think your stomach is ready for the challenge, go for it – more often than not, you should be ok! At least me and my friends were.
Times Square is probably one of the highlights of New York City. It feels as if the entire vibrance of the city comes altogether in that area. To compare, this is like the Causeway Bay of Hong Kong, Connaught Place of Delhi, India, Boulevard Haussmann of Paris, or Myong-Dong of Seoul, Korea.
Located centrally and close to Grand Central station, I thought this place was a great hang-out spot for evenings – a must see for tourists looking to see what NY buzz is all about!
While there are some great restaurant options at Times Square, we went to this Indian Kebab place called Kathi Roll and Co. – about 3 miles from Times Square/42nd Street.
Serving a great variety of rolls, this place was quite awesome, especially for those craving for spicy food in New York, in a quick-fire wrap style. Caution though – the place can be quite crowded in peak hours (think evening!) But recommended a visit when there!
… more on Times Square
Broadway was nearby so I went there in one of my following days in evening when I had free time again.
The picture above was indeed a surprising factor for me… and I loved it! And how royal it looked! Well groomed horses, smart policeman riding it… and well, not just me, but lots of (supposedly) tourists were attracted to the duo. Anyways, this was quite cool!
New York Central Park
I see one remarkable similarity in cosmopolitan cities such as Hong Kong, New York, Mumbai etc.While they all are financial capital and densely populated cities with varied infrastructure levels (undoubtedly Hong Kong standing at the top, in this aspect), all these cities have a Central Park or equivalent within them, providing the city one last gasp of fresh air!
Indeed, if you see the New York Central Park from the heights of any building, you would notice how well “chiseled” this park is, and as if it is “fitted” into the city. A pic says a thousand words… so here it is…
Apple Store Fifth Avenue
HoooHaaa!!! Ok, I finally made it to THE store of Apple products. This store has lot of history behind it, and I suggest you read Steve Jobs’ official biography but in a gist, the Apple Store Fifth Avenue was said to be the “end” of Apple – just as tallest buildings of the world are said to be the signs of beginning of an economic decline. Apparently, Apple and Steve Jobs were criticized for being too lavish and opening a grand store in the heart of New York, which was said to be a drain on its earnings. But the visionary Steve Jobs was… he sensed that a grand Apple image needed a marquee store. And hence was born Apple Store Fifth Avenue.
As a true Apple fan, I can but not afford to miss the Apple store, which a newly made Argentine friend (and my first Latin friend) accompanied me one fine evening. The store is open 24×7 and given that our hotel was near the store, we did the adventure walk in the lonely NYC streets and a visit to “THE” Apple Store!
Hint: Go in evenings after dark/near sunset… the look and feel of the Apple store is just different at the time!
Visit to the Grand Central… NYC trip is not complete without it!
The NY Grand Central Station indeed lives up to its name. USA is much about “big”… from the size of houses, to the cars to the average size of malls and even an average American… I found big is the word!
Well, NY Grand Central station is pretty much about being “Big” as well. Being an intersection of a number of lines, the station is a busy point with lots of travelers, shopping places, fast food joints, dessert places etc (can’t remember the exact name but there are some great dessert outlets in the G-1 floor of the station). Do check that out if/when there.
NY Grand Central is right next to hotels such as Grand Hyatt and Central Park, etc. So a visit should not be time consuming even if you plan to cover both Central Park and Grand Central station in the same evening.
This brings me to the last talking point of NY City trip… the hotels.
Well, while I thought this was my individual experience at the Hyatt, I realize that hospitality at the US hotels is not nearly the same as it can be in Asia.There are obviously various reasons that could be the reason, but that is a general observation confirmed by many friends of mine.
Nevertheless, I was totally pumped up by the amazing hospitality of the NYC people (and Americans in general) and the trip was totally one to remember. Won’t say I am fond to return to NYC as a tourist again, coz 1) US is too big with so much more to see and 2) I prefer holidaying in suburbs and being close to nature than cities. But the trip was a great one as a one-time tourist to the place.