“In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made up
There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you, let’s hear it for New York” – Empire State of Mind
New York City (NYC) is really a very vibrant city, its like the city has a life of itself. The moment I stepped out of Port Authority Bus Terminal, I felt its “energy” and the lyrics from Empire State really made sense. …
Taking advantage of the Christmas long weekend, I decided to take book a bus from Boston South Station to NYC (Peter Pan bus, USD$40 to and fro). Next comes the horrible search for hotels. A quick google of “new york hotels” will throw up searches from numerous 3rd-party booking sites like Priceline, Booking.com, Kayak, Orbiz… A search of apps will throw up Hotel Tonight in addition to those. I was then introduced to the bidding system, as well as their Express Deals section. Further searches reveal another site, Backbid.com. With time on my side, I gave all of them a go. My search was simple, free wifi, at least 3 stars, close to Empire State Building, a user review of at least 75%, and a price of <$140. Priceline’s express deals only offered hotels in the Financial District, and still cost at least $137 (even on the day before my departure!). 5days before my departure, Booking.com suggested NYMA for $140. It was perfect for me. I googled NYMA, and learnt that it was a chain of hotels managed by Apple Core, which have their own booking system! The exact same room on Booking.com cost only $120 ($20 less). However, when I finished entering my card details, the room was taken. A search of room availability threw up Ramada Inn which have a room for $140. I decided to take it up, since they offered free cancellation up to 24hrs before arrival. I then placed the reservation on Backbid.com to see if its any use. And as I expected, its a waste of time, and required the upload of your hotel reservation email, which might lead to privacy issues. All in all, I got 3 bids, 1 from YMCA (shared room, shared restrooms… wth?), and 2 bids from hotels in Brooklyn (duh~). Knowing hotel rates fluctuates, I check back to see if I can get a room at NYMA, which is nearer to Empire State Building. Sadly, there was no $120 room available. But fortunately, I saw that the exact same room that I booked for in Ramada has dropped to $120! So I cancelled my booking, and made another booking. Tada, so here I am, 14days later in Ramada hotel. Final verdict: the site with the best price is Booking.com. It is worth checking Priceline.com (although it is worth mentioning Priceline owned Booking.com), but don’t put your hopes too high. Reserve a hotel, either from its own site or from 3rd-party, but with free cancellation and keep rechecking its price.
So here I am in NYC after a 4+hrs bus ride (Peter Pan, $42 to and fro). The first shop I saw out of the bus terminal was the Cake Boss Cafe! I know they have a program on TLC (but I never really watched it). While walking along the streets beware of Disney/Sesame Street characters. These are street performers and taking a photo with them requires a “donation”. Around Times Square its row after rows of theaters featuring performances like Phantom of the Opera, Mama Mia and others. Discounted tickets can be bought at the tkts booth, but its only for last minute tickets and often its in the front row.
The streets of NYC is arranged in a grid with parallel streets running up and down. The vertical ones are named avenues, while the horizontal ones are numbered streets. The numbers run from smallest at Downtown, to 30-59ish at Midtown and >60 at Uptown.
What’s a visit to NYC without visiting the Grand Central Station. From here, I took the green line (4,5) down to Bowling Green. The NYC subway can be daunting at first. But once you grab hold of one of the many NYC subway apps, its easy. Basically there are many overlapping routes, some stop every station, some are express and skip certain stations. For example, only train 4 and 5 stops at Bowling Green, while train 6 will skip past it.
After exiting Bowling Green station, you should be facing this huge Museum of American Indian. Turn right and walked towards the Staton Island Ferry. This is a FREE ferry that shuttles people from Manhattan to Staton Island. Along the way, you can catch a good glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Now, outside the Bowling Green station all the way to the Ferry terminal, there will be people peddling statue of liberty cruises. If you are not interested, just walk along and kindly reject them. They are just trying to make a living. Be nice. Its quite a mess in the ferry terminal. There is no queue, so everyone just squeeze as close to the gate as possible. Despite the squeeze, there is still some respect for individual space, unlike the squeeze in China, where people really squeeze till their skin touches yours. On board the ferry, quickly make to the right side. On this trip, I met some really rowdy people. A woman stood at a window pane and attempted to bar anyone else from viewing out of it, claiming “my friends will be here”. Another person can’t be bothered with her and stood right there snapping pictures of the Statue of Liberty. It then became a tussle for window space, and “photobombing” each other. Its hilarious, none of them got really good photo of the statue ultimately. The tussle ended when the statue faded from view, and the group lamented “we don’t have a good photo!”
On the way back to Manhattan, I caught a good nap on the boat. For dinner I visited this place called Eataly. It is an open concept marketplace cum restaurant. It is sort of a Marche mixed with a supermarket. Its really crowded, and food is on the pricey side. Unable to get a seat, I then settled for Outback.
Finally, I checked into my hotel – Ramada Inn for a good rest. Check in was a breeze. The room was small but cozy. It comes with a walk in wardrobe! There was also an Ipod/Iphone dock, where I filled the room with Dragon Age Inquisition soundtracks. I took a bath while a drip coffee brewer made me some nice hot coffee.
For the last activity before I end the night, I decided to go view the Rockefeller Christmas tree. New York is truely a city that never sleeps. At 10pm, the streets were still bustling with people. . From my hotel to the center its almost 20 streets to the Rockefeller Center. I recommend walking along 5th avenue as it is the most crowded and has quite a number of landmarks along the way.