Day 0/1: New York!

The city's bustle cannot, no it cannot destroy, the dreams of a girl and boy.
We'll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy.

Manhattan - Dinah Washington

Hello guys, I'm back. Since in the last post before I left I started off with a quotation, I think I will start each of the post detailing the trip with some lyrics from the songs that fill the playlist for this trip. I actually wonder if I should write about this trip in details like I used to for all the previous trips. I'm thinking if it would be like me showing off and who on earth cares and reads these things right, but then I think let's just take it as an exercise in writing. I have been writing less in this blog and I didn't write in the journal everyday in this trip, because most of the time I'm too lazy and tired, and when I did write they were brief and not in detail. So I think now that I kinda have the time, I should push myself and write. I think writing skill and being able to put thoughts out coherently is very important, so let's do this, brace yourself for some very long posts, which I will try to post as soon as I can.

The trip began on a Saturday morning. I booked a taxi in advanced for 04:15 am. Arrived at Changi. There were security officers taking our details before checking in, like our passport number and residential status in Singapore, so that's something different. On checking in, the charming malay guy at the counter greeted me with, Pagi!, and I ended up speaking in Indonesian a bit. It kinda made me feel better about this trip. Then I had breakfast, the last Singaporean thing I did, 2 eggs, toasts, and tea. Is what I had for breakfast not necessary to mention?

Moving on, first flight was to Tokyo Narita. The plane went much faster and it took just over 6.5 hours. Had to go through a security check again in Narita. I found this to be odd. Tried to text mom but my phone seemed to have difficulty settling to a new country so it failed. I forget how long I had to wait for the next flight, might be more than 1 hour, but it didn't feel too long. The flight to New York JFK also arrived faster but it dashed all my hope to get to my hotel faster because the immigration queue in JFK was insane. I think it took me like 40 minutes, perhaps more, to clear immigration. There were actually quite a few counters opening up, but there were just too many people. I was thinking how to fix this situation, maybe they could try to schedule the flights coming in better? I don't know. Round and round we traversed the queue. My queue was for people with visa like mine (who went through the manual application) and for people who are using the online ESTA visa for the first time. We had to get finger printed again and that made me worried, but luckily there's no issue at all. I guess in my case, the machine just needed to check if my fingerprint matches what they have in their database. As for the people with ESTA for the first time, I guess the system may be collecting all their fingerprints. The officer at the counter had a frown in his face which I'd like to think because he's horrified to see the horde of people coming and he's thinking of his exit plan in case all these people turn into zombies. He didn't ask me for the purpose of my visit and didn't say, "Welcome to America", when he handed me back my passport. This made me wonder how on earth this Singaporean guy I know got turned back in the immigration, like seriously he got off the plane and had to figure out how to get back to Singapore immediately because he was denied entry. We were given a form to fill, in which I said my purpose of visit is for leisure / vacation. I guess if you put business there, perhaps there can be complication.

Immigration took so long that our luggages were not even in the wheel anymore. They were already taken down by the staff. Found my bag and joined the long queue for the taxi. Decided to take the taxi instead of the shuttle service because the shuttle service has very bad reviews and I just wanted to get to my hotel as soon as possible and preferably when there's still daylight. Got into the taxi and I thought the taxi was not very spacious and I wonder how bigger size Americans deal with this. I was feeling queasy at the taxi and was so happy to get to the hotel. The room wasn't as good as I wanted it to be and as usual this kinda thing easily brought my mood down. I had to take care of business however, which is the first thing I always do upon settling in a new place, find water. I already googled the nearest supermarket and proceeded to walk there. It wasn't that near, the blocks are big in New York. In retrospect, I could have just gotten water in the deli across from the hotel. Anyway I got my water and wasn't feeling so hungry, so I just showered, flipped through the tv, and easily fell asleep.

Next day was day 1 in New York. The plan was to go to check out the High Line in the morning and went to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNNH) which was so very near to my hotel. The OCD me had googled everything I could think of and I know which train to take and which station to take it from, so I set out to the subway. Needed to pass this little park to get to the subway, saw a gorgeous kwanzan cherry tree which was blooming beautifully. The little park has a little area where you can let dogs run lose. I thought it was quite a neat idea. Anyway, got to the station and managed to use the machine and get the metro card all by myself, I was so proud of myself :P Then off to the platform for the downtown direction. I decided to check out the meeting place for the day tours I booked first because it's along the way. Found it easy enough without much problem (surprisingly), then I went to have breakfast. Meal portion is America is so big that when they came, I always think it's not humanly possible to finish those, which of course is wrong of me because American human can finish those meals. I would have loved pancakes but seeing the portion, I decided on bagel and hot chocolate, which I had difficulty finishing. I think my body was still all weirded out because of the long journey.

After that it's back to the subway. Got to the correct stop but then I got confused about where to go. I decided to stop at the bus stop and looked at the map in my phone and decided on the direction I should go which was generally the correct direction, but since I kept on not finding the place, I turned back and this happened several times, me turning back and forth different blocks. It was very silly. At one point, I thought if I should just give up, but God damn it, I just could not give up. I was thinking all of this would be so much easier and less painful on me if I could just give up, but I just can't, I don't know why, I cannot explain it. I don't know how long this went on, maybe 30-40 mins of walking in different directions. If you think about it, that's a lot of walking. In the end, I was at this junction waiting for the light to cross when an older couple, I think Australian, asked me if I know where the high line is. I told them I was looking for exactly the same thing and I don't know where we are. The dad, thank God for him, then asked another group who just arrived at the same junction as us. The man in that group happened to be better in map and direction and brought us all there. It's amusing no, I was lost, someone asked me for direction and I couldn't help them, and we're all ended up being rescued by other travellers. Maybe there's a reason for all this. I don't know, point is we arrived. We arrived at one end of The High Line, which is this elevated park on unused railway tracks.

It's very interesting and a real good use of the tracks. Not all the tracks is there anymore and I tried to walk on one of the plank no matter how silly it made me look. I saw someone did it and it looked fun. It's quite a long and nice walk. There are different flowering plants and since it's spring, there were some trees with nice little purple flowers. Since it's quite new, the trees are not very tall yet. I like it best when there are trees at both sides and they're tall enough to kinda create a covered walkway and it's like a different world walking through it. When there are not many trees, you can see many buildings around. Some of them are very close, like you can see inside the windows of some of these buildings and I wonder if the people living there stop hanging out near their windows because they would be seen by so many people. I for sure will close my windows if I live in one of those buildings. There are also some really nice art works in some of the buildings, like this one which is so cool.

So I walked until I reached the other end and got down to street level. At this other end, there are many restaurants around and they're filled with people being that it's a Sunday. I decided to just go straight to AMNNH. First I needed to find the subway station. Followed the map in my phone and it was a long walk, I may have gotten lost again, for sure there was one time I was walking towards the wrong street that I had to backtrack. Eventually I got to the station but darn it, I took the wrong train. New York subway is very complicated for me and I have studied this before I went to New York, but I still got it wrong. I took an express train which didn't stop at my stop, so I had to backtrack. In my defense, it wasn't clear for me if the train was an express one or not. Now I think I know that if the train is coming in the middle platform, one must be wary that it's an express train.

Anyway, I eventually made it to AMNH and I entered through the planetarium instead of the front entrance. There wasn't much of a queue here, I don't know if it's more crowded in the main entrance. I decided to get the ticket which included all the special exhibitions at $35. I don't know if I saw everything there is to see in AMNH. I think I did but maybe I didn't because I couldn't relate what I saw with what's in Night at the Museum. The museum itself is very interesting and has a wide array of things you can learn from. There's the animal dioramas, exhibitions on gems and minerals, culture and civilization artifacts, dinosaurs, many different things.



I went to all the special exhibitions, but there were 3 that I thought was really great. The ticketing staff actually assigned a timing to enter the special exhibitions but it turned out I could enter outside my assigned timing. The staff in the butterfly exhibition said it's alright because it's kinda slow. The butterfly enclosure was not very big, but it's awesome because there were many different kinds of butterflies. The enclosure was rather hot which made me wonder if butterflies could only strive in hotter temperature. There were friendly staff who I think would really like you to ask questions, but I didn't. I was really enjoying myself looking at the different butterflies. So this was one of the special exhibition which I thought was great.

The next one was the tiny giant 3D movie. It was about a chipmunk in a forest collecting acorn for winter and a grasshopper mouse in the desert. They were so cute and the movie is great actually, however I had a bad attack of sleepiness, maybe it's jet lag. I just got so sleepy, yawning one after another that it was a struggle to stay awake. I contemplated pinching myself, but I didn't want to leave marks, then I remembered that I had some chewy mint so I took them one after another, but it was still so hard to stay awake. At this point I realize how dangerous it is to fall asleep. One it would be so so embarrassing, two bad people could just take all my belonging while I sleep. Bottom line, I couldn't really enjoy the movie fully. I was just hoping for it to be over quickly so that I can get out.

When it was done, I was still sleepy, but I still had another exhibition to go through, the Dark Universe movie at the planetarium. The walking around helped to ease the sleepiness a bit, but I was still so tired. The Dark Universe movie was pretty awesome because it's shown in a a theatre where the screen is in a dome shape above you. The room got very dark, pitch black, and you look up to see the presentation. It was very cool and beautiful. There's also a sensation of motion even though you didn't move. It made me feel somewhat uneasy. I was surprised that there was a baby and it didn't cry even though it was so dark and the movie could be pretty intense at times. I couldn't remember anything about the presentation because it's way beyond my knowledge, but one thing did stick. Towards the end, the narrator said that some scientist theorized that the universe is infinitely large. For me something like that would be beyond our comprehension and that makes me think of God. Sometime science and God doesn't mix, like if I try to rationalize God, my head literally will start to ache. So I think God is just something to be taken with faith. The universe is infinitely large, are we supposed to understand it, where it begins, where it ends. Perhaps it's just something to be accepted that there are some things we will never be able to understand, just like God. I don't know if I am making any sense.

Anyways, after that, I headed back to the hotel. Was thinking of getting Shake Shack for dinner, but it had lines exceeding its front door, so I opted to walk some blocks instead to get pizza. I only got a slice but man that slice was so big. I think it took me more than 15 mins to finish it and by the end I was really struggling to finish it that I contemplated if I should just stop. Again, I didn't quit and I finished it :) It was a good pizza actually, but again I think my body was still in a weird state and it affected my appetite. I was so tired that I was dozzing off as soon as I hit the bed that I had to set an alarm to wake me up to watch Mad Men. Mad Men in itself could be sleep inducing sometime that I decided not to watch the whole thing. I had to wake up early anyway because the next day was a day trip to Philadelphia. That story will be for the next post. As for pictures, I'm still trying to sort them out, so I'll post the links later on. So that's it, day 0 and 1, New York City :)

:) eKa @ 10:09:00 PM •

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