Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Post from New York

Change of plans

As I have not receive a positive reaction on my requests for couchsurfing for the first week, I decided to slightly change my plans. I have always wanted to visit Washington D.C. to learn about the capital of the United States and see the sights D.C. is famous for. People usually call Washington, District of Columbia, only D.C., that is what I will do as well. Fortunately, a friend of mine has an apartment in D.C. where I will be allowed to stay for two nights. At the moment, I am in a bus (with wireless internet, which is great) in direction D.C..

Arriving in New York

After landing at John F. Kennedy airport in New York after a long flight, one has to know that it is still a long way to Manhattan or even to fresh air. The line in front of the customs inspection seemed shorter than it actually was, taking me almost 90 minutes to pass. Fortunately, I had my ESTA form (I wrote about it in a previous post) and my declaration form filled out correctly. If one fills out the form incorrectly, as happened to an older asian couple when I was in line, one has to go all the way back to where the forms are, fill them out (still without assistance), and wait in line again for another hour and a half. At the customs inspection every visitor is greeted by the personnel of Homeland Security that scans their fingerprints (not just one, all of them), takes a photo, and lets them pass to the baggage claim. After that, there is only one short line where declaration forms are checked, and then the heavily climatized airport can be left.

I would guess that 80% of all motorized vehicles are taxis.

Economize wherever it is possible

As I have to economize money wherever it is possible, I did not take the a taxi or shuttle bus to the city but took the AirTrain to the nearest subway station. From there I rode the subway into the Big Apple. This passage cost me USD 7.50 and compared to a USD 35-40 fare for a taxi it was money worth saving for other things. I spent the first night in a hotel in the middle of the city. It was one of the cheapest places there was (at USD 150!) and I was glad to share it with a friend who happened to visit New York during the first week I am here. On monday 27th I will meet Nat Chua who is going to be my first host in New York.

Modifying my to-do list

I just wrote that I have to save money in order to spend it on other things. And there are many other things, some on my to-do list that cost a lot of money. Unfortunately, some of the tasks on my list are to be delayed for to various reasons:
One activity was to climb the stairs of the Empire State Building. Due to security reasons, the stairs are for emergencies only, except on the first weekend in February, when there is a race up the Empire State Building. The only way for me to reach the observation deck and enjoy the magnificent view was to take the elevator. The advantage of taking the elevator is for one that it takes only a few minutes to reach the 86th floor and that one is not all sweaty when arriving on top.

The Empire State Building, 381m (1250ft), built in 1929-1931

View from the observation deck on the 86th floor, direction NE.

Another thing I will probably not be able to do is to see a Broadway show. The musical I wanted to attend was "the Book of Mormon" by the makers of South Park. The show is such a success that it is sold out until October and the only legal way to obtain a ticket is through a broker, who is asking for USD 400 or more, and has tickets available only from the end of July. As this is beyond my financial possibilities, I am not going to be able to see that musical. Unless maybe, if I happen to pass at the entrance and someone is selling a ticket for less... We will see about that. Of course, if anyone would like a customized photo of the inside of a Broadway Theatre, I would be happy to make you an offer.

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