New York in 5 hours

19 May 2008

The flight from Mumbai was delayed by an hour (we left Mumbai late), so I missed my connecting flight. The immigration and customs procedure, surprisingly, took only about 10 minutes - but I had to wait in line for almost 40 minutes to get my flight to SFO rebooked. I got a direct flight for 18:00, which means I had around 9 hours to spend in the big apple.

I caught the AirTrain (or whatever it was called) after a coffee at starbucks (duh) to Jamaica which connected JFK to the NY subway system. After purchasing a MTA MetroCard (apparently, this card can be used at all public transportation systems here), I proceeded straight to the Port Authority station. Don’t ask why, it just sounded fancy, and lucky me, times square was just besides it. After a quick walk on the street in lovely weather (around 20 degrees, mildly cloudy sky), went back into the subway system and this time got off at 34th Street Penn. station because some guy told me the Empire State building was close by. Sure enough, a quick walk later I was standing in front of the tallest building in New York. I would’ve liked to climb to the observatory, but was not sure if I had enough time, so I decided to skip it.

Then, I caught a bus from the building straight down to where the Staten Island ferry starts, going via the World Trade Center site, the City Hall, the famed Wall Street and a couple of other places that are supposed to be famous (but I don’t remember their names now). I wanted to take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, but the queue was so frickin’ long, that I decided to be content with a couple of far-off pictures. Seriously, I’ve never seen a queue so long, no, not even in India! It must have been 2 kilometres at the very least…

I started to make my way back to the Penn. subway station, this time via the east coast of Manhattan. Got a good look at the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, Chinatown and Little Italy, apparently some of the most happening neighborhoods in town. Note: the sad part about sight-seeing alone is that you can’t get any photos of yourself.

Then, the weather started to worsen. It began to rain, and I could just see the disappointment in so many of the british tourists’ eyes. For me, it was not such a bad experience - after Chennai and Jaipur, this sort of weather is kind of welcome. But, I didn’t have an umbrella or a raincoat, so I decided to take shelter in the New York public library which happened to be on the way - which is where I’m making this blog post from (free wifi!). The content is not as good as the public libraries in Singapore, but it is certainly more grand and beautiful.

Well, I guess that’s about how much I have time for. After taking a good look at the library, I’ll probably stop somewhere for lunch before making it to the subway for a ride back to JFK.

Before signing off, I must admit that I’m a little disillusioned. America always seemed like such a great place and everything - but it didn’t seem all that awesome to me in first person. The subway system is old, and is not so clean as I thought it would be (I even managed to see a rat) - the New Delhi and Singapore ones are certainly much much better. The roads are just normal, like any other metro city in India (with the exception of Bangalore - there’s no comparison to the horrors of that city). The most notable difference is that every building in New York seemed to be atleast 20 storeys high - so basically you have all these similar looking avenues and streets surrounded by high-rise buildings. It’s easy to get lost!

All in all though, a good experience, but certainly very different from what my expectations were. Let’s see how San Francisco fares. I’ll put up photos later (nah, what’s the point, I’m not in even a single one of them). I don’t want everyone staring at me for taking out a USB cable and a camera in a reading room ;)