Category Archives: New York 2007

New York Day 6

Our sixth day in New York also marked our final day in the Big Apple. It was so depressing! So, knowing that this was the last day, we planned out our itinenary the night before. The little episode the night before has not dampened my spirits and excitement for this big city.

Our flight was at 11pm, so we had to be at the airport by 7pm (why it is so early, I have absolutely no idea!). So our plans were this:

1. Reach the Empire State building by 8.30am
2. Get back to hotel for breakfast buffet
3. Walk down to Lexington Avenue for Bath and Body Works
4. Take the tube to Ground Zero
5. Proceed to Century 21 for last minute shopping
6. Back to hotel for last minute packing
7. Dinner at the hotel’s restaurant using vouchers
8. Board Super Shuttle coach to get to Newark Liberty International Airport.
9. Home sweet home!

We were really packing in as much activities as possible for our final day! We met at the hotel lobby at 8am (early by our standards) and made our way to the Empire State Building by the subway.


The Empire State Building “King Kong” as seen from one of streets while on our way there.

  

Flowers were in full bloom everywhere in New York, because it was spring time. While Singapore is often touted as a Garden City, we are surrounded by trees, seldom flowers. Even then, it is all tropical flowers. How often do you get to see tullips in full bloom on a street? And, you really really have to resist the temptation of plucking them! No, I didn’t do it, so I took a photo with it instead!

Because we went on a weekday, there were no queues leading up to the observatory. But it was quite a long walk, even without any queues. I can understand why some of my colleagues gave up queuing after 2 hours when they visited the last time.

After what seemed like eternity, we were really there. The observatory on the 86th floor. And I am grateful to M for reminding me to bring my coat because it was quite chilly and windy from the top!

   
  
 

We were like schoolgirls again the moment we were out in the open. We went around taking photos of the scenery and of each other. We were seriously contemplating enacting a scene from “Sleepless in Seattle” there. Not much of an explanation of the places we see from the top, cos there was no tour guide around. The last two photos show Wall Street and the Statue of Liberty. Also managed to capture the Chrylser Building, one of the few buildings I know.

We also got a cute Caucasian tourist to take a photo for us. He had no idea we were planning to have cute poses so just before he was about to take the photo, we posed our cute poses and he was a little taken aback! Damn! I should have taken a photo with him!

Then we made our way back to the hotel, where we had our free breakfast buffet. The spread was the usual: bacon and ham, muffins, crepes, pancakes, sausages, fruits etc.. But all these sure beats having nutrition bars, takeout sandwiches for breakfast for the past few days.

After breakfast, we made our way by foot to the Bath and Body Works store on Lexington Avenue. We passed by Grand Central Station and took a few pictures. And I had been making a silly mistake all these while! I thought the building opposite Hyatt was Grand Central Station, when it was Chrylser Building. Grand Central Station was beside Hyatt! And to think I have been walking from the hotel to the station for so many times!

  
 

After around 10 minutes of walking, we reached Bath and Body Works! Finally! My ex-colleague had requested for me to get some things for her, so now that I have finally reached the place, I was relieved. I didn’t want to have to go back to Singapore and tell her I didn’t see a single store! She would be disappointed!

Spent a good 30 minutes inside the store, considering and reconsidering which items to buy. I bought the stuff she wanted and got a few more lip glosses for my girlfriends. I didn’t get anything for myself; I was concerned about my own bulging luggage. And being the tourist, I had to take a photo outside the store. My mantra was, “If it isn’t found in Singapore, it is worth taking a picture of it!”

We went back to the hotel to store our purchases before leaving for Grand Central Station. This time, to Ground Zero.

 
On the subway

 

To say I am shocked by the magnitude of the destruction is an understatement. Initially, when I saw the fencing and the construction from across the road, I was confused. Where is all that destruction? How come the site looks like any other construction site? How come there is no dust, no mess? But as I moved closer to the site, it dawned on me. This was it. This was Ground Zero. Slowly, I managed to piece all the images gathered from newspaper reports and I could visualise the scene from that fateful day 6 years ago.

 
Of course, the names aren’t just restricted to this panel. It stretches across the boundaries of the location, and I gather there are lots of names that are not captured here..

 

The panels that described the events that happened seemed like something from a movie, so dramatic, so reel life, but it was real. All these really happened! And the photo just brought tears to my eyes instantly. Nuff’ said.

 

We then made our way to St Paul’s Chapel, which was just beside Ground Zero. Again, the place was so quiet and solemn. The bell was specially created after the WTC attacks. In the midst of all the anguish and sadness, by being in the chapel’s premises, you could somehow feel the solitude and determination of the Americans to be strong and united in their fight against terrorism. The lesson really taught them well, I suppose. But, it was too heavy a lesson.

 We made our way to Century 21, another discount outlet for some last minute shopping. It was quite a disappointment, probably because I didn’t see anything I fancied. The racks were heavily “ransacked”, everything was in a mess. We grew tired from all the walking and rested our legs at a Starbucks outlet nearby before we reluctantly made our way back to the hotel. It was late afternoon already.

Reached Grand Central Station and we took some photos of its exterior. I watched Magadascar and I was excited at seeing something so familar.

  

We were off to the Grand Central Market next, and I sparked off a photo taking frenzy.

 
 
Just four of the many photos that were taken in my frenzy-ness.

Dinner was next. Mine was the beef dish.

 
  

The waitress who served us was very professional and sophisticated. She could give us good recommendations, depending on our tastes, without sounding like it was her sales pitch. I doubt waitresses in Singapore can do that. They will be like “Oh, everything on the menu is good.” Duh!

The food took some time to come and we were rushing to finish our meal before rushing back to the hotel. The Supershuttle bus arrived at 6pm and at 6.10pm, we were still in the hotel room doing frantic last minute packing. Got the porter to bring our barang barang to the lobby and the minute we were seated in the car, the reckless driver drove off! I was annoyed!

Later on in the journey, he explained that he was not allowed to stop his vehicle at the lobby for too long, so he had to drive off quickly.

While we were trying to unload the luggage at the airport, we realised we had to pay to use their trolleys. Didn’t realise that when we arrived because we didn’t have so much luggage. But, we gave it to them. We desperately needed it!


The Singapore Airlines checkout counter at the airport. This was it… 😦 We were going home…

I got a first taste of the strict US immigration when we checked in. We had to take out our shoes and socks and given a thorough examination. M forgot she packed her Victoria Secrets creams in her hand carry and nearly had them confiscated, until S offered to pack them in her hand carry and check it in. One tourist we spoke to had his Nutella confiscated.

By the time we finished all procedures and went to the boarding area, it was only eight!! I can’t remember what I did to while the time away. Remembered I slept for a while. Was really in deep sleep. For how long, I can’t remember.

We took one last group photo before boarding the plane at 10.50pm. There was a family with young children, and the baby was crying most of the time! Irritating! But I felt for the parents too, who were taking turns comforting the baby and walking up and down the aisles the whole time!

This time round, both M and I were really tired and we just slept intermittently throughout the flight. I had no energy to watch many movies, only one: “The Pursuit of Happyness” by Will Smith. I was glad I watched that show, for free! Cos it was just such a good and heartwarming movie! Only one meal was served, about an hour after takeoff, and we were all not hungry yet.

Arrived at Changi Airport around 5.15am, slightly ahead of schedule. Wanted to check out the Coach outlet to compare prices but it was too early for them to be open… Collected our perfume and made some purchases at DFS before going home.. My first meal.. Laksa!

Back in Singapore, I had some trouble adjusting back to routine. First, I was feeling jet lagged and for one week consecutively, I woke up in the middle of the night. Going back to work made it worse. For the first few weeks back at work, I found myself finding hard to concentrate at work. Now and then, I still think about New York, all the places I have been to.

I rewatched The Day After Tomorrow because it was based in the New York Library, I watched King Kong climb up the Empire State Building. I realised that Slyvester Stallone was trying to save people trapped in a tunnel in downtown Manhattan. I was pleasantly surprised that the animals in Magadascar were housed in the Central Park Zoo, and they took the subway to Grand Central Station to look for the zebra. Now I want to watch Sleepless in Seattle, Friends etc, and any movie that uses New York as a backdrop. I pay attention to travel articles in newspapers and magazines, especially if they talk about New York, or the US. I still pay attention to the weather forecast for New York, and know that it is getting real hot there. I surf the Internet for pictures and information of New York, hoping to retrace my footsteps.

I guess I am still suffering from NY withdrawal symptons…

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New York Day 5

Time to continue my New York series. I have this fear that the longer I drag this, I will soon forget New York, and the details!

Besides the Singapore Day event on 21 April, our other aim for coming to New York was to follow up with an interview session for our US candidates whom were earlier shortlisted to be either English/Humanities/GP teachers for our schools. These candidates were selected after an earlier recruitment trip (not by me) to various US states. And yes, we are that short of English and Humanities teachers, so we have to look beyond Singapore!

And since our delegation already could more than make up an interview panel, this was the perfect opportunity to ride on the trip, to kill two birds with one stone!

The interviews were scheduled to start at 9am so I was at the meeting rooms by 8.45am, getting the interview materials ready. As this was not my project (I was only helping out), I was doing rather brainless stuff. As the candidates arrived, all I had to do was to verify their documents and reimburse their travelling expenses. It was quite fun initially, but it got really boring after a while because 1) there were eight candidates; 2) it is not that easy understanding US educational certificates; there is high school, college, middle school, some take additional courses, there is masters etc and 3) some very kiasu candidates gave 3 -4 sets of identical documents, and being kiasu too, I took all sets!

Because all of us weren’t familar with the US education system, most time was spent on inteviewing each candidate than our local interviews. And it was during such long periods that I had to find ways to fill up the awkward periods of silence. Not that I minded, because I had a very good time talking to most of the candidates. I just seem to behave like myself on that day; I was very chatty, and there seemed to be endless topics for discussion. I learnt about the education system in the US, the high costs of education even for locals how fortunate Singaporeans are to receive huge educational grants from the government etc. I even told every single candidate that I was visiting the Statue of Liberty later in the afternoon! Hahaha!

Spending some time overseas really opens up your perspective. Little things still amaze me sometimes. I am impressed by how all the candidates arrived on time, some of them arriving way before their scheduled slots. Some of them had to take a flight into New York or take an overnight train, or bunk in with their friends because they lived so far away.. I admire their courage for willing to consider taking up a job in a place so far away from home, and when they finally accept the offer to teach in Singapore, their strong adaptation skills. I wish I have courage like that!

Unlike in Singapore, it seems to be a very obvious choice for the Americans to continue with a Masters immediately after a Bachelors. Most candidates had a Masters in Education.

Some candidates forgot to provide photocopies of their passports and I had to make about 3 trips to the hotel’s Business Centre. One trip was wasted because I forgot to bring my credit card along. Obviously, the hotel does not charge it directly to the room’s charges. It was not cheap man! Cost like S$1.05 per page!

It was really turning out to be long session and just when I thought the last candidate was going to cancel on us because he was at least 10 minutes past his arrival time, he had to come in, just 2 minutes short of his interview time! Damn! Hee~

Anyway, it turned up to be quite a fruitful session, despite us being behind schedule. Breakfast was hastily settled with some fruits, muffins and nutrition bars provided by the hotel.

After a quick wash up, we made our way to Grand Central Station. We were taking the subway down to Fulton Green (or so I think). We were going to visit the Lady! The Statue of Liberty that is!

That is the benefit of staying at Grand Hyatt. The hotel was just a short 2 minute walk to Grand Central Station. It was so accessible! To get to Times Square, we only had to take the S Shuttle, which by the way, only travels between 2 stops, Times Square and Grand Central Station.

Because of our frequent travelling on the subway, we bought those 6 rides for the price of 5 kind of tickets, and those unlimited rides for 3 days kind of tickets. They were more cost effective. Not sure if I mentioned it before, having been on the NY subway, I have become more appreciative of Singapore’s MRT system. Period. Just one aspect is enough: the barriers where passengers have to go through before they get out. In NY, you got to swipe your cards before they let you through, and frankly I am not very good at it cos I always have to do it quite a few times. On your way out, there is no need to swipe the cards again cos it is a flat $2 fee. So many locals end up exiting by the emergency exit intentionally, giving off a very irritating alarm, not that it matters to them anyway. I am in no position to comment. Probably because I was on holiday so I didn’t feel very frustrated by it; I just found it very interesting.

(I realised I talked about the above in my New York Day 3 post. But, heck it!)

There is this thing about last minute route disruptions also. We were supposed to alight at Fulton Green but because of some road works along some stop, we had to alight earlier and walk to Staten Island Ferry terminal.

Apparently, there are two ferry terminals that have ferries going to the Statue of Liberty – Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and the other one at Battery Park. According to M’s friend who stays in New York, the Staten Island ferry is more for the locals. If you want more touristy (ie. more expensive) stuff, you should go to Battery Park. So being the typical cheapskate Singaporean, we chose the former.

It is free to board the ferry from this terminal but the ferry will not take you to Liberty Island. It will only go past the Statue and you need to be quick to snap the pictures. Then the ferry docks at Staten Island before you need to quickly jump on board for it to bring you back to Manhattan. The frequency is 30 minutes between each ferry and the duration is 25 minutes.

As we waited with the crowds to board, we were all questioning why such a service was free. Ever the skeptical Singaporean! We questioned the rationale, the economic viability blah blah blah.. But as long as we could enjoy the perk before they ever decide to impose fares, this was fine by us! Well, the drawback of not being on the tourist track meant that we didn’t know where many places were. A bridge? Oh, that must be Brooklyn Bridge. Buidlings? Wall Street? We were clueless.

 

Brooklyn Bridge?

“The Lady” One of many, many photos that were taken of the Statue.

 

Elis Island. This, I am sure.

 

The ferry we were on. Immediately after we boarded, we went right up to the top deck. It was open air, with bench-like seats. As the ferry sailed across, the breeze was cool and cold at some point. On the return journey, we had to go to the other side because the sun was coming down so brightly and strongly!

That ended our Statue of Liberty trip. Not quite what I had expected, but it was enough satisfaction.

On our way to the subway, we saw a roadside vendor selling caps, tee shirts etc, tourist stuff. So all of us bought stuff to remember the Big Apple by. I bought a NY cap that cost only 5 bucks.

We made our way to Union Square.

 

Americans just love the sun! The weather was perfect! Not too warm, just cooling with a bit of heat!

Spent quite some time shopping at Basement, a discount outlet. Bought a Zara vest for Q. I wasn’t too concerned about shopping for my own stuff; I had more or less settled it. I was getting quite anxious then, as I had not gotten anything for my sisters. So it was great I got something from there. Didn’t try the clothes though, I was too impatient to wait for the lines to the fitting rooms!

After about 2 hours, M and I made our way to T.G.I.Friday at Times Square for dinner. S was still stuck in the fitting rooms with her shopping!

The restaurant looked very Swensens-like, from the menu to the decor. The restaurant also had those trademark lamps that Swensens has.

 

My dinner. Salmon pasta with almond bits and tomoato cubes. I tried to make it a point to take photos of my food before I started but I was starving then and forgot about it until I was more than halfway through! It was really delicious and the portion was huge!

S only came by when we were almost done. From where we were sitting, we could see roadside vendors along the streets. We saw two vendors selling paintings placed side by side each other. While one was enjoying brisk business, the other had absolutely no business during the time we were there. They were Asians. It is sad. America is the land of dreams; so many people aspire to come here. And when they finally arrive after so much money and risks, they realise that the dream is not exactly what they had made out to be. They need to work for it, and work very hard too.

After dinner, we wanted to eat New York cheese cake badly, not because we were hungry, but since we were here in New York, we must eat their trademark! Tried Starbucks but most outlets had no seats so we ended up in a small cafe. We did not have New York cheese cake, we had blueberry cheese cake. Not exactly it, but close.

 

Cheese cake and tiramisu.

After another long talk cock session, we took the S shuttle back to Grand Central. We stopped by Duane & Reade and bought some groceries back. I bought a pack of Life Savers and Twizzlers, meant as gifts for my assistants.

Before my fifth day in New York concluded, there was some minor drama that happened. I was locked out of my own hotel room! Initially, I thought it was because my card was demagnetized (cos I had placed it together with the Metro card) so I brought it to the reception to have it remagnetized. First time it didn’t work; I brought it down a second time. Still it didn’t work. That was when the bombshell fell on me. I was locked out! Apparently, there was some problem with my credit card. I am guessing it is because of insufficient limit in my credit card though I still do not know till this day. When we checked into Hyatt, the usual practice of most hotels is to place a charge for one night’s stay. It is like a form of security deposit. Turned out that when the charge was placed by Hyatt, the similar charge had not been removed by Hotel Mela, our first hotel. So there was double counting in this sense. And because my limit wasn’t enough, the hotel deemed I did not have enough to pay, so decided to lock me out! I was too embarrassed to reason with them then! But now thinking back, I don’t think it was an issue of insufficient credit limit. I could still swipe my card in the day and make purchases. And even if I had added all my purchases up, it did not exceed my limit! Besides, I had paid off my bills before I left for New York! Hmpf!

After failing to find out the reason, I made my way to S’s room and tried to think of a solution. To play safe, I even paid off my purchases from credit card via Internet banking!

In the end, S accompanied me downstairs to get the reception to charge my room charges to her account. She had forgotten to bring her credit card down, and the staff insisted they needed to make a photocopy of her card as a form of authorization for transfer of room charges. The reception was adamant on their stand, so we brought the card down.

S made use of this chance to air her grievances about the hotel. She had requested for a non-smoking room but when she entered her room, there was a bad smoke odour. There was even an ash tray on the table! Obviously, it was a smoking room but when she called up reception, the lady insisted that it was a non-smoking room and all rooms have an ash tray (which is so not the case!) Then, she decided to bear with the odour and all.

So the situation now gave her the perfect opportunity to lash out at the staff. The manager came over and appeased her at first with a $50 discount off room charges. This was smartly declined by S, because it did not benefit her at all! Instead, she made the manager give her another 3 more breakfast vouchers (which meant all of us, including the other ladies, could have breakfast the next morning). What the ladies didn’t know was that the 3 of us were entitled to the breakfast buffet because of S’s hotel package. Because our hotel packages were booked via the agent (S’s were not), we had no breakfast! Heh heh!

The issue was finally resolved and I had to go up to my room and wait for the security guy to open the room for me! It seemed a long wait and I was so worried people would walk past and wonder why this girl couldn’t go into her room! Thankfully, the security guy who came was a friendly guy; he didn’t have those suspecting eyes unlike the horrible receptionists! Bless that guy!

S later told M and I that she called the reception manager again to apologize. The manager was also apologetic for our trauma and offered a dinner voucher worth $150 to be consumed at any of the hotel’s restaurants, plus extended check out time till 6pm for S’s room! Which means, we could put our luggage in her room until we leave for the airport the next day, and we do not need to part with $2 per luggage piece to have them placed in the hotel lobby! Hurray!

That concluded our 5th day at the Big Apple. What a day it has been!

New York Day 4

After a good sleep in Hyatt, today was the day – the very purpose of our trip to New York. We were here for the Singapore Day event at Central Park.

We did not have time for breakfast because our ever gan jiong boss wanted us to be on site as early as possible. In the end, I had to make do with my energy bar taken from the plane for breakfast. We took a cab down to Central Park.

It was a real sunny and hot day. Turned out we didn’t need our coats at all. So, all of us deposited them into the lockers available at the rink.

Frankly, the moment you get on site, no matter how hard you tell yourself, I am here for work; this is why I am here; Just work hard etc.. it doesn’t help. My attention just turned automatically to the hawkers at the food stalls. S and I went round the stalls, hoping to suss out which stalls had their food ready already! I was quite disappointed when I saw the signs on my favourite stalls that their food will only be ready at 1pm. At this time, confirmed can’t eat one! At this time, the crowd will be at its peak, and this is the time I am supposed to be hard at work too! 😦

I was getting real hungry so S and I sneaked away to the Bak Kut Teh stall to share a bowl of bak kut teh! Such bliss! It came complete with the chilli too…

Also took the opportunity to take photos before work started.

 

All of us decked in red, which meant it was difficult for us to eat snake (i.e. skive) because we were just so striking!

 

Seetoh from Makansutra. All the hawkers had to pass his quality assurance before they were flown to New York. He gave a cooking demo also.

I just had to take a photo with him.. He thought I was a student studying in New York. In our conversations with him and other hawkers, everyone was so happy to be given the chance to come to New York. Once in a lifetime! Apparently, they were given 3 days (had to return on Sunday, day after the event), but it was so short, many of them extended their stay! But I really feel for them. They had no shelter; they ended up standing under the hot sun for the whole afternoon! I foresee many of them getting sun-burnt!

 

One of the display panels for the description of the food.

 

The uncle preparing the lard for the prawn mee.

I think it has got something to do with the weather and the open air environment. All the smells from the cooking didn’t feel suffocating. It was just fragrant, without that “stuffing” feeling that we get in hawker centres.

After our fill, we got to work. The crowd was not coming in yet, but people were slowly making our way. The main purpose of our presence at the event was to update the expat Singaporeans developments in the Singapore education landscape and hopefully, entice them to come back to Singapore. M and I focused on the recruitment aspect; recruiting interested ones to take up teaching in Singapore. Managed to speak to some Singaporeans there. It felt really heartwarming, especially to hear the Singlish being spoken on such a massive scale again, after hearing the American accent the past few days. Some people even came as far as Canada, San Francisco; taking a plane, long train journeys, just to be part of the event!

 

Because of security concerns, a long queue formed just outside the rink. Some of them even queued for 45 minutes before being allowed to come in!

As the crowd started to come in around lunchtime, it was getting hotter at the same time. The organisers originally intended to set up barricades to control the flow of people such that they had to pass through the exhibition panels (that’s where we are) before getting to the food. That obviously didn’t materialise and I don’t blame the crowds for it. I mean, it is lunchtime, and people have been craving for the food for a long time… The actions of the crowd were quite an interesting sight. Because of the barricades, they had to walk into the exhibition area (red carpeted). And just when we think they are keen on the exhibits, they make a left turn out into the open, towards the food! Hahaha! After they queued for the food, many of them did make their way into the shade, not to look at our panels, but to sit down for a rest! Everyone was so laidback. It was like a picnic outing.

S and I couldn’t take it any longer.. we were hungry and tired from the monotony of the work. Talking to people, giving out brochures. We sneaked off (again) for some sushi from Sakae. M didn’t understand why we were so fascinated about the food because she thinks we can always get it back home, and we should just give the chance to the overseas Singaporeans who probably haven’t had the food in a long time! But to me, it is really not so much that I was greedy or hungry. It was just the warm and fuzzy feeling of being able to eat something from home, although we are so many miles away!

DPM Wong came in the afternoon. He made a tour of the panels; talked to some Singaporeans there. And I believe the organisers would have prepared large portions of the food for him and his contingent. And we, the ministries and the sponsors, had nothing. There was no food set aside for us. I mean, if it is just a sandwich, it is still ok right? At least it is food. There was none. Bleah.

He gave a speech, and very interestingly, he mentioned that we had brought the Singapore weather to New York! Hosts were Hossan Leong and some Jonathan guy. Hossan was so funny! He is just so quick-witted and so spontaneous! The jokes he cracked just didn’t sound rehearsed. It sounded very “spur of the moment”.

 

Hunks. There were many of them dressed in white shirt and black pants. At first, I thought they were real cleaners. But all of them looked very young and mostly good looking, so we gathered that they were probably college students doing some vacation job. We even let our imagination run wild by imagining that they were NYPD or security personnel in disguise! Ha! 

As the day passed, the boss was anxious to clear our collaterals and she was piling us with stacks and stacks of brochures. As soon as she spotted that our stack was coming down, she piled us with more! It was neverending!  

The highlight of the event (besides the food) was Kit Chan. When she came on, S and I just made our way to stand in front of the stage to hear her sing. She started with Tian Leng Jiu Hui Lai (Come home if it is cold) which is such an apt song, and plus her powerful vocals… I am feeling the goosebumps already.

Then she disappeared. For a while, I thought that was the end of her performance and I was quite disappointed because I hadn’t heard her sing Home yet. Instead, it was a performance showcasing Singapore’s “emerging” theatre scene. Sorry for being skeptical, but why are you showcasing your little “achievements” here, in New York, home of Broadway? Sigh..

Kit Chan appeared again for her part as Empress Dowager in Forbidden City. After what seemed like eternity, the finale was here! The familar melody of Home came on, and everyone started singing along with her. I could feel my tears at the brim already! And I am quite sure it was because I was truly touched and not because I was tearing due to the eye irritation. Exposure to the sun the whole afternoon had made my eye very sensitive and very irritable. I had wanted to wear my shades since very early on but was afraid the boss wouldn’t be too happy. In the end, it got so bad that heck it!

After the concert, we scrambled back to the booth but when we saw no one was there, S and I queued for prawn mee! By that time, the uncle was no longer there. Instead, 2 Americans were helping to dish the servings which by the way, were still piping hot! Just heavenly!

After our food, we rushed back to meet up with the rest, albeit guiltily.

On our way out, the helpers were distributing the goodie bags and I grabbed one, just for remembrance sake. Consisted of the usual marketing brochures, premiums from the various organisations, five stones, rubber-band skipping rope for playing Zero Point, and some other stuff.

We made our way back to Hyatt. I just had to change into my glasses because I was feeling really uncomfortable. The boss had to go back to change. She was attending the gala dinner at the New York Public Library.

S, M and I made our way to Times Square by subway (is it uptown or downtown?). By this time, the weather was getting cooler. Skipped dinner as we were still feeling full (S and I). Also, I was craving for the kebabs sold by those streetside vendors.

Spotted at Hard Rock. A live band was playing! How cool is that!

Walked a bit.. Made my way into one souvenir shop. I was running out of time to get stuff for the family. All my own purchases were more or less settled. Bought 2 tee shirts which cost $15? Expensive! Also bought fridge magnets.. M bought some NY key chains and magnets. In the meantime, S went to check out some musicals on Broadway. She found out that there were standby tickets for Legally Blonde. And I thought this was an opportunity not to be missed! Catching a play on Broadway!

 

As she went to get the tickets, M and I walked into the giant Hershey’s store. There were so many varieties of Hershey’s chocolates! And they were selling cheap! 6 for $5 or something.. But we left empty handed. The chocolates were too heavy. And I am regretting it now…

Then M made her way back to the hotel while I joined S for the musical. And it was not cheap, costing about US$42 for one ticket. And I found out later they were balcony seats, and we were seated at the very top row!

Before going in, I satisfied my craving for kebab (sort of) by buying a sausage (with the bread) and I regretted it. It is so freaking expensive! Cost me $3! S bought some almond nuts also from the streetside vendors.

Theatre is a big thing in New York. The venue was packed! So many people were waiting to go in. Theatre is just like the cinema in Singapore,  it is a national pastime, although the movie scene is (obviously) very huge in the US too. How can Singapore ever compare to the US’s standards?

 

Took our seats and prepared ourselves for the show which started promptly at 8. It was quite scary, the structure was so steep and the space was very cramped! And to think that there are theatres that are more steep in the UK, as told by S!

Moments after the show started, my eyes felt really uncomfortable because of the strong contrast between the darkness and the bright lights on stage. I had great difficulty opening my eyes. It was really bad.

Then the discomfort gave way to sleepiness. I found myself dozing off. It was quite embarrassing. The friendly old lady sitting beside had told me to enjoy myself because it was a really good production…

When the show ended around 10.40pm, I can say I do have a feel of the whole plot but if you ask me the details, I think I probably can’t give you an answer… Hee

We took the subway back to the hotel. By then, the weather was really cold. We were too engrossed in our conversation that we missed our stop (Grand Central Station). Instead, we alighted at Blvd, Jackson Avenue, which is an isolated stop. I think no one got off except us. The system was lousy in the sense that unlike in Singapore, we could not go down the escalator and go back up to board the train on the opposite platform. So we made our way out of the station to the main street. The street was equally deserted. And I spotted some sign that said “Queens”. I reckoned we were in Queens, a place where most tourist guides would not recommend visiting in the night, because it was dangerous.

S and I ended up dashing across the road to head for the subway again. We dropped our intentions of flagging a cab. It just seemed too dangerous to be standing on the deserted street waiting for a cab…

The train seemed to take ages to come. We heaved a sigh of relief when we got in. When S looked at the map, true enough, we had crossed the Hudson River and gone into Queens!

When we reached Grand Central Station, we walked down 42nd street, trying to find out where the Bath and Body Works outlet was. S recalled it was somewhere in the vicinity.. Gave up after a while.. we were too tired.

Thinking back on Singapore Day, I do not know whether to brand it as a success. It is a success for the organisers because of the overwhelming response. But if this is a success indicator, it was not a balanced one. The people were here mainly for the food. How many actually took the interest to look through the exhibtion panels? There are also other issues.. Could there have been better event planning? Like better crowd design mechanics? Sheltered space for the poor hawkers? Food for the helpers?

And on our end, what is an indicator of our presence there? The number of people whom we talked to? The number of brochures we forced on people distributed?

But this is definitely good effort by the Singapore government to continually connect with overseas Singaporeans, making known that they are not forgotten, and they should not forget Singapore too. It was definitely a good experience!

New York Day 3

Just a little sidetrack.. this time last week (NY time), I am making my way to the Empire State Building.. Sigh.. I am in a I-am-still-in-NY mood.. 😦

Anyway, on the 3rd day of our stay, I received an SMS from M in the morning telling me to pack up and be on standby to leave Hotel Mela for Grand Hyatt. Feeling damn sian, although we were going to be staying in a bigger hotel, this means we have to spend some time shifting our stuff over…

Met up with the rest for breakfast. Apparently, L has been in quite a bit of contact with our staffing officer back in Singapore on hotel arrangements, and it seems that the guy has managed to ensure that we can leave Mela having to pay only for two nights’ stay with no penalty involved. So we were definitely off to Hyatt this morning.

We had a quick breakfast at the deli again and I had taco wraps.

Then it was back to the hotel as we trudged our luggage to Hyatt. We got the bellboy to help us out. The bellboy is no Indian Sikh like in Singapore. He is an American, white, and quite handsome too. In the US, you see Americans collecting the trash, as waiters, as bellboys, as cashiers, as construction workers. It is a different sight in Singapore. Locals tend to shun such positions, and if locals are taking on such jobs, they tend to be the older ones. So this is where we get our huge influx of foreign workers. I admit I have some form of discrimination, and I know it is not right; sometimes I know we owe it to them for maintaining Singapore’s state, for constructing our buildings and mending our roads.

Anyway, the bellboy was so nice; he helped us get a cab.. the maxi type. When we had way too much luggage, he helped us get a second cab, a smaller one.

As we reached the hotel, the bill came up to around $10 (including the amount of tips we wanted to give). I was about to pass the driver a $20 note when IR stopped me. She cautioned that by doing so, I would not get any change back. The driver would simply take the extra money as a big fat tip. Cultural differences here. Thank God for the reminder.

As the other people came by, we checked in. And my room is huge! On the 15th floor. 1541. Much bigger than the Mela one; can’t complain much. And the space was really big enough for me to do some skipping. Of course, I hadn’t brought my skipping rope to NY!

After packing our stuff, we made our way to Central Park, where an on-site briefing would be conducted by the organisers at 2pm. We initially wanted to take a cab to Central Park but it was ridiculously difficult to get one. There were many of the yellow vehicles on the street but none of them would stop. We walked down 2 streets before deciding to take a bus there! Great! I love trying out the public transport when I am overseas. We were near a subway station so M and I went to buy bus tickets for all of us, on the advice of a helpful American. The tickets cost $2 flat, same as the subway tickets. I really shouldn’t complain much about Singapore’s public transport fees. It is so much cheaper here!

The journey took about 10 minutes, and we passed by several prominent buildings, although I can’t really remember. We passed by the Rockerfeller Building and some others.

Reached the east (?) entrance of Central Park. Opposite it was the Ritx Cartlon and Fifth Avenue. The place suddenly feels different. Everywhere it feels of “posh”, “high end”, “expensive”. We were at the high end district of New York.

Central Park is amazing! The landscaping is beautiful, the weather is just right, although it was getting to be quite sunny and the flowers are blooming at just the right time! I wondered what my rascal would do if I brought him here for a walk! He would love it!

  

   

  

There are even horse carriages! So romantic can! But the roads were lined with horse dung that was so foul-smelling! Au naturel they say…

We proceeded to Wollman Rink where our event will be held the next day. There was the word “Trump” everywhere on the barriers set up. This rink actually belongs to Donald Trump! Wow! Typical Singaporean behaviour, the briefing did not start till around 2.30pm. We sat around in the rest area cos it was getting too sunny.. I managed to see Eric Khoo, Xiaxue and Rozz. And XX is short lah!

Then the briefing started. The OIC brought us to take a look at various locations around the site. Then we went to where we were supposed to be stationed: the “Live” (or is it “Play”?” segment where our display panels were already up. Over at the main stage. Roystan Tan and two other ladies were rehearsing for their event. They were singing in Hokkien! What familarity!

 

Then we also spotted the main attraction – the food stalls! Bak Ku Teh, Fried Carrot Cake, Hokkien Prawn Mee, Char Kway Teoy, Chilli Crab, Laksa etc.. So all these delicacies were to be on display tomorrow! Wow! Exciting!

By the time we left Central Park, more than half the day had passed. We contacted S and told her to meet us at Victoria’s Secrets.

We walked quite a distance, up to Fifth Avenue trying to flag a cab. It was irritating because there was no subway station near our location. We ended up trying to get small change from the Americans by offering to change our small notes. Most of them either claimed they didn’t have some change; others just downright rejected us. They probably thought we were out to fleece them. Again, I suspect it has got to do with the fact that we are Asians.. the issue of racial discrimination comes up again. And because we were at Fifth Avenue, where all the expensive stores are, how is it possible to get some change there? I never imagined that I would end up walking along Fifth Avenue looking around for small change.. What a memorable experience!

We also tried to flag a cab, and because it was peak hour, that was difficult too! In the end, we managed to flag down one cab to get to Macy’s while the rest probably ended up taking the bus cos they had enough coins. We boarded the cab opposite Trump Tower I think.. Hahaha! You are fired!

When we reached Macy’s, I met up with S and we proceeded to Victoria’s Secrets! Yay! VS! That is one highlight of my trip to NY! I proceeded immediately to the Fragrances section and started looking out for the hand cream my ex colleague wanted me to get for her. And the next half hour or so was spent loittering around the same section, trying out all the cream, sprays, scrubs, perfume that were available for sale. They were going cheap too; any six items cost only $30! And because of these precious 6 items (I didn’t want to buy more; my luggage was getting too heavy) I walked up and down the aisle, trying and retrying each of my shortlised items, before eventually emerging with my prized 6 items!

S also bought her items and we proceeded to the lingerie department. Not wanting to spend time going through the racks, S brought me to the dressing room. The system is really ingenious. You just need to tell the sales person your bra size and she will give you a box of the store’s best-selling designs (in your bra size of course) for you to try. I had my eyes on one bra but it did not have my size. 😦

It is quite a pity I forgot to take photos of Victoria’s Secrets! Damn!

I took these photos from the window of Victoria’s Secrets. Pretty sight!

  

We went to H&M next, which is in the same building to meet up with M. As she was meeting her friend for dinner, she left a while later. I quite like H&M but I ended up not buying anything from there. I was getting tired and it was real frustrating having to face the long queues at the dressing rooms. In the US, customers are allowed to try up to 10 items! In Singapore, 4 is the max! So it was really irritating seeing the people in front with you with a whole load of clothes and you start wondering whether they are really only just 10 items! It seems that the sales staff do not check as well!

S ended up with lots of dresses. Next, we took the subway to Times Square where we were meeting her friend who is working in NY, for dinner. Subway in NY is real noisy, and the stations are well, not that nice as in Singapore. It is not air conditioned, the place looks a little rundown, and people still have to swipe their Metro cards (like swipping a credit card) in order to get through the gantry. Something which I am not good at. There is also an emergency exit that once it is moved, a shrill alarm goes off. The locals seem to have no qualms about exiting through this door and activating the alarm. In Singapore, there will probably be a very big sign that warns of a fine if the alarm goes off unnecesarily.

I guess the New Yorkers are probably used to such sounds. I have come to realise that in NY, it seems that there is a fire breaking out or some crime committed because I keep hearing the police or fire brigade or ambulance sirens on a daily basis.

When we emerged from the subway, it was windy and cold! How the temperature has dropped. It was still sunny and warm in the afternoon! I had my coat put on almost immediately!

S’s friend brought us to a nice little Italian restaurant for dinner. I had some lemon chicken with lots of very fresh greens. The portion was so huge, and it was quite a pity I couldn’t finish it.

 

Next, we went around looking for Starbucks where we could sit down and have a hot drink because it was getting far too cold.

Found a not-too-crowded Starbucks (they are everywhere!) and I had a nice hot chocolate! Shiok! S’s friend left earlier and we continued chatting about work, life and lots of stuff. It was such a good feeling, enjoying hot chocolate, having a nice conversation, and people-watching at the same time!

We left around 11pm and took the subway back to our hotel. Along the way, we browsed at some stores while taking in the sights of the night view of NY! It was so bustling and happening!

We were so engrossed in our talking that we did not hear the subway operator announce the “Grand Central Station” stop. We missed our stop and came to a very isolated station. When we alighted, there was no one at the station. It was strangely quiet, a vast difference from the hustle and bustle of Times Square earlier on. When we emerged from the station, it was the same. There was not a single soul. I spotted a road sign that said something Queens. Opps! The subway had crossed the Hudson River and gone into Queens, a place notorious for being dangerous, especially at night. Obviously there was no cab in sight so we dashed across the road to take the subway back! That was the only way we could get back to the other side. We couldn’t go back in through the same exit we came up from. What a frightful experience! Both of us heaved a sign of relief when the subway came. It seemed to take ages!

Again, it had been an eventful and fulfilling day, granted that half the day was spent for work!

New York Day 2

One thing I don’t really like about travelling is having to fiddle with the hotel’s shower system. The one I have at home is the old-fashioned one; you just need to switch on the heater and turn the shower on. The newer types; you have to slowly adjust the knob so that you get your desired temperature. And I always get it wrong; it gets either too hot or too cold. But on the whole, Hotel Mela was ok, it was clean, new, just that it was too small.

Got up around 7am the next day (7pm on my mobile phone – I didn’t change the time since the time difference is 12 hours. I just had to be used to be waking up in the pm). When all of us met in the small lobbly, apparently the big boss wasn’t too happy with having to put up in such a small hotel and decided to make a move to Grand Hyatt, where my other colleague was putting up at. I sort of rolled my eyes and thought: “Wasn’t this my initial intention?” I had initially proposed staying at Hyatt so that we could be together with the other colleague (since we needed to conduct an interview there on Sunday), but of course, me being the small fry, my suggestion was turned down. Hmpf!

So this began our traumatic experience with the agent on both the Singapore and New York side who helped us to book our hotel. When we checked with Mela, the receptionist said the US agent had not paid them yet.. so the correspondence with our staffing officer in MOE Singapore started. Poor chap! It was nearly 8pm in Singapore!

Before going down to Hyatt, we had breakfast at an American deli. No way were we going to have Macs again! There was a wide variety of food, from pancakes to muffins, to omelettes, toast, bacon etc. But it wasn’t cheap too. A typical meal came up to around US$4 (S$6).

   

After breakfast, we made our way down to Grand Hyatt to enquire on vacancies there. It was cold cold cold!

Along 44th street 

Along the way, we took the opportunity to take photos of Bryant Park, the initial location where Singapore Day was to have been held. It was beautiful!

    

   

 

Although it was a busy weekday morning, we still managed to spot New Yorkers sitting at the tables, enjoying a Starbucks and reading the New York Times (I presume!) Such a life!

When we got down to Hyatt at 44th street and enquired with the reception, there were rooms available but it was on a first come first serve basis, so there was no guarantee that the rooms could be held for us. And guess what? We made our way back to Hotel Mela again to confirm with the reception on our payment! What a terrible waste of time!!

Then a fresh round of negotiation and irritating correspondence started. Everyone was frustrated; due to the time difference, we couldn’t contact our guy in Singapore, nor the agency office in Singapore. The New York office was also not picking up our calls. Our boss finally realised that it was no point wasting our time so we made our way to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets! Yay!! Finally! I was getting closer to getting my Coach bag!

We took the Shortline bus from the Port Authority bus terminal. Got our tickets from some sales guys on the streets. Usually I am quite skeptical about purchasing tickets from “unauthorised” (they are authorised by the way) sources but they were so friendly and they ended up giving us a US$1 discount each! The ticket cost US$38 instead. When we reached the bus terminal, we had a hard time locating the pick up point because of conflicting instructions on its location by different people. We nearly didn’t make it for the bus!

It was a one-hour ride to the venue as it was in the suburbs, one hour north of New York. Along the way, we saw Borders, Walmart, etc and there were American flags everywhere. New Yorkers have a tendency to erect their national flags everywhere. Most of the flags were flying at half mast, in mourning for the killings at Virginia Tech just a few days ago.

We finally reached the place! It was really shopper’s paradise! All the familar brands! Coach  (of course!), Burberry’s, Aldo, Nike, Osh Kosh, Chanel, Levis, Nine West, BCBG, Fendi, Liz Claiborne, Polo Ralph Lauren, and many more! It was really a mixture of both high end and middle high end outlets. And with promises of sale and discounts everywhere, it was too tempting a place to miss! And of course, amist the shopping, we took the time to take in the scenery.. Not many photos, just 2 will suffice.. we were too busy shopping!!

    

Nothing is perfect. As much as how I liked this place, there were still some flaws. Being a discount outlet and an American one, there were many items I liked but didn’t buy because it didn’t have it in my size. And the display of some outlets was quite messy as it has been rummaged many times by so many people!

In the end, I only bought my Coach bag! But that was really enough to satisfy me. It cost US$199 and I had a 20% discount! Frankly when I was in the store, I made many turns before deciding on my purchase because I was quite disappointed with the selection. The outlet did not have selections with the classic Coach signature; that was only available in the department stores. But I was determined to get something from there, and so I got my bag! I quietly decided to get another one from Macy’s later on!

While my colleague was raiding Osh Kosh for their dirt cheap children wear, I explored the area a little. It was quite sad, I saw quite a few shirts and pants that I liked, but didn’t have it in my size. And after a while, I grew tired of rummaging through the huge pile of clothes. But it was ok, my Coach bag was enough!

As I was walking along the streets, an old lady, who was probably with her grand daughter cam up to me and started telling me she picked up a great bargain for a pair of pants! I felt a little strange at first, but I sooned warmed up to the thought of it. She was so friendly! In fact, most Americans were like that! They see you in the lift, they ask you how your day was and some even engage in small talk with you during the short lift ride! In Singapore, such actions are deemed as siao, and that the people have nothing better to do!

We finally, finally decided to do lunch at 3pm.. we had forgotten the time! As we were craving for Chinese food, we had lunch at a Chinese style foodcourt. I had sliced beef and garlic rice. Was quite disappointing, didn’t really like it as the garlic slices were so thick!

 

The owners were speaking in Cantonese among themselves and we started conversing in Cantonese with them too! It is really quite a strange feeling to know someone speaking your language in a foreign country.

After lunch, we did a little bit more of shopping at Levis and Liz Claiborne before deciding to venture on our own and “dump” the other 3 ladies! We took the 5.45pm bus and because of the rush hour, we only reached around 7.15pm! We made our way to Macy’s! First things first, we went to the Visitor Centre and obtained our Visitor Discount Card, where we were entitled to a 11% discount! Woohoo!

   

I contacted my relative to meet near the Louis Vuitton outlet, which was incidentally just next to the Coach outlet! Hahaha! We caused a bit of embarrassment here. I haven’t met this relative before, and I only know how he looks through the (outdated) photos he sends over. I am not sure if he has seen me before too. So the two of us stood side by side outside the LV outlet waiting for each other. I stole glances at him; he probably did too, before he approached me. So pai seh man!

And he offered to take all our bags while we continued shopping. It was quite awkward because he was just standing outside the outlet carrying all the bags while the two of us browsed the goods, empty-handed. Although he insisted it was ok, I felt super uncomfortable, so the moment we finished our purchases (I bought my second Coach – the one with the classic Signature!), we left Macy’s.

We hailed a cab from the streets to take us to Chinatown (he had left his car at Chinatown) for Chinese dinner. As we “casually” mentioned we wanted to buy fruits, he stopped the cab near a fruit stall to buy our fruits. Strawberries are really cheap in New York; only box costs only US$1! I bought 5 oranges too. And the fruits too, were paid by him… -_-

Because of our “casual” comment, we ended up having to walk for approximately 10 minutes before we reached the restaurant. It was cold, it was dark and secluded and my feet were killing me!

The restaurant was really the old-fashioned type, with those shuang xi (double happiness) characters, Chinese KTV (not genuine), mini stage. The diners were all Chinese, there were no Americans there. And I made the mistake of letting him do the ordering of dishes without indicating our preferences. The waiter came back with dishes like steamed prawns, stone fish, clams, fish soup, crab, lobster. I felt I was in Fuchow again.

  

My other colleague, S, who was flying in today, contacted us and we arranged for her to come down to join us for dinner. When she reached, even the cab fare was paid for my relative. He takes the zhou dao (hospitality) spirit to the highest! It was quite a strange dinner; this was the first time both of us met and the things we know about each other are probably through my dad. I struggled to maintain coversation with him and my colleagues and I tended to drift into our own conversation at times. I hate entertaining! Before he left, he pushed an angbao to me without I had no way of rejecting at all….

When we left, he even ordered for a personal car with fees paid to pick us up and send us back to the hotel!! Wah lao!

We reached Mela around 11pm. I was reluctant to go home so early so S and I decided to venture into the “unknown” and explore Times Square! We went to Duane & Reade which is one of their big pharmacy chains (it is like Guardian, 7-11 and Watsons combined) to get some supplements. Then we walked around Times Square, which was still buzzing with activity at such a time. The lights were so dazzling! A cliche, but New York is really a city that never sleeps! Maybe this is why I didn’t get any jetlag. I saw all the big buildings – Nasdaq, MTV, Hershey’s, Prudential, M&Ms, some news network company etc. There was really never a moment of boredom; there were things to see at every angle!

    

   

We passed Planet Hollywood to find a huge crowd and some policemen stationed at the entance. Being curious, we decided to join in the fun too. Asked some New Yorkers which star they were expecting to see, many didn’t know! They just crowded around! Then I heard that Kevin Spacey was probably there. We stood there for a while and got a little impatient and cold so we left. It would have been fun and memorable if we managed to see a star in New York!

We slowly made our way back to the hotel by foot and reached it around 1am. I seriously did not think I would stay out until this time with all the warnings of New York being an unsafe place and being unfamilar with it. But it was real fun and the cold made it even better! That concluded my second day in New York!

New York Day 1

Finally, after weeks of anticipation and anxieties over possibilities of flight cancellations and flight delays, 18 April 07 had arrived.

Dad gave me a lift to the airport at 7.30 in the morning. I had loads of barang barang – one big Samsonite suitcase, my hand bag, a paper bag with my coat and my laptop bag. I didn’t have my thermal socks or long johns on, and I was only in a short sleeve tee shirt and jeans. When I reached the airport, I met up with M who was with her husband. Then we met up with the rest of the MOE people, L, J and R. Our flight is at 10.50am; we had already checked in 2 days before, so both M and I really had no idea why we were meeting at 8am. M and I did a bit of shopping at DFS before boarding the plane, and even before I have landed in New York, I already spent on a Christian Dior perfume! Not a good sign..

We boarded the plane at around 10.30am, SQ22. Singapore Airlines! It has been ages since I last sat in one. Because this was a direct, long haul flight to New York, the seats were of the latest type, with much more leg room and even a small lounging area for people to mingle. Here goes, I will reach New York in another 18 hours time! We were scheduled to reach New York at around 5.30pm New York time. Exciting! I chose the window seat, as usual, as I wanted to catch all the scenery and spot all the little cars and buildings when the plane took off. I also wanted to catch a first glimpse of New York as the plane is touching down.

11am, the plane promptly took off. That is SIA for you. Despite bad press about issues with its pilots or drop in service standards, it is still my favourite airline. Although there have always been negative comments about airline food, how bland and awful it is, I secretly adore the food. I like how they have different compartments, with fruit, salad, appetizers, main dish, 3 types of drink available. How often do you get to eat a well-balanced meal? The next best thing about air travel is its inflight entertainment. Kris World was superb! I watched 5 movies on the plane ride – The Holiday, The Devil Wears Prada, Apollo 13, Romeo and Juliet, The Queen. And in between the movies, I like to switch to the channel that shows the flight path information, just to see where we are. It got me so excited when I started seeing areas like Honolulu, Canada, Alaska and the thought of flying over these areas was… indescribable! Then we crossed the International Date Line and went into a different time zone.

Our route went up to Japan, Honolulu, across the Pacific Ocean, past parts of Canada, before cutting across the western part of USA before reaching New York. I managed to capture these really nice picture in some part of Canada, when the plane was flying low enough.

Beautiful scenery captured from the plane

The cabin crew who served us was good too; one was pretty and was really good-mannered. They managed to keep their composure when the Indian couple sitting in front was us was pressing the button so often asking for assistance. They were a real pain in the ass.

The plane arrived slightly ahead of schedule at Newark Airport. There was none of the stringent checking of luggage at Customs probably because the first check had already been done in Singapore. All of us breezed through Customs without having to endure much questioning. We proceeded to the baggage claim area to collect our luggage. Hmm.. this really is America. Baggage instead of luggage, elevator instead of escalator. We saw Kit Chan and David Gan together with their entourage at baggage claim too. They were here for Singapore Day as well. I spotted Kit Chan, Hossan Leong, plus some other entertainers on the same flight. 

Our baggage took ages to come. The priority baggage (i.e. those in First Class and Business Class) came first, followed by Economy Class. I showed my Singaporean trait of complaining about the slow service. The New Yorkers seemed very laid back; they could finish their private conversation first and let the guest wait before attending to the poor guest. I was to observe this over the next few days of my stay. I just found it weird. New York is one of the financial hubs in the world; shouldn’t the pace of life be like that of Hong Kong, even Singapore? Perhaps, there doesn’t exist such a correlation. Being impatient and fast paced is quite different. 

Our private bus transport came to pick us up to go to the hotel. The moment I stepped out of the airport into the open, I was met with a chilly wind and air. So this is it.. I did not put on my coat and instead quickened my pace to take cover from the cold air in the van. That was fun!

It was an approximately one hour ride from Newark to Hotel Mela. Along the way, I started to see familiar brand names so synonymous with the United States; Walmart, K Mart, Wendy’s, Dunking Donuts, Borders. There were American flags everywhere, all flown at half mast, as a sign of mourning for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. 

After about an hour’s ride, we were here. Hotel Mela is really a boutique hotel. All of us were fairly disappointed. The hotel lobby was like the size of a typical living room in Singapore. There were two receptionists huddled in a small reception desk. There was one porter. The lifts were so narrow that we first tried to enter it, we thought the door was only half open. The rooms were equally small. Okay, to be fair to Mela, besides its small size, there was really nothing much we could complain about. The amenities were sufficient, the furniture was new, the wireless Internet was complimentary. We were sore about staying at the hotel because we had been promised so much, only to be disappointed. The exorbitant cost was another factor. It cost S$690 per night, even more expensive than Hyatt! We just couldn’t endure the fact that we were paying so much without getting significant returns from it. 

After a long flight, everyone was tired so we set out to look for dinner. It was cold cold cold! I had to have my gloves on. Our first meal in New York was…. McDonald’s. Duh I know but the group of ladies from the other division weren’t too adventurous with food so we settled for a safe (and boring) option. Looking at it in another way, having Mac in the US, the country of origin, was not too bad an idea!

That rounded up our long day. New York! I couldn’t believe I was really there!