United States

A trip to Yosemite Valley

Towering trees, bumbling bees;Azure skies, peaks old and wise;
Snowy pebbles, brooks that babble;Mystic mountains, springs and fountains;
Plains some mossy, still lakes all glossy;Icy cloaks, pines and oaks
Skulking bears, prancing reindeers;Scampering squirrels furry, coyotes in a hurry.
Rains and thunder, Nature’s wonder; Glistening snow, eyes that glow
Hills and vales, Treacherous trails; Winding roads, Glaciers once flowed
Myriad hues, beauty so true; Blue and Golden, resplendence beholden
White and green, a splendid scene; Pristine white, shimmering moonlight
Sculpted boulders, fire that smolders; Zephyrs trance, a verdant dance
Pindrop silence, sweeter than violins; A trickle of water, frozen in winter
Glorious clouds, Beauty endowed; The Great Half dome, God’s own home?

 

Mother Nature has drawn one of her priceless canvases in Yosemite National park with an elegance that makes her splendor even more beautiful. Big is beautiful at this national park known for its old wise sequoia trees that are the biggest in the world, the tallest waterfalls and the most challenging of peaks protecting themselves from nosy humans by the sheer force of nature again.

I fortunately was permitted to see this priceless picture on a sunny day while it was splashed with a pristine whiteness on the myriad hues of greens and yellows. I hated to sully the whiteness of it with my footprints. While I could not stop Aahing and Wowing and taking pictures, I realized that it was one of those places where a mere camera lens could not capture even a 50th of the beauty that the live canvas possessed.
Someone rightly said, when nature has a project, she is a genius at work. From the bare leafeless tree to the ice laden pine, she ensures each season has something wonderful to look at. I fall short of words here, to describe the endless vales of snow covered pines and cones that I saw and went past, the winding valleys covered with mist and sheer drops below overlooking unbelievable vistas making us want to stop at every twist and turn where there was space to stop and gaze.

 

Despite all the human advancement, nature still makes man feel miniscule on just seeing the vastness of what She can create. The United States has certainly preserved the park well, and I am pretty thankful and privileged to see such beauty in this world where almost every piece of habitable land has been captured by humans.

 

 

 

Categories: Americas, United States | Tags: , | 14 Comments

Idle Thoughts of a Desi Mind

This post is republished from my other blog http://www.richlandtalk.blogspot.com. Although this is written a few years back  and I am back to India now, I think this still holds true!
 
 
Well, it’s been almost half a year since I moved to the US from India, and I continue to marvel at the differences between the two countries.  I guess, I am about to say what every Desi who comes to this land goes through. 
 
On Conversions
 
 
The first thing that hit me in a week was the number of conversions I kept doing to get my perspective right.  Fahrenheit to Celsius, Miles to Kilometers, Pounds to Kgs, Ounces to Grams, Dollars to Rupees, Gallons to liters…  I know we are used to the difference in the spellings now, with due thanks to Bill Gates who points out not coloUrfully but colorfully in red and all of a sudden I was flummoxed when everyone resorted in India to saying XYZeee instead of XYZed that I had learnt years back! Here even the switches get turned on the wrong way..On is up and Off is down!
 
On Beggars
 
 
Our local beggars endeavor to be as pathetic as possible singing sad songs in pathetic voices and generally making everyone feel guilty about being better off. Believe it when I tell you, here beggars wear weird costumes and have smirks on their faces with placards which say ‘Gimme $5 for a glass of beer!’ or ‘I need my Dope’ or sit with a dirty dog with a placard saying ‘Help me care for my dog’ and yes, they mutter maybe ‘Ass****’ at each person, loud enough to hear if you pass them without giving them anything.  Local train beggars aren’t dissimilar to our Local buggers.  They come with their musical instruments and make speeches and stories all starting with ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. I am homeless.  Please help me’.  Of course, this being a far richer country, the numbers are far less than what we have.  But it’s funny to see ads of ‘Please donate a used car for the poor’.  I could use one of the donations!
 
On Prices
 
 
And now for my long pent up emotions on the horrendous prices here, even though I have recuperated from the shock now.  People back home said we would be really rich in the US!  But consider this. Back in India we were supposedly in the upper middle class having a 3bhk, a car, never used the local train, and had 2 maids to cook twice a day, pack our lunches, clean up, tidy up and do everything that enabled us to lounge around only watching TV.  And here, we live in a 1BHK, have a four wheeler..uh, I mean 2 bicycles, no maids (if you discount the dishwasher) and commute in the packed subway trains.  Now that life on the other side of the ocean was certainly comfortable!
 
I reckon getting past the currency conversion from the $ to the Rupee was a challenge given the fact that ‘everything is so cheap back home!’  It started with the bread being $4 (Rs200) for a loaf (@#* I paid Rs 20 back home!), onions being $2 a pound (Rs 200 for a kilo) (@#&; Governments have been brought down back home because of the rising onion prices!), well you get the idea.  I won’t even speak about the unspeakable amounts we pay as rent!  Okay, even if you don’t convert, sometimes the rates that are charged for some piffling labor are downright absurd.  There was a cleaning ad saying they would clean up rugs or carpets really well and remove all stains etc in just $150 (Rs 7500).  Well!  I could get a new carpet for that price!  In fact there is no concept of MRP or any sort of standard pricing.  It all depends on the rate the store wants to fleece people!  You could get the same brand for half at some other store or for 1/10th online.  Perhaps it is because I am around one of US’s most expensive cities.
 
On Healthcare
 
 
Well, I am one of those really unfortunate people who are underinsured due to ignorance, and now may have to shell out some $500 (Rs 25,000) for a single sitting to have an ear cleaned!  A doctor charges a cool $150 (Rs 7,500) to prescribe an OTC balm for an aching hand.  I have not known a more screwed up healthcare system than that exists out here. Wikipedia told me that it is in US that 62% of all personal bankruptcies are due to Medical Debt.  I don’t blame them.  If an uninsured or underinsured person were to fall ill, he would sell everything he has to pay it off or die of a cardiac arrest on seeing the bill!  Well, there is health insurance, and since 85% of the people have health insurance, all doctors charge astronomical amounts, and because they charge astronomical amounts people have to rely on health insurance. And, since the docs get sued all the time, they have to make up for the money they spend on litigation!  So, I guess, being a lawyer is the best profession there is in the US!  I am now contemplating a flight to and fro from India to have my ear cleaned!  It might just be cheaper.
 
On Labor
The other thing that struck me, was the fact that despite the unemployment numbers being supposedly high, the labor rates here continue to be just phenomenal.  There is little wonder that there are so many drop outs in America.  I hear that truck drivers make around $100,000 to $200,000 a year in this country!  I mean that’s really wow!  They certainly can compete with educated PhDs flaunting all their degrees or investment bankers or make even more! Babysitters charge some $15 an hour in cash, that’s around $32,000 tax free. Women who earn around $50,000 a year, which is a decent amount, quit as their babysitters charge more!  I think all the girls on H4 out here who cannot really work, but do like kids should offer their services in this field!  It never amazed me in American TV serials when they showed plumbers and handymen living in the best of the suburban houses with manicured lawns..(if you are guessing, that’s Desperate Housewives)! Now as my building doorman drives down in his car wearing a tie and a designer suit, I have ceased to wonder!  What I don’t understand is, why can’t the unemployed unskilled workers, just offer their services for a lower wage?  I am sure there will be a lot of people willing to employ them.  The unemployment rate will certainly go down.
 
On Cabbies
Something that is similar though is the sport of fighting with the Cab driver. There was this cabbie who wanted to charge a cool 100 dollar bucks (~Rs 5,000) for a 25 min ride with one stop on the way, the unreasonableness being, he would charge $50 without having to stop! Add to that, the ridiculous ‘tips’ that are mandatory to the tune of 20-30% of the total fare.  No wonder, people prefer renting cars and driving around the whole day for a maximum of $100.  Most cabbies are either Pakistanis, or Indians or Bangladeshis and the seats are dirtier and mustier than in Mumbai.
 
 
On Shopping
 
 
Finally, once I entered the acceptance mode after the denial, anger and resignation stages of shock of prices, I discovered shopping was a pleasure here, thanks to the huge departmental stores around here.  There is no dearth of brands and consumers are spoiled for choice in every category.  Furniture, cosmetics, Electronic goods and all the capital investments that go into a new home are relatively still cheap because mostly everything is Made in China. The awesome part is you can always return goods, no questions asked for up to 90 days!
 
 
On Gadgets
 
 
Thanks to the technological advancements here, most happening products such as the iphone, ipad, e-readers, Wii, GPS Navigators and other cool gadgets get first released in the US, and then trickle down much later to India.  It’s pretty cool to be connected on 3G everywhere and the large number of wifi hotspots there are.  I can’t wait for 3G to get to India and download books on my Kindle e-reader as easily as I do here.   Browsing the internet is a pleasure, since the ultra fast speeds allow me to stream videos really fast, watch movies on Netflix etc. 
 
On People
People are so much more civilized here.  The very Indians who wouldn’t blink before they discarded chocolate wrappers from their car window, pick up their dog’s shit with gloved hands (that part is really ewwwwwwwwwww for me) and discard it wherever designated.  Even though the subway is really crowded, no one really jostles to get in or cause any stampede to get out.  People don’t spit on roads or consider the outside of their homes as the garbage can.  They are always polite and smile and hold doors and the smiling does not arouse any suspiciousness. Everyone is interested in sports and not everyone wants to become an engineer or a doctor. 
 
On Dogs
 
 
Talking about dogs in the previous blurb, US is a dog obsessed country.  I have never seen dogs pampered as much as they are here.  There are dog birthday parties, dog sitters, dog walkers, dog designer clothes, prams for dogs, beauty products, cosmetics, and accessories for dogs, dog beauty parlors, dog restaurants, dog toy shops, dog playgrounds…It really gets disgusting the amount of pampering that goes on!
 
On Sports
One thing that is apparent is the evident enthusiasm of everyone in sports.  Each match is attended with gusto and the subways overflow even when there are obscure local matches and there are Cheerleaders for most matches. Even the sports Americans play are different from what the rest of the world plays.  While the world calls Football, Football, the Americans call a game they play with their hands, as football, and the actual football is relegated as Soccer. And that American Football is actually almost like Rugby, but with extra protective gears, helmets and padding. I’ve heard few Europeans call it a sissy sport.  While the world played cricket, they invented Baseball.  In Baseball, they have something called as a World Series in which the local teams compete with each other and the winner becomes a World Champion! No wonder many Americans think they are the world in themselves and everyone else is an alien! Thankfully, basketball which is another popular game here is still the same.
 
On Roads
In India I used to look left and then right before crossing.  By the time I realized my mistake, I shifted here, and I now look right and then left which is like all other things opposite to what it is in India.  I guess I can attribute whatever misfortunes I might have to the curses of the motorists in both the countries!  However, the roads here are truly beautiful.  The infrastructure is simply superb, the highways are a pleasure to drive on, and connectivity is great. And the good news is there are good clean restrooms to stop by.  That is so very difficult back home to find! It is sad that we can boast of a few good highways, such as the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.  Imagine all of India being connected from every village with such roads. Travelling would be so much easier.
 
 


On Natural Beauty
The country on the whole is so gorgeous and there always huge forests they call National Parks around everywhere in the country, an endless number of weekend getaways and a host of weekend activities to indulge in. With the fact that this is such a huge country, there is so much to see and appreciate.  The terrain varies from the rugged Colorado Desert to the blue water beaches of Florida to the verdant greenery elsewhere. I certainly can’t get enough of the beauty around me!
 
All in All
All in all, I reckon, living in each country has its pros and cons.  As I remove my rose tinted glasses to look at India, I reckon I can point out fallacies there for all my criticisms above with the rising inflation and low transparency and a million other reasons in our governing system.  Each country has its pros and cons.  While I miss the culture that I grew up in, I have grown to appreciate the country I am currently residing in.  Fulfilling the American Dream is still aspired by many, and I don’t blame them. After all, it is a beautiful country with much to explore and excellent facilities and infrastructure to explore it.  Cleanliness and less pollution add to better living. It is quite an experience to live in the multicultural vibrancy of this country.  India isn’t quite there yet, but I am optimistic, with all the leaps  taken towards development, will one day fructify and it will be a more pleasant place to live in. Right now, I reckon, I will just indulge in everything that India doesn’t offer, and then when I don’t have time to do that, I shall come back and live a life of luxury with maids and cooks and drivers to serve me!
Categories: Americas, Other Travel Blah, United States | Tags: , , , | 22 Comments

Disney Magic

Cinderellas Caslte

What kind of superheroes will an Indian a la Disneyland have, I wondered, when I visited Disneyland in Orlando, Florida.  Some friends of mine instantly recalled our very own Chacha Chaudhari and Sabu.  Instead of the simulated launch on to Mars in the ‘Mission Space’, we could go to Jupiter ofcourse after traversing the planets that come in between. We could have a 3D movie with Sabu throwing off evil villains off peaks.

Or how about a Rajani ride…It would ofcourse include rides which would flout all laws by Newton, Einstein or any scientist!  If Disney had an Epcot World Showcase, our Bollypark could have all the locales which SRK spread out his arms and sang to his heroines. That would pretty much cover all the gorgeous places there are in the world.
Instead of delving into the fairy tales of Snow White, Cinderella, we can always dig into our treasure trove of popular mythological characters like Ganesh, Hanuman, Bhim, Ram, Krishna who have already been animated too.

Anyway, I guess, there is no point in me speculating about what can be, when I have just returned from a trip to this truly magic kingdom…a kingdom for the kids actually.  It was fun walking through the Main Street, Adventure Land, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, Mickeys Toontown and Tomorrowland in this fairyland.  It certainly made me wish I was back there as a kid.  However as an adult, I did enjoy the two Parades, the one in the day time and the electric parade at night, which were fabulous and I enjoyed watching them and calling out to my favorite characters swinging by me.  The electric parade was a dazzling display of illuminated floats and wonderful lighted up costumed dancers and characters.  The shows ended with a spectacular display of fireworks with the backdrop of Cinderella’s castle. Unforgettable. Amongst the rides and shows, I did enjoy the 3D movie with the popular Disney characters, the jungle cruise on the boat, and the Space Mountain rollercoaster ride.

But as an unfortunate adult in the world dominated by kids in this magical land,  most of the rides such as Winnie the Pooh, the Magic Alladin carpets, Peterpan, Snow-Whites adventure etc, were for ages 2-8.(we read to  our consternation after enjoying them earlier!). The lines were long and winding and the waits were intolerable 30-80 minutes for each ride.  Though after the first crazy wait, we discovered using our ‘Fastpass’ to beat the lines. And this was supposedly in the off-peak season.  I reckon, the lines would be even worse in the vacations and summers.
Epcot was the other Disney Park I visited, and though the Rain Gods spitefully tried to dampen our spirits and us all day, we still managed to have a great time, especially as the crowds thinned and there were no lines as compared to those in the Magic Kingdom!  Epcot was certainly one targeted to adults and teens and was an educational as well as a fun experience that helped kids and adults alike learn about a variety of burning issues.  It taught environmental consciousness through the ‘Circle of Life’ short film through the eyes of Simba, Timon and Pumba. Another show explained power and energy sources with the Ellen DeGeneres dream that took us through a journey from the Dinosaur jungles to the nuclear age today in a vast moving theater. The fun rides were the space mission ride to Mars, the fast paced drive on Test Track, the entertaining 3D video by the King of Pop Michael Jackson as Captain EO and the Soarin’ ride to California. However, the best part about Epcot was the World Showcase with its miniature country pavilions.  Dining at an Aztec temple in Mexico, riding a Norse boat in Norway, seeing miniatures of the Teracotta warriors, and learning about the various other cultures of France, Germany, Itay, Japan, Morocco, France, UK and Canada through short films in huge theaters were highlights.  I particularly enjoyed the China video that was very well done and was projected in a 360 degrees absolutely humongous theater. All in all, a wonderful experience for people of all ages.
How I wish I were back there as a child! Some snapshots of my trip here.

Walt Disney- The Man behind it all.
And the fun started with the Parade!
The Genie to grant wishes with Alladin
Dancing with the stars
Lighting up the day at night!
Dazzling lights and illuminating memories
Hola! At an Aztec Temple
A German Square
A Japanese Pagoda
A spectacular show at the Magic Kingdom
The Epcot dome
Categories: Americas, United States | Tags: , , , | 22 Comments

A trip to Washington DC and the Shenandoah National Park

With family visiting us in May 2011, when I was in the U.S. , we set out to shortlist all the ‘touristy’ locations on the East Coast to show them around.  Most itineraries of people visiting the east coast include New York, Washington DC, Niagara falls, Boston and if budget/time permits Orlando theme parks. Throw in an Atlantic city, and the US visit is complete!..rather if they don’t go for a ‘Tirth yatra’ to any of the above places, they have seen nothing at all in the US!

We were on our way!

So, as Memorial Day (the day to honor war heroes and veterans) dawned, we packed up our bags and our assortment of snacks of sandwiches, gobi parathas, pickles, ketchup, cheese, chips, laddoos, bananas, oranges,strawberries, water, frooti, ‘fast’ snacks, halwa, cake and chocolates!  Yeah, I can’t believe we actually finished all of that! It took far more time to make and buy all that than gobble it up!

I dozed off almost immediately in the car to wear out the weariness of all that food preparation and refused to wake up till lunch time at Maryland where we stopped for a picnic lunch.  That power nap did me a world of good, as I took up the wheel in the next leg of our drive to Shenandoah National Park. As we got on to the Skyline Drive of 105 miles, the cool mountain breeze and the scenic vistas greeted us all along.  Although we did not spend as much time as we would have liked to hiking and biking, I did enjoy the feel of wild grass under my feet, the bloom of the wild yellow flowers, deer peacefully chewing away in natural surroundings and the balmy breeze.
A short hike at Shenandoah
The sun peaking through the lush trees at Shenandoah
A Shenandoah wildlife sighting
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
Day two and three of our trip had been set aside for Washington, and we set forth after a heavy breakfast at the hotel.  Well, again, it being a purely touristy trip, that translates into getting off the car, taking photos and getting back to the car, we thought, we would do it in no time at all! But fortunately or unfortunately, the city had other plans for us!  Memorial Day is a big deal in USA, and I was hoping to witness something of this day in the capital city to reflect some of Americas traditional celebration.  I was not disappointed.  As we drove in, people with waving flags greeted us as we crossed overhead footwalks and bridges, several Harleys zoomed past us everywhere making us wonder what was in store.  As traffic moved to a snails pace, we pulled out and took the metro route.  Riding a city’s trains has always excited me, be it New York, Kolkata, Mumbai or Washington as it is something non-touristy, something that citizens use to go about their life everyday anywhere. The stations here were much cleaner and spacious and far less smelly than NYs stations.  Being Memorial day, well, only tourists clambered onto the train and took away the charm of the locals travelling! We got off at the station near the White House, and started our act of clicking away to glory in the usual silly poses. Barrack and Michelle must certainly be uneasy in that fortress with snipers patrolling its terraces and with all that security and tourists and even protesters constantly outside their windows. Never a moment of peace to enjoy those lush gardens outside!
The White House

The next halt was the George Washington memorial which is the tallest structure in Washington DC.  Here is the exciting part.  As we neared it, the vroom of motorcycles was heard nearby. As we recollected the many bikes we saw on the road, we hastened towards it.  It turned out to be a spectacular rally of 400,000 bikes (these huge mean machines- Harleys or look alikes) aptly known as ‘Rolling Thunder’ that was paying tribute to American war heroes in their own style.  That certainly was a super show!

George Washington Memorial

 

Rolling Thunder
The Capitol

For the remainder of the day we proceeded to visit the Smithsonian museums.  I went to the National Gallery of Art and tremendously enjoyed seeing master pieces of Impressionists as well as Modernists. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Chester Dale collection that included works of great masters such as Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh among others.  I was also pleased to see special exhibits by Gauguin, who I was first fascinated by’ on reading Maugham’s ‘The Moon and the Six Pence’.  Apart from these that I admire, I also managed to find the ones I didn’t and took pleasure in rebuking Rothko’s and Barnett Newman’s modern (non!) art which I wrote about in a recent blog! I finally left the museum after it closed and dragged myself to the Air and Space museum to join the others and find out about their sojourn to the Natural History museum which I skipped seeing.  We ended the day with a meal at an Indian restaurant with a snooty manager and driving around in Washington , uh..driving around was not out of choice, but because our GPS kept taking us round in circles and all over the place!

The Air and Space museum
Our trip drew to a close the next day when we saw the lofty memorials built in honor of US Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and the Vietnam and Korea war memorials. With plenty of memorial spots dotted across town, we had to skip most of them albeit with no regrets really!
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Abraham Lincoln in his towering seat

Well, again, for people out to visit places for the sake of the photo, Washington DC was a pleasant place to be in.  However, as always, I always believe, cities are to be experienced by living there and a couple of days’ visits will never capture the essence or the culture. However, all in all, this was a lazy fun trip that kept everyone contented for all the things they saw.

Categories: Americas, United States | Tags: , , | 22 Comments

Capture the Color

I was excited when I got tagged by Arti to participate in the Capture the Color contest. All I had to do was post 5 photos that would bring out the five colors – Green, Yellow, Red, White and Blue.  The first thing I could think of when I thought of these colors, was ‘Trees’!

The United States of America is a large country with varied landscapes, geographies, climates and diverse vegetation. During my two years stay at the US, I was fortunate to experience the stark seasonal changes that took place with every changing season.

For the Capture the Color contest, to highlight the 5 hues, I have chosen a theme of trees that I saw at the U.S.  While in India, the only color I associated with trees was green or less green.  In the U.S., I witnessed beautiful phenomena in spring, summer, fall and winter.

I understood the joys of new budding fresh green leaves in spring after snowy winter that left trees utterly bereft of leaves. The North East part of the U.S. was particularly green with miles of roads in a dense green cover.  The large mass of green cover that was called Central Park in New York City was my favorite haunt and I spent many a happy evening bicycling in the verdant park in summer. The photo shown here is from Central Park on a lazy  summer day.

Verdant Green at Central Park, New York City

With Fall, the leaves started changing their colors, withering or falling off after giving in to the strong winds that had replaced the gentle zephyr.  I went to New Hampshire in the peak of the fall season, and was amazed to see the brilliance of the trees in shades of Red, Yellow and some Green. Never in my life had I beheld, entire Red colored or Yellow colored trees as I did there.

Brilliant Yellow at New Hampshire, United States

 

Flaming Red Tree, New Hampshire, United States

Winter came suddenly without warning after Fall, and we were into our coats, mufflers, sweaters and gloves. The days became shorter and evenings dreary with dipping temperatures. The trees had lost their leaves as though biding the snow to come.  Around this time, we planned a trip to sunny California where the winter was mild and the trees had leaves.   A road trip in California led us to the Yosemite National Park. We stayed at a lodge for the night, and the next morning, for the first time in my life, I opened my eyes to a snowy morning.  Snow is not something we Indians get to see, in most of India excepting the mountains and the northern most parts of the country, and I was super excited.

I could not stop marveling at the snowy sights I beheld. The large conifers had their leaves intact, and each of their leaves was laden with much snow, that almost made it look white. The purity of the fresh glistening snow had transformed the park into a magical forest.  It certainly was one of those WOW travel moments that I would never like to forget!

Pristine White at Yosemite National Park, California, United States

My tryst with the four seasons in the United States allowed me to understand the vagaries of nature. Each season is indeed beautiful in its own special way.

The contest wants me to enter a fifth color – blue. Since, I didn’t get a chance to capture trees in the blue or blue trees (if they exist!), I am entering a separate photo here for this.  The photo shows the centennial celebrations for the discovery of Machu Picchu in Cusco, Peru.  After an arduous four day trek on the Inca Trail, we were rewarded by seeing the home of the Incas, Machu Picchu in all its glory.  Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in the year 1911, and we were in time to witness the grand centennial celebrations in the form of colorful parades and cultural programs. The parades were wonderful with hundreds of colorfully attired swirling dancers swaying  to bands that played cheerful notes. Here is one of the photos from the grand parade.

Vibrant Blue plumes in the Centennial celebrations of the discovery of Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru

‘May the odds ever be in your favor’ if you have participated in this very interesting contest. Some people who I would love to participate in this contest are –

  1. Umashankar of ‘One Grain Amongst the Storm’
  2. Sudha G of ‘My Favorite Things’
  3. Beli of ‘Beli Eats’
  4. Desh of ‘Being Desh’
  5. Srinivas of ‘Travel Tales’

 

Categories: Americas, Peru, United States | Tags: , , , , | 44 Comments

The Big Apple: New York City

Every city in the world has a pulse of its own…a fast paced pulse like that of Mumbai or a slow languid pulse reminiscent of any smaller city in India such as Nagpur. It could be a pulse where u see money and opulence everywhere, like Dubai or yet another pulse, that of power, like that of New Delhi where the heart of politics can be felt. It could even have a pulse of heritage, which the great cities of Europe with all their works of Art and architecture revel in. There could also be a pulse which is cosmopolitan as compared one that is very regional like Chennai. Well, the New York City has this vibrant pulse to it…one driven by money from the Wall street, by the power that comes from the money besides its imposing sky scrapers, a pulse that is as heterogeneous as the mix of global cross cultures that inhabit it, a pulse that draws hordes of tourists and dreams from all over the world.
New York or the ‘Big Apple’ was always a city that I looked forward to seeing. After living virtually for several years with the characters of all the television serials, Friends, How I met your Mother, Sex and the City etc, apart from watching a string of Bollywood movies such as ‘Kal ho naa ho’, a movie called ‘New York’ itself etc, Well, I had to go see the place!

 

As I got out of the subway at the Penn Station, the neon lights of Times Square dazed me as did the sheer vibrancy of the place. The Desperate Housewives and other television stars winked tantalizingly at me from the massive lit up hoardings. Broadway musicals dotted the road and the huge swarm of tourists buzzed around happily in wonder. Everything wore a festive look including the NY Police Dept. and the Subway! It certainly was difficult to tear away from the place in the coming days. I have never seen as many tourists in one place as I did in the Times Square.
New York has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. We took this pass called the New York City Pass, which was quite cool. Most of the entry charges to various places, are indeed quite high (in the range of $20-$40 per head), because of why these passes help save atleast a bit. We had taken a 3 day pass that gave us admission to most places and a metro unlimited pass that allowed us to hop off and on any trains for that fixed cost for seven days…Well, for first timers, it would be helpful to check out all these offers on travel, and sight seeing before they venture out and pay individual destinations. There are options to travel by the metro, by the Grayline sight seeing buses and cabs. It was fun taking up the map of NY City and exploring all the various options.
Amongst the touristy buildings in NY, the Empire State Building is well known throughout the world, and has featured in several movies such as KingKong, Sleepless in Seattle and some older classics. The 86th floor observatory gives panoramic views of the entire New York City on a clear day and they say one can see as far as Massachusetts on an ultra clear day. It certainly is worth the wait of well over 2 hours, after being a part of the hordes of tourists, who throng the place from all parts of the globe. It was awesome to just look and look down below at all those tall buildings! The New York sky ride was also an interesting experience too in a 4D theatre and almost felt like we were actually in a helicopter seeing the city down below!
The other tall building which we saw by night was the Rockefeller center from the 68th floor observatory deck or the ‘Top of the Rock’ as it is called. The illuminated city of NY and the grand Empire State building were another visual treat from way up there.
Coming to the museums, the Madame Tussad’s Museum was a lot of fun, and let us hobnob with the celebrities around the world including our own Gandhiji and Amitabh Bacchan. The other interesting museum was the American Museum of Natural History where the dinosaur loving Ross Geller of ‘Friends’ worked for sometime and where the movie, ‘Night at the Museum’ was set. For Art lovers, the Metropolitan Museum of Art located on ‘Museum Mile’ near Central Park, is one of the world’s largest art galleries.
Another famous landmark, the Central Park is a vast expanse of greenery and beauty, and an oasis among the high rises. With artists sitting around the park, drawing caricatures and portraits for a small fee, horse drawn carriages with horsemen dressed in medieval attires, the Central Park is a wonderful picnic spot where one can sit back, relax and just chill out in the open. We also entertained ourselves at the Central Park Zoo where we unfortunately didn’t see Marty the Zebra or Alex the lion of ‘Madagascar’ though we did see the cute penguins!
Another really touristy thing that one can do, and we did, was to take the Circle Line Sightseeing cruise. This 2-3 hours twilight cruise, took us across the Manhattan shoreline on the Hudson river across the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty, showing us the high power Financial District in Manhattan, Chelsea etc.. We ended the tour with a bang as the Diwali firecrackers took off onto a spectacular show!
There are also interesting regional nooks in the city such as Little China, where the early mandarin population clustered around and where even all the sign boards are in Chinese! A romantic dinner in one of the quaint restaurants in Mulberry Street which is one of the dwindling lanes of Little Italy should certainly not be missed.
I guess, there is a lot lot more to be told and even more to be explored. But I guess, these are some of the things that I found quite interesting.
Apart from seeing the city, its living there that is an altogether a different experience. Cities like NY, Mumbai, cannot be really seen. They have to be experienced. Like I said at the start, it’s the pulse of the city that makes all the difference. Its not just tall buildings and neon lights that make the city’s heart beat but the power that is reflected in the great throng of ordinary and brilliant people who go about their work purposefully day after day.
Categories: Americas, United States | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: