Saturday, July 26, 2008

New York, New York

It was steaming hot when we arrived at JFK airport. Used to Singapore efficiency as we are, we were surprised at the lack of it at one of the worlds largest airports. There were queues everywhere, we had to walk outside in the scorching sun with our bags just to get to the 'Skytrain' which is hyped as the link to public transport into Manhattan. However we wanted to get a bus to the '3' subway line as it made more sense to use that as it passed right by our hostel and according to wiki-travel was the cheapest way of getting away from the airport. As independent travelers this can often be our biggest expense, thanks to poor public transport links and expensive shuttle/taxi options....

We tried desperately to get hold of Metro-cards in the airport as these can be used on trains and buses throughout New York. However, thanks to some pretty piss poor planning you can't buy them in the terminals! So, we went to get the bus anyway and found the stop fairly easily, we knew by now that we'd need exact change so we had $4 in notes (the correct fare for both of us) and managed to just catch the driver's attention before they pulled away. We'd all but boarded when we were foiled; we were not aware that we needed the rare as rocking-horse poo 'one-dollar-coins', we'd never heard of these before and no information had prepared us. Hot sweaty and seriously fed up with a convoluted system, we eventually managed to get hold of some fabled $1 coins thanks to a nice woman in the money changer's office.

So back we trudged to the bus stop to wait another 20 mins for the next bus in the stinking heat. We squeezed on with the rest of the crowd, conspicuous amongst all the local workers for the 45 min plus un-airconditioned journey (Wiki-travel said it took 20, lies.). Once off the bus the journey on the subway was better, at least it was air-conditioned, although we were traveling through some rather shady areas, thankfully it was still mid-afternoon by this point!

We stayed at the Continental Hostel on W95th, near Broadway, and by the state of the temperature pretty close to 'Hell's Kitchen'. Before arriving we had envisaged a rat infested dungeon, as it was cheap and the reviews poor. We were pleasantly surprised by the recently renovated decor, clean rooms and bathrooms, no signs of rats and a cool underground basement chill out area with free wifi.

Our time in New York flew by, our first evening was spent at the 'Top of the Rock', watching the sun go down over the Empire State Building and the familiar Manhattan skyline. The next morning we were up early to catch the ferry to Staten Island and back for free, then wandered up to the Brooklyn bridge via Wall Street and many other familiar named roads. The afternoon passed with us sweatily wandering round China Town and Little Italy. We finished off with a quick photo stop in Grand Central station before an early night as we were both shattered. The next morning we did a spot of shopping on Broadway followed by a picnic lunch in Central park and a lazy stroll around the lakes and promenades. For dinner we went to Gray's Papaya, a famous NYC hotdog shop where we got 2 hotdogs and a drink for $3.50. Bargain! We then headed to Times Square to take obligatory photos at night and run before being mugged or conned into seeing some rubbish comedy show!

We had to be up silly early the last day as we needed to get back to the airport. We bit the bullet in the end and used the 'approved' method of getting there on public transport. To be fair it was much better than our way in, even if it did cost a little bit more

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