Sightseeing New York Without a Voice

Trip Start Feb 21, 2006
Trip End Jul 20, 2006

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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, March 13, 2006

Hi Guys,

(This is a bit long, but stick with it there are some funny bits at the bottom)

So much has happened since I have last written here, there is an unbelievable amount of things to do here. I have been very busy trying to do as much stuff as I can. I decided to have a self imposed quiet night here, as my eyes were all blood shot and I had dark rings around my eyes. I fell like I have been going 24/7 here, but am having a great time. New York is incredible, it is such a vibrant, interesting city. I imagine you could live here for a year and still not get too see very much of the place, despite it not being that big. Anyway, what have I been up to...

They have a great public transport system here of subway and busses, I bought the $21 7 day pass which allows unlimited access, great value, you use it to get everywhere. I bought this pass and as a first way to explore the city I thought i'd head to the ground zero site and try and get over to Staturn Island. Not to Be! At first the subway is incredibly confusing, and there are people everywhere, and they walk really quickly here. Being a typical boy, I found the train I wanted to get on, went to the platform and just walked strait onto the train. (Note: At this stage, I had no idea about direction and what uptown or downtown meant). My first night here, I was awoken by the Dump Trucks at 4:30 in the morning, ear plugs were in order, but I didn't get back to sleep. Trains seem to have a soothing effect for me and as soon as I sat down, I fell asleep. To wake up in the Bronx, the wrong direction completely. I jumped off the train and figured out where I was, turned out I was next to the Bronx Zoo, so I went to the Zoo. It was pretty cool, very cold, and it struck me as very odd to see lions and giraffe walking next to snow. But as I said I was in the Bronx, continuing my tradition of ending up in the worst part of the city on the first day, I went for a walk. This place feels like gangstaville, I felt like everyone would be carrying some sort of weapon. It was actually kinda fun, I was the only white boy there, I felt safe tho, much better than in LA. A few days latter I was chatting to a couple of locals and they said that they had lived here their whole lives and they would never go to the Bronx if their lives depended on it..well I enjoyed it..did keep my bag very close tho....

That night I met up with an Aussie from Perth called Peter, he worked for BHP and is travelling around Europe as well, it was also his last night here. He is a top bloke and we went out for a drink, a couple of people from the hostel tagged along as well. I had heard of a place called Bar None, 14th and 4th av, which seemed pretty cool and the fact that there was a happy hour that night sealed the deal. $1 any drink for the ladies and $2 for everyone else until 12. The funny thing is that your meant to tip the bar man $1 for every drink you get so for the girls you are buying a drink for a dollar and tipping a dollar. The bar man was pretty cool at the place and as I have found out else where, only order mixes here in NY. As the beer is weak and tastes like water, but on the upside with mixes they don't use any measure, it tends to be about half to 3/4 spirits with the rest coke. Lethal but much cheaper. The bar man, liked all the same music as me so he gave me the names of a heap of places to go in the city and we also had a free shot of Yager. Only problem was the place was loud, I was yelling to be heard by everyone, I was also a little sick. After leaving Bar None, Peter and I bar hopped until 4:30 in the morning, it was heaps of fun and thankfully the hostel is near times square otherwise we would have had no idea where we were and how to get home. I woke up the next morning, unable to talk! I had totally lost my voice. Couldn't even make sound, so I didn't really have much chance of meeting other people till it came back. Said goodbye to Peter, he was in much better shape than me.

The drinks can be incredibly expensive here, its standard to be $6 for a beer and $15 for cocktail plus tip and that's in US dollars. A couple of the Aussie Boys staying at the hostel went to one of the flashier Clubs in town on their first night. They met a couple of girls and Ryan did the Aussie thing and bought them a drink, 4 Red Bull and Vodkas were ordered. It was Ryan's round and he almost fell over when the waitress said it was $60, that's like a $100 Aussie for a round and it only Red Bull and Vodka. Ryan is hoping to travel for 18 months, but he said if he has a couple more night like that he will be home in 2. Although, after a $300 US night, he didn't get the girl. I told him to go to Vegas, its only $40 and she is in your room in 15 minutes Guaranteed, or you get the first 15 free...I didn't try the Vegas offerings...those sort of Adverts were everywhere...

With no voice the direction of the next few days became easy. Become a sightseeing tourist.
In the following days I have managed to visit: (Anyone coming here for a little while, get a City Pass, gets you into all the big attractions for Cheap)
The Guggenhiem: But strange and not really me, but still interesting saw some Picaso, Monet and other notable artists works.
Central Park: This place is cool, feels like Albert Park lake in Melb, unfortunately for a modest 2 bedroom apartment overlooking the Park it will set you back at least $5-10m. I walked around for about 3 hours and had a ball. You wouldn't believe you are in one of the most densely populated areas of the world.
Empire State Building: Amazing
Ground Zero: I think it will be amazing in a few years, currently just a big concrete hole in the ground.
Staten Island Ferry: Was pretty cool and a bonus that is free. Actually bumped into the 3 Sweedish guys I stayed with in Vegas on the ferry, its such a small world. We had a laugh and will hopefully meet up later this week.
Wall Street: Actually quite disappointing visually, for what is the cent re of the worlds financial. I expect big buildings but it was just a really narrow street with lots of cops around. I guess I expected to be amazed.
UN headquarter: They have a great tour, its really cool to see.
Intrepid Aircraft Carrier: This was a great place to see if you are a Plane buff. They have one of British Airways Concordes there, it was great to see inside it. Great place to see some planes, the carrier felt huge, but its actually small in comparison to the newer ones.

The following 2 things I did have a bit of a story attached to them:
Spamalot: No its not some new form of Spam nor a tour of the Spam factory, its a Broadway show. Based upon Monty Pythons movie The Search for the Holy Grail. The shows here sell standing room tickets if the show is sold out, they are only $20 and are a barging as you get one of the best views in the house, as long as you don't mind standing for 2 hours. It was a great show and very funny, also a lot different from the movie, I laughed a lot, but silently because my voice still wasn't making very much noise. Before the start of the show I had a chat to the guy sitting in front of me, Robert, he had bought his tickets from a charity event, $450 a seat and he was only 30 cm in front of me, he did get a seat tho. He could barely understand me but we had a chatted about my trip and he was recommending lots of places to go it Europe. At the intervale, he bought me a beer, which was really nice, turns out he sails and has a 1930s Sydney to Hobart Skiff which is kept in NY harbor. He also "runs" the Financial Times, which is the biggest financial paper in the world. It was funny because I noticed at the start of the show lots of people were approaching and introducing themselves. At intervale there was lots of people standing and waiting for their moment to come and have a chat to Robert. It was funny because the people decide that they couldn't wait any longer and came over and introduced themselves, Robert introduced me to all of them but in a way that said your interrupting our conversation. It was hilarious, they all left and we kept chatting. At the end of the show I was saying goodbye to Robert, when a girl walked up and said hi to Rob, I was introduced to her, she said "Hi, Im Kate", It was Kate Winslet. I smiled all the way home...

Circle Line Tour: This is a boat tour around the NY harbor, up to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I did the night lights tour, It was really cold and my camera doesn't take good photos at night while on a rocking boat, so I have no photos of the Statue of Liberty. I was so peaceful and beautiful tho, a definite must do! On the boat I met an South Africian, Australian, and New Zealender, it sounds like the start to a joke...They are all here for a secondment for 4 months, people from all around the worlds accounting firms send their people here for work like this. We ended up going out for dinner and drinks, I had my voice back a little but probably just did a lot more damage to it that night. I had a ball they were great people, you never know who you are going to meet. They also advised me against saying bugger because the Americans still use its literal meaning, I thought people looked at me funny when realising I was in the Bronx I said quit loudly "Bugger", soon there was no one on the train with me. I was going to have a quiet night, but after meeting these guys I didn't get home till 5:30 am. They are staying in a company paid Serviced apartment, that was built in the 1980s but they thought it was a good idea (either that or it was cheaper) to decorate it 1950s style, its hilarious, the colours they said were used in the place were great. They had vomit curtains, fluffy fur rugs and heap of other crazy stuff. I end up walking home, which was probably a bit silly because it was cold, I had no idea where I was and it was 5:00 in the morning. But despite those thing it was really fun, I found all these places I had been meaning to visit. At 5:15 in the morning I walked past the Rockefeller centre, they have a cool outdoor skating rink there in the winter. In my inebriated state (remember what I said about mixed drinks here) I thought it would be fun to go Ice Skating, but with the lack of Ice Skates I just jumped on the ice and slid around. Mostly on my stomach and back, it was great fun! Until a security guard saw me and told me to leave, I hadn't noticed at first but there were about 30 guys patrolling the area with guns...

Due to the late night I didn't wake up till 3pm today, despite having the cleaner come through at 12. Didn't feel that great... Went down to China Town and did a bit of shopping, its actually like in Jakarata or Bali, everything is fake. Great fun, walked along the Brooklin Bridge. Then I went to 34th Street, which is near the Empire State Building, for a bit more shopping. As I lost my Jumper in LA, I had a mission. I found a great jumper from GAP and a couple of really cool T-shirts. I also worked out the best way to get discounts, I saved $30 on these items alone. I got them all for staff prices. Its a method that works well for guys and girl. When I walk into the store, I tend to attract the gay male shop assistant. Which is great because they are not only fantastic at choosing clothes, they are also intent on having a chat. Once I explain that I am an Aussie who has just moved to NY and am still trying to find my way around, so far I have received over a 50% discount 3 times and 70% discount once. I also have 4 phone no's and e-mail address and an offer of a months accomadation. Well I know i'm bending the truth a little, but hell I'm a Backpacker and need to save my money. Girls you can do the same you just need to find a strait male shop attendant, its very hard to do, but persist and you will get your discounts. On a more serious side, I have actually found that gay guys and girls, (and there is heaps of them here) are the most friendly of all Americans I have met and are always willing to help you out.

I am going to see Rent tomorrow which should be fun, I have a couple of museum I want to check out and then I will be heading off to even colder Edinburgh. Its exciting that I get to see friends and family again and get to meet up with Ami. Its fun traveling by yourself, you never know where you will end up, hence the length of the e-mail, but its always better to have someone to share the experiences with!!

Hope you all well and thank you to everyone that has been sending e-mails and sms's to me. It always great to hear what's going on back in Melbourne.

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