New York Subway vs. Shanghai Metro

In the last few years I have travelled to some of the busiest countries in the world and visited the most used metros. Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and New York are amongst the most heavily trafficked in the world. It was fascinating experiencing all of them and comparing how efficient they were.

In the last few years I have travelled to some of the busiest countries in the world and visited the most used metros. Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and New York are amongst the most heavily trafficked in the world. It was fascinating experiencing all of them and comparing how efficient they were.

Tokyo was insane, with hundreds of people politely waiting for staff wielding a u-shaped stick to squeeze people into the cars like sardines. Most of the subway riders wore masks, remained quiet throughout the ride and were as polite as possible under the circumstances. Compared to my experience in China, it was almost hard for me to comprehend, but I’m getting to that…

If you’re returning readers of this blog then you’re probably sick of hearing me whine about the Shanghai metro, please bear with me! The Shanghai metro has over 360 stops and constantly growing. It is super convenient, air-conditioned, ridiculously cheap and surprisingly clean since many people think it’s okay to spit on the ground. The only thing wrong with the Shanghai metro is the passengers.

People on the Shanghai metro only care about themselves and where they are going, except they are also busy looking at their phones so they don’t notice while they hit you in the head, step all over your new shoes and they shove their way on and off the metro as if they are the only ones using it. Every rush hour metro ride that I took got me a new bruise, scratches on my bag and had me contemplating murder – no joke.

For someone who has never experienced it, it’s probably hard to imagine. But nothing ruins your day as much as people who just don’t care about anyone else to the point of acting like animals escaping a wildfire and shoving each other out of the way aggressively (sometimes covered in sweat). When you imagine that there are a billion of these people, it makes you not want to be on this Earth anymore.

“Haha,” people commented on my whiney posts on Facebook, “that sounds just like New York!” Every time I read that, I began to dread my move. I didn’t believe it at first but when everyone I knew in New York kept saying the same thing, I started to think that they might be right. I was very wrong!

The New York subway is the complete opposite of Shanghai. It is dirty, old, not always air-conditioned, it can be extremely inconvenient – for example in Brooklyn, because the trains only go horizontally so you need to go into Manhattan to get from Bushwick to Brighton Beach which is pretty ridiculous.

It is also extremely expensive at $2.75 per ride no matter the destination. Sometimes Google maps will suggest that you transfer in a place where you need to get off the subway and then get back on, which costs you another $2.75! It’s pretty ridiculous.

When it comes to the people, if you think New Yorkers are unfriendly, you haven’t been to Shanghai. The subway can get pretty crowded during rush hour, but people are generally aware of their surroundings. When they pile on into the cars, it’s not quite as organized as Tokyo, but people will make room. In Shanghai you have to push people out of the way because they won’t move an inch and will block off entire areas of free space because they’re too busy looking at their phones to notice it.

Another thing that was really shocking to me was that most New York subway stations have the same place to enter and exit – this would never work in China. People don’t even wait to let people off the subway before they get on. It would be a massacre! I’m not saying that New York is perfect, I actually saw an impatient crowd getting on once before people got off, but one of the passengers yelled “hey, let us get off first” and guess what? They stopped getting on and order prevailed!

It is arguable that the New York subway is more civilized than Shanghai because New York is a much smaller city. Before you laugh at me, Shanghai has 25 million residents compared to New York’s 8.5 million. People in Shanghai are always running and rushing, never helping each other and sometimes New York can be the same, but I’ve never had to carry a heavy bag up any flight of stairs ever, I was always offered help. That never happened in Shanghai… it’s nice to live in a small quiet city now 😉

Earlier on I mentioned Seoul, which is another busy city with a spotless and convenient metro. I would say that the people in Seoul are somewhere in between New York and Shanghai. People are significantly ruder than in New York but less so than in Shanghai. The actual metro is as convenient as Shanghai, as clean as Tokyo (they get money back if they see a spill, etc.) and more modern than both because they take credit card payments like buses in Sweden!

Comparing all the factors, New York is by far the most expensive, dirtiest, least convenient of Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul. But while rats and dripping walls can be ignored or avoided, people are harder to tune out – especially when they are trying to sell you bags and touching your phone over your shoulder (yes, that happened).

There are definitely crazy people in New York and they do ride the subway. Unlike in Shanghai, these people are the minority. Multiply the rudest person you’ve seen on the NY subway by 25 million and then you can imagine what it’s like in Shanghai.

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Video Highlights of Niagara Falls 2018

Two months ago we visited Niagara Falls and I haven’t had a chance to write about it yet. It was an exciting trip full of little adventures all wrapped up in one amazing experience!

Two months ago we visited Niagara Falls and I haven’t had a chance to write about it yet. It was an exciting trip full of little adventures all wrapped up in one amazing experience! Check out the highlights below, I will write a proper blog post about it ASAP! Stay tuned.

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Helicopter Ride Over Niagara Falls (Video)

On my 26th birthday I got to make my helicopter flying dream come true! On August 6th, we took a trip to one of my bucket list locations, Niagara Falls, and we did an amazing 12-minute flight over one of the worlds most spectacular waterfalls!

On my 26th birthday I got to make my helicopter flying dream come true! On August 6th, we took a trip to one of my bucket list locations, Niagara Falls, and we did an amazing 12-minute flight over one of the worlds most spectacular waterfalls! I was nervous until the moment we took off. The noise and windiness felt from outside the helicopter were gone once we were inside, and we didn’t even need headphones for the smooth, exhilarating ride! Check out our experience in the video below:

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Best Vegan Food in China Town, NYC: Bodhi Kosher

On our way in I saw sashimi in the display window and I was disappointed that we weren’t in an all-vegan restaurant. It turned out that the sashimi was vegan too! Another customer who had lived in New York her whole life told us that it was her favorite place in the city.

It was hard to find a vegan restaurant in China Town. Just kidding… it was hard picking one of the dozens of restaurants all claiming to have the “best vegan food in New York City.”

When we lived in Shanghai, China, the concept of veganism was not something that was understood by local people. Although it was easy to avoid animal products by ordering veggie side dishes in local restaurants, there was only one exclusively vegan expat restaurant. So even though we knew that New York is extremely vegan-friendly, we had no idea that China Town was in on the hype.

After a quick search on Google we picked a restaurant based on distance from where we were. It was raining and it would have taken an hour to go through all the options… so we walking for two minutes and found ourselves at the end of a long line outside of Buddha Bodai, supposedly the best vegan restaurant in the city.

Isaac used his Mandarin skills to eves-drop on the staff who mentioned a 45 minute waiting list. We considered waiting since the place had such great reviews, but we ended up finding another place nearby and it didn’t have a line. Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant was barely a block away from Buddha Bodai.

On our way in I saw sashimi in the display window and I was disappointed that we weren’t in an all-vegan restaurant, because I was excited to browse the menu without having to check what I could and couldn’t eat. It turned out that the sashimi was vegan too! Everything in the restaurant was, and this place also claimed to be the best all-vegan restaurant in the city. Plus, another customer who had lived in New York her whole life told us that it was her favorite place.

The list of items on the menu was overwhelming. There was sushi, dim sum, all sorts of traditional dishes made out with mock meat. Like pulled pork, duck and a meat platter all made of mushrooms, stain and other plant-based ingredients that I couldn’t identify.

Unfortunately we came about three hours after dim sum happy hour, which makes every meal a dollar cheaper! Not that Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is expensive… we spent just over $35 on a giant meat plate, a sushi platter, steamed dumplings, fried dumplings and some dim sum. We even got fortune cookies with the bill – which is not something that happens in China by the way.

We definitely hope to go back and sample some more of their delicious menu. However there’s many other vegan places we still need to eat at in China Town. One of the best things about New York is that you could eat a different restaurant every day and it would still take you a lifetime to try it all!

What’s your favorite restaurant in New York? Leave a comment below!

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Cheap Ferries with Great Views of New York

Depending on the time and day of the week, it can be faster to take the ferry than the subway to get from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. After a day of exploring New York a few weeks ago, we did just that. We managed to get on the last boat of the day and made it to Dumbo in less than five minutes. From there, we got to enjoy a beautiful view of the city…

As soon as we found out that we were moving to New York, we began booking weekend trips, sightseeing tours and ferry rides. We found a really cool sunset cruise that only cost $16 per person so we bought tickets, never wrote it down on our calendar and we ended up missing it… which was extremely disappointing.

Luckily, just two days later we decided to go to the beach and the subway took almost two hours to get us from Brooklyn to Rockaway in Queens. On our way back we decided to take the ferry to Manhattan with our friends. For the same price as a subway ride, just $2.75, we spent an hour on the ferry with a double rainbow behind us and the most spectacular New York skyline in front of us!

For about $10 we could have ordered a beer on the ferry too. Although that was too expensive for us, if you add $10 and $2.75, that’s still less than the $16 (+ tax and service fee) that we paid for the sunset cruise that didn’t include drinks… if it hadn’t been raining, we would have even gotten a sunset! Instead, we got to see the most beautiful rainbow.

The Manhattan Pier 11 ferry terminal is on Wall Street and it’s in a really cool area. There are places to eat right on the water, there are parks and cute streets to explore. We didn’t have enough time to stay there and look around, but next time we take the ferry, we hope to see more of the area!

Other than the completely free Staten Island ferry that I definitely recommend every New York visitor to take for great views of the Statue of Liberty, you can also take the ferry from the same Pier 11 to Dumbo, Brooklyn.

Depending on the time and day of the week, it can be faster to take the ferry than the subway to get from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. After a day of exploring New York a few weeks ago, we did just that. We managed to get on the last boat of the day and made it to Dumbo in less than five minutes.

From there, we got to enjoy a beautiful view of the city. We ended up walking to a secluded spot right by the water where we could see the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance as well as the Manhattan skyline. Once again, this ferry only cost us $2.75!

Although we haven’t done it yet, we’ve heard rumors of a $10 ferry that circles the entire island of Manhattan that runs frequently every day. Although these cheap public ferries are a great way to explore New York, if you’re looking for a proper boat tour, that is another cheap option. Subscribe to The Travel Bug Bite for more tips and info about New York City!

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Visiting the 9/11 Memorial: New York, 2018

Despite feeling a pang of sadness every year when the anniversary comes around, the magnitude of the catastrophe never really resonated with me… until I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on September 1st as part of my New York Sightseeing Pass. I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the display of videos, artifacts and photographs of all of the victims and the towers.

It’s been 17 years since the tragic day of September 11th, 2001, but as one of the signs in the memorial states, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

The high schoolers who will learn about the event this year, will be learning about it as history. They were not alive at the time that 2,977 people lost their lives in the biggest terrorist attack that the world had ever seen. I was only nine when it happen yet I remember the day clearly. I can still picture myself playing with legos while watching the footage on every news channel while my mom called family and friends in tears.

Despite feeling a pang of sadness every year when the anniversary comes around, the magnitude of the catastrophe never really resonated with me… until I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on September 1st as part of my New York Sightseeing Pass. I was curious about the museum but was mostly looking forward to going up the One World Trade Center/Freedom Tower afterwards.

I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the display of videos, artifacts and photographs of all of the victims and the towers. They displayed the metal structure that the first plane hit, twisting it out of shape. They had the motorcycle that one of the firefighters had just bought before perishing in the rescue efforts. They even had the boarding pass of one of the highjackers of Flight 77. It was fascinating and incredibly eerie at the same time.

As soon as we got through security and entered the building, a solemn mood fell over the previously boisterous crowd of tourists. There was barely any talking, except in hushed tones, as people read the timeline of events on September 11th.

The amount of information was staggering, down to the detailed minutes of the fateful day, from the phone call that a passenger made to his father from the first plane to rescuers telling people in the South tower to stay calm and return to their offices a mere half-hour before the second plane hit.

There were tissues available for viewers of a video where bystanders and survivors describing the series of events and the horrors that they witnessed. While we didn’t see anyone crying, many people were shaking their heads, holding their loved ones close and closing their eyes when things got too intense.

My favorite aspect of the memorial was the message of hope portrayed in the video about the construction of the One World Trade Center. Amidst all the horrifying footage and possessions of the victims were stories about the heroes who went above and beyond their duties to save lives and help those in need.

We spent about two hours walking around the museum and we would have spent more time there if it wasn’t so cold (the air-con was a little overdone) and if we hadn’t marched for four hours earlier during the day. There was a lot more we could have learned if we had had the energy (and a jacket).

It was a coincidence that we went to the memorial before going up to the observation deck. We were standing by the fountain and made the decision completely at random. It was so much more meaningful to go up the One Trade Center after going through the memorial and re-living the tragic event and experiencing the hope that the tower represented first-hand.

If you’re planning on visiting both the 9/11 Memorial and the One World Trade Center then we strongly recommend that you do the museum first. If you have enough time to spend an entire day there, visit the memorial in the morning followed by a lunch/coffee in the area. You can even get food to go and eat by the fountains that are located exactly where the original twin towers once stood. Please remember where you are and don’t disrespect the memorial by sitting or leaning against the names inscribed along the fountain.

End your day wowing over the views in the tower – try to time it around sunset. If you want to get drinks up on the deck, you can save some money by biding a $6/drink coupon at the ticket desk downstairs. Otherwise you can get beers for around $11, coffee for $5 and fancier wines/drinks or dinner for up to $30 per person. If you have the money to splurge, this is the place to do it.

A few facts about the 9/11 Memorial:

Construction began in 2006 and was finally opened to the public in May 2014. General admissions are $24 for adults, $44 for admission and a museum tour and $39 for admissions and a memorial tour. There are discounts for teenagers, children, students, seniors and U.S. veterans. It is also included in the New York Sightseeing Pass.

If you’re visiting New York City, this memorial is a definite must see. Just visiting the fountains won’t have the same effect . The two hours I spent here gave me a whole new appreciation of New York City. The events of 9/11 didn’t define the city. Instead, the attack united New Yorkers who went on to show the world their strength and the unbreakable spirit of this unique city.

I have so much respect for the creators of the memorial and museum, for the police officers and fire fighters who risked their lives on 9/11. Most of all, for the community that went through the world’s most horrifying terrorist attack and managed to rebuild their lives as well as their city, becoming stronger than ever before.

Rest in peace.
Never forget. 
“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” – Virgil

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The Best View of New York City: One World Trade Center

One World Trade offers a unique view of New York’s spectacular waterfront. While you can see both the Hudson and East rivers in the distance from Top of the Rock, One World is right on the water. You can both rivers clearly merging into the Upper Bay and watch the sunset over New Jersey…

Everyone always debates between going up the Rockefeller Center‘s Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building to see the best views of New York City. My advice? Go to the One World Trade Observatory (Freedom Tower) instead.

Isaac and I travel a lot and one of the highlights of any trip that we take is going up the highest point. Nothing beats seeing a place you’ve been exploring from a new vantage point and we always try to schedule our trip around sunset to experience the city going from day to night.

Although we still haven’t seen the view from the Empire State Building, we’re confident that nothing will beat One World Trade and here are the reasons why:

1. The Waterfront

One World Trade offers a unique view of New York’s spectacular waterfront. While you can see both the Hudson and East rivers shimmering in the distance from Top of the Rock, One World is right on the water. You can both rivers clearly merging into the Upper Bay and watch the sunset over New Jersey.

2. Brooklyn Bridge

New York’s most iconic bridge, the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever constructed and finished by a woman is one of the highlights of the city. One World offers a beautiful view of not only the Brooklyn Bridge but also the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Seeing the bridges light up at dusk was magical and not possible from Top of the Rock.

3. No Obstructing Construction

Construction is not an issue at night because the lights of the city drown out the many cranes. However, on our last visit to Top of the Rock during the day, the view was quite obstructed by construction – we couldn’t really see Central Park because at least three buildings are coming up in front of the park. On the other side, right next the Empire State Building, surprise, surprise, there’s more construction!

Since One World Trade is so much taller than all of the buildings surrounding it so there’s no cranes in view. The construction happening uptown is too far to interfere. Unfortunately you can’t see Central Park from the One World observatory at all, but the Top of the Rock isn’t a good place to see it anymore either.

4. Picturesque Skyline

Both One World Trade and Top of the Rock offer great opportunities for photos. On our visit to Top of the Rock we saw a couple getting their wedding photos taken. There are a few big differences between the views. Top of the Rock offers the best possible close-up shot of the Empire State Building and you can even take a selfie with it.

From the One World Trade observatory, you can see Empire State but from a distance. You can take beautiful shots of the entire city with Empire State, Top of the Rock and all of the other iconic sky scrapers all lined up in the distance. Seeing the entire city like that was spectacular, but you couldn’t make out any of the buildings clearly in a selfie. Enjoying a great view should be a bigger priority than the perfect selfie, but to each their own…

5. Floor-Length Windows

When you’re standing up against the floor-length windows in the One World Trade tower, you can see all the way down and feel like you’re flying above the city. With so many people touching the glass and leaning their greasy foreheads against the windows (like I did) create unsightly smudges and reflections that interfere with the view and with photos. But having windows also makes it weatherproof, which gets me to #6….

6. Weatherproof Views

Top of the Rock is outside which is great on a breezy sunny day, but I’ve been there twice in the middle of winter which was less pleasant. Sure, there’s something to be said about the crisp night air, but if it’s raining a lot or if there’s a storm, the observatory is closed. You can visit One World Trade whenever you want and enjoy a (slightly too strongly) air-conditioned space.

7. Tallest Observatory Deck

Size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to views, height makes a difference. One World Trade is significantly taller than Top of the Rock and was actually the tallest building in the USA (if you count the height of the antenna). As I previously mentioned, it’s height puts it over ugly construction on nearby buildings and it just makes it more excited to be as high off the ground as possible.

8. The WOW Factor

This might be an unfair category since the Top of the Rock was built almost a hundred years ago and opened to the public in 1933… but I can’t not mention the cool extras that the One World Trade Center offered that made the experience more special. The elevator that took us up took only 45 seconds and shows us a video of New York as it changed (and grew) in the past 300+ years. It was unexpected and beautiful!

Next we were waiting in line watching yet another movie about the building. It wasn’t boring but staring at screens gets old when you’re itching to see the real thing. The video ended with the screens lifting to reveal our first glance of the bay from (almost) the top of the building! Everyone was so genuinely surprised that we wowed and clapped. Sorry for spoiling the surprise…

Conclusion:

The two buildings offer completely different view of the city. If you can only do one, I’d say go to One World Trade. If you get the chance to do both, it’s definitely worth going to Top of the Rock too. They charge you extra for going around sunset so if you do both, go to Top of the Rock during the day and then do One World Trade for sunset to save a few dollars. Or get the New York Sightseeing Pass and save a lot of money on visiting various attractions in New York.

Both buildings have a fascinating history – if you do One World Trade I’d recommend visiting the 9/11 Memorial first to truly appreciate what a symbol of hope the Freedom Tower was in the light of the terrible attack on the Twin Towers. It’s a somber experience that made sure to emphasize the One World Trade Center’s part in New York’s healing process.

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Rainbow Bagels: They Look like a Unicorn, Taste Like 💩

The bagel was sugary yet flavorless, the beautiful twirls of colors wasted on what tasted far from the rainbow I expected. I had to scrape the cream cheese onto a regular piece of bread to get the grossly bland flavor out of my mouth…

Bored of regular New York bagels and coffee after just one month of living in Brooklyn, I decided to venture out and sample something special. Somehow Googling “glitter coffee” took me to the The Bagel Store’s website. I couldn’t find what I was looking for but the words “rainbow bagels” and “the bagel that broke the internet” combined with pictures of crazy colors had me intrigued. I just had to try one but I didn’t want to do it alone.

I got to their store at 754 Metropolitan Ave way too easily, already worrying that if the bagels tasted as good as they looked I’d be tempted to hop on the L train for 15 minutes for a fresh taste of the rainbow every single day. Perpetually early, I got there with time to spare and was disappointed to find that the place was tiny and hot. But at least there was an empty seat for me to sit in while a waited!

After just five minutes of me waiting the two men behind the counter started eyeing me and I overheard one asking if I had ordered anything. It was my first experience of New Yorkers being rude and it made me squirm in my seat, going out of my way to check my watch, sigh and pretend to text so that it was clear that I’m waiting for someone. Why else would someone sit in an non-airconditioned bagel store in the middle of a heat wave?

Five more minutes passed, I made accidental eye contact with the staff who didn’t return my smile, so I got up and waited in the doorway which provided a pleasant breeze and was slightly less awkward. My friend finally arrived and we went in to buy some bagels, “to-go” of course, to avoid the heat of the place and the coldness of the staff.

I ate the bagels a few hours later at home after toasting them on the stove, taking some pretty pictures and slathering them in tofu cream cheese. A sweet stuffy smell filled the kitchen but my hopes were still high… until my third bite. The bagel was sugary yet flavorless, the beautiful twirls of colors wasted on what tasted far from the rainbow I expected. I had to scrape the cream cheese onto a regular piece of bread to get the grossly bland flavor out of my mouth. They should call it the bagel that broke the planet after a tsunami of colorful bread clogged up toilets and overflowed landfills.

Despite the unpleasant experience with the store, the staff and the rainbow bagel itself, I plan on returning to give their glitter bagel a chance. Now that my expectations are so low, nothing can disappoint me. Right? Plus I still haven’t tried edible glitter and since I can’t find a sparkling coffee anywhere, a blinged out bagel will have to do for the time being.

All in all, I recommend the rainbow bagel if you’re an Instagrammer or just want to check it off your bucket list like I did. Please don’t feed it to any birds, unless you hate them and want them to die. Just keep in mind that crows never forget a human face and will get revenge if you torture them with this rainbow 💩.

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New to New York: First Impressions

So our first impressions are: New York is awesome! It’s overwhelmingly huge and the atmosphere, in Manhattan especially, is boisterous and pregnant with possibilities that make you want to follow your dreams and shoot for the moon! The people have been friendly, chatty and very welcoming. It’s so diverse and international that no one bats an eyelash about a Ukrainian-born Czech moving here from China…

Isaac and I left our cozy home in Europe in July 2016 with a plan of spending a year in Shanghai, China while doing some traveling before settling down in New England in a cute house with a large backyard to fit all of our rescued animals. But things don’t always go the way we plan… and that can be a good thing!

Since my visa wasn’t ready and our travel plans had spun out of control, we ended up spending another year in Shanghai. During that year we visited Tibet, Seoul, Harbin, Bali, Cebu, Manila and PhiPhi! That Christmas I also got to spend a year in New York and I couldn’t help falling in love with it.

When my visa interview appointment was set and it was time to look for jobs, I pushed Isaac to extend his New England applications down the coast to New York and New Jersey. I had no idea that he would get his dream job in my dream city! We made all of the arrangements and started booking weekend trips and bought New York Sightseeing Passes but it didn’t feel real until we arrived at our first apartment viewing on August 1st.

It only took seven apartment visits to find our perfect apartment and it was far from the house we had pictured as our first home in the US. It was also perfect! It’s no colonial but it’s surprisingly large and affordable for Brooklyn (picture a shoebox that’s meant for knee-length boots instead of flip-flops) plus it has a small shared backyard with one other family.

Our backyard-sharing neighbors are quite rude I must admit, almost as rude as we pictured most New Yorkers to be. We could not have been more wrong! Compared to Shanghai, the people here are extremely polite, respectful and aware of personal space as well as their surroundings.

In addition to not stepping on us and letting people get off the subway before they get on, they don’t stare and always say “excuse me” if they want to get by you, or if they get in your way at all. One guy apologized for almost stepping on me when I was rudely rushing by him without saying “excuse me” to warn him to not step on me. It’s truly night and day!

It’s also making me curious to explore the rest of America and see these terrifyingly friendly and polite people who make New Yorkers seem rude. Our first trip outside of the city will be Block Island RI to visit family, then Cape May NJ to whale watch and in October we have a fall foliage train ride leaving from Connecticut and then a lighthouse bout tour planned along the Hudson River.

Between unpacking, Isaac working, my job hunting and our weekend trips we’re low on time to actually explore the city! We’ve been squeezing in some activities from our Sightseeing pass that have so far included a day at Luna Park followed by the last weekly Coney Island fireworks of the season, we took a night tour of the city, we visited the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, soaked up the day-time views from the Top of the Rock Observatory and then took a stroll through Central Park – yes, our feet hurt.

We also got to spend the day in flapper dresses (well I did, Isaac wore his typical work outfit with bonus suspenders and a fedora). We had booked the tickets for the Jazz Age Lawn Party the moment my visa was approved back in June and it was even more fun than we had expected! We went with an old friend from Prague who also moved to New York and met a brand new dance-loving vegan friend who happens to live in Brooklyn too!

So our first impressions are: New York is awesome! It’s overwhelmingly huge and the atmosphere, in Manhattan especially, is boisterous and pregnant with possibilities that make you want to follow your dreams and shoot for the moon! The people have been friendly, chatty and very welcoming. It’s so diverse and international that no one bats an eyelash about a Ukrainian-born Czech moving here from China.

I will be writing an entire blog post about the subway and how it compares to the horrors that I experienced on my daily commute in China. Let’s just say for now that when I heard a girl complain about the rudeness of a man who stood up before the subway came to a stop because he stumbled and accidentally touched her – well, Isaac had to stop me from bursting out laughing. Because he didn’t want me to be loud on the otherwise quiet crowded subway… and if you’re reading this thinking I’m crazy, I beg you to book a flight to Shanghai and take the metro during rush hour.

Don’t forget to subscribe for more blog posts about New York, fun guest posts by people living on the other side of the world and for more fun travel stories from places both near and far.

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When to Visit the Top of the Rock Observatory

I have been to the Top of the Rock Observatory three times now. The first time I went was in February 2014. I don’t remember the day of the week but I know it was about an hour before it closed at 11 PM and it wasn’t too crowded. It was my first time in New York and I thoroughly enjoyed the view of endless lights made only more magical by a sprinkle of snow on the freezing night that I was grossly underdressed for…

I have been to the Top of the Rock Observatory three times now. The first time I went was in February 2014. I don’t remember the day of the week but I know it was about an hour before it closed at 11 PM and it wasn’t too crowded. It was my first time in New York and I thoroughly enjoyed the view of endless lights made only more magical by a sprinkle of snow on the freezing night that I was grossly underdressed for.

My second visit to the Rockefeller‘s famous viewpoint was unfortunately also in the middle of winter, around 8 PM on Friday, December 22nd, 2017. It took an entire hour from me getting in line to buy a ticket using my New York Explorer Pass to stepping out onto the observation deck. It would have taken longer if one of the guards hadn’t taken pity on me.

I must have looked quite pathetic squatting on the cold floor, my feet aching after four consecutive days of non-stop walking. He looked at my ticket, winked and let me in half an hour earlier than my allotted time that stood out on the glossy paper in bold.

Getting in the elevator was the first step of a grueling wait. There was an obnoxiously long line to get through security, picture people taking off all their winter layers and stray scarves getting stuck in the conveyor belt in between overflowing trays. Next came another line to get photos taken that few people would actually end up spending the price of lunch for two on. Then came another elevator before we finally reached the top deck where I had to wait patiently for people to take the perfect selfie before clearing a tiny gap for me to look out at the city through.

Once again, the view was spectacular! I didn’t recognize much except for the Empire State Building, the ball that would be dropped in just nine days in Times Square and of course, the darkness in between the lights that was Central Park. It was beautiful but meaningless unless you know the city… and the journey out of the building was an adventure of it’s own that took another hour.

Less than a week ago on an only slightly too warm Sunday afternoon, I visited Top of the Rock for a third time. This time I could actually see the buildings clearly and I wasn’t overwhelmed by the myriad of neon lights. Maybe it was because I knew the city a little better this time or because I was sharing the experience with Isaac, but it was by far the best my three visits.

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We spent ages looking up the buildings we were looking at, reading up on them (download the official app) and taking photos. There were essentially no lines going up (or down) and there were few tourists to obstruct the views. There was even a couple taking wedding photos because it was just that empty! We walked around leisurely, soaked up the views and sat down on a bench overlooking the Empire State building to eat lunch that we brought along from home. #zerowaste #vegan #newyorkonabudget

If you only have one opportunity to go up to the observation deck, I recommend doing it during the day. Not just because of the crowds, but you really get to appreciate the city if you can recognize the buildings in between green parks and sparkling rivers. You can enjoy the city lit up from the ground – specifically Dumbo in Brooklyn or from atop Manhattan bridge.

We do plan on going up the Empire State building at night and we’ll let you know how the views compare so stay tuned! The reason that so many people go to Top of the Rock at night is to specifically see the Empire State building lit up in all it’s glory. So when you go depends on what you want to see. But personally, I think it’s just as beautiful, if not more, during the day!

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