Friday, 15 August 2014

A trip to remember....

I was in Cincinnati, Ohio last month for my project work. As this was my first trip to US, I wanted to venture out and visit at least one popular city. And of course New York was my first choice and coincidentally closer to Cincinnati. In my three weeks stint in US, I did visit New York and it was one trip worth remembering and hence I thought I would pen down my experience.

My US trip started on Friday 27th June late night. I reached Cinci on Saturday afternoon, 28th June. It was 4 weeks trip where in I was supposed to come back on 26th July. I had planned to visit New York on the extended weekend of 4th to 6th July and utilize the 4th July holiday. But the first excitement of the trip began with the thunder storms in New York and surroundings from 2nd July and hurricane forecast on 4th. Alas! I cancelled my New York plan.

Then I decided to visit New York on the third weekend i.e. 19th and 20th July as I had to fly back to India on the following weekend of 26th July. I was exploring options to travel to New York, flight was the most preferred but a costly option, train journey was 19 hours long hence not an option. I found few buses which travel overnight from Cincinnati to New York but when I read the reviews which were not very promising I dropped the idea of taking the bus. Finally I booked my flights tickets.

On 17th July I came to know that due to sudden changes in the project I have to travel back to India on the same weekend. My reaction was, "Oh shit! I have booked my tickets to New York for this weekend".  I was informed that I can fly back to India from New York.  Hence I thought I will cancel my tickets from New York back to Cinci but I was not able to cancel one way as it was a round trip and there was some round trip discount associated with it. Unfortunately I had to cancel both the tickets, to and from New York.

I asked my office admin team to book me a ticket from Cincinnati to New York and from New York to Bangalore (India). But I was not lucky enough, it was Friday, 18th July and I was asking tickets from New York to Bangalore on 20th or 21st. No tickets available was the response. I was informed that tickets from Cinci are available on 20th (Sunday) and 21st (Monday) but I have to decide quickly. Finally I got the tickets booked from Cinci to Bangalore for Monday 21st July.

I once again checked the flights from Cinci to New York, WTF ! rates have increased almost twice to what I had originally booked and cancelled. I still went ahead and booked it. The cost was around $800 as opposed to $410 that I had originally booked.

I was not at all happy about it. It was Friday morning, my return tickets for India were booked for Monday. I had two options:-
  1. cancel the the flight tickets to New York (as there were no cancellation charges if cancelled within 3 hours) and sit in Cincinnati doing nothing over the weekend.
  2. spend $800 (around 50,000 Rs) on flight tickets and visit New York.
I did not like any of these 2 options. I thought of the third one, those overnight buses. I read those reviews again and really carefully this time and found out that there was one bus service, Spring Tour which was not that bad. People had actually written good reviews about this particular bus service in general, few things here and there were not very good like fellow passengers talking loudly or driver not very fluent in English, etc. But overall only this particular bus service had good reviews compared to other two which were abused badly.

I thought I will take the risk and try it out. I cancelled my flight tickets with full refund of $791 as it was within 3 hours of booking :) and booked the round trip from Cincinnati to New York on Spring Tours bus for just $120.

I took the bus from Cincinnati on Friday 18th July at 9:15 at night. Bus was not at all bad and pretty empty initially. But it was almost fully occupied till Columbus. When I boarded the bus few fellow passengers were really talking aloud on phone or with the co passenger. But around 11:30 to 12:00 everyone slept and it was quite silent. 

I reached New York at 8:30 in the morning though the estimated arrival time of the bus was 9:15.  I searched metro route to my hotel, bought the metro card and reached the hotel at around 10:00 in the morning.  Guess what, I did not get the room as it was too early, the check in time was 2:00 PM. Fortunately, my hotel was only 3 mins walk away from Times Square, hence I kept my luggage in the hotel and went to Time Square. Explored around Times Square, had breakfast and clicked numerous snaps and came back to hotel after 1:00 PM for check in. I searched the routes and directions to the places I wanted to visit and left the hotel at around 3:00 PM.

In next one and a half days I covered almost entire New York, 9/11 memorial, South Street Sea Port, Brooklyn Gardens, Brooklyn Bridge,  Statue of Liberty, Chelsea Market, High Line, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal and Central Park. I would have walked for more than 15 hours in those two days along with taking New York Sub way several times.

After all my walking and exploring, I headed back to Allan Street to catch the bus. Reached there just on time, 9:12 for a 9:15 bus. Boarded the bus, it was even better than the last time, pretty empty bus and no screaming passengers. Bus arrived at Cincinnati downtown at around 9 in the morning on Monday 21st July. I spend around 2 hours in Coffee Emporium very cool coffee joint in Cincinnati. Headed to my hotel in Cincinnati to collect my bags and finally flew back to India by evening flight.

This trip was one hell of an experience!!!!