Saturday, December 31, 2005

To Busch Gardens

Posted by Dawn at Saturday, December 31, 2005 1 comments Links to this post
Today, we would be spending the whole day in Busch Gardens. It is a theme park concentrated with thrilling rides. But one good concept is that they have a zoo and safari in there as well.

We went first thing in the morning to start early and the place will close at 1am because it is New Year's Eve and they have fireworks celebration. So, it was more worth going today.

Our morning dose to start off the day was already the rollercoaster ride! We took this thrilling ride called "Gwazi". It is Tampa Bay's mammoth double wooden coaster. It is also the Southeast's largest and fastest double wooden roller coaster boasting more than 1.25 million board feet of lumber and over 2 million bolted connections. It is named after a fabled lion with a tiger's head and there was a seemingly continuous number of spirals. Because of the wood, the ride is very I had a headache caused bythe bumpy ride. But that really woke my morning up...better than any coffee!

Then, we went for a more mild ride called "Python". Though there were double spiraling corkscrew and intense 70-foot plunge, it was so fast that when it ended, CT and I kept laughing cos it was a joke. It ended so fast...think it was like less than one minute. Ha..

Next, we took water rides that could get you wet. Water rides are usually very mild and not exciting...But I wanted to cool off so we took that. CT did not really like the idea of getting wet so early in the morning but he played along with me. There were "Stanley Falls" and "Congo River Rapids".

"Stanley Falls" is simply a log that you are in which goes down a 40-foot drop that's sure to get you soaked.

"Congo River Rapids" is a bit more interesting and you get even more wet! You will encounter the swift-flowing white water of the Congo River Rapids. Spin through a geyser, face an ominous waterfall, and other thrilling obstacles in a 12-person raft.

After all these mild rides, my confidence grew and we went to more thrilling roller coaster rides after that. "Kumba" was our next ride which we knew was very thrilling from all the screams of the people who were going through it. The more they screamed, the more CT and I got excited. Haha..

Kumba is one of the world's best roller coasters. After the blood-curdling thrill of an initial 135 foot drop, there is a plunge from 110 feet into a diving loop, feel a full 3 seconds of absolute weightlessness while spiraling 360 degrees, and tear through one of the world's largest vertical loops. I am not faking all these information as I got this from their website.

We then passed by a 4-D theatre and decided to go in since it was 10 mins before show time. We watched "R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse" which is an exciting 4-D theater attraction. The family-friendly adventure film combines state-of-the-art 3-D visual effects with multi-sensory surprises to immerse the audience in an imaginative and engaging film. Based on an original story by popular children's horror author R.L. Stine. We were wet when we came out cos water was sprayed at us during the show. I felt so cold and wet. Sobsob.hehe..

After that, we went on to more roller coaster rides to dry up a little. Went to "Scorpion" and "Cheetah Chase".

"Cheetah Chase" does not have much looks but it is quite cool when we sit in a small car (4 people) and the car would go left and right abruptly so much so that you feel like you will fall off the car as we were so high up and the angle of turn is so sharp. So at times, I feel as if I would push CT out of the roller coaster. Ha..that makes it exciting..

"Scorpion" has a 60-foot drop and 360 degree loop at incredible speeds. Quite nice..

We also went to sit a "Viking" type of ride that goes back and forth but this one is cooler. It goes 360 degrees. So, the boat will start off back and forth more and more..then it will bring you upside down as you feel your whole face getting super flushed as the blood all rushed to your face as we were hung upside down for quite a while. I felt so dependent on the safety belt as we were practically lying on it and dangling.

After that, we were queuing up for this "sandstorm" ride when I put my hands behind me on the railings and felt a sting. I quickly flick "the thing" off my finger that stung me and it felt like a wasp or some kind of hornet. I quickly told CT and I could feel my finger swelling up and feeling so numb. We quickly got off the queue and went to a First Aid center nearby and they gave me something to apply on it and the, gave me an ice pack to reduce the swelling.

After that, CT told me not to ride anymore. So, we went to the locker to get our stuff and decided to see the animals. They have like hundreds and hundreds of flamingoes, different kinds of birds like vultures, eagles etc.

We also took a train into the safari animal place where we were close to rhino, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests etc. It was fun cos I love animals. I was even just next to a hippo, seperated by a glass. It was awesome. Took lots of pictures of lions that were just 2m away from me.

CT went alone to take "Montu" rollercoaster as I was still recovering from my sting. I waited very long for him as the queue is quite long since it was late afternoon already. It is one of the tallest and longest inverted roller coasters in the world.There is the thrill of an inverse diving loop and a 60-foot vertical loop while you endure speeds of over 60 miles per hour and a G-force of 3.85 with feet dangling. I saw CT through the fence as the roller coaster was moving up but he did not see me as he was probably concentrating. Haha..

There was also this street performance by an Irish family playing celtic music. They are not only super talented with their instruments but they all looked very good. The family consists of the parents, 2 boys and 2 girls. The youngest is only 12 while the oldest is 17 years old. I was amazed. Check out the video by clicking on the play button.

After feeling much better, I wanted to sit the most thrilling roller coaster in the world. It is a new attraction in the park, called "Sheikra" which carries riders up 200 feet at 45 degrees, then hurtles them 70 mph back toward the ground at a 90-degree angle. It is the first coaster of its kind in the Americas and only the third in the world.SheiKra is the first dive coaster to incorporate an Immelmann loop, a water feature, and a second 90-degree 138-foot drop through an underground tunnel. SheiKra also includes a 360-degree climbing carousel. 3,188 feet of steel track offers a total ride time of just over three minutes.

We sat this ride in the dark as the sunsets quite early and the queue for this ride was super long. So much fun! There was a 90 degree face front drop which was awesome. After the ride, we had dinner and spent time walking to see the animals and waited for the New Year's Eve celebration to start.

We also took a cable car that goes across the whole themepark. It was quite cold as the cable car was open air. We also went in search for a good place to catch the fireworks later on. Went up this playground tower but in the end, got chased back down as they were closing up the area. It was eleven plus pm already. So, in the end, we found a spot which we could see the open sky. So, we waited till midnight. There was a huge celebration in the fields where a band was playing on stage and thousands of people were dancing and gathering in front of the stage. We def did not join in cos we hate the crowds.

However, when midnight came, there was one fireworks and no more!! cheated. Dunno what happened but the people were definitely disappointed that night. While walking out of the park, it was slow and difficult as there were many peopl leaving as well.

What a night. Waited all night for it for nothing. I told CT that at least we took roller coaster rides at night and spent a lot of time in the park enjoying the sights and rides as usually, the park closes at about 9pm. So whatever it is, we still spent longer hours than any other who comes on a normal day.

I cannot seem to put up my pictures on...hope to update soon.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Drive to Florida

Posted by Dawn at Friday, December 30, 2005 0 comments Links to this post
Took off at 7am and dropped by at Burger King for breakfast before we set off. We had a nice omelette, bacon, ham, sausage with cheese sandwich. Very filling. Our drive to Florida initially in the morning was very foggy.

We droppped by at the Visitor Centre at Florida which was about an hour away to get more brochures on the places we would be visiting. Then, we drove on and on along the highway at over 120km/h. According to the speed limit on highways here, it is we drove about 140km/h. I remembered when we went back to Singapore for visits, we realised that cars go real slow..haha..

Anyway, we stopped by for lunch at "Wendy" Fast food Restaurant. Just had a simple lunch to keep us sustained throughout the trip. Before we reached our motel at Clearwater, we dropped by at Crystal River as it was written in the travel books that Manatees (sea cows) can be seen here.. So, we went. It was about 10 miles drive in...

Saw no manatees but nice beach I must say.

Spotted very interesting birds.

In Florida, there seem to be more interesting and vintage cars which I spotted.

Reached our motel at about 4 plus pm, just before sunset. I was very pleased with our motel as it was spacious and well equipped. They even provided us toothpaste which we were running out of. I could see the sunset from our room..

We bathed and changed. Then, we went out to explore the place. Went to supermarket to look around for things to buy to stock up in our fridge. Bought fruits, yoghurt, TV dinners (microwave dinners) and 1/4 rotisserie chicken for dinner! I missed eating TV dinner and so, we bought and went back hotel to just relaxed and ate. During supermarketing, I spotted 2 interesting fruits- one is a pear and the other is a melon.

I had steak with corn and mashed potatoes while CT had BBQ pork with mashed potatoes...both costs only US$3. Just pop into the microwave and few minutes later, it is ready. We shared the 1/4 chicken. I love just relaxing in hotel and eating meals while watching TV. We were watching "Princess Diary" in the Disney Channel...funny show.

Ok, I have a problem in posting pictures here all of a bear with me and I will try to get it online soon..

Pack pack

Posted by Dawn at Friday, December 30, 2005 1 comments Links to this post
Will be leaving for Tampa tomorrow morning. Will be doing a road trip there. Just before we left, I cooked a new dish tonight. Made my own italian meatballs with spaghetti and sauce..

I decided to take a picture of it so that when I go back Singapore and review all that I have done, I could remember and cook it when I am back.

I grilled sausages as well to go with it an cooked cream of mushroom soup.

Very filling as I wanted to use all my angelhair spaghetti that I have left..

Slept early tonight for tomorrow's long trip...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Busy busy busy

Posted by Dawn at Thursday, December 29, 2005 1 comments Links to this post
Eversince I came back from NY, I have been editing my photos and trying to update my blog. As well as planning for our New Year's Day long weekend. We would be going to Tampa, Florida from 30 Dec 2005 to 2 Jan 2006.

We wanted to save on air flight and so we chose somewhere which we could drive to. It is about 8-10 hours away from Mobile but it is still manageable.

Wanted to go there to visit Busch Gardens. A place with thrilling rides as well as a cool safari zoo. Sounds these few days, I need to plan and book hotel.

So, I will not be able to update my blog again during these few days.

I told CT that I feel so stress planning trips after trips..but no complains cos when I go back Singapore, I may not have time to travel so much. Will def miss travelling.. Who can believe I used to have a phobia of flying?? Used to vomit a lot and hate te airplane food when I was young. Glad I overcame that!

I have updated my New York photos in the "US Trip Photos" website. Do take a look!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back to Mobile

Posted by Dawn at Wednesday, December 28, 2005 1 comments Links to this post
Woke up usual time, cooked instant noodles for breakfast and checked out at 815am. The shuttle to airport came on time at 820am. Our flight was 11 plus am. Needed a lot of time to airport just in case there would be a jam or long queue in the airport.

Reached back Mobile at 4 plus pm and boy, it was not cold anymore. It used to be so cold in Mobile, but the temperature was so nice now. Went Walmart on our way home for grocery shopping so that I can cook for the next few days.

After dinner, I passed CT his Christmas present. I did not bring it along with me to NY cos it was too big.

Look at how excited CT is..

This is what was inside..

I bought them when CT was away in Charlotte for couple of days. I knew CT wanted to play these remote control cars as he once unknowingly commented. So, I took his word for real and got him these. Bought 2 so that I can race with him.

He got so excited to play and so, we spent the night playing. We had a race course with our dining table and chairs and challenged.

Our course was to go under all the chairs and go 3 rounds in all, then go back to starting point to finish the race. So fun cos we kept crashing on the chairs, walls and each other's cars.

Mine is the Orange Mazda RX car while CT's one is the silver Mitsubishi Lancer. So fun!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Another foggy day

Posted by Dawn at Tuesday, December 27, 2005 0 comments Links to this post
Woke up and had the buns which I bought from Chinatown for breakfast. We had pork floss bun just like the one in breadtalk, hot dog buns and egg tarts. All quite nice. After breakfast, we stepped out and it was still drizzling. Sigh.. It was our last day touring NY as our flight was in the morning tomorrow. So, we were praying for good weather.

Anyway, as we were walking in Broadway, we saw a crowd gathering and went up to take a look. It was at ABC studios and the 2 newscasters were outside giving a live update. So, we gathered and took a peek.

Then, they entered the building with another live performance going on inside the studio which we could see from the glass window. Quite interesting...

Walking in Broadway, you can see how bad the weather is..

We planned to go see the Statue of Liberty today as we have not seen it yet since we came to NY. So, today was our only chance. We walked to the bus stop to take a bus to South Ferry Port but we had time. So, I went into Macy's to look at the stuff they have. Macy is a huge departmental stall in NY with about 6 levels. Outside the shop, there were different Christmas displays in each window which is animated. Very interesting..

Took a bus after walking in Macy. Went to Staten Island Ferry Station to take a free ferry to Staten Island and this ferry would pass by Statue of Liberty. So, we took that. If you want to go close up to Statue of Liberty, it would be about US$15 and would get you to the island where the statue is-Ellis Island. So, we'd rather take the free ferry ride to another island and see the statue of Liberty from afar.

It was a huge 4 level ferry. There was a Japanese tour group in it as well and we were thinking the group being taken to ride a free ferry ride. It seems that they wasted their money to pay for a tour which took them to a free ride.

It was still drizzling but thank God, the fog has cleared up a lot.

View from ferry..with plane at background.

Could see the view of downtown buildings as well from ferry...

Could also see Brooklyn Bridge..

Another same ferry this is the free ferry we took..

After an hour of ferry ride to and fro, we walked around Battery Park City. There is a statue that commerates the American soldiers who died in war..

CT cant help but pose..He has been well-trained.

There is also a sphere which was partially damaged in the World Trade Center attacks. It is 45,000 lbs, 15 ft wide that stands here as an indestructible reminder of its past home. There is an eternal flame and a plaque at its base: "In honor of all those who were lost", it reads. The Sphere endures as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country.

Just as we were walking out of the park, someone asked me if I wanted to feed the squirrels. So, I did and at the end of it, got to pay him tips. That is NY for you...everyone is quite money minded and trying hard to survive in this harsh city.

After that, we took a free connection bus to south street seaport again as we wanted to go to "The Strand" bookshop. We went here yesterday but it was close. So, we came back again. However before we went to the bookshop, CT wanted to go to the toilet. So, we went the other way round to find a toilet and I saw lots of people queuing up in a street. They were queuing up for theatre tickets. Tickets sold here were cheap,good and on the day itself. It is like leftover tickets. So while CT went toilet, I checked it out.

I did not know whether CT wanted to see broadway or not, so I told myself that I better start queuing in case he wants to watch. If he doesnt, I can just leave cos if not, the queue would only get longer and longer. When he came back, he went to see the schedule of shows for tonight and he said the only ones he know that is showing tonight is "Beauty and the Beast". Then, I said, why dont we watch that? I watched "Lion King" in London before and I loved it. So, I thought this might be good as well...and I did not like shows that I have to spend the whole time trying to understand what is going on.

So, we queued up for about 45 mins and got 2 tickets for US$116 in total. The usual price for it is US$110 per person. So, it was half priced tickets. Cool.. I got pretty excited when we got the tickets as I always wanted to watch broadway in NY.

Went to "The Strand" bookshop and boy, so many books. A friend of mine, Andy who goes to New York for holiday at least once a year told me about that place. He said that this place has million unique books at a good price and the shop would help pack your books in boxes for you and ship them back to Singapore for only US$5. So, that is what he does every year. Well, I wanted to spend more time here but CT and I were starving. So, I quickly browsed only and got a cookbook for only US$3.

Went Chinatown again for lunch and we already knew where to go for lunch as we walked yesterday and discovered a cheap and good place. It is a congee restaurant and we ordered 2 claypot congee- fish with century egg...and ordered 2 "you tiao"to go with it. So yummy and the porridge is really good. Lunch costs only about US$8 for both of us.

After lunch, walked to Soho. It is a hip trendy neighbourhood. Andy recommended us to go to this Apple Store in Soho, called "Station A". It is a 2 storey apple shop selling all Apple products. It is quite amazing as I love technology and so, this was a great place to oogle at the computers and MP3 players..

There is even a theatre for workshops on how to use Apple products.

After that, we took a bus to see the Empire State Building. Another famous landmark which we have yet to seen. Wanted to see it yesterday but the fog was too heavy to see anything.

Since it was Christmas, the building was litted up in red and green. I read that the colours come on according to festivals. If it is independence day, it would be red, blue and white. If it was some gay festival, it would be litted up in purple.

Went back hostel after that to bathe and call up our shuttle transport to airport tomorrow. After that, we came back out for our last sightseeing in NY. Went to Times Square Visitor Centre. Strange to go to a visitor centre on our last day in NY as most people go on their first day. Well, it was close on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So, no choice. They have free internet there and free video recording which you can send to your loved ones. Quite cool.

We also went to Toys "R" Us to take a look as recommended by CT's American colleague. Yup, it was huge!! It was a 4 storey building with a ferris wheel in it. Quite awesome.

I love the section where there is a huge dinosaur from Jurassic Park and structures made from Lego.

There are structures of Empire State Building, of "The Thing" from Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Chrysler Building, Statue of Liberty all made in Lego bricks. Very nice. I kept taking pictures in Toys R Us. It was crowded as families and kids did their post-Christmas presents.

There was a huge barbie section, a place where a magician was performing, a section with playstation, xbox 360 and nintendo gamecube.

Colourful lights as we took elevator in Toys R Us...

We went to MacDonalds after that and it was so crowded that I felt I was in some kind of hawker centre as I had to wait for the seats as I watched people eat and stress them by standing next to them, keeping my eyes on other tables.

After dinner, we went to Lunt-Fontanne theatre to catch the "Beauty and the Beast" show. There were already a long queue outside the theatre even though we were there half an hour early. So we queued up and did not wait long as they quickly allow people in.

We were seated in the Orchestra seats which was quite good. This is a picture during the intermission of the show.

It was a great show. There were cool effects like fire, bomb and some form of magic like during the ending, the beast was raised up and how suddenly when it came down, the beast changed back to the young prince. So, it was quite good. I enjoyed it a lot.

Show was from 8pm to 1030pm. As we walked back to out hostel, we grabbed supper. Had shish kebab on a stick, in a hot dog bun. It is chicken meat in a stick, with bbq sauce and placed in a bun. Very nice. They sold it from push carts along the streets..

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in NY

Posted by Dawn at Sunday, December 25, 2005 0 comments Links to this post
Hmm..Christmas in NY is not what it seems. Many people say that spending Christmas in NY is everyone's dream destination holiday, especially when Hollywood movies show how lovely and romantic it is from shows like "You've got mail", "Maid in Manhatten", "When Harry Met Sally" etc..So, that was one reason why we went there. I have learnt that when people say Christmas in NY, they mean actually, Christmas Season in NY..not the actual day. Why do I say so?

Well, read on to find out...

Woke up as usual at 7am to start the day off early by walking around. Cooked instant noodles for breakfast at the common kitchen in our hostel.

After that, we took a bus to City Hall at Lower Manhatten. There is a park there and took some pictures. The weather was very foggy and cold. Could blow "smoke" from our mouths..that is what CT is trying to do in this picture..

Walked to World Trade Center (Ground Zero), known during the Sept 11 terrorist attack in 2001. Cannot really see much as it seems quite empty still...

After that, we walked to Battery City Park which we were supposed to see Statue of Liberty from there. But the weather was so foggy that we could not see a sad..

We then walked in the financial district which was practically empty cos of the Christmas holidays. Everything seemed to be close. Wall St seems to be a dead street...

This is the New York Stock Exchange Building

Walked sadly to South Street Seaport as there were supposed to be a lot of shops and dining area there along the sea. But again, shops were closed and with the fog,we could not get a good view of anything from the port.

Then, we walked along Brooklyn Bridge..quite nice but very cold..

From where we are, we could see Manhatten Bridge, another popular Bridge.

Then, we walked to Chinatown. Yes, walk again..Chinatown is supposedly the biggest Chinatown in US. Went there to check it out and have lunch.

We walked past a corner coffeeshop with roast duck, chicken, pork displayed. So, that caught my eye and since I was hungry, we just went in. Then, someone called my name! I turned and realised it was CT's colleague, Teck Meng. Teck Meng and Chen Twok were eating there as well. We knew they were here in NY but did not think we would meet them. So coincidental. They just finished eating and we were talking where they have gone so far and what they plan to do..

This is the shop we went for lunch. I ordered roast duck soup noodles while CT ordered beef hor fun dry. Very yummy...but surprisingly small portion since we were in US.

Yes, it was raining and cold.

We walked around Chinatown and I bought love letters (with sesame seed) to bring back to Mobile and share with CT's colleagues. Walking in Chinatown seems to be back home in Singapore as there were medicine shops selling all the diff Chinese herbs, there were dried goods shop selling dried mushrooms, scallops and many others.. So, I was very happy looking at all those again. I also bought some buns for tomorrow's breakfast.

Near Chinatown, was Little Italy. So, we walked there along the streets. Lots of Italian Restaurants..only a few shops opened.

We checked out NY University after that and it was not so interesting..Then, the weather became so unbearable that we took a bus home. Rested in our hostel till evening time before heading back out and grab dinner.

Most shops during Christmas Day were not open even in Broadway thought the lights were still on and eye catching. Just glad Chinatown was lively and did not shut down. We walked along Broadway streets again and had dinner at this lovely Chinese restaurant called Ollie's Noodle and Grill. CT ordered Wanton dumpling soup while I ordered soya sauce chicken with rice, which came with blended ginger and spring onions. I loved it very much. We also ordered xiao long bao...which the skin was not as thin as we wanted. But it was still alright.

Walked to Madison Square Garden which is a famous arena/stadium/concert hall place for popular concerts, NBA, ice hockey competitions, American Idol auditions etc...Too bad I did not catch any show here but it did not matter to me as I, too wanted to save money and use it for better things like...hmm..FOOD! haha..greedy ol me..

Then spotted a huge scooby doo just outside Macy's departmental scooby doo cartoons..

There were interesting sculptures like a huge christmas lights and decor along the streets..

Before going to Rockefellar Center, we passed by Radio City Hall which has cute deco. I love this picture which I took as it also shows how foggy and miserable the weather was.. great contrast from the bright lights.

The highlight of today was the lights in Rockefellar Center and seeing people ice skate. The atmosphere and lights were spectacular.

There was a performance from this building above. The lights on the flakes turn on and off according to nice Christmas bell music. So, it was quite a show.

Then, we went to watch people ice skate in a small rink at the center..

There was this particular Asian guy who caught everyone's eye. He was skating and showing some emotions with his hands and legs as he skated. He would always go to the middle while performing.. He kept showing the same movements in his hands that I grew a little irritated and was quite gross with what he was doing. Then all of a sudden, he slipped and fell. His whole face fell flat and was totally drenched because the rink was wet from rain. Then, just as he fell, I could hear the whole stadium of people looking all laughed. Then this father and daughter standing beside me laughed so loud. I thought the father would scold the daughter for laughing but instead, he sniggered to his daughter and said, "This guy is now cold, wet and totally embarrased!" Then, both of them went on laughing. I told CT I was disgusted at their behaviour and had to leave.

I told CT that if parents continue teaching the wrong values to their kids, the generations to come will keep degenerating and have poor moral values. I told CT that if I were the parent, I would def teach the kid not to laugh at other people's misery. No matter how much the guy was showing off, that is his problem but we should not laugh at other's misery.. I went on to say that I scolded my student before because of this problem.

Just wished people could show more love and respect for one another..

Took a couple more shots after that and went back to hostel as it was still drizzling..

Took a picture of CT and a drummer boy as that is my nickname to him eversince I met he has been playing drums since he was about 7 years old.

Ok, so this is Christmas in NY. If I could turn back time, I may just come a few days before Christmas or a few days after Christmas since most shops close during Christmas. But if you want a white Christmas with snow, then you should come in the beginning of Dec.

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