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East Coast US - Canada

The Big Apple

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19/8/2008: Brunei - Singapore - Hong Kong
Our long trip started from Brunei Airport where we left for our flight to Singapore using SQ at 12.20pm. Landed in Changi International airport 2 hours later and waited for our next flight with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong at 6.25pm. By the time we reached to Hong Kong, we just had to go up to the terminal to wait for our next flight to New York which will be on the next day at 9.45am.

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20/8/2008: Hong Kong - New York
Landed in JFK airport at 1.30pm. Depart for Wyndham Hotel in New Jersey which was 2 hours’ drive from New York and met up with our tour guide, Tony. At 7pm, we went for the night tour around New York city. This includes passing by the Empire State Building, Broadway and dropping by the Times Square and Rockefeller Center for sightseeing and photo taking. By the time we reached back to our hotel, it was already 9pm and we had to sleep early because tomorrow we would start our tour.

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21/8/2008: New York - Philadelphia
The tour started at 8am where we departed New Jersey for New York City. The 3 famous part of New York is Manhattan, Chinatown and the Bronx. In this tour we only concentrated on the Manhattan part where the first place that we stopped by was the famous Wall Street and New York Stock Exchange. Along 26 Wall Street, we came across the Federal Hall National Memorial in which it was the first capitol of the United States of America and the site of George Washington's first inauguration in 1789. It is also the place where the United States Bill of Rights was passed. As we walk along Broadway Street, we saw the bronze raging bull known as the Bowling Green Bull. Although the weather was quite cold, no one missed the chance of taking a photo with the bull as it is said to bring good fortune.

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Then, we walked to where the former World Trade Center or now known as Ground Zero. Currently, constructions have been going on in this site whereby 5 new towers and a centerpiece called Freedom Tower will be built on Ground Zero. The Freedom Tower will be the tallest building in US (standing at 540m) and it symbolize the freedom and independence of US.

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Next, we headed for the Empire State Building which is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in New York City at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. It was the world's tallest building for more than 40 years since 1931 until the construction of the World Trade Center's North Tower. However, after the 9/11 event, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York City and New York State. We went up to the 86th-floor observation deck to the 102nd floor to view the whole city of New York.

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We were then brought to see the United Nations Headquarters. Unfortunately, because the UN meeting was scheduled to be held next week, security had been tightened and public are not allowed to go near to this area. However, we took the opportunity with the NYPD polis which was very funny because they were offering themselves to the tourists to be photographed.

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The next destination was the Rockerfeller Center where we were given time to walk around and take photos. Facing the Rockerfeller Centre is the St. Patrick's Cathedral which we went in for a while to observe the Sunday Mass. Then we went to Times Square to have some lunch and look around before heading of for a Manhattan Harbour Cruise. We passed through the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridge (aka BMW bridge) and were showed where Calvin Klein and Leonardo DiCaprio lived. The highlight of this cruise was that we got to see the Statue of Liberty upfront.

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The last part of the New York tour was a visit to the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum which we chose not to go because I’ve seen the one in Hong Kong. So, while the others headed to this museum, we hanged around Times Square and have our caricature done which was pretty funny. I do have to admit that the artists are very good at their drawings and they can finish 1 portrait in less than 5 minutes.

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At the end of the day, we headed off to Philadelphia which was about 41/2 hours drive. 2 hours on the road, we stopped on the way to have Chinese buffet dinner in Cherry Valley and my, I do have to say that seafood must be really cheap as they serve tons of them! Finally, it took us another 21/2 hours before we actually reach to the Renaissance Hotel in Philadelphia.

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22/8/2008: Philadelphia - Washington D.C.
We started off at 8.30am today. Our first stop was to the Independence Hall where the signing of the Declaration of Independence was done and the Old Capital building. We also managed to see and touch the Liberty Bell which now hangs in the Liberty Bell Center, with its storied bell, and the nearby Independence Hall.

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We then headed south through Delaware and Maryland to reach Washington D.C. after 4 long hours. Our first stop was to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum followed by checking out the Hope Diamond in the Natural History Museum. The galleries include Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, Hall of Dinosaurs and Hall of Mammals just to name a few.

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Next, we proceeded to the White House, Capitol Hill, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korean Veterans Memorial. By the time we finish touring it was already evening, so we heading for a Chinese buffet dinner before checking into Courtyard by Marriott.

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23/8/2008: Hershey - Corning - Niagara Falls
Today was an early start as we had to leave the hotel by 7am to head north to visit Hershey Chocolate World via Harrisburg. By the time we actually arrived to the Hershey factory, we were actually the first group to arrive because the factory had not open yet but it was only a few minutes’ wait before they opened the door and we started our chocolate heaven tour. We went for the factory tour where we saw how chocolate were processed from cocoa beans to the end product of Hershey products. The smell of chocolate was so heavy that it actually stuck on our clothes. There’s also so many choices of Hershey chocolates to choose from that it’s impossible to buy everything but they are slightly cheaper compared to the ones sold in other places.
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Our next destination was the Corning Glass Center and Museum which was 2 hours’ drive from our previous destination. Since we didn’t join the tour, we just check out the different sort of glass wares sold in their shop. The price ranges from a few dollars to more than a few thousand dollars.

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The journey to the Canadian border was actually 6 hours long just you can imagine how tired all of us were since we woke up so early in the morning. After arriving to Niagara City, we had dinner in a Chinese restaurant first before checking into Super 8 Hotel. We didn’t have much time to freshen up in the hotel as we had to go out for our night tour to view Niagara Falls by night. The roaring sound of the Niagara Falls on the American side were magnificent eventhough we couldn’t see much in the dark. Then, we spent sometime in the city before actually heading for the Horseshoe Falls. Looking at the Horseshoe from the top felt like as if we were walking in the rain because of the wind blowing all the mists towards us. No one was spared from getting wet that night!

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24/8/2008: Niagara Falls - Canada - Toronto
At 7.30am, we were already at the same spot as where we were the night before, facing the Horseshoe Falls. Today, we were more luckier than yesterday because the wind were blowing away from us, thus, it was a very dry place! In day time, Niagara Falls even looked more magnificent than at night and the sound was as always, very loud and roaring.

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The next part of it was actually what all of us were waiting for that is being on the Maid of the Mist boat and just standing next to the Horseshoe Fall. Most of the time, people will get wet even though a raincoat was given to everyone. I was very fortunate because my raincoat could cover until my toes but unfortunately, it did not help much in protecting my shoes from getting wet. Even our tour guide was checking me out and he said I was lucky because I didn’t get really wet.

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We then headed of for lunch in the revolving dining room of the Skylon Tower, the tallest structure that overlooks both the American Falls, New York and the larger Horseshoe Falls, Ontario from the Canadian side of the Niagara River. It only took us 52 seconds to go up to the 160m high tower from the ground floor. The revolving dinning room offers a 360 degrees view of the Niagara Falls city as well as the American side. Some of us had steak while others had salmon. The food was very nice. After lunch, we went up 1 more level to outer balcony on top of this tower.

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By 2pm, we headed to Toronto which took 2 hours to reach. The scenery along the highway was of course very pleasant as one can see a lot of flat farmlands, dairy cattle and lots of maple trees with various shades of colours.

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When we reach to the Toronto financial district, we stopped by to see the old and new City Hall which was not far from each other because the old City Hall was facing in front of us whereas the new City Hall was just on the left side. Then we left for CN Tower which is located in downtown Toronto, standing at 553.33 m tall and situated next to the Rogers Centre where a baseball game was actually going on. The special feature of this CN Tower is its security check which is actually the only one in the world where they only use bursts of winds from head to toes. Another thing about this tower is that there is an area where the floor is actually made of glass only. So from this glass people can look 553.33m down to the road and the Rogers Centre.

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Then, we headed off for our dinner which was once again, Chinese and after that, we checked into Holiday Inn and slept very early because not only were we exhausted from the long drive but also, we had to leave very, very early.

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25/8/2008: Toronto - Thousand Islands - Ottawa - Montreal
We had an early start today at 6am to catch the boat cruise to the 1000 Islands, a water wonderland along the St. Lawrence River and the shores of Lake Ontario. It took us 21/2 hours to reach there which was good timing because by the time we reach there, it was just 8.30am and we were in time to have our breakfast buffet while cruising along these islands.

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In actual fact, there are altogether more than 1000 islands on this lake and for a place to be considered as an island, it must be able to accommodate a house. There is also a Boldt castle, a monument of love on the Heart Island of George C. Boldt for his wife, Louise. This castle has never been lived in as Louise had passed away before it was completed.

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After the cruise, we headed to the capital of Canada, Ottawa which was 11/2 hour drive. We first headed off to the Parliament Hill which is of Gothic style from Europe. In front of the Peace Tower of the Parliament Hill is a Centennial Flame. The natural gas that feeds this flame bubbles up around a metal dome depicting the centennial year logo (a stylized maple leaf) and the water runs under the coat of arms for each of the 1967 provinces and territories of Canada. The water runs into a moat surrounded by a stone enclosure listing the year each province and territory joined confederation. The use of a combination of fire and water represents the harmony between French and English Canada, with both communities coexisting happily alongside each other, despite any differences or distant history of acrimony, in all of the provinces and territories.

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We then headed east towards Montreal which took 3 hours of driving to the St. Joseph Oratory, a Roman Catholic basilica on the northern slope of Mount Royal in Montreal. We were shown the heart of Brother André and the largest wind organ. Next, we proceeded to the Montreal Olympic Stadium. This is the only Olympic stadium that did not make any money at all but was in debt for almost 30 years since 1976.

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After 11/2 hours’ drive we reached to Montreal’s Chinatown and had French and Chinese cuisine. As usual, there was tons of food to taste and I would have to say, it was the first time that I actually saw fried frogs’ legs being served. I had a try since it was included in the buffet and I have to admit that the meat is really juicier and sweeter than fried chicken. It was really delicious! We finally checked into Gouverneur Hotel after 8pm.

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26/8/2008: Montreal - Quebec - Boston
At 7.15am we drove 11/2 hours to Quebec. First stop was the Quebec City which looks exactly like a small town in France and the weather was colder than the previous few days. The main highlight in this city is the 420m2 mural situated on the wall of house Soumande known as La Fresque Des Quebecois. This mural features many historic characters which contributed to the development of the capital city of Quebec. Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, Francois-Xavier Garneau, and Jean Talon are just to name a few. It also features artists and writers and has also capitalized on Quebec's architecture and geography by featuring the fortifications and stairs, plus each of the seasons and how they change over the course of time.

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Next, we headed to the La Citadell, a military installation and official residence located atop Cap Diamant, adjoining the Plains of Abraham. This citadel is part of the fortifications of Quebec City, the only city with extant city walls in North America. This fort is actually star-shaped, built first by the French in the 17th century, then taken over by the British in the 1820s before the Canadian Forces took over in 1920.

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For lunch, we went back to the city to have a traditional French cuisine in a French restaurant. We had French bread, escargos (without the shell), pasta with salmon and the yummy cheesecake (small portion though). After lunch, we have a very long drive ahead because we were going to go back to US but this time to Boston. Since it was a 6 hour drive, we had to make several stops. After three hours on the road, we stopped by at the Canadian Duty Free shop. The specialty of this place which a tourist should buy are the salmons, Icewine, Icewine chocolate and cookies because they are only available in Canada. The US border was another 21/2 hours drive from our first stop. 31/2 hours later, we finally reached to Courtyard by Marriott in Boston.

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27/8/2008: Boston - New York
Today was the last day of our tour but we still had quite a bit to cover so we started our day at 6.30am. Our first stop was to Harvard University where we learnt about the 3 big lies that is:
1) Harvard University was not founded in 1638 but in 1636.
2) The statue in Harvard University is not John Harvard but a young handsome student that was picked out because no one knew how John Harvard looked like.
3) Anyone who touched the statue’s shoes will become intelligent (well, his left shoes looked very shiny from all those polishing over the years so I wondered how many have actually became intelligent?)

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Anyway, we were told that Harvard students do not use the main gate to come in and go out but instead, they use the side gates. The reason for this is that any student who walk through the main gate means that they have already graduated from Harvard University. We then went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and walked within the faculty.

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Next, we stopped by at the Quincy Market where most of the shops are designer boutiques. We then headed for the Boston Harbor Cruise. Unfortunately, it had rained heavily the night before so everything was quite foggy. Only managed to see those near to the harbour and the USS Constitution. Then we walked to Chinatown from the harbour to have our lobster lunch which was very delicious. After that, we were given a short while to walk around Chinatown before we proceed to the next plan that is dropping off everyone at various airports, starting with the one in Boston.
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Our flight was at 11pm at night from JFK airport so we had to wait for a few hours but it was a good thing that we could check in our luggage as early as 6.30pm. The flight however was a very tiring one because we had to transit in Vancouver 4 hours after our flight left JFK before transiting to Hong Kong and finally to Singapore. That was like almost 24 hours on the plane ‘coz we landed in Singapore on the morning of 29th September. We spent another 2 nights in Singapore and I got myself a new Canon PowerShot SX110 IS at a price which was much cheaper than I expected considering that it’s a very new model on the market.

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Overall, a very tiring trip but well worth it and who would have thought we had the chance of sitting on a Boeing 747-400 which actually has 2 floors(main and the upper deck)!

Posted by Lingering 15:08 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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