Friday, January 8, 2010

The Year End and New Year Vacation

The ultimate HOLIDAY so far for me.
Never have I had a holiday that I can count the number of days sleeping in, lazying around the house doing what I absolutely like (watching TV), finishing 4 thick novels in a week, cooking to survive, and SWEATLESS.

The destination? NORTH AMERICA: Toronto, NYC and Philadelphia
The weather? WINTER: absolutely snowing and crazily cold
The people? BIG SIS: then was joined with the other family members (extended included)
The occasion? CHRISTMAS: best holiday of the year
The fun? COUNTLESS: meeting great people, spending time with family, exploring the city
The discovery? SNOW: the one falling from the sky and the snowman (and shoveling)
The adventure? SKI: drove up to Blue Mountain and went berserk skiing like crazy downhill
The food? GREEK'S SOUVLAKI, PHILLY'S CHEESESTEAK, THE KEG'S TERIYAKI SIRLOIN STEAK: meat, meat and more meat (irresistible)
The shopping? OUTLET MALLS: the best place to shop for great quality and great deals

Toronto was a wee bit boring after 2 weeks since I didn't have a car to drive around. It's a wee bit inconvenient to take the bus in the cold weather. Worst, big sis and I were lost during a bus ride for a good one and a half hour.

** Bus 169 heading for Scarborough Town Centre. According to the non-detailed directory, it will pass-by Van Horne (home). Ran to the bus. Sat there waiting for the operator to call out 'EDMUNTUN'. 45 minutes, no familiar stops read or heard. HMMMM... 1 hour, reached STC (the far east side of Toronto). Crap. Looking for familiar bus number at the bus interchange, there was none. Saw 169A coming from the other side. Ran and got on the bus. HUGE EMBARRASSMENT, the same driver as bus 169. ==". Blushingly asked the driver, "I went onto the wrong bus just now. Are you heading for Edmuntun?" Saw a nod and smirk. Thanks. Sat for a good 25 minutes. Anxious again. Said, "O, glorified God in the highest, please say EDMUNTUN." Sang that old hymn in Indonesian, "Heavenly Father, teach me to be still..." Right after, the operator said, "Next stop, LUCIFER DRIVE." Is the a sign? How odd. Finally, Edmuntun. Got down singing and laughing as we walked home in the chilly weather and slippery street.

Inconvenient, SEE WHAT I MEAN?
The bus stop is just a pole with a picture of a bus. No bus numbers. No directory.
Not a tourist-friendly place at all. (Thank God for Singapore's SBS transit -- fine, and SMRT.)

New York City was awesome! Despite the cold, I was satisfied with the sightseeing moments as well as souvenir shopping. Oh, must not forget, the unforgettable NY BROADWAY SHOW: THE LION KING!!!!!!

** The Christmas day attack on Detroit bound flight from Amsterdam resulted in MANY cancelled flights and major delays in all US-bound flight since then. Our flight to Newark got cancelled on the 28th. Only my family, extended family's flight was flying but delayed. SHEESH. Why all the time wasted, God? There must be something to be taught right? Stayed at Holiday Inn near the airport. Had to go for late lunch (2pm) since we were stuck in the airport figuring out our flight since 9am. Unreliable customer service. First good thing, THE KEG, the home of the finest steak I have ever eaten in my whole life.Second good thing, FREE PIZZA PIZZA dinner worth CAN$62. Why free? We waited for an hour or more, but no food. Called 967 11 11 again to get explanation. Was told that the delivery dude got the wrong room number (which doesn't exist). DUH, ask the receptionist! Why do they need to get the full name of the guest whose room is registered to when I ordered? After much argument, boils down to the miscommunication of Pizza Pizza staff. Was told not to pay for the meal. $62!!! The delivery dude came in just 20 minutes. Told him that we got the order for free. He couldn't believe it and won't leave. FINE. We gave him $5 for tip. The he left. That was all that he was waiting for. No free tip.

In Toronto, I wanted to book Lion King tickets online. The cost, US$131.50.. plus tax becomes US$171-ish. When I logged onto the website for Dec 28 show, it was SOLD OUT until Jan 2, which was the date to go to Philly. Devastated and angry, I blamed everyone but myself. I tried to make it work. Searched sites that still sell tickets (agents). The price was from $200 and up. What..... Was already ready to pay, when I saw the delivery mode. NO pick up. Mail delivery to Toronto house in 3 business days. That's shipping, not arrival date. We were leaving Toronto on 28th! Impossible. Finally, after much 'Why God', I gave up knowing that there must be something that I must learn in this situation. Perhaps, patience and trusting God. He always has this element of surprise whenever it came to teach me a lesson. Firstly, our flight on the 28th was cancelled. Our flight out of Toronto was rescheduled to Dec 29 to Philadelphia then taking a ride to Newark. Which means, if we bought the tickets for the show on the 28th, we would have wasted more than $1200!! Secondly, once we arrived in NYC, I saw Minskoff Theatre where Lion King is showing. We decided to visit (just to take pictures, initially). Once there, the box office people were saying the next available show was on Jan 2, 2pm. I was thinking, since we were not flying to Philly, we could catch this one. Plus we can buy tickets right there. Parents agreed and finally asked how much it was. God's element of surprise kicks in again. $131 per person. NO TAX. Was given the best seat: Orchestra, Row L, Centre-centre. I was literally prancing around when we finally purchased the tickets. "See, your dream came true because you wait!" I couldn't stop thanking God for this divine surprise! The show was beyond amazing. I was tearing all the way because it was just too beautiful. Good things come for those who wait.

Philadelphia is an educational city. Old buildings. Historic places for the US Independence. Lots of Vietnamese. Lots of Indonesians. Lots of murals too. Not my favorite, because the place was quite dead during winter. Summer is the best time to visit that place. There's this town off Philadelphia called Hershey. Yup, that was where Hershey chocolate originates. The street is called Chocolate Avenue. How cute! We ate lots of Chinese food in Philly. I think I shall fast Chinese food for a month now.

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