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Trip 2013 Travels 2013 Travels   All of my travels in 2013. 1. Florida - March (Waypoint 1-11) 2. New York... Walter Ch (US)

2013 Travels


All of my travels in 2013.

1. Florida - March (Waypoint 1-11)
2. New York City - July (Waypoint 12-13)
3. Chicago - July (Waypoint 14-18)
4. New York City - August (Waypoint 19-20)
5. Texas - September (Waypoint 21-29)

  • 10Mar 2013

    1 Rough Start 03/10/2013 USA —

    Kissimmee, USA


    The trip to Florida has arrived, on what could be my final spring break trip. I decided to take another trip to Disney World, plus visit the Kennedy Space Center and SeaWorld as well.

    I have been to Disney World 6 times, with the first time being in 1984. That was also my first memory of riding an airplane. Since then, I went in 1989, 1991, 1994, 2006, and 2012. Most of them were a lot of fun, but there was one time that I wished I did not go, when I went with my cousin's family (who are people I want nothing to do with, but that's a story for another time).

    I am an on and off Disney fan, having seen all of the 52 animated movies, plus the 13 Pixar films. I have grown up watching the movies every Sunday night in the 80's, on the Wonderful World of Disney. Also, I used to be a huge astronomy buff, and used to want to be an astronaut, hence for the Kennedy Space Center.

    Before I get started, I want to say, that this blog may be different from other ones, in that, in addition to sharing about this trip, I will also be looking back at my previous visits to the theme parks, sharing some memories. Also, I will be treating this as if this was my first time, so I will be uploading a lot of photos and writing pretty lengthy entries. So yeah, a huge load of everything.

    I headed to the Philly airport, and got there with enough time to do the usual stuff (check-in, security). Then hopped on a flight, heading to Orlando. Once there, I went to the Mears Transportation desk, to get a shuttle to the hostel that I was staying at. But the lady there, told me that they don't go there at all. I was surprised, considering how I read online, that Mears does go there.

    I considered other options, then decided to take the shuttle van to Disney World. That would take a while, as I had to wait for the next one. Then picking people up, then dropping them off. In other words, I was the first one to get on, but the last one to get off. That took up a lot of valuable time.

    I arrived at the Transportation & Ticket Center (more about that later), and waited for the next Lynx bus back into the town of Kissimmee. When it came, I hopped on, and rode it to the Lakefront Hostel. Once there, I checked in, and would spend the next 10 days there. I asked the owner if Mears does go there, and he told me that they do. So someone is not telling me the truth here. Hmm.

    I rested for a little while, then went out to do a little shopping. I stopped by to get some lunch, and buy some supplies like sunscreen. I was really annoyed that a local CVS did not have any 3 oz sunscreen, so I ended up buying the bigger bottle of the brand that I prefer, knowing full well that I would have to throw it out when the trip ended.

    I hopped on the Lynx bus, and finally headed to Walt Disney World. During the ride, I could not get past the fact that someone was lying to me. I thought about waiting until the end of the trip to call customer service, but it was eating me up inside. So I called during the bus ride, and told them what happened. Turned out that Mears does go to the hostel, and they apologized and gave me a free ride back to the airport. So that was a good thing, but I hope the lady who lied to me, will get reprimanded. :(

    I arrived at the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC for short), and looked around the place for a bit. The TTC is the main hub for all transportation in the Walt Disney World Resort, with buses and monorails taking people to the 4 theme parks and hotels within the Disney resort area. The 4 theme parks are the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. There is also Downtown Disney and DisneyQuest, among other options. More about those places later on.

    So I walked to the monorail platform, and hopped on the one, taking me to the first theme park I'm visiting, which is Epcot. I always thought the monorail was a nice way to kick off any visit to Disney World, and my preferred way of getting around the resort area.

    I would often get really excited when the monorail does a little loop in Epcot, as if it was previewing what this theme park has to offer. Normally, there is a voiceover, telling what the attractions are there, but for some odd reason, there was none on this ride.

    In any event, I have arrived at Epcot. The next series of entries will be more focused on the theme park that I spend majority of the day at, with photos of that theme park only.

    Photos & Videos


  • 10Mar 2013

    2 Epcot, Part 1 03/10/2013 USA —

    Bay Lake, USA


    Once I arrived at Epcot, I got off the monorail, and ran to the entrance, and had to go through a bag check. Then went to a ticket window, to possibly upgrade my ticket. I got to talk to a Disney theme park employee (called Cast Members or CM), who was originally from India. We talked for a little while, then I had to go when another customer came behind me. I went to get my ticket scanned, and into Epcot.

    Epcot was the second theme park built, opening in 1982. It is divided into 2 sections: Future World and World Showcase. I first visited Epcot in 1984, back when it was known as EPCOT Center. At that time, EPCOT stood for "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow", though at times, it would jokingly stood for "Every Person Came Out Tired". Epcot was suppose to be a planned community of tomorrow, proposed by Walt Disney himself. Basically, an Utopian city where people lived and experimented with new technology. Obviously, that did not happen, due to Walt Disney's death in 1966.

    The first time I went to Epcot, I hated it. So much so, that I would wait outside the ride, while the rest of my family went on it. I was 8 at the time, and just did not find it interesting at all, especially Future World. But with each visit after that, I started to like it more, and got sad when hearing about some of my favorites getting replaced or being changed completely.

    Once I got into Epcot, I headed to Spaceship Earth, which is a ride inside the giant golf ball. It has been a personal tradition of mine, to go on this ride first. Having arrived in the afternoon, there was a line. But the wait was not long. Probably one of my favorite rides in this theme park, though have to admit, I liked the earlier versions of the ride. Not really a fan of the interactive part, where you "choose your future".

    After the ride, I just decided to focus on Future World, with the limited time left, and trying not to do too much at one time. So I went to Test Track, where I chose to stand in the single rider line. This one is where parties may be separated apart, as they treat every person as party of one. It moves so freaking slow.

    After Test Track, it was to Ellen's Universe of Energy, which is powered completely by solar energy. But the wait in line could be very long, not to mention, get fried, as the building reflects the sunlight. After that, I went on the milder version of Mission: Space. First time that I went on both Test Track AND Mission: Space on the same day. Never done that before.

    Along the way, I decided to stop inside, for some character meet-and-greet. These are throughout the theme parks, where people get in line to get autographs and get their pictures taken with a character. Well, after telling my brother-in-law "no", when asked if I got a picture with Mickey Mouse, I decided to get one this time. So I stood in line, being the only adult with no kids there. A little nervous, but so what. I ended up getting a photo with not only Mickey Mouse, but also Pluto and Minnie Mouse as well.

    Then to the east side of Future World, where some of the attractions were already closed. It started to get dark, and some of the attractions were already closed. The only ones open, were Soarin' (where the line was so freaking long), and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. So I went to The Seas, where the line was not long and moved fast. It used to be The Living Seas, before getting rethemed in 2003. Now, in addition to the small aquarium, there is a ride that takes you through the story of Finding Nemo, the 2003 film.

    After the ride, I looked around for a little bit. Then decided to leave Epcot, and head to Disney's Hollywood Studios. I had to take one of the Disney buses to that theme park. Once I got there, I headed straight to the amphitheater. More about Hollywood Studios later on.

    So I got to the amphitheater, and watched the night show, Fantasmic. More about the show in a review, at a later entry. I arrived early to get a seat.

    After the show ended, I decided to take a trip to the Magic Kingdom. So I had to take the bus, and hopped in a crowded one. I arrived at the TCC and took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Then entered the theme park.

    I stopped by a place to pick up some spell cards, for a game in the theme park. More about this in a review and later on this blog. After that, I just stayed in the nearby area, to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade.

    After the parade, I went on a few rides, and staying in the theme park past midnight. The park was open until 1 AM. Then had to take a taxi back to the hostel. After a rough start, it ended up being a great day, mainly because I have returned to Disney World. But now, I will have to take a "break" from Disney.

    Photos & Videos


  • 11Mar 2013

    3 SeaWorld 03/11/2013 USA —

    Orlando, USA


    I tried to get up early, but did not, since I went to bed late last night. So getting up later than planned, I ran across the street to the supermarket, to get some breakfast, as well as possibly getting some supplies for lunch and dinner during my trip, as a way to save money. So I did some shopping, plus decided to buy transportation and ticket to the Kennedy Space Center, for the next day.

    But this day, I decided to visit SeaWorld. Getting there, would take a very long time by public bus. Once there, I headed to the entrance.

    It has been a very long time since I went to SeaWorld. I have only been there once, back in 1989, when I went with my mother and sister. Judging from the outside, it will definitely be different this time around, as I noticed a couple roller coasters. Never thought this theme park would ever have any rides, as it was mainly about marine life.

    I entered the park, and looked around for a bit. That was when it hit me, that I really don't remember much about this place. The only thing I do remember, is getting nearly wet from Shamu. Did I really find it that boring? I don't remember feeling that way. Well, now that I am finally here, I am about to see what this place has to offer, and see for myself, whether it was really worth my time.

    I went to the information desk, to get a map, and info on some shows. Since I arrived a lot later than planned, I would miss one show. Plus I had to figure out a plan to see as many shows as possible, along with attractions. After that, it was time to see some marine life.

    I started by seeing the sting rays first, passing by one of the roller coasters. I am not much of a roller coaster fan, and in this visit, I won't be going on any (I know, I know!). Then went to see the dolphins, first above ground, then an underwater viewing.

    The only attraction that I did go on, was the Turtle Trek. I passed by a few habitats, one with manatees, and another with turtles. Then Turtle Trek, which was a 3D show in an IMAX-type theater. It was fun.

    Afterwards, I headed to the Seaport Theater, to catch the animal show, "Pets Ahoy!" This show featured dogs, cats, and even rats and a pig, performing some tricks with some humans. Very cute (for the most part), and worth watching for any dog or cat lover. Being a cat person myself, I enjoyed the show. The other great thing about this, is that it's indoors and air-conditioned.

    Next, I went to the show, "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island", in an outdoor theater. Basically, it's a pirate show featuring sea lions, otters, and a walrus. While the animals are fun to look at, I thought the show was kind of dull. It may appeal more for kids, but not for me. I found myself tuning out at times. I barely remember seeing this show as a kid, and even then, I did not find it too entertaining.

    After that, I went to "Blue Horizons", which is the dolphin show, located near Dolphin Cove. Now, this show was a lot more entertaining. Basically, it was acrobats doing some tricks along with the dolphins. It is actually better than the way I'm describing it.

    After the show, I saw the tower, where people can get a panoramic view of SeaWorld. Unfortunately, it was closed. So I went to the other side of the park. I stopped by the buffet restaurant, which was an all-you-can-eat of Italian food. Basically, pizza and pasta. I loved it very much!

    I went to see the Shamu show, named "One Ocean". I remember seeing it more than 20 years ago, but obviously it will be a lot different. For starters, there are a couple of flat-screen TVs, which did not exist back in the 80's. Similar to the dolphin show, it was performers doing some acrobats along with the killer whales. And there are more than one. The name "Shamu" was given to the first whale that performed in the late 1960's and 1970's. That whale died in 1971, but the name continued to be used for all the shows in all the SeaWorlds.

    After the show, I walked around the rest of the park, with the remaining time left, seeing the variety of marine animals. They would include polar bears, sharks, walruses, sea lions, and more. They were located throughout the park, and it was quite a walk to get from one place to another.

    Closing time was approaching, and I went towards the exit. I stopped by a few more places, to see the aquariums inside. Then exited the park.

    I went to the bus stop, where I hopped on one, and headed back to the hostel. Then just ate some dinner, and relaxed for the rest of the night.

    Photos & Videos


  • 12Mar 2013

    4 Kennedy Space Center 03/12/2013 USA —

    Cape Canaveral, USA


    I had to get up really early, and make a quick stop at the market, to buy some water and snacks. It was also where I would get picked up in a shuttle, to go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex . I did the shopping and waited until the shuttle came. I had already paid for transportation and admission the day before.

    I got on the shuttle van, and ended up riding with a guy who was from Pennsylvania, about an hour away from Philly. We talked the entire time, as he went to a hotel to pick up more people. Then went to a shopping center, where we had to wait, for the main bus to take us to the Kennedy Space Center, courtesy of Gray Lines.

    This would be a tough day, as it started to rain. The forecast did call for rain, but I hoped it was stop by the time I got to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). I got on the bus and was on my way.

    When I was in elementary school, I used to have a huge interest in astronomy, and used to memorize so many facts about space. I even wanted to be an astronaut, along with a friend, and we talked someday of moving to Cape Canaveral.

    I slept during most of the journey, and by the time I woke up, the bus arrived at the parking lot. Everyone was given a ticket and map of the place, as well as a poncho, since it was raining hard. I can see this will not be a good day. But I am already there, so just have to make the best of it. The thing that I hate the most about rain, is wet socks. Since I was wearing a cheap pair of shoes, I am sure the socks will get wet. And they certainly did, and I walked around with soggy feet.

    I went towards the entrance, seeing a fountain and memorial to John F Kennedy, who made it a goal for sending the first man to the moon in speech in 1961. Thus starting the Apollo program, that would send spacecrafts to the moon. The space program really started to get going, as the US had to play catch-up to the USSR, as the Soviets had already sent the first satellite into space, as well as sending the first man into space.

    I entered, and went to the Early Space Exploration, which is the museum on the history of space travel. It got into the Mercury and Gemini missions, which included sending the first American (and second person overall), Alan Shepard, into space. There are various space vehicles on display, along with the Mercury mission control room and the early space suits and equipment.

    After seeing the museum, I walked around the Rocket Garden. This area has a bunch of rockets on display. At this time, it had stopped raining for a little while. I looked around, and at the map, seeing that there were a lot of things to do, and I won't be able to do all of them.

    I went to the Robot Scouts, which was mainly about rovers and other spacecrafts sent to Mars, and whether there was life on the red planet. After walking through it, I went to the Exploration Space building, which is an interactive exhibit on not only space exploration, but also on our solar system as well. I considered seeing the I-MAX films, but the lines were too long. So I got in line for the buses, that took people to the Apollo/Saturn V complex.

    Along the way, I would see the actual launch site, and the bleachers where people can sit and watch the shuttle launches. Arriving at the complex, I went inside, which was relief from the rain and humid weather. It starts with a video presentation in a room, with a replica of an Apollo mission control room, giving the feel of what it was like for an actual launch. Then to the main exhibition area.

    Immediately, there was an actual display of a Saturn V rocket. That thing is so huge! It was "broken" up into different stages. There are displays relating to the Apollo and Skylab missions as well, including the spacecrafts themselves, and the space suits that the astronauts had to wear. And I even got to touch a rock from the moon, though it does not look like much. And another video presentation on sending the first man to the moon.

    After seeing the complex, I took the bus back to the Visitor Center. There would be some things that I could not do, due to time. So the virtual ride and I-MAX shows were out. So I walked around the rest of the Visitor Center, and saw the memorial to the astronauts that lost their lives while on duty, including the Challenger disaster in 1986, and the Columbia in 2003.

    I walked towards the exit, and stopped by one more place on the KSC, which was mainly about wildlife on Merritt Island, which is where Cape Canaveral is located. A huge departure from the theme of space travel. After that, I headed back to the bus, which took me back to Orlando area.

    I slept during most of the journey, before being dropped off at a hotel. Then the shuttle van took me back to the hostel. Once there, I had to get a new pair of shoes, since the one I had, was worn out completely. So I went to buy a pair, then back to the hostel.

    It will be back to Disney after being away from it for 2 days.

    Photos & Videos


  • 13Mar 2013

    5 DisneyQuest 03/13/2013 USA —

    Orlando, USA


    Well, it was back to Disney World. But not to the theme parks, but to DisneyQuest. Since it opened later than the theme parks, no need for me to wake up so early. So I took my time.

    After sometime, I hopped on the bus, and headed to Disney World. Once at the T&TC, I had to walk to the Polynesian Resort, and hop on one of the Disney buses, to go to Downtown Disney. Passing by the resort, and seeing the monorails overhead, makes me wish I stayed at one of those resorts, mainly for the convenience to the theme parks. But I digress.

    I had to wait a while for one of the buses to come. When it did, I rode it all the way to Downtown Disney, which was far from everything else. A reminder how big the Disney World complex really is. The bus would drop me off at the farthest spot from DisneyQuest.

    So I walked through Downtown Disney, which is basically the place to shop. I did not linger too long, but did stop by a few shops, seeing the usual merchandise, like stuffed animals of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters. And a bunch of restaurants along the way, plus a movie theater as well. The highlights were the LEGO displays of various scenes from Disney movies, such as "Snow White", "Sleeping Beauty", and "Toy Story". One could spend the entire day to see this place. But my main reason is to see DisneyQuest.

    I arrived, and showed my ticket. This place required separate admission. DisneyQuest is an indoor, interactive theme park, with a lot of games and other things to do. I read that it had a lot of old school games, so I had to check the place out.

    I went inside, and saw a statue of Wreck-It Ralph, from the 2012 Disney film of the same name. Nearby, was a bunch of video game cabinets, of "Fix-It Felix", a fictional game from the movie. Now, there are actual arcade games of it that people can get to play. I played it, and it was a lot of fun. Basically, it was one of those old-fashioned games, where the goal is not to beat it, but to get the high score, and how far you can get.

    I could spend all day playing that game, but I had to check out the rest of the place, to see what arcade games are at this place. Much to my huge disappointment, there was no Double Dragon or Mortal Kombat games. I guess no Mortal Kombat games due to the violence in it. But there were games like Q-Bert, Burger Time, and Ultracade, where I could play Street Fighter II and Final Fight.

    With the unlimited credits, I got to play and beat the game, Justice League Heroes United. An okay, beat-em up game, where you have a choice of 5 different heroes. But the ending (or lack thereof) sucks big-time, considering how many credits it took to beat it. I was not happy at all!

    I would spend most of the time playing video games. But then, decided to do the other attractions within the DisneyQuest complex. Some of them were okay, and some of them were bad. But none of them were worth doing it again.

    The other highlight for me, was the Animation Academy, where you get to learn how to draw a Disney character. It is done with a light pen on a computer screen. I wish I knew about this earlier, so I would have drawn all of the Fab 5 of Disney characters. I was only able to draw 2 of them, which were Goofy and Mickey Mouse.

    Closing time approached, and it was time to leave. So I exited, and walked through Downtown Disney at night. Looked around for a bit, then headed to the other side, to catch the bus back to the T&TC.

    Unfortunately, that would be the last stop, as there were not many buses going there. Plus being so far away, it took a long time to get back. As a result, I ended missing the last public bus back to the hostel. So I had to take a cab again!

    One of the things I forgot to do, was ask the driver to turn the meter on. Luckily, this driver was honest, and charged me the right amount. I got back to the hostel, and went back to the room. It would be back to the theme parks.

    Photos & Videos


  • 14Mar 2013

    6 Epcot, Part 2 03/14/2013 USA —

    Orlando, USA


    Another late start to the day, as I had a change in plan. Originally, I was going to rent a car, and drive to Clearwater, to catch a Phillies spring training game. But changed my mind, and decided instead, to add another day at Disney, as I could not get enough of this place.

    After getting ready, I went to a check-cashing place, to buy a weekly bus pass, thinking it would be more economical for me in the long run. But it ate up some valuable time, as I was really itching to get back to the theme parks, and I had a hard time finding the stop to the correct bus. I was able to buy the pass, but walked around for a while until I finally got on the bus, taking me to the theme parks.

    I arrived at the T&TC, and rode the monorail to Epcot. Once there, I would try to finish up with Future World. There were a few more attractions to see there, on the East side. So I went to the Land pavilion. Inside, was the Living With the Land, a boat ride through some greenhouses, seeing the variety of plant life, as well as some fish, as they farmed the fish there as well. Basically, the name would indicate what the ride was about.

    Next, I went to Soarin', and got a Fastpass for it, even though it meant coming back in the late evening. I had to go on this at least once, and while I devote the day to Epcot. Then went to see a short video presentation, Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable, featuring Simba, Timon, and Pummba from The Lion King.

    I then headed to the Imagination pavilion, to go on the Journey to Imagination. Then it was to see a 3-D show, Captain EO, starring Michael Jackson. I remember first watching this show back in 1989, and the lines for this attraction was really long. Plus whenever a Cast Member said his name, people would scream. Michael Jackson was huge back in the 80's and early 90's. Flash forward to 2013, where the lines were short, and the mention of his name got no reaction at all. And watching the film, I can't help but think how dated it is. It was so 80's, and very cheesy. And I kept comparing in my mind, how it was in 1989 and 2013. The show left Epcot in 1994, and was brought back in 2010, about a year after Michael Jackson's death. I was all for bringing back old attractions, but this one, has me feeling differently.

    I was done with Future World now, and it was time for the World Showcase. This is the section of the park, has pavilions of 11 countries and actually staffed by Cast Members from those countries. It supposedly gave the feel of the culture of those countries. When I first visited this part, I actually liked it, as I did have some interest in world history.

    It has always been tradition for me to go clockwise, as I would start at the Mexico pavilion. From there, it would go Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. Only half of them have actual attractions, while all of them have restaurants and shops, giving people the chance to sample the culture of those countries. Still, no substitute to actually visiting those countries, and I hope to visit the ones that I have not been to, or have not been in a very long time.

    The only pavilions with attractions are Mexico (Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros ride), Norway (Malestorm ride and film), China (film), The American Adventure (show), France (film), and Canada (film). Most of these are worth doing, though some of the short films just come across as just tourism advertisements.

    Also along the way, I would get to see various Disney characters for the meet-and-greet, mainly in areas that may correspond with the country. Like Mulan with China, Belle with France, and Mary Poppins with the UK. But the lines were just too long for me to get a photo with them. Plus there were topiaries of various Disney characters throughout the park, in both Future World and World Showcase, as it was the annual Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.

    It was time to get back to Future World, to ride Soarin'. This was a ride imported from Disneyland, a ride over California. After the ride, I went back to the World Showcase, for the nighttime show, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. This show is told in 3 acts.

    After the show ended, I headed for the exit, and took the monorail to the T&TC, where I transferred to the one to the Magic Kingdom. It was a short stop, mainly to pick up some Spell Cards, which I am collecting. Then back to the T&TC, where I had to catch the Lynx bus back to the hostel.


  • 15Mar 2013

    7 Disney's Hollywood Studios 03/15/2013 USA —

    Orlando, USA


    It was always a challenge for to me to get up on time, and make it to the parks at the time it opens. After eating a quick breakfast, I took the Lynx to the T&TC. Then had to take one of those Disney buses, taking me to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

    This was the third theme park at Disney World, opening in 1989. Originally named Disney's MGM Studios (MGM for short), as this one was themed to Hollywood and the movies. MGM's involvement was mainly in the attraction, The Great Movie Ride, allowing Disney to use the name and movies from MGM's film library. The name of the theme park was changed to Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2008. But everyone just calls it Hollywood Studios, including me.

    I first visited Hollywood Studios in 1991, which was that trip with my cousin's family, who I don't like. But in this case, it was just me and my sister, as my cousins thought it would be a replica of Universal Studios and a waste of time. Back then, I thought it was okay, but definitely not on par with Universal. It did not have nearly as much to offer back then. In fact, I could only remember 3 rides and 2 shows. I would not visit again until 2006. By then, a huge difference, with a lot more rides, and more shows to watch. It has improved significantly, though not sure how it compares with Universal, since I have not been to Universal since 1994. But that will have to be another trip.

    Once I got there, I went through the ticket and bag check, then entered the park. First thing I had to do, was make a mad dash to the Toy Story Midway Mania, to get a Fastpass, since they tend to run out very quickly. Once I did that, it was time to ride the most popular and vomit-inducing rides. Starting with the Tower of Terror, where the wait time was relatively short for the time being. Then it was the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, then to Star Tours: The Adventure Continues. Doing all 3 back-to-back, was probably not a good idea, as it did make me feel sick. But I got nearly all the biggies out of the way.

    After that, I had to figure out a plan to take in as many stage shows in this park as possible. It was tricky trying to coordinate all the times. Some ran continuously, like Voyage of The Little Mermaid, and the only one that is indoors. And others had a limited amount of showtimes, some of which, ran about an hour. It's not just the starting time, but also the location and length of time. It was tough enough for me to get to all of them, and I was by myself. I don't think those with kids could get to half of them in 1 day.

    I did get to see the stunt shows, which were the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Both were worth watching, and a chance to sit down and relax my feet for a bit.

    In the middle of the day, there was the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun parade. An upbeat parade, featuring characters from the Pixar films, though none from Finding Nemo, the 2 Cars films, and WALL-E. I would write a review about it, but the parade ended its run in April.

    I was finally able to get on the Studio Backlot Tour. Every other time I went, the attraction was closed. But this time, it was open, and I made sure I got on this one. I got to see props used in various movies, like Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, among others. It starts out as a walking tour, seeing a demonstration of some stunts, then a walk through the prop room. Then comes the tram tour, where see more special effects happening, like an earthquake or a flood in Catastrophe Canyon. Plus go behind the stadium where the Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show takes place.

    I did come back to Toy Story Midway Mania, which was a ride and game at the same time. I did not score too high, but it was a lot of fun. Plus rode The Great Movie Ride, one of the few originals left since the park's opening. Basically, it was a ride through the movies, with the tour guide being involved in the action along the way. And the 3-D film, Muppet*Vision 3D, which is very enjoyable, and very much worth it for Muppet fans.

    I was able to go in and out of One Man's Dream, a museum about the story and life of Walt Disney, and the Disney Company. I did enjoy the history on Disney, though it was more about the parks than the studio itself.

    Nearby was the Magic of Disney Animation, basically a show telling how animated characters come to life. An okay show, but it does not help that the annoying Mushu (from "Mulan") is involved. Towards the end, I am like "shut up already".

    Hollywood Studios has a nighttime show called Fantasmic, but I did not see it on this day. But for this blog, I included them here to tie them to this entry. This has to be the best show in Disney World. A lot of references to the Disney movies, all of which, I have seen. No trip to Disney World is complete without seeing this show.

    After seeing just about everything at Hollywood Studios, I left and headed to the T&TC. Then to the Magic Kingdom, mainly to pick up some more Spell Cards. I could not stay long, so it was back to the T&TC, and back to the hostel.

    Photos & Videos


  • 16Mar 2013

    8 Magic Kingdom 03/16/2013 USA —

    Orlando, USA


    I tried to get to theme parks early, and around opening time, just to get a head start on the rides.This day would be devoted mainly to the Magic Kingdom.This park is the first one, and the one that has the most to offer.

    Originally part of The Florida Project, as Walt Disney wanted to build a Disney park on the eastern seaboard, and a planned, futuristic city called EPCOT. But he would never get to see this happen, because he died in 1966. His brother Roy continued the project, and would rename it "Walt Disney World" in dedication to his brother. A few resorts were also built in the area as well, and Walt Disney World would open in 1971, which at the time, included only one theme park, the Magic Kingdom.

    The Magic Kingdom is what people first think of, when it comes to Disney World, and often use the 2 names interchangeably. But it is only one component of the Walt Disney World Resort. My first visit was back in 1984, as I remember arriving and getting there at night. It is my favorite of all the Disney theme parks, and the one that I am always itching to get back to, from any of the other theme parks.

    I always prefer getting there by monorail, which is a lot more fun than taking the ferry and takes up less time. Once I arrived and entered, I went to the Main Street Firehouse, to pick up more Spell Cards and learn how to play the interactive game, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. I would be playing it along the way, as it has me going to the different areas of the park.

    The Magic Kingdom is divided into 6 different lands, which are Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, and Adventureland. Starting with Main Street USA. I looked around for a bit, then hung around at the roundabout, for the street party, Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party. Once the floats stop moving and the characters get off of them, that is when the guests can interact and dance alongside with some of the Disney and Pixar characters that appear. There are different songs that play during the street party, enough to get people into the dancing mood, led by a DJ on top of one of the floats. Plus there are a few that remain at the top of the floats, like Genie and Sebastian!

    After the street party, I went into Tomorrowland, and did most of the attractions there. My favorites there, are the Buss Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, which is both a ride and a game, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, a ride around Tomorrowland. And I did get to go on Space Mountain.

    I headed to Fantasyland, and would pick up some Fastpasses for some of the rides there. Then checked out New Fantasyland, which opened this past year. I went on the Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid ride, then looked around the place for a bit. Then went back to the old part of Fantasyland, and doing the attractions there, like Mickey's PhilharMagic, It's A Small World, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride.

    I made sure that I arrived in time for the afternoon parade, Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade.

    After that, I resumed playing the game, and visit attractions in both Adventureland and Frontierland. But more time was devoted to the game itself, which took up a lot of time. Reminds me of the days when I collected baseball cards and Garbage Pail Kids (remember those?).

    I went through the Swiss Family Treehouse, and rode Jungle Cruise and the Pirates of the Caribbean, while trying to play the game. When it got late in the day, I decided to put the game on hold, and finish it on another day. The finding of portals around the park, does take up a lot of time. I did not do much of Frontierland, and very unfortunate that Splash Mountain was closed.

    Funny thing, is that I tried to drink water from the fountains, and it was freaking nasty. Tasted like metal. Probably done deliberately, so people have to buy bottled water, which is overpriced big time!

    There is just so much to do in the Magic Kingdom, that it would probably take 2 days to do everything. And that's just the attractions alone. There are also a bunch of shows and parades as well, which can take up a lot of time as well.

    I would leave the Magic Kingdom around nightfall, and head to Hollywood Studios. First, to see Fantasmic for a second time. Then I went to Guest Services to upgrade my ticket. That took some time, due to a glitch on their computers. Once that was solved, I went to take one of the drawing classes. In this one, we learned to draw Dale, of Chip & Dale.

    After the class ended, I headed out of the parks, and back to the hostel.

    Photos & Videos


  • 17Mar 2013

    9 Disney's Animal Kingdom 03/17/2013 USA —

    Orlando, USA


    I got up and was able to catch the next Lynx bus on time, and was able to get to the T&TC at an earlier time. From there, I took the bus to Disney's Animal Kingdom.

    This was the 4th theme park in Disney World, opening in 1998. As the name would suggest, the theme was all about the animals. I got to visit this theme park for the first time in 2006, and while my least favorite of the 4, I still enjoy the place in its own way, even if it's not on par with the 2 animal parks in San Diego.

    I arrived into Animal Kingdom, and the first thing that I do, is walk fast to the other end of the park, in the Africa section. I walk fast rather than run, because I did not want to wear myself out quickly, as it was only the beginning of the day. I got to the Kilimanjaro Safaris, and got a Fastpass. Then went to the Asia area.

    Once that was done, I went to the Kali River Rapids, going through a replica of a Khmer temple (I assume). This was one of those river raft rides, and I did get soaked. After that, I did see some kind of monkeys, at some ruins, in an enclosure.

    Enough time passed, that allowed me to get another Fastpass. So I got one for Expedition Everest. Then back to Africa area, and used my 1st Fastpass for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. I'm guessing this is similar to the ones in Africa, where a safari vehicle takes people through the safari.

    I would see a variety of animals in their natural habitat, like elephants, giraffes, and hippos. And a bunch more that I had no idea what they were. There was a chart in the vehicle that help identify the animals, but it went too fast to keep up, not to mention, take photos of them. (Note - I had to use Youtube to identify some of them here on TB, but was not able to do all)

    The ride can be very bumpy at times. I've been told that the morning is the best time to do this ride, because that was more likely when the animals are out.

    After the safari, I went back to Asia, and to Expedition Everest, and rode that rollercoaster, which went forward and backward. Once that was done, I got the biggies out of the way. Then I stopped by, to eat some lunch, which I packed.

    After that, I went on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, then caught the stage show, Flights of Wonder, and walked the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in the Africa area.

    After all that, I finally worked up the courage to do the attraction, It's Tough to be a Bug! I read that those with a bug phobia should not do it, so I avoided in previous visits. But this time, I felt like it was about time, as I tried to do just about everything. This was a 3-D show, based on "A Bug's Life", featuring Filk and Hopper. There were spiders coming from the sky, and a stinger in the back. Turned out, it was not as bad as I thought it would be.

    I went to see the Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade. Along with having Disney characters, some walking and others riding on safari vehicles, the parade also has people riding on animal floats, along with people walking on silts in animal costumes (called Party Animals) and guests riding in carriages, which are being pulled by rickshaws taxis.

    When I first saw it last year, I did not like it, as it was not as fun as the other parades. But when seeing it this time, it was actually more enjoyable. How can that be? Well, that was because of spending the day at Animal Kingdom, and fitting with the theme of the day.

    Then walked in the Camp Mickey-Minnie area, and got to meet Donald Duck, who was just walking around. Then went to see the Festival of the Lion King, based on the 1994 film. After the show, I went into DinoLand, U.S.A.

    I went on the Dinosaur ride, which was based on the 2000 film of the same name. It was very bumpy, and did make me feel sick. With my glasses off, it was hard to enjoy it, since I could not see anything. But turned out, it would have been okay to keep them on, as I saw other people wearing them during the ride. And I asked a CM, just to be sure!

    I went on the Primeval Whirl, which was a spinning Wild Mouse-type ride. Then went to see the show, Finding Nemo - The Musical, which was fun to watch. Then rode the TriceraTop Spin, which was just like the Dumbo ride.

    Closing time was approaching, and I started to head out. Animal Kingdom does close early, normally around sunset. Makes sense, since the animals would need to sleep, and hard to see at night. I did not get to see Rafiki's Planet Watch, which was located far from everything else, and only accessible by train.

    I left Animal Kingdom, and took the bus to Hollywood Studios. Then went straight to the drawing class. In this session, there was a vote taken for which character to draw, Jiminy Cricket or Jack Skellington (from "The Nightmare Before Christmas"). I chose Jiminy Cricket, and he got more votes, so we drew him. It was a lot of fun.

    After the class, I went to the Magic Kingdom, and caught the show on Cinderella Castle, called "Celebrate the Magic". More about that in a review here.

    After that show, I left Disney World, and headed back to the hostel. Another fun day, but my toe was starting to hurt. Hopefully, a night of sleep will heal the pain.

    Photos & Videos


  • 18Mar 2013

    10 Last Day at Disney (With Not Much Planning) 03/18/2013 USA —

    Orlando, USA


    The last full day of this trip, and not surprisingly, I decided to spent it at Disney World. My goal was to see the things that I did not get to in the previous days, plus go on some of my favorite attractions again.

    When leaving the hostel, I headed to the Magic Kingdom. Once I got there, and got my daily pack of Spell Cards, I went to New Fantasyland. And got in line for the new attraction, Enchanted Tales With Belle. Guests enter into Maurice’s cottage, then “pass” through a magic mirror, to Beast’s castle. They then see Madam Wardrobe, as some guests are cast as some of the characters from the film. Then into the library, where they can see Lumiere and Belle herself. The ones that volunteer to take part in the show, get to meet and get a photo with Belle, while the rest just sits in the audience.

    The attention to detail in the cottage and castle parts are very impressive, as well as the special effects of the audio-animatronics of Madam Wardrobe and Lumiere. Just amazing to look at. Unfortunately, those were the only small positive things I could say about this attraction, as there are a couple big problems.

    The first one is the line. There is no Fastpass, so you have no choice but to wait in the standby line. And it moves so slow, in the sunlight. A very big problem in the Florida sun. The other, is that it’s not much of a show, just Belle being surprised on her birthday, then posing with the guests that did volunteer, in a photo, and they get a souvenir, which is… get this… a bookmarker! I guess it makes sense, since it’s in a library, and Belle loves to read! The ones that did not volunteer, just have to sit and wait until the show ends.

    Overall, the attraction was okay (and that’s being very generous). But after waiting in line in the sun for over 20 minutes, okay is not good enough. Unless you have kids, and/or a fan of the movie, this attraction can be skipped.

    After that, I did some of the attractions again, in Fantasyland. Then looked around another new part of it, which was a replica of the world of "Tangled". There was Rapunzel's Tower, and the lanterns around the area. Plus a few other references that I recognized from the movie.

    Back to the other side of Fantasyland, the newer part, where Mickey's Toontown Fair used to be. I remembered when it was used to be called Mickey's Birthdayland, which was built for Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday in 1988. This was basically a playground, and the place where people can meet their favorite characters. Now, part of Fantasyland, where the Dumbo ride was relocated.

    I went inside Pete's Silly Sideshow, which was a tent building of meet-and-greet of characters. I came there, to see Goofy. After getting my photo taken with him, that completes my list of the Fab 5 of Disney characters. :)

    I also decided to finish up the game, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, going between Adventureland and Frontierland. I was able to beat the game, but was told the level was set to easy. Oh well. And do more attractions again, in different parts of the park, and take closer looks at some as well.

    Unfortunately, my toes were hurting so much. Turned out, I had some blisters on them. I tried to tape around it, using it as bandage, but that did not help much. It made walking difficult, and forget about running.

    I left the Magic Kingdom, and took the monorail to Epcot. I rode a couple attractions there, and stopped by the doctor's office there. I told the doctor there, about the blisters, and she gave me a couple of band aids for them. I put them on my toe, and it actually helped.

    I returned to the Magic Kingdom, and do a few more attractions, like Big Thunder Mountain and the Hall of Presidents. Turned out, I would not get to do everything on my list. I would leave, and head to Hollywood Studios.

    I went for the drawing class, but the line was very long. With limited seats, I could not get in. I planned to see Fantasmic, and was advised by a CM, to go directly to the amphitheater. But being stubborn, I decided to squeeze in a ride, the Great Movie Ride. After the ride, I went to the amphitheater, and learned that only standing room remained. I considered just standing, but my feet just could not endure that.

    I was surprised to see it more crowded than it was in the previous days, and learned from a CM, that it was due to Extra Magic Hours. That is when the park remains open later than the posted closing time, for guests staying on Disney property only, which does not include me. No matter, as there was a later show.

    I went back to the drawing class, and was able to get in. In this class, we drew Donald Duck. After that, I did talk with some CMs, and decided to go back to the Magic Kingdom to see Wishes, as I have not seen that yet on this trip.

    So I went back there, and saw the fireworks show. More about that in the review here. Then again, making the stupid decision to squeeze in another attraction, Haunted Mansion. After the ride, I went to the monorail, where the lines were so long. Well, I did not make it to the T&TC in time, to catch the last Lynx bus. So I had to take a cab back. Not a good way to end my time at Disney.

    But at some point, it had to end. And no matter how hard I try to script this, it often does not go according to plan, due to factors out of my control.

    I started to pack up a little, and had a guy in my hostel room, playing his laptop loud. That was annoying. But he turned it off around midnight. I went to bed.

    Photos & Videos


  • 19Mar 2013

    11 End of Spring Break 03/19/2013 USA —

    Kissimmee, USA


    Time to go home. As much fun as I had in this Florida trip, it was really time for me to go home. If the amount of debt from this trip is not enough to indicate that, then the blisters on my toes should be.My feet could not take it anymore.

    After packing up and checking out, I had difficulty with Mears again. They were running late, and I gave them a call. But then, a Town Car pulled up, and the driver came up to me, asking if I was the one calling for the ride to the airport. I said "yes", and hopped in. Then we left the hostel, which was only worth staying due to its cheap price. But not much else.

    Along the way, I got into a conservation with the driver, who was a really nice guy. Have to admit, after the way my trip was ending, it did make me feel somewhat better.

    I arrived at the airport, and checked in. Then had to throw away my big bottle of sunblock, due to the stupid liquid rule. I went through security, then to the gate. When the time came, I boarded the plane.

    I left Orlando, and returned to Philly. The Florida trip was over. It was an enjoyable time, and I got to do a lot more than before. But after making trips to Disney World for 2 straight years, I will definitely not make another one in 2014. And sometimes, I wonder if this trip would have cost as much as a trip to Europe.

    One thing for sure, I won't be doing much travel in 2013.

    Photos & Videos


  • 06Jul 2013

    12 Seeing Baseball in the Bronx 07/06/2013 USA —

    The Bronx, New York, USA


    I decided to take a day trip to New York City, to see the new Yankee Stadium. I had already bought a ticket for the game a few days earlier, on Stubhub.

    I tried to stock up on bottled water, taking 2 packs of it, along with one large bottle, since it was a very hot and humid day. Probably similar to my visit in 2008 to the old stadium. I tried to get an early start, but as usual, ran later than I planned. I took the SEPTA train to Trenton, then took NJ Transit to Penn Station in Manhattan.

    Immediately, I went to the subway, and learned that the all-day "Fun Pass" has been done away with, so I had to buy a regular MetroCard, putting some money on it. Then took the subway to the Bronx, heading to Yankee Stadium III.

    Sometimes nicknamed “Yankee Stadium III” or “the new Yankee Stadium”. Yankee Stadium I was the one built in 1923. After it went through major renovations for the 1974 and 1975 seasons, it looked completely different, thus called Yankee Stadium II. During those 2 seasons of renovations, the Yankees had to play their home games at Shea Stadium, which I’m sure, did not sit well with either NY team.

    Once I arrived there, I looked around the stadium for a little bit, then entered the stadium. This time, I was able to enter with my bag, which was full of bottled water. Unlike last time in 2008, when I had to check my bag at a bowling alley, and pay for it.

    I entered into the Great Hall, a huge concourse. Looked more like an arena than a baseball stadium. And I learned that I was too late once again, for Monument Park. It closes 45 minutes before the start of the game. That is such a stupid rule. Any reason for this? I was just annoyed!

    I went up the ramps to the upper level, stopping by the New York Yankees Museum. There was a long line, so I decided to come back to it later. I went to the top level, and looked around for a bit. I was lucky to sit in the shade, on this hot day, as I got a ticket for this seat, at such a cheap price on Stubhub. Hard to believe, as I thought these seats would be the first to go.

    I did go around the concessions, and went to the Malibu Rooftop Terrace Deck, where I could see the Bronx, and in the distance, Manhattan, though hard to see due to haze. I did see the murals of great Yankee players, as I walked around the upper deck.

    The New York Yankees were taking on the Baltimore Orioles in a classic AL East matchup. Andy Petitte was the starter for the Yankees, just like he was back in the 2008 game that I went to. I would not get to see Derek Jeter or Alex Rodrigeuz, both on the disabled list. The Yankees were not having a good season so far, currently in 4th place.

    The Orioles jumped to a 2-0 lead on a Chris Davis homer in the 1st, and scored another in the 2nd, before the Yankees scored a couple in their half. The O's scored 1 run in the 4th, but the Yanks scored 2 in the 5th. For those keeping score here, the game was tied at 4-4 after 5 innings.

    When the 6th inning came, I decided if the Yankees scored another run, I would headed to the museum. And they did, and I went to the museum, where I just walked in. Basically, this museum is mainly about the Yankees, and a little history about the most storied franchise in baseball. There are displays on the most well-known players that ever worn a Yankees uniform, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Roger Maris, and Mickey Mantle. Also, are the different caps from different eras, along with the World Series trophies and replica of the World Series rings. Entering the place, I noticed the wall of baseballs, signed by players who have worn a Yankees uniform, whether for a day or a decade.

    Normally, I prefer to watch the game from start to finish, but had to make an exception here, since I was only going to one game. So I missed most of the 7th and 8th innings, only coming out of the museum, to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch.

    I did get back to my seat for the 9th inning, and for once, I was glad to see the Yankees having a 1-run lead. That meant, getting a chance to see Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader. I knew that I was watching a Future Hall of Famer. Rivera would pitch a scoreless 9th inning, and got another save. This was the biggest highlight of the trip! Baseball fans will know what I'm talking about. ;)

    After the game ended, I tried to walk around the concourse, but the usher tried to get me out, as I was looking around. After a while, I exited the stadium, and went across the street to the site of the previous stadium.

    It is now a park with a few baseball fields, named Heritage Field. There was a marking that I could barely see, that was the spot of the baseball diamond. And the only remaining part of the old stadium, is the frieze, which looked like a fence overhang. Hard for me to describe.

    I was debating whether to see more of NY, or just head back home. I decided to head to Manhattan and see a few more things, which I put in the next entry in this blog.

    Photos & Videos


  • 06Jul 2013

    13 Times For Rockefeller Center & Nintendo 07/06/2013 USA —

    Manhattan, New York, USA


    I arrived into Manhattan, as I was leaving the Bronx, after attending a game at Yankee Stadium. I was not sure at first, what I wanted to do next. I had a bunch of things in mind, but then decided on seeing Rockefeller Center.

    Getting off at a stop too soon, I ended up walking. I was sweating on top of the dried sweat from earlier. I got there, and looked around for a bit. Rockefeller Center refers to the entire area, which includes the GE Building (also known as 30 Rock), Radio City Music Hall, NBC Studios, and Lower Plaza, where the restaurant with the golden statue of Prometheus is. In the winter, Lower Plaza gets converted to an ice skating rink. A bunch of places to see, but they would be very costly. For now, I have to stay on budget.

    I walked around the restaurant, and seeing some strange stone structures. They are part of the art display called "Human Nature" by Ugo Rondinone. After seeing them, I went inside, and walked around the place. Looked more like an old mall, where I could tour NBC Studios. There was also the option to go to the top of the building. But both of them were way overpriced. Maybe some other time.

    I stopped by the NBC Studios gift shop, which is basically merchandise of NBC shows. The only one I would have remote interest in buying, was Vandelay Industries t-shirt, from "Seinfeld". While nice to look at, they are way overpriced to buy anything. And probably something I would not wear much, once back home. There was some attraction on the 2nd floor, but I'm sure it's not worth the money. This place is a tourist trap.

    Another place that is a tourist trap, is the Nintendo Store. But this will cost you some time, if you're into video games. Basically, this place sells exclusively Nintendo products, like the WiiU and DS, and there are a few stations where you can play games on them for free. There was a section of Pokemon merchandise. Reminds me when I used to be into the cartoon series, "Pokemon", before it got really repetitive. I did find myself playing on one of the DS handheld device, playing the 3-D version of Super Mario Bros. Some similarities to the very first game of the same name on original Nintendo, and Super Mario Bros 3 as well. It was fun, and I could play it all-day. But it was time to go.

    Afterwards, I went to Times Square. Not surprisingly, it was very crowded, as people can marvel at the huge billboards and commercials flashing on the LED screens everywhere. Very nice to look at, even if it is very touristy. I remember the family trips to New York, back when this area was filled with adult movie theaters (back then, simply called XXX films). We would always enter through the Lincoln Tunnel. Once out of the tunnel, we would pass through this area, and my mom would tell me and my sister to close our eyes, obviously not wanting us to see the X-rated stuff.

    Now, it has been Disneyified, as the saying goes, making it more family friendly. I think of it, more along the lines of Hollywood, with all the tourist traps and characters that make appearances here. I saw Mario and Sonic. I did not stay long, as I wanted to catch the train.

    I tried to put more money on the MetroCard, but the machine was not accepting my credit card. I was dripping sweat as I tried a few more. Then decided to go to Penn Station by foot, walking and running. It was not as far as I thought, but it was tiring. Did I mention that it was a hot and humid day?

    I arrived there, and hurried to the correct platform. Then got into the train just in time, as the doors just closed behind me. Headed back to Trenton, then back to Philly.

    It was a fun day, even if the weather was unbearable. I got to see Yankee Stadium, even with its one major annoyance. And saw some of Manhattan again, for the first time in a very long time. I hope to make return trips to the Big Apple soon.

    Photos & Videos


  • 19Jul 2013

    14 Seeing the Family 07/19/2013 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    Another trip to Chicago, as I was mainly going for my niece's first birthday. And planned to stay longer, mainly to go to the arcade again.

    Started this day, going to work. After work, I went to the airport. Already checked online, so I went through everything really fast. Then to the gate, where I would board a flight, that took me to Chicago.

    Once there, I looked for the shuttle stop, that would take me to the Rosemont Hilton. Once I did, I arrived at the hotel, and met up with my mom there.

    She arrived there earlier. After resting for a bit, we would head to my sister's place, and met up with her, my brother-in-law, and the baby. Then we all went together, to an Asian fusion restaurant.

    We had dinner together, and it was nice to see my niece, after the tough ordeal she had to go through. She was hospitalized, but was okay. But going through that experience was extremely rough for her.

    After dinner, we stopped by the apartment, then went back to the hotel. A storm was approaching, but we all managed to beat it by making it back to our respective places.

    I just did some reading, then to sleep. It was nice for a change, to stay in such a luxurious hotel.


  • 20Jul 2013

    15 The First Birthday Party 07/20/2013 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    Started the day, going to the airport, to eat at a McDonald's at the international terminal. After the breakfast, we rode the tram, and had a little friendly chat with a war veteran, who was stationed in Korea back in the day. He talked mainly with my mom about how different Korea is now.

    Back to the hotel for a little while. Then went into the city, and to the restaurant, where the birthday party would take place. This was where we met more family members, and other people that I remember seeing from the wedding. I forgot the name of the restaurant, but it did look like an interesting place.

    I got to eat a lot of pizza, along with some salad and other things. It was a nice meal. But the baby was not happy at all, as she has been put through a lot recently, and had no interest in this party. She was crying almost the entire time.

    When the party ended, she stopped crying, and seemed a lot more calm. It was as if, she was really relieved that it was all over. And I was, kind of, as it was tough to see my niece go through all that.

    I went back to the hotel, and just stayed there for the rest of the day. I read, napped for a bit, and used the computer in the lobby, as there was free internet. After some time, I went to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 21Jul 2013

    16 Family and Video Games 07/21/2013 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    This was my last day at the Hilton, and the last that I would ever stay in such a hotel. My mom had left and already at the airport. I would sleep some more, as I had until noon to check out.

    But I did not stay that long, as I had to check out and move on to the Chicago Gateway Hostel. The same one that I stayed at back in 2012, and already reviewed it. The fact that I am staying there again, should tell you how I feel about that place.

    So going from the Hilton to the hostel, talk about a huge difference in accommodations. After checking in the hostel and dropping off my things, I had to leave again, to meet up with my sister and the rest of the family. Including the relatives from the birthday party. I would meet them at a restaurant called the Graham Elliot Bistro, where we would sit outside.

    I am not a fan of outdoor seating, mainly because of sitting in the sun. And the umbrella does not always help, due to the tilt of the sun. Luckily, one of my relatives was nice enough to switch with me, and sit in the sun. Other than that, I had a good time hanging out with family. As for my niece, she slept most of the time, seemingly very peaceful.

    After the meal, we walked to an ice cream place. I did not get any, as I wanted to leave and head to the arcade. So I said goodbye to everyone, and headed to Union Station. Then took the Metra train to Brookfield.

    Once there, I had to walk a few long blocks, mostly in the sun. I was sweating like crazy, as the walk was farther than I remembered. But I made it to the Galloping Ghost Arcade, and played video games for 5 hours. So much fun!

    I had to go back, and took the train back. Then back to the hostel. All of this took a very long time, being Sunday and not nearly as much trains running. When back at the hostel, I took a much needed shower. Then relaxed for the rest of night, to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 22Jul 2013

    17 Art Instead of Video Games 07/22/2013 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    Getting ready for the day, I went to the computer to update some things. Then eat the hostel breakfast in the lounge, where I got to meet some people, from other parts of the country. After breakfast, I was undecided what to do. I considered going to the arcade again, but after considering how long it took to get back, I changed my mind. Being a hot day, I wanted to spend it indoors, and chose to go to the Art Institute of Chicago.

    When I got there, I saw that there was a line that extended outside. So I had to wait in the sun, but not for long. Got inside, and paid admission. Then went to see the art museum, with works from different parts of the world. Starting with the ancient collection, from Greece to the Byzantine era.

    Then went to see American art, which included the most well-known painting, "American Gothic". Turned out, the man and woman on it, are not husband and wife, but actually father and daughter instead. It has been parodied a lot, but really something to see the original with my own eyes.

    I did look at some Asian art as well, and downstairs, to the miniature rooms. Basically, it was very much like the Met in New York, or the Penn Museum in Philly. Very extensive, and definitely could not be seen in one day. I stayed until closing time.

    Leaving the museum, I went to my sister's place, for some dinner. And get to see the baby again, who has definitely grown up. They do grow up fast. Then went back the hostel.

    I had to start packing up, as I had an early morning flight. Washed up, then went to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 23Jul 2013

    18 Going Back Home, to Work 07/23/2013 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    Time to go home. I had to finish up packing. Then to the lounge, to eat the breakfast there. No way would I miss that. After that, I checked out, and walked to the El station. Then rode that, all the way to the airport. I allowed myself enough time, so I could go there with ease.

    Once I got there, I went through security, which did not take too long. Then to the gate, where I waited until boarding time. It did rain outside, but I knew that there would be no delay. When the time came, I got the plane, which was nearly full. The plane took off, leaving Chicago, and arriving back in Philly. Then took the train, going to work. The trip was over.

    Looked like going to Chicago will be an annual thing for me, as this was my 3rd straight summer going there. And I will come to see the baby. Plus an excuse to go to the arcade, with all of my favorite games there. Unfortunately, this was one of the few times that I was traveling this summer, as money was tight. But I got to see my niece turn 1 years old.


  • 31Aug 2013

    19 Third Time's the Charm 08/31/2013 USA —

    Bronx, New York, USA


    It was the Labor Day weekend, and I decided to take another day trip to New York. Part of the reason, is to see Yankee Stadium.

    This time, I would go by Megabus. I had to buy the bus ticket ahead of time, and went to the spot, near 30th Street station. There was a long line, and I worried that I would not get on the bus, and end up arriving late to New York. Luckily, I was able to get on, as it was a double-decker, and it left on time. It arrived at a stop in Manhattan, around 28th Street. I got off, and went to the subway. I rode that, all the way to the Bronx.

    Once I arrived there, I had to walk a few blocks to the Bronx Terminal Market, which was a shopping mall. It was very hot and humid, and my legs were tired as I walked very fast. I got to the StubHub office, to pick up the ticket. I chose this option, because it was the cheapest option. For $1 more, I could have just printed it. Oh well!

    I walked back to Yankee Stadium, and went into one of the side entrances on River Ave. I walked towards Monument Park, and saw that there was a line. And it was really, really long, going all the way towards the stairways. Hard to describe here. I got in line, and shortly after, the ushers said that no more people could get in line. In other words, the line has been closed off. Those already in line, will definitely get in. Good thing, as it was about 90 minutes before game time. Just in time, as I will finally get to see it. More about visiting Monument Park here.

    Monument Park was where the great Yankee players were honored in team history. There were plaques and the jersey numbers of the players, plus a brief description of them. Kind of like a museum. It was first created in the old Yankee Stadium in the 1970's, after the renovations. Then got moved to the current stadium. It was always hard for me to get inside it, since the park closed 45 minutes before game time. First try was in 2008 at the old stadium, and the second try a few months earlier. For this trip, I tried to plan it so I could make it in. And I barely did, as I was not aware that there was a cutoff time with the lines.

    It did not only include players, but also managers and the owners as well. There was also a plaque for 9/11. I walked around the place a few times, as this was really awesome to see. And I'm not even a Yankees fan.

    I headed to the Yankees Museum, which I saw earlier. I just went to the replica of a locker, where one can put their name on a screen, and sit inside it. I did that, as the museum got very quiet. It was due to the game starting.

    Afterwards, I went to watch about an inning of the game. I just wanted to see Derek Jeter bat, which I did. He had been out most of this season due to injury, and this could be the last time I see him, as he did not play in the game that I was at earlier this year. The game was an AL East matchup between the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.

    After seeing Jeter, I headed out. I know what most are thinking, but in the end, it was a lot cheaper doing it this way than a stadium tour. Besides, I did have other reasons for coming to New York.

    I went out the side entrance, the same one that I came in. I looked at the billboards of the different players on display. Then stopped by the nearby McDonald's for some lunch. Then hopped on the subway, heading to Queens.

    Photos & Videos


  • 31Aug 2013

    20 Breaking Bad In Queens 08/31/2013 USA —

    Queens, New York, USA


    Coming from Manhattan, I arrived into Queens. Once there, I had some trouble finding the place, and relied on my phone for the map. After going wrong way, I was able to find my way to the Museum of the Moving Image.

    I arrived at the museum, and went in. It was some relief for me, as I was sweating a lot. After paying admission, I looked around the place. And it looked very different from the last time I was there. It has been more than a decade since my last visit there.

    More about the museum and its permanent exhibitions, as well as more photos, in the review here. My main reason for coming to this place (and to NY for the day), was to see the "Breaking Bad" displays. Being that it is one of my favorite TV shows of all-time, I could not pass up the chance to see all this, which was on display until the end of October.

    "Breaking Bad" is a TV show that premiered in 2008 on AMC, and came on every Sunday night. And now, it is currently going through its final set of episodes, with the final episode not far away.

    Well, turned out, the exhibition was very small. A lot smaller than I expected, but I got to see the props used in the TV show, like Walt White's hazmat suit and underwear, as well as the pink teddy bear and the blue meth on display, among other things. I took some pictures, until a guard told me that this section was the only one where photography was not allowed. Kind of disappointing.

    But even after all this, I'm still glad to have seen it. After that, I went to see the rest of the museum, which was the history of the moving image, which would later become film. The museum has an extensive collection on old artifacts, like cameras, TVs, microphones, and other things that had to do with the moving image. And there are displays that tell the history of the moving image, from its origins and how it evolved over time, with the advancement of technology. The moving image would later be known as film.

    Also on display, are collections of past merchandise items of TV shows and movies. Plus various props used in TV and movies, like the different masks used, and the different clothes worn, like the sweater from The Cosby Show, and the one that Freddy wore in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films.

    Plus there are interactive exhibitions. One of note, that was a lot of fun, was the sound effects, where you pick the sounds for each scene of a movie. I could spend a long time on that, but it can get crowded.

    The most notable for me, was the little arcade of classic video games, plus a display of the earliest consoles, like the Atari 2600 and Nintendo. I played for a little while, but the controllers and joysticks were very stiff and not working. Plus I had to step aside and let the kids play, even though it's so primitive to them. Besides, I still have my own original Nintendo, that still works, and I still play it occasionally.

    After touring around the museum, it was time to leave. I left the museum, and took the subway back to Manhattan. I considered going to one more attraction, but I did not want to get back too late. So I just had to walk to the MegaBus stop, and waited there.

    I waited for some time, and when the bus came, I got on it. Then it left New York, and went back to Philly. Then took the train to get back home.

    It was a fun day, even if I did not stay for the whole Yankees game. But I did set out to do 2 things, and was able to do both of them. So mission accomplished there!

    Photos & Videos


  • 26Sep 2013

    21 Arriving Into Texas 09/26/2013 USA —

    Irving, USA


    I am finally visiting Texas, as this would be my first ever visit to the Lone Star State. Originally, I was going to visit Dallas only, but later decided to visit Houston as well, as I decided to visit 2 stadiums before the end of the baseball season.

    The day started with me taking the train to the Philly airport. I got off at one terminal, but then went to another, since the security line was shorter. Then to the gate.

    I got on the plane, which took me to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Then hopped on a shuttle bus, which took me to the Car Rental Center. This was where all the car rental regencies were. I went inside, and ate some food that I packed, since I was so hungry. Then went to the desk, to pick up the car.

    I left the Car Rental Center, and tried to follow directions that I printed from Google Maps. It got very confusing, since I did not have a map. I would go around in circles for some time, until I finally figured it out. I drove into Irving, which was where the hostel was.

    I remember Irving as the place where Texas Stadium used to be. This was the previous stadium of the Dallas Cowboys. By now, it has been demolished, so no chance to see it. But it would have been nice, as this was the place with some history. I remember the early 90's team, and how I really don't like them at all. Unfortunately, there was probably nothing left remaining, so I did not bother to see it myself.

    I did stop by a library, hoping to use the computer. But they had no guest accounts, and charge $10 for computer use within 1 year. No thanks! So I went back out, and after some time, I was able to find the Wild, Wild West Backpackers.

    I tried to check in, but the owner was not there. A British woman, who was actually staying there as a guest, took the time to show me around the hostel. Very nice of her. I would meet a few other people, who were passing through Dallas. I did call the owner, but he would not be in until nighttime.

    I went out, stopping by Millennium Park. It was a small public park, in the middle of the street, with water fountains. It looked clean and nice, but not really much to see. Then I went to look for a place to eat.

    I ended up at Terry's Supermarket, which looked like a Korean supermarket, but it was run by Hispanics. I went to the restaurant area, and got some fried rice as my dinner with kimchi. It was really good! Then drove to Dallas, to see the Sixth Floor Museum.

    Photos & Videos


  • 26Sep 2013

    22 11-22-63 09/26/2013 USA —

    Dallas, USA


    Coming from Irving, I drove into Dallas, and to the West End Historic District. I went around a block, and found the Sixth Floor Museum. I parked at the museum, and went inside.

    This museum was mainly about that horrific event on November 22, 1963, which was the assassination of President John F Kennedy (JFK). Since then, it has been associated with the city of Dallas, and the museum was a place that I had to visit and see for myself.

    The museum building used to be the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald worked, and fired the shots from. When JFK's motorcade, the vehicle that he was riding in, passed by the building, that was when he was shot 2 times. He was quickly taken to a hospital, where he later died from head wounds.

    The museum starts off being about what the US was like in the 1960’s, followed by Kennedy’s rise to being President, to the assassination. After that, it gets into aftermath and the killer himself, Lee Harvey Oswald, and later, the conspiracies that followed. You get to see the spot where Oswald fired 2 shots at Kennedy, and the sequence of photos of Kennedy getting shot. It was really scary to see.

    I spent about 3 hours at the museum, and did find myself hurrying, as closing time was approaching. After seeing the 6th floor, I went to the 7th floor, which had the photographs of past Presidents. I went through that quickly, as I ran out of time. Then had to leave the museum.

    Next thing, I walked around Dealey Plaza. There were some people trying to sell me maps, and give a tour of the area, but I declined. I already had a map that the museum gave me.

    Dealey Plaza is a city park, which later, became known for the JFK assassination. It was named after George Bannerman Dealey, who was the publisher of "The Dallas Morning News". It has been designated as a National Historical Landmark.

    Seeing the monuments, then going around the park, from the Triple Underpass to the grassy knoll. The grassy knoll was where the assassination was recorded by Abraham Zapruder, the only one to get the entire event on camera. Also, there were 2 X's taped on the street, making the spots where JFK was shot.

    I remember reading and learning about it in history classes, plus all the conspiracy theories. But it was really something to actually see where it all happened. So after seeing the museum, walking around Dealey Plaza is a must as well.

    Afterwards, it was time to go to the baseball game. So I left, and headed to Arlington, leaving later than planned.

    Photos & Videos


  • 26Sep 2013

    23 First Rangers Game 09/26/2013 USA —

    Arlington, USA


    I would hit traffic, on my way to Arlington. Once I got there, I chose to park farther away, as those lots were cheaper than the ones closer to the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. There was no free parking. Just unfortunate that this place can only be reached by car, as there is no public transportation n Arlington.

    I walked to the stadium, seeing Six Flags theme park across the street. But it was closed. Once I got there, I just entered, as I had no time to walk around the exterior of the ballpark.

    I headed to my seat, which was at the upper deck. I was able to get a very cheap ticket, less than $10 on Stubhub. On the way, I could see the surrounding area, which would include Cowboys Stadium. So this was where the Cowboys moved to? I got to my section, which was behind home plate.

    I did look around the stadium for a bit, but not for long, as I arrived with the game already starting. Rangers Ballpark opened in 1994, and does not have much of a history. And really, there is not much else to it. There are a group of girls, who wave the Texas flags whenever the Rangers score, behind the center field wall, in a section called Greene’s Hill. It does not have a roof, so I can't imagine watching a game here in the summer months.

    The Texas Rangers played the Anaheim Angels in an AL West battle. I know they are actually called the Los Angeles Angels, but this is just beyond messed up in more ways than one. But that will be for a later time when I visit the Angels ballpark. The Rangers have recently slumped, but just finally got it together, to remain in the playoff race for the 2nd wild card.

    With the Angels in town, that meant hearing the booing of Josh Hamilton, every time he came to the plate. This was due to him leaving the Rangers during the off-season, and signing with the division rival Angels for more money. A big mistake on his part, as his team have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

    When I arrived to my seat, it was the bottom of the 1st inning, with the Angels leading 1-0. Then it went back and forth, when each team traded 3 runs. The Rangers scored theirs in their 1st, followed by the Angels scoring 3 unearned runs in the 2nd inning, and leading 4-3. The runs were unearned, because the Rangers committing 4 errors in one inning alone. Talk about sloppy baseball by the home team.

    The score stayed that way, until the 6th, with the Rangers taking a 5-4 lead, but the Angels tied it in the next inning. The game got to the bottom of the 9th inning, when Jurickson Profar hit a walkoff home run, and the Rangers beat the Angels, 6-5. It was a fun game to watch.

    After the game, I headed back to the hostel. I did get lost along the way, as I got confused with the directions that I had. After some time, I was able to find my way.

    Once I got back, I would meet with the hostel owner, and pay my bill. Then just used the internet for some time, plus planning out for the next day, until bed time.

    Photos & Videos


  • 27Sep 2013

    24 Who Shot JR? - Visit to Southfork 09/27/2013 USA —

    Parker, USA


    Leaving the hostel later than planned, I headed to the suburb of Parker, which was where Southfork was located. Southfork was the name of the ranch, used in the TV show "Dallas". Being in the city of the same name, I could not pass up the chance to see it, even if I am not a huge fan of the show.

    I did have some trouble finding it, as I noticed the area was a lot more rural. When finding it, I arrived at the visitor center, and went inside, which had a gift shop and museum. I bought a ticket for the tour of the mansion. The museum contain props from the TV show, like Lucy’s bridal dress or the gun used to shoot JR, as well as other things. Plus a nice little memorial to Larry Hagman, who played JR in the show, and recently passed away.

    There were 2 versions of the TV show, with the first one airing from 1978 to 1993, on Friday nights on CBS. I always remember the intro and theme music, which is pretty catchy. I have seen the first 3 seasons on DVD, but never bothered after that, with the last episode I've seen, the famous cliffhanger, "Who Shot JR?" That would change TV history as ending a season on a cliffhanger was unheard of, back then. The second version started airing in 2012 on TNT, and still on, as this one is the continuation of the first one. Both series centered around the Ewing family. I have only seen a few episodes of this one.

    I toured the museum until the tour time came. Then I hopped on the tram, and was given the tour of the ranch, before coming to the Ewing Mansion. Once there, we were given a tour of the mansion, being shown different rooms. The mansion and the swimming pool are a lot smaller than what was shown in the TV show, and space can be tight at times.

    After seeing the mansion, I went to the second gift shop, to see the Cadillac, which was driven by Jock Ewing in the show. Then tried on a few of the cowboy hats.

    I headed back, and would look at the surrounding countryside, which was completely flat. Somehow, it reminded me of how my father described Texas, when he and my mother drove cross-country back in the 70's. Now, I am finally here, seeing it for myself, if only for a very short time.

    I left Southfork, and stopped by a shopping center, to eat lunch at a Korean restaurant. It was very pricey, but the food was good. After that, I headed to Fort Worth.

    Photos & Videos


  • 27Sep 2013

    25 Very Short Visit 09/27/2013 USA —

    Fort Worth, USA


    Heading to Fort Worth, I would run into traffic, with one lane closed due to construction. So it took me a long time to get there. Plus I did get lost along the way. Also, I did not think it was pretty far from Dallas. Hearing the term "Dallas-Fort-Worth", I assumed the 2 cities were close together. But they are really not.

    I arrived at the Fort Worth Stockyards, and parked at a strip mall, to avoid paying for parking. That meant walking about a block to the Stockyards. I reached the edge of it, and it looked like a ghost town. I was like, is that all there is? Because it is looking very disappointing so far.

    But when I went down one street, and came to the main one. Then I saw that this was where all the main attractions were, along with the shops and restaurants. This was the historic district, which was very touristy, and the Texas that many people know it for.

    There was the arch, and the plaques on the ground, for the Texas Trail of Fame. And the Cowtown Coliseum nearby. There was a museum there too, but I did not have time for it.

    Seeing this area, made me wish that I had more time here, as there seems to be enough to do that would take up half a day, at least. And it looked very interesting. But I was only able to spend 45 minutes, which is not close to being enough. Still, I don't regret the short visit.

    I left Fort Worth, and headed to Arlington, as I wanted to get there before game time.

    Photos & Videos


  • 27Sep 2013

    26 Second Rangers Game 09/27/2013 USA —

    Arlington, USA


    Arriving into Arlington, I went to the same parking lot, which was the cheapest that I could find.I started walking, until a shuttle bus came, which I boarded, and took me to the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

    Then I walked around the stadium, looking at the exterior. It did have that look of an old ballpark from the past. But this one does not have much of a history, nor does the team itself. The only thing I could think of, is Nolan Ryan, probably the greatest pitchers of all-time, who spent most of his career here, and currently the CEO of the team. And I don't think he ever pitched a game at this ballpark. Also, the Rangers making 2 trips to the World Series, losing both times.

    Another feature, or lack thereof, is a roof. I can't imagine how it would be during the hot Texas summers, to watch a ballgame. Luckily for me, the weather has cooled, so not much of an issue. Plus I always look for the shaded seats.

    After walking around, I went through the entrance, which had the statue. Then went to my seat, which was on the far right side, where I had to arch my head to see the scoreboard. Worse view than at the 1st game.

    The Texas Rangers needed a win against the Angels, to keep pace for the 2nd Wild Card. Plus they need a lot of outside help. Wait a minute... this is sounding a lot like football talk. And the idea of a 2nd Wild Card is a joke, as it takes away from the division race.

    Anyway, the Rangers took 1-0 lead in the 1st inning. But the Angels tied it in the 3rd, followed by the Rangers reclaiming the lead with 2 more runs, making it 3-1. Then the 5th inning, when Josh Hamilton would knock in 2 runs, to tie the score. That obviously did not sit well with the fans, who continue to boo Hamilton. But luckily for them, the Rangers took the lead in the 7th inning, which they would not give up, and beat the Angels, 5-3. Even more good news for the Rangers fans, that the Rays and Indians lost, the 2 teams that the Rangers are trying to catch.

    The game took about 3 and half hours. Then there were postgame fireworks. I moved to another section, to get a better view. After that, I exited the ballpark, and headed back to the hostel.

    Once I got there, I started to pack up a little, and got to meet up with some people, who came from other countries. Interesting that they would come to Texas. :) Though one of them, was in town to visit a friend.

    I started to pack up a little, and used the internet for some time. My last day in the Dallas area, as I leave for Houston the next day.

    Photos & Videos


  • 28Sep 2013

    27 Houston, I Have Arrived 09/28/2013 USA —

    Houston, USA


    Time to leave Dallas. I headed to the airport, and took a plane to Houston. I chose to fly, because it just simply saved a lot of time and energy. Driving would take time and money, and the bus schedule was too inconvenient for me.

    Once I arrived in Houston, I picked up the rental car, and drove to the HI Houston - The Morty Rich Hostel. Formerly a mansion, and located in a residential area. A little hard to find, as it was off the main street. And the main street can be tricky to find, when getting off the highway. Entering into the hostel, it does have that feel of an upper class bed & breakfast.

    I was not able to check in, so I just looked around for a bit, and used the computer there. Then headed out, going to the Johnson Space Center.

    It was about 30 minutes away from downtown. I would have 4 hours to see the place, thinking it was going to be enough, and that there is less to see here than at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Arriving there, I had to pay for parking. Then went inside the Space Center Houston, the visitor center of the Johnson Space Center.

    I started out by seeing a short film, then joined a tour, which was led by a former astronaut. I stuck around for some time, until realizing it would take too long. So I left, and ate lunch. Then waited in line for the tram tour. The line moved, until I was the first one. But then, it rained outside, and caused a delay in the tour. Plus the people who left just before me, came back, and had to go to back of the line.

    I waited for some time, and learned that it was going to be a modified tour. So instead of seeing Mission Control, I would see Building 16 instead. This is where the flight simulator takes place, as well as the software and hardware checks. And seeing the mockup of the electrical system of a space shuttle, in the payload bay. Overall, it does not seem as interesting as the idea of visiting Mission Control, which I assume, is where “Houston” is located. And Rocket Garden as well.

    During the tour, I would have to deal with a guy, who I started talking to while waiting in line, and sat next to, on the tram. But then, he just kept joking over and over, until it got very annoying. I wanted to tell him to "quit while you'are ahead", but I didn't.

    After the tram tour, I toured around the rest of the museum. After that, I headed back to the hostel, where I checked in. But I was tired, and took a short nap. I was too tired at that point, as I ran behind schedule. When I woke up, I decided to take the bus to downtown.

    I got to the stop, where I waited for about 30 minutes. Then took the bus, to Minute Maid Park. Before entering, I bought a ticket for next day's game. It was more than I wanted to pay for, but StubHub was not the cheaper option this time.

    I went inside the ballpark, and to my seat, in the left field side. By that time, it was the 3rd inning. The roof was closed, and the ballpark was air-conditioned. Good thing, as it was hot outside.

    The ballpark first opened in 2000, originally named Enron Field. When the Enron scandal happened, the name was temporarily changed to Astros Field, before changing to its current name, Minute Maid Park. There is a train that runs whenever the Astros hit a home run or win the game, or before the start of the game. One of the carts is filled with oranges, in reference to its current name, as it is sometimes called the “Juice Box”. Sometimes, you can see a guy being the engineer inside it.

    The Houston Astros took on the New York Yankees, which sounded like an interleague game. But it's actually an American League game, as the Astros moved to the AL this season. It will take a lot of getting used to, if ever, as I am still not used to seeing the Milwaukee Brewers as a NL team.

    This game meant nothing to either team, especially for the Astros, who are the worst team in baseball, with over 100 losses. But ticket prices on StubHub was not cheap, due to the Yankees being in town. That meant more Yankee fans in the stands. Still, their team was not going to the playoffs either.

    Andy Pettite started for the Yankees, which was his final game ever. Probably fitting that it was in Houston, as he is from the area, and spent a few seasons with the Astros. I could not tell you who pitched for the Astros.

    Despite getting there late, I saw all the scoring in the game, which was not much. The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the 4th inning, but the Yankees scored 2 in the 6th. And that was it, as the Yankees beat the Astros, 2-1. Probably fitting for a meaningless game. Pettite got an ovation, as he pitched a complete game.

    I left, and tried to look for the bus stop. But had a hard time, and the map kept shutting down on my phone, which was really frustrating, as I had to keep pulling it up every time, as I did not have enough time to read it. After some time, I found the stop and waited until the bus came. The fare is very cheap, but very inconvenient.

    I arrived back, and went to get some food at a nearby Burger King. I ate back at the hostel, and realized that I lost my reading glasses. I looked around, in the room and car, but could not find it. After a while, I gave up that time. I would have to call the Space Center in the morning, to see if I misplaced them there.

    So I went back to the room, and to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 29Sep 2013

    28 An Astro-nomical Day 09/29/2013 USA —

    Houston, USA


    I would have to start packing up, as I will be checking out. I also called the Johnson Space Center, to see if I left my other glasses there, which turned out, yes. So I would have to go back there and get them. When it comes reading and using computers, I am really dependent on the second pair.

    Since I had to wait until it opens, I would get ready, finish packing, and eat the hostel breakfast. Then decided to visit the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. Or more known as just the Waterwall Park, which was located near the Galleria (a shopping mall). After checking out of the hostel, I headed there. It did not take long to get there, being Sunday morning. But once I got to the Galleria area, it started to rain very hard. I waited in the car.

    When it stopped raining, I walked to the Waterwall Park, and it was amazing to see. It was a very tall wall structure, with water flowing and falling on it. Hard to describe, but it was really something to see. I walked around it, and could even get close to it. Listening to the sound was nice as well.

    After seeing it, I decided to take a look at the Astrodome. I drove to the area, but it was too crowded, as there was a Texans game there as well. So I headed to the Space Center.

    Once there, I was able to bypass paying for parking, being there for only a short while. I was able to get my glasses, then looked around for a bit. There was a series of displays on the solar system, starting with the sun. Then the planets and other objects, all placed in relative to their distance from the sun. I did not stay long, as I had a ballgame to go to.

    So I left, and headed to Minute Maid Park. I parked in a lot, one of the few that accepted credit card. Then went to the stadium. I got there on time, just before the start of the pregame ceremony for Mariano Rivera.

    It was nice to see, as he got a collage of highlights as a gift, and some speeches by Joe Torre, Roger Clemens, and others. And Rivera himself, apologizing to Astros fans, on deciding not to play at all in Houston. He wanted his final memory to be at Yankee Stadium. I can respect that. Besides, I did get to see him pitch earlier in the season.

    The Houston Astros and New York Yankees played each out to close out the 2013 season, and both can't wait for that. As expected, it was a low-scoring, lackluster game. The Astros struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning. But the Yankees would tie it in the 7th inning, and stayed that way after 9. That meant, extra innings, which was the first MLB game for me. It would go on for 14 innings, and even saw a 14th inning stretch, which I never knew about. The Yankees scored 4 runs in the top 14th, and beat the Astros, 5-1. I was glad that it was finally over, as I was feeling cold, as the air-conditioners were full blast, with the roof closed.

    Afterwards, I looked around, then went to Union Station, to see the little museum there, which had some history on the Astros. Then went outside, seeing the Astros Walk of Fame. Then headed out, to the Astrodome area. This was where Reliant Stadium was as well, the home of the Texans.

    The Astrodome was once dubbed the "8th wonder of the world", when it opened in 1965. It was also the first to have artificial turf, leading to the term "Astroturf". The team played there until 1999. It was also home of the Oilers as well, Houston's previous football team. That was until after the 1995 season, when they moved to Tennessee, and later became the Titans. Now, it sits empty, with no use at all. I could not get close to it, since it was fenced off.

    After all that, it was time to go to the hotel for the final night.

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  • 29Sep 2013

    29 Staying in a Humble Place 09/29/2013 USA —

    Humble, USA


    I arrived at the hotel, actually located in the town of Humble, the Regency Inn & Suites Humble. It was a cheap hotel, where the rooms are accessible from outdoors only. Reception is located in a separate building, which is also where breakfast is served.

    I checked in, and went to the room in the other building. The room was very nice, with its own kitchen. Plus a swinging couch, which I did not expect. And it was close to the airport, and to the Car Rental Center.

    I did go out, to get some dinner at some nearby place. Then back to the room, to relax. Just glad to have a room of my own, even if it costs more.

    I would catch the final episode of the TV show "Breaking Bad", as I had to make sure I saw it so I don't get spoiled later on.

    Afterwards, I packed up a little. Then went to sleep, as I would head back home the next day.

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  • 30Sep 2013

    30 Heading Back 09/30/2013 USA —

    Dallas, USA


    Time to leave. I checked out of the hotel, dropping my key card at reception. Then drove to the airport, which only took a short time. I dropped the car off at the Rental Center, and went to the terminal. I checked in, and just waited at the gate.

    I boarded on a flight to Dallas, where I had a 3-hour layover. Just went to the gate, and just hung around. Then got on a right, heading back to Philly. And I had to go straight to work. The trip was over.

    Even if it was such a short time, I did accomplish what I set out to do, which was to see the baseball stadiums in Texas. With those 2 stadiums visited, I have reached the halfway point of my baseball quest. So 15 down, 15 to go. What will be the next one, I have no idea.

    I also have no idea what and when will my next trip be. Until then, just have a bunch of other things to get done.

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