I have been to a few places in my lifetime and I always considered Sydney to be the most attractive city to visit and live in. That was till I got the chance to visit NYC many years back. Well, for the next 10 days or so, this blog will morph into a travel log / travel blog. This will be my third time visiting NYC. I am sure I would have been there many more times if the place wasn't so damn far from Asia.
This time I have been invited by Qatar Airways to take the route to NYC via Doha. Sometimes the airlines will hand out complimentary flights as a PR or marketing exercise to the media and/or certain type of bloggers (lol). Hence in exchange for the RM24,000 odd business class ticket, I will be writing a bit on my experience of travelling in Qatar Airways' business class. I probably could have secured flights from other airlines but this route is worthwhile and brilliant for Malaysians as it will be one of the shortest to NYC. Plus QA is right up there as having the best business class / first class ... can't wait to try out their Doha lounge.
Many Malaysians find it hard to even consider NYC as a travel destination for holidays as they think the arduous travelling alone is not worthwhile. Plus many many do not like tour packages, which is fair enough. Next, they feel intimidated by the big bad city that is NYC.
Next, they feel intimidated by the strict immigration and customs personnel in the US (which is quite a reality depending on your passport, travel chops on your passport and race).
Lastly, it probably is damn costly ....
Taking The Fear Out Of NYC / The Prep
a) Accommodation - Its damn expensive staying in NYC. Hotels ranging from just 3 to 4 stars can set you back RM800-RM2,000 a night alone. You can find cheaper ones but they are usually a bit more out of city center, not recommended if its your first time.
Do not fret. If you are going in a group, its better to stay at apartments. Have a look at this site OneFineStay which does private rentals. Make sure you know where you wish to stay. OneFine Stay is a bot more expensive, a better alternative is AirBNB. Very nice two or three room apartments near Times Square may only cost RM400-600 a night. When shared out, not that expensive.
b) Food - You can read up on the restaurants you want to go and book them beforehand. NYC is a mecca for all kinds of food. Just walking around the city and stopping for a slice of pizza or sandwich from a deli usually will be one of the better experiences in life - seriously, pizza and deli sandwiches in NYC must be the best in the world. Do not go to gawdy places such as Olive Garden or anything around Times Square.
Just go to OpenTable and search for restaurants you want to dine in. There are time slots and navigating in NYC is very easy as its all East West and Avenues around Manhattan. I would advise to dine at good restaurants for LUNCHES and not dinners as there are plenty to do at night. Plus dinners are usually a lot more expensive.
The one restaurant that I still did not get a table for is Per Se, which is fully booked for the next 3 months. What to do, one of the top places in the world to eat. Anyway, you can still find tons of great places, even one two star Michelin places. The menus are all there including prices. I have booked for lunches at Aquavit, Tocqueville and Caviar Russe this time around. OpenTable does not have any handling fees for bookings.
During other times, just grab a bite to eat whenever you are hungry ... must try Nathan's Hotdogs, go to a nice looking deli for great sandwiches, try out any pizzas that is not part of a chain ... you are already eating very well in NYC. Plus their breakfast places are ginormous and a lot of fun.