En route Bogotá from Mumbai, i had a eight-hour layover in Newark, New Jersey – too short a time to venture out in the city from the airport.
But that sounded like just the adventure and challenge that would make for an awesome story, and time well spent!
Reaching New York from NJ in under an hour
So, ignoring my friend’s advice of not leaving the airport due to the risk of missing my connecting flight, i took the Sky Train + NJ Transit to Penn Station New York after making a quick inquiry about my chances of making it back in time. A big bonus was that i didn’t have to carry the check-in luggage with me, since the airline forwarded it to the onward flight.
Reaching the heart of New York in just over half an hour’s time from the airport, i now had exactly 5-6 hours before requiring to head back to the airport for my onward journey to Colombia. Oh, and i paid just about $10 for this journey (~ $75 by cab)!
Not prepared for the winter!
i was only carrying summer clothes for Colombia, so in near zero temperatures, all i had was a light sleeveless jacket that my brother shoved in my bag as a last minute “just keep it” thing – and i can’t thank him enough for that. i had never experienced a white winter before, so the excitement helped keep me warm while i ventured out towards Manhattan.
Rapid Shopping + Refueling
One of the primary ‘goal’ / agenda i had for my onward 3-month trip to Colombia was a focus on fitness, and the moment i spotted an electronics store, i stepped in and made an impromptu purchase of the FitBit Flex band. Honestly, it was more as a ‘reminder’ to be active every day than the tracking of my activities.
Next, i was both hungry AND wanted to use the rest room. Managed both at Gigi Cafe in record time, and decided to walk to Times Square which was close by.
Just as i arrived at Times Square, a random gentleman from Pakistan approached me. Recognizing a fellow Asian, he inquired if I’d be interested in joining him on one of the open bus tours.
He appeared to be about my father’s age and seemingly intimidated by the large metropolis, so i readily agreed. Heck, i had never done a touristy thing in New York on my previous trip – so why not?!
This was perhaps the best decision, since it was the quickest and most fun way to explore and soak in the sights, sounds and smells of New York City in the least amount of time. i told the guide and driver that i had to catch a flight from Newark at 1630, so i’d have to exit the tour before it gets over.
The guide was super funny, very well informed and was happy to answer every question i asked. The gentleman from Pakistan and i helped each other with our photos and chatted about our lives.
[pullquote-right]it’s amazing how people from warring countries bond so easily in a third country or an alien land. Makes one realize that we’re all the same, really.[/pullquote-right]
At around 2 pm, the tour dropped me off a few blocks away from Penn Station – but since i was in a rush + not adequately dressed to brave the winter, i hailed a Yellow Taxi instead.
The driver was shocked to see me wearing just a light jacket, and visibly shivering.
“What’s wrong with you man? You’re going to freeze in that thing! Go pick up a proper jacket already” he quipped.
With a coy smile and clenching my chest, i told him “But Sir, where i’m going… they don’t need jackets!” 😉