On the first weekend of this month, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the east coast for the first time!
I had signed up for an international Super Smash Bros tournament (and if you’ve been following for a while, this isn’t new haha) in New Jersey, but having flown into Newark I also took advantage of exploring New York for my first time as well. In this post, I’ll be writing up about the tournament, as well as the places I checked out within a mere three days.
Day one always takes a huge toll on me. I always end up taking a red-eye if the flight is long enough, this case definitely so being a nonstop flight from San Diego so almost 6 hours. Sleep on the plane is always iffy so I never leave completely rested, but I surprisingly got better rest than most of my other red-eyes. The key to the best rest you can possibly get includes the following: a neck pillow, ear muffs/plugs, and an eye mask. The entire set may cost quite a bit, but it is definitely worthwhile, especially in the long run if you travel often.
No matter how sleep deprived I am however, the sheer fact that I’m in a foreign land for the first time gives me the second wind I need to keep going. And this trip definitely did not disappoint!
Arriving in New Jersey at around 6am, the first thing I did: food! I always take each meal as an opportunity to taste what the place has to offer, rather than resorting to cheap fast food or even complimentary hotel breakfasts. Tops Diner had almost a thousand reviews on Yelp, compared to other breakfast locations that didn’t even come close, so I decided to give this place a shot. I ordered this interesting dish, “Eggs From Heaven,” including cheesy grits, spicy jambalaya, and pita bread. Definitely a worthwhile breakfast!
I’m not gonna lie, New Jersey’s rail and bus system was extremely confusing at first sight. Pricing based on destination, number of “zones” which are not defined anywhere, and multiple transportation systems (bus, rail, and a “light” rail) at one stop without any sign of which one to take, all with one ticketing station to handle everything. The first thing I wanted to do after breakfast was to check out the Statue of Liberty. A guy was able to help me out fortunately and basically do it for me, “Oh you want to see the Statue of Liberty? You’ll want to go to Hoboken,” telling me to catch the main train. I catch the next train that says is headed to New York, and after looking at Google Maps, Hoboken was right next to New York so this must have been the right bus, but of course it wasn’t! The route apparently starts at Hoboken, lying right next to the Hudson River, and makes a sharp U-turn where the turn to New York is just a mile or two north of Hoboken, through the Lincoln Tunnel to the New York Penn Station. The train ticket collector gives me the coldest look as he took my ticket, then gave me the longest talk ever about being fined quite a bit for trying to deceive him that way, despite me telling him about my innocent tourist mistake. It was a rough way out but I managed to get off the train without any repercussions. Not a warm welcome to this place. Now that I’m accidentally in another state… I guess that’s all for New Jersey for today.
Right along the river at Liberty State Park stands two twin walls in parallel, in memory of the tragic attack on September 11th, 2001. This memorial was New Jersey’s way of connecting to ground zero, since the two states are so interconnected, recognizing New Jersey victims along the walls. The two walls stand at exact 30 feet high, 208 feet 10 inches long, proportional to the twin tower buildings lying on their sides. Standing between them kind of gives you the imagery of witnessing the event right after it had happened. Being there right at sunset (this was the last place I checked out on this entire trip, on Sunday evening) made everything even more beautiful, with the golden sunlight being reflected off the walls and the New York skyline right across the river.
Everyone I asked about what to do in New Jersey kept mentioning, “Just go to New York, there’s nothing in New Jersey.” Nobody seemed to have known about this, but this memorial is definitely worth a visit.
Every time I travel, I always try to get myself a room on Airbnb instead of spoiling myself to a hotel room. I couldn’t care less about where I’m staying, as long as I have a comfortable place to sleep. I got myself a private room in Bound Brook, in Somerset County. The host was exceptionally welcoming and flexible, allowing me to check in after an entire day of exploring New York around 10:30pm. The area was all residential with nothing interesting to see except the houses that are look rather humble compared to the homes in San Diego and Hawaii. This was both the closest and cheapest place I could find next to the tournament venue, which was only 2 miles away for about $60 a night.
This ride-sharing company has always been my number-one resource for transportation if the bus or rail is not available. Unfortunately, in New Jersey Uber was exceptionally unreliable for me. I had to wait about 20 minutes to find a ride from Bound Brook to the tournament in Franklin Township, in the middle of the day at around 12:30pm Saturday.
At the end of the day, I could not find a ride back after attempting for over 45 minutes. With almost everyone at the venue gone (and all getting a shuttle to their hotel) and my battery at a mere 3% (even with my external charger being dead; trying to find a ride ate up about 20% of my battery!), I finally gave up on finding an Uber ride and walking my way back home, relying on my phone’s GPS on airplane mode. Fortunately it was only two miles and over half the trip was just walking along one street, but truth to be told it was an experience I definitely could’ve gone without.
Even on Sunday evening at 6pm, I could not find myself a ride to the airport from Liberty State Park, also for 45 minutes until I finally found myself a ride at 3x the normal rate. I was even willing to accept 4x-5x surcharges, but even with that activated I could not find a ride. I was also only a 10-to-15-minute drive away from the airport in the middle of Newark, so I was absolutely stunned this time that I could not find a ride. Even my driver who I eventually found was surprised, saying that it’s a Sunday evening so lots of people would either be getting rides to the airport or to a hotel. This was pretty scary considering my flight was at 8pm, but fortunately everything ended well!
2/3: New York (coming soon!)
3/3: Smash (coming soon!)