When I arrived at Blue’s more than 3 weeks ago, Blue asked if this was my first time to the United States. When I shared that I was in San Francisco last year, she jokingly remarked that Boston and Massachusetts were very different places. She added that it’s like living in a totally different country, where ‘traditional’ values are still important.
Below: Two pictures I took from the Longfellow Bridge of the Boston skyline. I was trying to duplicate the same shot from an earlier picture of Boston I found online.:)
My experiences of Boston & Cambridge versus San Francisco are indeed different though how one city compares to the other in its value systems I still can’t tell. I think though a good part of any difference might stem from where I’ve been primarily operating from on a day to day basis. I was staying right in the heart of San Francisco city, with my business venue right smack in the middle of town. Every morning when I stepped out of the hotel I’d be greeted by the morning commuter traffic, cars, trams, buses and the like, and hordes of people and tourists.
Cambridge by comparison, where I live and go to work everyday during this trip, is more laidback and quieter. It feels a little like suburban America, and far less tourist-y. Apart from the weekends, I’ve not really experienced Boston city on typical weekdays. But from what I’ve observed, there seems to be relatively fewer tourist visitors to Boston.
In terms of trip highlights, I’m down to three experiences that have left me with unforgettable memories. The wonderful visit to the lovely Butterfly Garden, that very compact 8 by 2 meter rectangular area with hundreds of butterflies, the wet & wild whale-watching trip off Gloucester, and the quietness of Trinity Church’s massive sanctuary.
The trip to Niagara Falls left me with one impression, funnily a deeper one than the Falls itself. And It’s the sheer size of the country.
Just to get from Boston, which is on the Eastern side of Massachusetts, to Niagara Falls on the western end of the state of New York took 9 hours of flat out fast driving on the Interstates. And we’d not even traversed a quarter of the country!
I know global environmentalists would have you believe that Earth is getting more crowded, and those of us who live in Singapore routinely complain about its population density. But traveling across states and seeing the miles upon miles of green forest land with no houses in sight makes me wonder again if it isn’t so much a problem with Earth being over populated as it is with its population concentrated in a small number of areas.
Even after two trips, the thing about the sales tax in the United States still confuses me. I get a lot of small coin change which I just don’t know what to use them for apart from leaving them in tips jars. Items aren’t tagged with their sales tax priced in, which further adds to the confusion of how much exactly does an item cost. I ended up paying for most items using the credit card and saving myself the hassle of having pockets jingling of small coins.
Dining isn’t cheap in this part of the world though, which leads me to again conclude that as much as Singaporeans love to complain, one thing they have to concede is its availability of cheap, delicious and easily accessible eateries and restaurants everywhere. Meals here cost approximately twice what you’d routinely pay for in Singapore, and taste-wise, what Singaporeans get at home is easily comparable if not better in terms of range at least.
Ironically, it’s the stuff you buy at retail and large department stores that make up the difference in what you pay for processed goods and services. Simply put, household items and daily necessities cost lower, especially when you’re getting them from those big store chains (e.g. Wal-Mart, sorry bud LOL)
Now, as for books: I’m carting back about ten books I’ve picked up here. While retail-priced books are still somewhat cheaper than what you’ll pay for at home, they’re still more expensive compared to simply buying them online from Amazon and shipping it to your local address. The online store gives out huge discounts, and as long as you’re staying in the United States for any period long enough for Amazon to deliver to the place you’re putting up in, there’s really no reason to buy any sort of electronic gadgets or books from brick and mortar stores here. I only did so because they were mostly impulse buys, and I enjoy the experience of visiting the many book stores in the city and and in Cambridge.
For visitors intending to tour just Boston alone, I think a trip of about 3-4 days suffices nicely to leisurely see all the key places within the city itself. The city has a great subway system, and while single subway rides at USD2 are costly, picking up a weekly pass for unlimited rides solves that easily.
Pictures of my MIT colleagues, and also the group of student interns assigned to work on our project:
I’ll leave Boston and the state of Massachusetts in a few hours but with great memories. The trip has gone on pretty well; I was able to see a lot of places and sites in the weekends I had, and I completed my work objectives as well. Now that I’ve been to the west and east ends of the country, I think my next trip here – if ever – is going to have to be the mid and south-west – where all the spectacular natural sights are.:)