A Day Trip OF Philly

Work wise last year was a crazy year for me, every other month I had to visit our office in US. I will take a flight on Sunday Morning from Hyderabad and reach US in the evening same day after a 22 hour journey.  Office will start at 7:30 am in the morning, and before I could adjust to the time zone change it will be Friday, time to come back so that I can reach India office on Monday morning. So much for those who say going to US is fun.

Truth be told it used to be fun in the earlier days of my career when I will have others travelling with me and we would stay there for more than 2 weeks. This would give us 2 weekends to explore the surrounding areas and even take overnight journeys by greyhound (never had enough money to take flights in those days in US) to reach even far flung places like Niagara Falls.

Fortunately one of my trips last year got extended by 2 days and I had to stay over the weekend in US. The ghumakkar in me was so excited that immediately I made plans to visit the city of Philadelphia the birthplace of American Revolution and democracy. I have always wanted to visit Philly as it is fondly called by proud citizens, who have never forgotten the fact that Philadelphia  (watch the video its is awesome) was the original capital of the Independent United State before DC was built from ground up. Once DC came up the political power shifted to Washington DC and financial power moved to New York, but unlike sulking on its lost crown like the erstwhile capital of Raj in India, Philly moved on and reinvented itself and today is one of the top 5 cities in US.

Philly City Hall- Tallest Masonry building in world


Soon Philly lost its political clout to DC and the financial muscle moved to the big apple, but Philadelphia retained its title as the birthplace of democracy and continues to be one of the most prominent centers for higher education in the USA.

Tourists Clicking Pictures from top of the bus

Anyways this is not a history class it is about my short trip to Philly on a July afternoon. I was warned by my colleagues not to go to Philly as it will be very hot, but I brushed their worries aside mentioning that I am from Delhi and nothing can beat the Delhi heat. How wrong I was, it turned out to be one of the hottest day in the history of Philadelphia with me on the top of an open bus trying to capture pictures through my cell phone

I started my journey towards the local train station to take the train towards downtown Philadelphia. From there the plan was to take one of those hop on hop down bus tours and enjoy the city from top of the open bus. As I was walking towards the train station it dawned on me that the suburbs in US are not designed for pedestrians specially the areas around turnpikes and under bridges as nobody is expected to walk there. As I was struggling to cross the road because the button at the road cross signal was not working suddenly a police car stopped next to me and cop emerged out of it. He was very polite but firm and wanted to know what I am doing  near the under bridge. It was obvious he thought I am an illegal alien or a drug dealer and had one of his hands on his hip next to the gun, with other hand he was gesticulating vigorously. I patiently explained to him that I am trying to cross the road and the button to stop the traffic is not working. You see unlike the city center and downtime where all roads have pavement for pedestrians most suburbs are designed for cars as nobody walks in suburbs. Even if you want to go for a jog you take your car to designated area and then go for your jog not on the roads.

My explanation kind of calmed him and he came out and helped me cross the road by signalling the traffic to stop. But not before warning me that I could get killed if I tried to cross the road like this and it is my lucky day that he was passing by. I thanked him and he went his way after making a call to report the button not working. I did not even want to compare all this with back home in India where there are no buttons for pedestrians to cross road and even if there are who will stop for poor pedestrians?

The local train (SEPTA) came on time and took me to downtown Philadelphia. I got down at Market Street and immediately walked to the hop on hop down bus service that for around 50 dollars takes you to a city tour of Philly attractions and has 24 hours validity. The day was getting hotter but I was excited to see some of the places I have read in school books and seen in movies.  We have a lot to learn from Americans on how to do marketing, a country with 300 years history markets itself better than India which has 5 millennium of recorded history.

Philly Skyline From Top of the Bus

I was not carrying my camera as I never thought I will get opportunity to click pictures so the pictures in this post are of poor quality taken from my mp faithful Nokia phone. Unfortunately due to intense heat I did not had the energy to go to all the places and also the indoor air-conditioned attractions like museums etc. had a huge Q of people to get in. As nobody wanted to stay out but get into the cool indoors. Most tourist attractions have a small cafeteria where you can get snacks, though veg food can be a challenge at places.

The open bus takes you through the major attractions of the city and you can get down and spend as much time as you want at the places you like and then board the next bus. It was wonderful to watch the city pass by from the top of the bus with the breeze touching your face. Especially colorful was the china town part of the city which suddenly takes you to the heart  of mainland china in downtown Philly.

China Town in Down town Philly

China Town in Down town Philly

Chief Justice John Marshall

Philadelphia has lots of statues in the parks and roads most of them of historical figures like Presidents and war heroes  specially popular being President Lincoln’s statue on Kelly Drive, I could not take its picture as the bus was moving too fast. But I was able to take picture of the statue of chief justice John Marshall outside the west gate of Franklin Institute. Ever heard of a Judge’s statue in India? If yes please inform me.  There is also a controversial statue of the Italian Stallion Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa a must for movie buffs as the story of Rocky series is in Philly. The guides in the buses were very knowledgeable and were telling a lot of stories about not only the city but also some of the controversies going in the city. The controversy around Ricky’s statue was another one.

The Government of the People Statue in Philly

The Government of the People Statue in Philly

Other place I wanted to visit was the Philadelphia Zoo, for the simple reason that it houses one of the oldest recorded living creatures on earth, a tortoise/turtle, collected from the Galapagos Islands. This one is almost 100 years old and has seen the two world wars and more in his life time. As all of them in the enclosure looked same I am not sure which one of them in the picture is the older one. Another turtle died some time back and was believed to be 150+ years old when he died.

The Old Turtles at Philly Zoo

Next I took a ferry across the Delaware River, which has its own place in history of US. Just type “Washington Crossed ….’” in Google to find out. The reason I crossed the Delaware was that there is huge aquarium across the river which houses marine animals and I wanted to show my kids pictures of sharks all around me as I passed under a glass tunnel.

Ferry To cross the river Delaware

It is a very unique experience though you know you are safe behind the glass but still when a shark looks you in eyes you pray that she is not hungry! The pictures did not come out good hence are not being given  here. But you can check the website of the aquarium here. The fun part is an open pond with sting rays and other fish which you are allowed to touch. I touched one of the sting rays and and a baby shark and they were very slimy kind of things. I don’t plan to do it again I don’t think it is a good thing to disturb the poor creatures.

Star Fisha and other Sea Animals in Aquarium

The Sting Ray at the aquarium

When we were crossing the river we saw a  huge battle ship anchored in Delaware River called USS NEW JERSEY this is supposed to be the most decorated battleship in the history of US navy and is now a museum, open to public. I did not had time to go and check the museum but took some pictures from the moving ferry. The ship is so huge that  it did not came in one frame as you can see from the picture. Another thing to note is that although Philly is one of the most densely populated cities in US the Delaware water is clean and I saw a lot of birds swimming in it, unlike the sewer we have made our supposedly holy  rivers like Musi, Ganga and Yamuna.

The Museum-USS New Jersey in Delaware River

As I had to take the evening train back to my hotel from Philly I could not see a lot of places like the Independence bell, house of Benjamin Franklin and many more historical places in the city as each had a huge line in front of it. But the 8 hours spent in Philadelphia downtown on top of a bus would be remembered by me for a long time to come.

View From the Top of the Bus

One of The Bridges on River Delaware

Quick tip: Most of the tickets are available online and it is better to buy tickets online to save time as then you can straight walk up to the entry. Philly has lots of attraction make a list before hand what all you want to visit and plan  your trip accordingly as they are not close to each other and if you are short of time then  you need to plan well.  Whether you take Bus or own car, please be prepared to walk a lot as just from parking lot to the main building in most cases would be a good walk.

Check this website for more information on Philly:   http://www.visitphilly.com

18 Comments

  • Wonderful post.
    To know any place, you must know a little bit of history as well, we won’t mind for a small history class. It’s a day trip only, however, you have touched almost all the areas of a city life including good policing, traffice system, cleanliness of the river, which is missing in our everyday life here.
    Tx for bringing them up here. Pictures are not bad either.

    I am fortunate to see one of the oldest living animal in the world (~ 250 years) ‘Adwaita’ in The Alipore Zoo, Calcutta. Adwaita was an Aldabra giant tortoise brought to India by Lord Wellesley and handed it over to the Alipur Zoological Gardens in 1875 when the zoo was set up. Adwaita was said to be the pet of Robert Clive. Adwaita is no longer in this world and left us on March 23, 2006.

    Just one query…is the color of Stingray is ‘Red’ or ‘white’. I have seen them only in ‘Red’ long time back – however not alive. Whips are being made from the tail of stingrays. There is a good aquarium in Kolkata and we are missing an aquarium in Delhi & NCR. If there is any such thing nearby, do let me know. In Leisure Valley Park, Gurgaon, there is a big Acqurium (signboard) – but I do not you whether you will cry or laugh! A very good post indeed.

    • Hi Amitava: Thanks for your detailed comment. I missed the Alipore zoo tortoise in 2004 when we could not enter the same due to a Q that was almost a mile long.
      The Sting ray we say was light brownish/camelish color, hard to describe, but there were no red ones in the aquarium I visited. A sting ray was responsible for killing of Steve Irvin the crocodile hunter :(

  • Vipin says:

    Very informative post equipped with good photos, DesiTraveler Ji. Though it’s difficult to capture the essence of any historical city in a day, but you have tried to do it pretty well. I thought Dilliwala would be the best road crosser in the world…:)…seeing the way they cross roads here (& get hurt at times too) under such crazy traffic even when the footover bridges are available for them…:)…checked out your link on aquarium and took a virtual tour, it’s pretty alluring…do we have any such good aquarium in India anywhere?…Thanks for sharing…

    • Thanks Vipin ji …Pedestrians are provided first right in US, unlike in India where they come last…

      The Taraporewala Aquarium, Mumbai near Marine drive, in India is one of the best, I visited it very long ago, so am not sure how it is now.

  • Praveen Wadhwa says:

    Thanks Vipin Saab

    I live in New Jersey and often visit Wilmington Delaware and pass through I-95 that goes over Philadelphia down town but never thought of visiting the town for the purpose of seeing it. May be one day I should do it.
    I have visited Camden Aquarium and it is huge and lots of sharks there in the water tank.

    I wish you more happy travelling.

    • Praveen Wadhwa says:

      Sorry, my mistake. I was to address this above post to Desi Traveller.

      • Hi Praveen: I think we are all guilty of missing the places near us… lived most of my life in Delhi and have been to Redfort once as a kid :), though have passed in front of it numerous time, need to go there when I visit Delhi next time….

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Desitraveller,

    Thanks for an interesting post on Philly. Crossing of the road incident assisted by good – bad cop was interesting.
    Pics are superb, which go well with the narration.
    Enjoyed the world across half the globe with you.
    Thanks,

    Auro.

  • Hi Desi Traveller,

    Although I have gone through pics only till now with only cursory glance at the story, I felt like congratulating you for the pics. I will come again after I enjoy the story with some patience. :D

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Fantastic post, DT. Absolutely loved it. The pics were good too considering that they were taken with your Nokia mobcam. It illustrates the fact that more than the camera, it is the eye behind it that matters.

    You were sort of apologetic about writing about the history of Philadelphia. I personally thought that it added a lot of value to the post. One appreciates the sights more if one is aware of the history and myths associated with a place. Or stats like the City Hall being the tallest masonry building in the world. A travelogue has to have a little bit of everything to truly capture the essence of a place.

    I have one small grouse however. You have not posted a pic of the famous cracked Liberty Bell, one of the most famous symbols of the American fight for independence. I know that you did not have the time/energy to spare, phir bhi…..

    • Hi D.L. Narayan>>> I am glad you liked the post…as Philly is one of the most prominent cities in US I was not sure if history is needed thanks for liking that part too.
      I too am missing the historic bell, I could see the same in a glass case from the outside but the line was long enough to take one hour to enter, hence had to skip it.

      Thanks.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    I would borrow the name ‘DT’ which DL used to address you. If it is not OK, I would fall back on ‘Desitraveler’. :-)

    Very informative post, without giving up on the engagement. You made me google the ‘Washington Crossed’ and that is a new finding.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington's_crossing_of_the_Delaware_River

    Some of the photos have come out fantastic. And finally this is a FOG (First on Ghumakkar) so congratulations.

  • Hi Nandan… DT is good for me. Thanks for your comment and encouragement. I find the readers at Ghumakkar are very engaged and that shows in the quality of comments on all posts by different authors.
    Being Ghumakkar is indeed a good thing… :)

    thanks

  • Nirdesh says:

    Hi,

    I remember Philly for Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air!

    No doubt it is a beautiful and historic place.

    Nice Post too.

  • Thanks Nirdesh….some parts of Philly can be tough!

  • Nandan Jha says:

    I received an email from Philly tourism folks, so sharing it.

    Ben Franklin is still quite the celebrity and his upcoming 308th birthday on January 17, 2014 is cause for many celebrations in his longtime home of Philadelphia. Free admission to new Benjamin Franklin Museum, a Franklin-themed getaway giveaway, birthday parties and appearances by Ben himself are among the festivities to honor Americas favorite Founding Father.

    Greater Philadelphias official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com make up the most-visited website network out of the 10 biggest U.S. cities. Visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools.

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