Saturday, December 27, 2014

Twenty Something Travel to [Washington D.C.]

Good evening readers!

I was here at the capital of United States! Washington D.C. resembles a 'government town' because all the main government branches (the Congress, White House and Supreme Court) are located there with over 100 embassies around the District. Note that Washington D.C. is a federal district therefore not a state in the U.S. and it is definitely not located in the state of Washington. I personally prefer Washington D.C. over New York City because the former projects a cleaner, safer and somehow more systematic impression. We also crossed over to Arlington to visit some famous places such as the Pentagon.

Street view of Washington D.C. with tourists gliding on a two-wheel electric scooter.

Transportation

If you ask me to state one thing I love about Washington D.C. it will definitely be the repetitive concrete like ceiling vaults overarching the entire Metro station. Based on my googling skills, these concrete like ceiling vaults reflect the influence of Washington's neoclassical architecture which is also echoed in most of the buildings there.

My favourite Metro station design in the entire world.
Washington D.C. is easy to navigate if you choose your accommodation wisely. Basically if you stay near the White House, you are close to all the must-visit-places in WDC. You will hardly need to take a cab to arrive to your destination because WDC is explorable by both foot and their Rapid Transit System. With my travel buddy, Philip, we made use of Google map to lead us the way with some help by the Metro railway system to places which are too far to walk. The smart card for the Metro is called SmarTrip. You can read about it here. If I'm not mistaken, the excess fund in this card is not refundable. So, top-up only when you need to use it.

For those of you who flying straight to WDC, this will not concern you. We actually took Megabus from Boston to WDC. The whole bus ride was 10 hours to, 10 hours fro. Yes, that was the longest bus ride I have ever experienced in my life. The two-way ticket fare was surprisingly cheaper than that of New York City, it costed only USD 90. We took a night bus so by the time we reached, it would be morning. The bus ride was quite dreadful because I could not sleep properly and it was quite cold in the bus.

Accommodation

Hotels located near White House are generally expensive so we decided to stay in a student hostel near central to ease travel while cost us less money. We finally settled on a student hostel called Washington International Student Center located at 2451 18th Street N.W., Washington DC, DC 20009. When we reached the area, it took us a while to look for the entrance of the hostel because the door was so small and there weren't any signs to guide us the way.

Bars and restaurants near our hostel.
The hostel is strategically located above bars and restaurants so you would not have to travel far for morning breakfast or dinner. The Metro station is within walking distance. The cheap overnight price is also one of the attractive aspects. But other than that, don't even bother.

I was very disappointed when I reached the hostel because there was a weird and mouldy smell. We were assigned to a 6 bedded bunk and were shocked by the condition of the room. Dirty clothes were all over the floor and I would say the place was not well-maintained. But we were just going to sleep and spend most of our time out, so we decided to just try to bear with it. You can read the Tripadvisor reviews of the hostel here. I've read through most of them, and I would say the negative ones are very accurate.

We were in great horror this particular night when returning to our room. A group of guys who smelt like alcohol gathered in our room, chatting. They then left when they saw both of us. Basically, that hostel is never meant for students. No student ID is required upon check in. The fact that it is located above bars made me feel slightly safer because of the human traffic at night. So if something happens, we just have to run all the way down. The hostel staffs behaved quite strangely especially the middle-aged owner who asked me to follow him 'somewhere' for no reason. I was terrified and insisted that I got to look after my friend's luggage while he was showering. After consistent failures, the strange owner gave up and asked me to meet this guy called 'Anthony' next morning. We of course did not bother to do anything and just went out early. To sum up our stay: We were so scared to stay overnight to the extent that we woke up super early and came back super late. Just because we did not want to spend our single second there.

Now, here's the tip: If you are planning to spend less for your accommodation, do more research and read the reviews of the hostels. Let's say you are not comfortable with the condition, just leave and look for another decent hostel if you are going to spend a couple of days in that city. If you are a female travelling alone, make sure you stay in a trustworthy hostel and if not, please pay slightly more for your stay in a proper hotel. Better be safe than sorry!

Food


Again, nothing fantastic about the food because our mission was not on food. Nevertheless, we did savour every meal we had because even their most basic burger was so filling and tasty!

Dinner at Pentagon Mall. *No upsize requested. 
 For breakfast, I recommend this place called the Corner Bakery Cafe located in Chinatown. I have no idea why something so American is stationed there but their breakfast set served was appetizing!

They sell food ranging from bagels, muffins, pasta, soups to oatmeals.

Bread + mushroom + potato + avocado + tomato + scrambled eggs + sausages 

I also ate a strawberry waffle for breakfast the other day in a random coffee shop near our hostel. 
Due to our "no rice, no steamed vegetables, no steamed meat, no Chinese tea, no herbal soup" rule, we were able to taste different kinds of burgers. Next, I am going to introduce you the best burger I have eaten so far in WDC. I highly recommend you to pay a visit and order a burger if you happen to be near. Maybe I was starving at that time, that's why I gobbled the entire burger up in like 6 minutes. Rich toppings, well-cooked meat, freshly cut fries, wide range of sauces and free flow of soft drinks (they have coke in berry, orange, lime and grapes flavour btw)! But my point is, the burger was in so far the best that I have ever had. 

Present to you, the Z Burger! You can visit their website here.

Address: 
Columbia Heights (Tivoli Theatre)
3301 14th St. NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20010

Places

WDC is no place like New York where you have plenty of entertainment and the entire street for you to shop till you drop. If you enjoy looking at building's architecture, knowing the history of US and probably interested in visiting the location of government branches in person, WDC is for you. We covered quite a decent amount of places, including some parts in Arlington. For instance, Lafayette Park, White House, Headquarters of the Department of Treasury, United States Department of Commerce, General William Tecumseh Sherman Monument, Eisen Hower Executive Building, American Red Cross National Headquarters building, World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington memorial, Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Pentagon Memorial, Calvary Baptist Church, Saint Mary Church, Smithsonian Institution, International Spy Museum, National Building Museum, US Courthouse for Arm Forces (COA), Supreme Court of the US, Library of Congress, United States Navy Memorial, International Monetary Fund,Vietnam War Memorial Wall, Korean War Veterans Memorial, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Natural Museum of Natural History, Delta Solar Sculpture, Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, the United States Capitol etc.

If you are amazed and start wondering how we were able to cover so many places in just 3 days in WDC, here's the secret: Most of the places mentioned above are actually close together. I say 'close' meaning within walking distance or next to each other. So, you would be able to cover quite a lot of memorials/museums, just like how we did. So plan your itinerary beforehand so as to prevent re-visiting the same area again and again.
Out of all these places, my favourite building, other than their Metro station, will be the United States Capitol. One special feature of this Capitol is that it has a staircase with 365 steps to the Capitol's dome to represent the number of days in a year. As the legislative branch of the government, adopting the neoclassical architectural style, the United States Capitol housed Congress since 1800.

Functions of The Capitol:
1. where Congress meets to write the laws of the nation
2. where presidents are inaugurated and deliver their State of the Union messages.

Here are some pictures to share:

My perfect picture of White House. Where's the gate? *smirks*

Acting as the President of United States for one second.
The Pentagon

International Spy Museum

Library of Congress
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial angle.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The United States Capitol
It was fun travelling in WDC but tiring as well. But it's worth the 10 hours bus ride! I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed my trip. If you have any questions regarding this trip, drop them in the comment box below! :)

-Travelling is addictive.-

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