On a recent business trip, I got the opportunity to visit Seattle. Seattle, a city on the west coast of the US is a seaport. It was my first visit to the US and also my first such a long flight. I was nervous as to how the long flight would go.
The fun started as soon as I was about to board when I met many Amazon employees at the airport (Yeah, you can recognize Amazon employees by the Wildcraft bags they carry). All of us also got business upgrades. The first business class travel was a great experience. From the luxury of reclining beds to great food, views, wifi; it was in no time that we reached Seattle.
We checked into hotel Residence Inn, Marriot. The hotel room had a good view of a beautiful lake and the docked ships. I was eager to see the place and my excitement took away all my jetlag.
On my day 1 of landing in Seattle, I decided to go out and explore the city in the evening. My first destination was Space Needle. Space Needle is the Eiffel Tower of Seattle. The view of the city lights in the night was good but not exceptional, I felt. After all, such places would be a great tourist spot once upon a time. But now, with tall buildings becoming a norm, one did not really need a tourist destination to get a city’s view. Nevertheless, it was my first solo exploration in Seattle and I was happy. I had dinner at an Indian restaurant and walked back to the hotel.
The day after I decided to go shopping for my family. I had heard a great deal about the labor day sale and I did not want to miss that. I found US to be expensive (especially compared to India and China) but then also liked the quality being sold. So after a day long shopping for my family, I came back in a happy mood with lots of shopping bags. Evening was about showing the gifts on video to my family. And then I opened my favorite app (TripAdvisor) to plan my Day 3.
Day 3 was again about exploring the city. From riding the duck to the tour of Boeing factory (where they showed how is Boeing manufactured and assembled) to visiting the First Star bucks of the world, I was falling in love with the city. Not only is the city serene and much less crowded, but also disciplined in all ways. People drive in lanes, wait for signals to cross the roads. People have set fitness regimes and go crazy ensuring they stay fit.
Another thing I had noticed in the 3 days was the fact that there was respect for every human being. Even people who are Uber drivers drive Ubers because of their passion. They want to meet new people and learn from each other. Some even ask you for a date. Everywhere in Seattle, people smile to strangers in lifts. People wish strangers and ask them how their day has been.
Day 4 is when the office started. I quickly set up my calendar for the next 15 days so I could meet everyone I needed to. People came to office around 8 and left by 4, ensuring the evening to themselves and their families. People did not gossip in office but instead spent their time at work productively (can’t say whether its good or bad).
After the day’s work, I went to meet my long time friend and her family. Time flies. How we once started our careers together one day fresh out of college and how life had turned for both of us. I loved seeing her house and meeting her kids. We went out to a beach and had some good conversations after a long time. With some friends, no matter how much touch you lose, when you meet , you hit off as if you have always been together.
Day 5 evening was about going to a mall and doing some more shopping. Dinner at an Indian restaurant brought a delicious end to the day.
Day 6 evening was about visiting the Seattle aquarium. I was fascinated by the variety of aqua flora and fauna I saw. Post the aquarium I ate at a nearby place and then roamed around the streets of downtown. The city started its day early and so around 7 is when the shops closed. After a stroll, I was back in the hotel.
Day 7 evening happened to be a Friday. I went to a nearby hangout place with my team. Post that I wanted to go on a cruise. But it was late. I made an impromptu plan to see Alki Beach. The journey to the beach was again lively, where the driver shared his love for his city. Walking alone on the streets of Alki Beach, I saw how families in the US played together. Friday evenings are about playing volleyball on the beach, drinking beer in nearby restaurants, taking kids out for some run/cycling. People loved to be outdoors. I also saw how comfortable people were to kiss each other in a busy place, caring a damn about others around them. From the beach, I went to see a beautiful glass garden and then back.
On Day 8, I decided to not take Uber but travel in the local bus. I went on a tour around Washington university and went to see Ballard Locks. It was a one of its kind place I had never seen or heard about. A place where water levels get adjusted by locking, unlocking water and ships. I was fascinated by the kind of ships people owned. I was fascinated by this simple yet traditional and powerful way of water level maintenance. From there, TripAdvisor took me to a Discovery Park. A long nature trail led me to a beach. From the beach, my friend picked me and we went to Kerry Park. It was primarily a viewing point at the heights. The day ended with eating ready-to-eat meals and planning for the next day.
Day 9, a colleague took me to Snoqualmie Falls. The random gossip on the way was memorable. From the falls, I asked my colleague to drop me to the Zoo. Seattle Zoo was packed with kids. More than seeing the animals, I loved seeing how kids were learning while enjoying so much. The zoo was well planned. I also saw an animal fashion show where a pig, a few birds put up a great display. Full of light humor, the show was again a one-of-its kind experience for me. Evening was about a cruise around the city. Clean water, some great commentary and cold breeze made it totally memorable. I had dinner at an Indian restaurant and got back.
Day 10 evening was at my friend’s place where I saw how Indian families staying close-by to each other were so closely knit and enjoyed with each other.
Day 11 evening was about walking in downtown Seattle and finishing the remaining shopping.
Day 12 evening was about office meetings.
Day 13, I took a day off and visited Mount Rainier. I had read good reviews about the place and surely it did not disappoint. The hike was picturesque. The tour guide was lively and kept the conversations flowing. The group was consisting of old people, but all of them were full of energy and enthusiasm. Going solo on such expeditions was quite liberating for me.
Day 14 evening, I took the flight back for India.
Seattle in general:
1) Good mix of people from across the world. So many Indians on the street that I did not miss India.
2) Smiling faces. People hated to stand silent in elevators. Everyone was always excited to strike a conversation.
3) The city had good healthy food and unlike China, where food was an issue for me; here I got back almost all my ready-to-eat meals because there was so much for vegetarians and vegans.
4) People’s discipline with their exercises
5) People’s love for dogs. Dogs came to office and I saw pets all around me.
6) Upcoming city, great appreciation in real estate, big companies competing for talent. Many new buildings coming up for Amazon, Google, etc.
7) Every one mile, there is a Starbucks. It seems people drink more coffee and beer than water.
8) Good pleasant weather, not extreme on either side.
9) People have a good sense of dressing.
10) At work, people come, work and go. Workplaces are not places to make friends but deliver.
11) Respect and dignity for every profession.
12) Amazing cars and traffic sense (Every time someone told me Seattle traffic was bad, I was tempted to invite them to India though)
My ratings of the places must see in Seattle:
- Argosy harbor cruise
- Mount Rainier
- Discovery Park
- Premium Outlets (if you wish to shop, that is)
- Ballard Locks
- Boeing Tour
- Chihully Glass Garden
- Downtown shopping streets
- Washington University Area
- First Star Bucks
- Ride the ducks
- Space Needle
- Pike Place Market
- Gum wall