Published: December 28th 2009December 28th 2009
Ever since we started planning our US visit in Sept 09, florida was always on the cards.I have searched a thousand times for all the best deals that we can get on various travel portals.Finally we got a deal that we were looking for for $ 420.3 nights stay Plus To & from Air treval from Pittsburgh.The hotel that we selected was Econo Lodge on International Highway & air tickets were booked on Air Trans which services East & Central US.We have already been in Pittsburgh for last 4 days.The flight was scheduled at around 11.30 am on Tuesday Sept 15th.Previous day we have spent roaming around Pittsburgh & that night we ensured that we sleep on time as we would have to get up as early as 6 am.After getting ready,we left home with Amey who dropped us to 28x Bus route stop opposite CMU campus.Bus arrived minutes before 9.30 am departure.Amey made sure that we are all set & then went on to his office.The distance from CMU to Airport was covered in an hour.28x is the best & cheapest travel option from anywhere in downtown Pitts to Airport for just $2.5.Local bus extention can be used in 28x
as well which makes your travel even more chearper.Compare this with alternate of taxi for which you will have to shell out atleast $ 50.Since we reached ahead of time at the airport, we spent time exploring the facility & lobby there.Preparations for upcoming G20 summit were visible everywhere.Flight was on time so we departed & landed on time to Orlando International airport on time by 1.30 pm.
Orlando Intl Airport lives up to its expectations of a renowed tourist destination.We were extremely impressed by the way they have designed & maintained the airport.You will see shops & outlets of all the theme parks that Orlando has at the airport lobby.It sets up your mood for the fun.We were going to travel by public transport now so we inquired for the bus stops with few folks.We struggled to find out but finally managed.When we boarded the first bus on route 42, we never imganied that we are going to spend next 3 hours to reach our hotel & change 3 buses on the course.Bus frequency was 30 mins for all the routes & tickets for $ 2 each one way with option of journey extention.Route 42 took us to
Florida Mall from where we picked up route 4 for another stopover & from there route 55 to Brosnan Highway.At each halt we have to ask people as to which one to catch next.One of such people happen to be spanish.I asked him in English & he responded in his language which only he can understand.But finally it was a old lady & Nam's logic helped us get to our hotel.The old lady directed us as to which side to look out for & it was Nam who correctly located Econolodge 4269.It was almost 5 pm now & we were relived to be there!We got room no.120.Room was decent.Hotel has complementary breakfast & free shuttle to Disney,Universal & many other Orlando Theme parks.We knew this when we booked the deal!Plus we have carried lot of snax packets with us which was enough to see us for next 4 days.Nam was tired so we spent rest of the day relaxing in the room.We did visited nearby outlets,namely Adidas, Dollar Shop & Mcdonalds for snax.
We have inquired for the shuttle times etc previous day so we knew that we have to up early next day morning.We decided to go for
Universal Studios first.Shuttle which incidently starts from our hotel was slated for 8.15 am.We finished our breakfast before that.Stop by stop,halting at each hotel on the highway,we finally reached Universal studios by 9.30.A escalators takes you to the entrance of the studios from the parking lot.Each person of staff welcomes you there as if they have been waiting for you to visit them for so long!Nobody can escape the feeling of being special there.I had booked the tickets for Universal online the previous day so at ticket counter, it was just a question of swiping my CC for identification at the automated machines & we got our tickets from the dispenser.There is light music playing in the background as you enter the majestics gates of the studios.We were excited like never before afterall.this is the second theme park we were visiting anywhere globally.Being a weekday,rush was not at peak so that saved us valubale time.Starting with Shreak,we queued up to whatever came next as we strolled on the streets of the park.This theme park has a ride or show for many of the famous hollywood movies produced by Universal Studios.To name a few,Mummy,Jaws,ET,Simpsons,Terminator,Twister,Men in Black etc.They are divided into some
4 odd sections. each one based on a US city ie Newyork,Los Angeles etc.The whole set up,special effects,arrangements is so amazing that at no point you think you have enough!They also play some live bands on the streets as people walk by.It was a sought after experience to be there & feel the buzz at Universal.Plus we couldnot have asked for a better weather.From 9 in the morning till 6 pm in evening, we didnt realised how time went by.But by now we were tired.Fortunately the pick up shuttle arrieved on time.Being first to get in on our way to studios in the morning, we were the last one to get off in evening.It was fun.Things that I have watched on Discovery channel in my childhood, I got a chance to experience first hand.Lucky me!!
Next day agenda was to visit Epcot Disney Park.Like Universal, we had shuttle from hotel till Disney park.So travel till disney park was hasslefree.The shuttle dropped us at one of the Central Disney parks.From there they have various modes available to visit whichever park of Disney that you want to visit.For Epcot they had Monorail.A nice elevated magnetic train that takes you to the
Epcot park in 20 mins.One thing that comes to your notice is the space they have for these parks. I think it will run into thousands of hectors of land.Being a weekday before start of fall, like Universal we had less rush so nowhere we have to stand in queue.We purchased daily pass for Epcot & World Showcase parks after carfully eveluating multiple choices that you have at the ticket window.At Entrace they have a huge crystal ball which houses "Spaceship Earth" ride.This ride is the photographic identity of Epcot & can be see from almost every corner of Epcot Park.A earth like structure which must be atleast 200 + feet tall.At the ticket counter being our first visit,we also got a "First Visit" Badge.Nam was excited about it!
First ride for us to start with was Spaceship Earth.I suggest to all that they should start with this one.Sets your mood for rest of the day.Towards the end, you also get your picture clicked which is then showcased morphed on a spaceship. We settled for a online video that morphed our faces on a spaceship for journey towards Mars.This is available free of cost on one of the several
interactive computers that they have at the exit.We also played a energy collection game there.But God it was tiring!Next stop was Universe of Energy ride followed by peek inside 2 sections of "Innovations".By now we realised that the basic idea of this theme park.The way they have designed the rides here is simply one of the best interactive means for children to know about science, energy, Space & world geographies.The method is simply awsome.Even adults can learn a lot.We did at least.E.g In one of the rides inside "Innovation"they have a 3 D show which requires to answer questions around,how to build a strong house to withstand stroms.They actually go by majority votes from the audience at each stage right from digging the base of the house till arranging the rooftop & finally display how that home will withstand a level 3 /4 storm.They also explain what audience did wrong with scientific justification.Great learning!!
At each ride, this experience will keep getting better & better.Best thing is you are making decision at each stage of each ride;be it Mission Space,Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, Test Track.At Mission Space, they make you travel in a spacehipto another planet & depending
upon level of discomfort, they assign you the spaceship.We both are not keen fans of exciting rides so we settled for a lighter mode.They actually lock you inside a spaceship & make you feel as if you are driving it with live stream of instrcutions all the time.Was exiciting experience!Equally exciting & more thrilling was "Test Track".They make you aware of different tests a commerical car goes thru before its released in the market.A Weather test, road test etc.Finally they accelerate the car to 200 km per hour for few mins before you halt at the station.Its absolutely thrilling!!
All these while as you walk thru the park, there are live bands playing for you at every nook & corner.Who would feel like going home from here?? By the time you finish up with first section which mainly houses all the thrilling rides,its noon.We had some ice cream in the break.Post lunch, they have some easy rides/shows namely Nemo,Circle of Life,Journey of Imagination, Honey I shrink the kids show.Visitors can relax after going thru thrill of initial roller coasters.Though all of those in part 2 are relatively easy,there is one that deserves a special mention.Its "Soaring".A ride that will
give you experience of gliding thru sky over America, covering all beautiful & well known locations from Niagara Falls to San Fransisco Bridge.A truly panoramic experience!!Its simply among the top 3 rides of Epcot.A Huge crowd favourate too as this is the only ride where we spend almost 45 mins standing in queue.If you have to cover the Epcot park in full, you should aim at finishing with all rides/shows by 3 pm.So far we were on track.But we were hungry too so we took a break at one of the several food joints.We had some burgers & fries with Soda.It was welcome break & good enough to rejuvinate us for rest of the park, mainly "World Showcase".
World Showcase is a 360 degree walkthru around the world from China to Canada.They have a small lake at center & each country out of total of 16 around the world have their plots on the banks of the lake adjusent to each other.If I remember correctly, it starts with China on the left & ends with Canada on the right.Its this lake that they have the wonderful Fire Crackers Show towards end of the day.To ease your movements, they have
boats sailing in the lake which facilitates you swithcing from any country to any other.Some of country showcases are so big that they have their own rides within their set up.Each one features all the main tourist attractions of their country & give you a flavour of their culture & heritage.The France Showcase has a miniature replica of Eifel Tower.The whole experience is like having a multi Cousine Gourmet Dinner where each dish is tempting & testy.It has so much within them that if you are spending anything less than 1/2 day there, you are doing injustice to this place!!We were convinced about it but our bodies were tired by now so we took amny shortcuts but finally ensured that we have visited each one of them.The ones that we liked the most however are Germany,Mexico,Norway,Canada, Morocco,Japan & France.By the time we finished, it was almost time for fire crackers show to start.People have already made a leeway to enjoy it around the lake.The place was packed but luckily we managed a place for both of us.It was first such experience for Nam though I had the fortune of experiencing Macy's Fire Crackers Show in July 4th in NYC.This by
no means less extravagant to that of Macy's.A delightful experience & Feast for eyes.You cant ask for a better conclusion to the day which was as such a great fun & gave you so many wondeful moments to cherish. After the show ended,we quickly hurried towards monorail to ensure that we are in time for the 10.30 pm Pick up for the travel back to hotel.And we were just in time.The bus arrived in few mins & we were back in our hotel by close to 12 midnight.
Next day was our last day in Orlando.We got up, packed our bags, had our breakfast & checked out.The flight was slated for departure in evening by 4.30 pm.Keeping in mind the time in hand,we decided to accomodate yet another florida must see attraction on our itinerary.It was famous Allegator Park.Good thing was it was on our way to Airport.This places boasts of having world's largest collection of Live White Allegators which are one of the raremost species on earth.In Fact this whole place is only about allegators.From small to largest, they have it all.This place was set up by a famous Croc Hunter in 60's out of his own money
which today over the period of time has earned a place in top 10 places to visit in Orlando.They have multiple shows featuring Crocs & their trainers.We witnessed 3 of them.First one was around feeding them with raw meat, with two seperate teams of crocs trying to prove with their trainers that they are the deadliest.We enjoyed it but the one that most thrilling was the last one that saw.It had croc trainer balancing his chin on the jaws of a 8 feet croc with both his hands tied to his back.It was simple breathtaking.What added to the fun was the way in which he conducted the show, which was full of humor. I still cant believe one thing that Nam did there!!She touched a live Croc on his back.Ofcourse he was tied down but it was gutsy on her part!!
We were out of it by 2 noon.The bus arrived in time & we reached the airport also in time.Since we had some time on our hand, we decided to grab a bite at one of food joints the airport. I think it was Mac.Like on arrival, this airport continues to amuse you with its design & facilities
as long as you are there. We enjoyed every bit of it!!The first in the series of two planes departed in time for Atlanta.And this where another story started.Prakash Kaka & Anu Kaki were due for arrival in Pitts that evening & they also had their connecting flight from Atlanta for Pitts around evening time.Ofcourse ours was bit late in evening but still we reassured ourselves by checking the planemovement indicators.All this to ensure that we are able to keep our secret in tact ie not to let them be aware that myself & Nam were also in Pitts.We have told them that we are holidaying in Hongkong.After arriving in Pitts, we quickly moved towards 28x bus stop so as not to miss the last pick up of 12.15 am.But to our surprise, the bus arrived & left in front of us without stopping.We sweared at the driver like never before!!He didnt stop, may be b'use we didnt wave our hands to have him stop the bus.Finally we have to hire a car which ofcourse costs us 10 time more money than the bus!!Bad luck!!
Amey was in CMU campus waiting for us to arrieve.He came by soon.We took
next bus from 5th on Morewood to alight at 5th on Nagely.The ground was set for grand surprise to Prakash Kaka & Anu kaki.We entered the house silently but somehow kaki got the hint that someone has come inn. Amey called her in living room to meet his Friends ie us.The look of surprise on her face was priceless.For good 4-5 minutes she was unable to believe that it was me & Nam standing in flesh in front of her b'use A) She was in sleep followed by a long air travel b) She always thought that we both were in hongkong.Same thing repeated for Prakash Kaka who woke up to go to bathroom.The tricks that we have planned were a grand success!!
Everything worked as we have planned in last few days, right from the moment we left 5747 Kentucky Avenue on Tuesday till we arrived at the same place on late night on Friday.We had another basketful of memories created to cherish for the rest of our lives.It was truly a dream holiday..right up there next to Tokyo ;-)
Top 10 of Epcot - Disney
2) Spaceship Earth
3) Mission Space
4) Test Track
5) Universe of Energy
6) Innovention Gallries
8) Circle of Life
9) Journey of Imagination
10) Honey I Shrunk The Kids Show
Top 10 of Universal Studios
2) Jaws & ET
3) Horror Show
5) MIB - Men In Black
7) Jimmy Newtron
9) Mummy Ruturns
10) Blue Brothers
There are more photos below