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Published: January 21st 2006
SLC Intermodal Hub
According to the city's vision, the new "Intermodal Hub" will house the Greyhound depot, Amtrak station, and the main terminal for SLC's public bus network. When I went to SLC, the hub was only partially completed. The new Greyhound depot has opened, but the new Amtrak station has not been constructed yet.
After 2 days in Las Vegas, I took a Greyhound night bus to Salt Lake City. The ride was about 9 hours long, and unlike the trip from Vancouver to Edmonton, there were no mountains and no snow, so the scenary out of the window was pitch black. I arrived at the Salt Lake City Greyhound depot at around 7am. To my surprise, the bus stopped at a brand new depot, instead of the downtown depot (as mentioned in my Lonely Planet guide). Luckily, the new depot is not very far from downtown. When I arrived, the sky was still dark and the weather was cold, so I stayed in the depot to have my breakfast and upload my LV photos into my laptop. At 8am, the sun was rising, so I put my luggage in a locker and went out to explore the city.
Compared to Las Vegas, Salt Lake City is completely different, in terms of atmosphere and lifestyle. While Las Vegas is full of casinos, neon lights, and tourists, Salt Lake City is full of religious buildings and monuments. While Las Vegas is loud and vibrant, SLC is tidy and organized. One important reason for the orderness
No matter where you are in SLC, there's a high chance that you'll see mountains in the background...
is the that SLC is the home of the Mormon church. Christianity has a strong presence in the city and downtown SLC is dominated by Temple Square, a 2-city-block area which includes the Salt Lake Temple, an office tower, an administrative building and some other historical buildings, all occupied by the Latter-Day Saints (LDS - the formal title of the Mormon church).
From the Greyhound depot, I walked to Downtown SLC and explored the Salt Palace Convention Centre, Temple Square, and the surrounding areas. As I walked along the streets in SLC, one thing that impressed me was the snow-capped mountains surrounding the city. The view of the mountains was simply majestic. The city was indeed a nice place to host the Winter Olympics, as there are so many snow-capped mountains around the city. (The 2002 Winter Olympics was held in SLC.)
I took a walk around the perimeter of Temple Square, and I was impressed by the various landmarks inside and outside the square. I made my first stop at the Museum of Church History and Art, which houses an impressive exhibit on the history of the Mormon church and a remarkable collection of church art around
A public plaza in the middle of the city
the world, including a collection of religious sketches by Rembrandt!!! Best of all, the museum is admission-free!!!
Next, I visited the LDS Conference Center. From a distance, the building looks like a strong fortress overlooking the city. I climbed up to one of the upper levels of the building and the view of the city was spectacular. The Salt Lake Temple stood tall and proud in the foreground, modern skyscrapers stood in the middle-ground, and snow-capped mountains surround the city in the background. From the conference center, I walked to the area north of downtown, where the Pioneer Memorial Museum and the Utah State Capitol are located. Unfortunately, the Pioneer Memorial Museum was closed for the holidays, and the state capitol is being renovated until 2007.
I walked back to Temple Square, where I took a slow stroll and admired the various historical buildings. The Salt Lake Temple was especially impressive. Unfortunately the temple is open only to LDS members and not to the public. At 12:30pm, I went to the Assembly Hall (a lovely 1877 Gothic Hall) for a free organ recital. During the 30 minute performance, the organ performer played several christmas songs. (Christmas was around
A TRAX train in Downtown SLC
the corner.) After the recital, I visited the two visitor centres (one at the North entrance and the other at the South entrance). In the north visitor centre, I met a LDS missionary who came from Singapore! She told me about her religious commitments and a brief introduction of the LDS. She also told me that she was a bit homesick and she missed the various Singapore food. (When a Singaporean goes overseas for a long time, one thing that he/she will definitely miss is the food. I cannot think of another place where the food has such a wide variety, such a low price, and such good tastes.) The Singaporean missionary recommended me to go to the 2nd storey to view an interactive show. The show was indeed impressive, but it concentrated a lot on Jesus Christ and it was a bit too religious for me. (After all, I am a Buddhist, not a Christian. However, I believe any Christian who visits this place will be very delighted.)
Later, I walked to the LDS office tower, because I saw a sign in the visitor center, saying that visitors can take a free tour to the top of the
office tower. (Every attractions in Salt Lake City seem to be free. Hahaha.) My guide, a very kind and nice old lady, brought me and another 2 visitors to the top floor of the tower, and we had a bird eye's view of Salt Lake City and the surrounding mountains. My guide pointed to the various landmarks around the city and told us a brief story of each landmark. The tour was very informative and my guide did a fantastic job. After the tour, I decided to visit the Salt Lake City Library. On my way there, I met 2 LDS missionaries. (Or I should say "they met me".) They spent a long time talking to me about LDS and the benefits it brings. At the end of their talk, they gave me a free DVD and a free Mormon bible. Now, I didn't even need to buy souvenirs. I obtained souvenirs for free! (Of course, there's a cost. I had to listen to a long talk on Christianity, something that I'm not very interested in.)
Once I arrived at the library, I was amazed by the similarity between Vancouver library and Salt Lake City library. In fact, when
I walked into the atrium, I thought I was back in Vancouver!!! Both libraries are circular, and both have an atrium that has a semi-circle floorplan. The atriums in both libraries are covered by a glass ceiling, and the walls of the atrium and the library entrance are made of glass. The similarity between the 2 libraries is so remarkable, that I was wondering whether the 2 libraries are designed by the same architect... After visiting the library, I visited the historical City and County Building, and the interesting Gilgal Garden (a small garden with several weird rock sculptures and art installations). I also took a tram ride to the University of Utah, which was the former side of the Olympic village in 2002. Due to limited amount of time, I didn't walk around the campus. Instead, I had a brief view of the campus and the various buildings on the tram. One thing that impressed me was that there are several snow-capped mountains located right above the university campus. (On the good side, students can go to ski after classes. On the bad side, there may be avalanches.)
In the evening, I went to Gateway, a combination indoor-outdoor
shopping center which occupies the former site of Salt Lake City's Union Station. The old station building was tastefully renovated to blend with the surrounding shops and gardens. Behind the former station building is the Olympic Snowflake Fountain. Upon seeing the name, I expected to see snow spurting out from the fountain. However, I only managed to see water spurting out. (The name "Olympic Snowflake Fountain" turned out to be only a name, and said nothing about the presence of snow.) Nevertheless, the fountain had a spectacular musical show every hour, and the show was enjoyable. (Of course, compared to the musical fountain in Las Vegas' Bellagio, this fountain in SLC's is tiny, but nevertheless, this fountain in SLC is fun to watch. The Bellagio fountain and the SLC fountain are designed for different audience groups. The Bellagio fountain is for adult visitors, hence it's "grand". The SLC fountain is for families, so it's made to be "cute".)
After doing some window-shopping in Gateway, I made my way back to the Greyhound depot, where I collected my luggages from the locker and waited for the next bus going to Denver... (This would be my 2nd consecutive night sleeping on
a Greyhound bus.)
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