This spring is the best in many years. Even when it rains, it isn’t like the torrential downpours back in Singapore. The weather here has been splendid this past month and I’ve been out every day. It’s almost like an obligation ‘not to waste’ the sunshine.
Tomorrow I’m leaving Seattle for the Washington burbs about 30 miles away. Before I go, I would like to share my sojourn in this totally new city without a corporate expense account and not knowing anyone until I arrived here on a cold wet day.
Brief Intro to Seattle (non-Wiki version)
Seattle is a sprawling city in an undulating region tucked inland from the Pacific coast with mountain views from every neighbourhood. Puget Sound and Lake Washington are the main water landscapes embodying Seattle and houses planted on bay-facing slopes with conical firs and cherry blossoms.
Known for Alaska cruises, Boeing, Microsoft, Expedia and of course Starbucks, people here are gracious, driving is civilized (giving way actually happens), and each neighbourhood has its own character and history.
Depending on the location, there will be certain streets and corners that a newcomer will feel uncomfortable but these are not as pronounced as larger cities like New York.
Overall a welcoming place and I will definitely recommend anyone to visit Seattle for a taste of relaxing city vacation.
There is a wide variety of choices from luxury vacation homes to extended-stay suites; top-end hotels to highway motels. The most reasonably-priced hotel I could find in a decent location costs USD 150 per night (including taxes). That’s manageable for a couple of nights but for one month the costs add up to a hefty 4,500 just to sleep in a room.
Luckily a well-travelled relative recommended airbnb.com. It’s an online service connecting homeowners to travellers worldwide. Simply search the city you are visiting and you’ll get a comprehensive listing of available rentals with information on hosts, maps, and photos. Do the necessary research, read reviews and contact the host if you need any clarifications.
This is my first-time using airbnb and the experience is excellent. The private studio room has a separate entrance with a small garden and outdoor seating, attached bathroom, a small pantry (no cooking though), space for reading and working, cable TV, WiFi and free parking by the roadside.
Staying with a Seattleite has many advantages. My host, Sheldon provided me with tips on places to visit, things to do, and where to eat as well as local information that no tourist material can offer.
Despite not wanting to drive on the other side of the road, I had no choice but to do it. It is extremely difficult and expensive to get around without a car. I suppose it’s still possible to rely entirely on public transportation but the experience of my stay will be limited.
There are many established car rental companies and I selected Enterprise which has branches in the airport, city and smaller towns. The daily rate starts from about USD 35 per day for an economy model. Including taxes and insurance, the total daily rate starts from about USD 70. Weekly and monthly rentals have lower daily rates and I manage to get a special all-inclusive monthly package which works out to USD 40 per day.
With my rented white compact Nissan and some adjusting to driving US style, I covered over a thousand miles exploring Seattle and parts of King County, much to the old western song “Don’t Fence Me In”…Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above…
The States is well-known for large portions, often greasy and usually salty food in most eateries. Many malls have a food court with the standard spread of Thai, Japanese/Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Italian and the American burgers stalls. A quick meal is about USD 8.
Asian restaurants are aplenty but it is hard to find one that serves meals with authentic oriental flavours. Mexican and Italian restaurants are also popular. Seafood bars and trendy diners can be found downtown and in the many swanky neighbourhoods where a nice meal is about USD 30.
Tipping is acceptable at about 10% of total bill. Grocery bags and restaurant takeaway boxes are chargeable.
Eating alone can be boring so I joined the Seattle New in Town Meetup group and tried out various restaurants around town with people of all ages from all over the world.
Places to go
All the tourist attractions are worth visiting depending on interest, season and time available. Get a copy of any Seattle guidebook which usually comes with a map and discount vouchers.
To get to know the real Seattle, I picked up two interesting books from a thrift shop for less than USD 5 (which I intend to donate back before I leave). The NFT (Not For Tourists) guide and Newcomer’s Handbook are like Seattle 101 and provide good insights to the city without any distracting advertisements.
Downtown has its charm and the expressiveness of any lively city. Space Needle is a must but do it only on a clear day. The Seattle Art Museum has a diverse collection of classic and contemporary art and it is just a few minutes walk from the famous Pike Place Market. Towards International District (Chinatown) is Pioneer Place where people gather in groups smelling of weed.
What about shopping? To be honest, I’ve not done much of that because I need to watch my weight since I’ll be flying budget south and east. Don’t want to lug around excess luggage. I heard the Seattle Premium Outlet is really good but that’s over 35 miles away.
Visiting the wineries is also a nice experience and golf in cool weather is most satisfying. The highlights of my stay must be the parks and trails where I could walk for hours and eventually come to a spot with the view is simply remarkable.
Come to think of it, Seattle is an auspicious picturesque city with the Cascades and Olympics mountains, and Puget Sound and Lake Washington, and on the east and west. A “Shan Shui” city.
Things to do
Anything healthy and sporty is part of the lifestyle here where cyclists wheeled up and down the rolling hills in their sleek skin suits; boats out on sunny days and yoga studios are in all neighbourhoods.
One of the things I didn’t get a chance to do this time is visiting the islands across Puget Sound. Was told it’s a different world out there where old hippies turned organic farmers and time takes its own sweet time to move.
Others on my list are the Mount Rainer which shows up every clear day like a giant ice kacang and the Mount St. Helens which erupted just five years ago.
Finally, one more thing for me to do – pack and move on.
Goodbye Seattle. It was a wonderful experience.