Soulwater Productions was born from a spirit of adventure and exploration. Its primary emphasis is definitely on the underwater world. But long before I discovered diving I had itchy feet and wandered the world as a lost soul. Learning to dive brought focus to my drifting spirit and simultaneously infinitely expanded the realm of possibilities.
However, I still love to explore the 30% of our world above the oceans. I recently took a break from diving on a trip to the USA. I wanted to try my 360 camera in some new places and see what unique images I could create. City-scapes of Philadelphia and iconic locations such as the Statue of Liberty and Times Square, offer opportunities to create a story of life in 360.
Nearly two days of travel from Indonesia to New York landed us in beautiful New Jersey. Stories of “Dirty Jersey” and the TV show “Jersey Shore” did not prepare me for the green trees, suburban streets and colonial houses. Don’t believe everything you see on TV! New Jersey is populated by beautiful homes, golf courses, forests and quiet streets. Don’t get me wrong. There are also plenty of shopping malls and elements of “The Ghetto”. But my first impressions of New Jersey were far from what I expected.
New Jersey borders New York and many people often mistakenly think the Iconic Statue of Liberty and historic Ellis Island are actually part of New York City. In fact, they lie across the river from Manhattan on the Jersey side. A day out here was always going to be part of our itinerary. The beautiful green lady is the perfect subject for a “tiny planet” with the 360 camera.
The day we went was the hottest in seven years! The temperature soared to 110 Fahrenheit (that’s 44 Celsius to the rest of the world)! Add over 90 percent humidity and we were melting! Even Indonesia seemed cool in comparison to this. Ten minutes in the sun would be enough to fell an elephant. After a slightly shortened visit to the statue, we headed for the refuge of the air-con at Ellis Island.
A visit to New Jersey would not be complete without a day in New York City. There is just so much to do and see here it is impossible to cram it all into one day. But we tried our best! A lot of sites you need to pay to see. Climbing the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller centre for a spectacular view comes with a significant price tag. Luckily there are plenty of other things to do that are free.
Central Station is an incredibly beautiful building and definitely worth checking out. Having seen it in several movies it seemed smaller on the inside than I expected. Perhaps that is because it was teeming with people all hurrying to work, lunch, meetings all over the city. No doubt these films must be shot in the middle of the night when the trains aren’t running, and the station is empty. Underneath the station is a food market that is a gastronomer’s delight. You can buy anything here from a New York bagel to cheese, chocolate, cold cuts, spices … just let your imagination go wild.
Central Park is too big by itself to see in one day. We fought the crowd for our 5 seconds to stand on the “Imagine” mosaic on the spot where John Lennon was shot. The 3.41 square kilometres of the park itself is filled with lakes and little boats, cycle paths, fountains and grassy knolls which make the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. We chose to eat our sadly sweaty sandwiches on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum, which sits on the east side of the park. This is a great place to watch buskers entertaining the crowds.
The museum itself is normally $25, not cheap when there are two of you. However, New York City residents and students from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut can pay whatever they like. We blagged our way in for 5 bucks for the two of us, thanks to the kindness of the woman at the entrance. She clearly thought it more important we got to see their incredible exhibits than take our money. Proof there is still generosity and love of the arts in the world.
The highlight of the visit to the museum was an exhibition of Gibson guitars owned by rock icons from the 20thand 21stcentury. Guitars were on loan from personal heroes such as Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Prince, Jerry Garcia, Eddie Van Halen, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Joan Jett and Jimi Hendrix. Amongst the beautiful Renoirs, Picassos and fascinating Egyptian mummies, this was an unexpected delight. You could spend days in the Metropolitan Museum and not see it all. We barely scratched the surface, but it was time for the next item on our agenda.
We briefly stopped at the art-deco Chrysler Building, and the Library, famous for being featured in the movie “Ghostbusters”. Both are incredible architectural works of art. We caught the subway to Brooklyn bridge and walked (with hundreds of others – choose your timing carefully) to the middle and back for a spectacular view of the city. The bridge itself is also an impressive historic structure. Beware of cyclists flying at full speed over the bridge. There are lanes marked for pedestrians and vehicles.
From the bridge, we walked past the dwindling Little Italy, which has sadly shrunk to just one street. We also passed through rapidly growing Chinatown where you don’t even feel like you are in America anymore – all you can hear around you is Chinese, and it is like being back in the middle of a big Asian city.
By now we had been walking all day and were hot, tired, hungry and thirsty. Time to grab a slice (that’s pizza to the rest of the world) on the way to our last well-planned stop – the oldest pub in New York City – McSorley’s. Here you buy beer in pairs – light and dark – made on the premises. There is no other kind so don’t bother to ask for a Corona or Heineken or you will be laughed out of the bar. There is sawdust on the floor for extra atmosphere and you could be excused for thinking you had stepped into a time travel machine that took you back to the old country.
From New Jersey it was next stop Philadelphia. Time to visit an old friend. I spent 3 months in this beautiful city a few years ago and have fond memories of its vibrant streets, stunning architecture and unique atmosphere. From Market Street where you can buy the worlds best cannoli outside of Italy, and the footsteps of Rocky at the Museum (the statue has been relegated to the bottom of the steps), to the pub culture and down to earth people, Philadelphia has something for everyone. Surely this would be an amazing place to try out the Insta360oneX!
We were not disappointed. We spent two days walking all over the city, taking a break at the bar “12 Steps Down” en-route to the best cheesesteak in Philly – Gooey Looies in South Philly. This is a local secret, hiding in the back of a tiny convenience store. So small you need to stand sideways if there are more than a couple of people inside. The second day we played in the fountain in the baking sun and stopped at the Rodin museum on the way to see Rocky. I had the theme song in my head all the way.
New Jersey is famous for producing some of America’s greatest rock legends. Both Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi were born here. A visit to the garden state would not be complete without following the Springsteen trail. We stopped on our way back from Philly at Asbury Park, where Bruce Springsteen famously started his career.
Although it’s only open for events, the Stone Pony was on the list, and we spent a few hours wandering along the boardwalk here. The fortune-teller who told Bruce he would be famous is still here – though now it has become a tourist attraction itself as a result. Even the highway here is famous for being featured in The Boss’ songs. As we were driving home we were passing through musical history.
A visit to the US is not just about seeing the sights. There are some culinary delights that you just can’t get living in a tropical paradise. Craft beer is taking over the American liquor market and throughout our stay I was like a kid in a sweet shop, trying as many different kinds as possible. Likewise, the wine was cheap and plentiful. It was a hard choice since I am a lover of both. Cheese is available in infinite varieties and very inexpensive in comparison to Indonesia where it is mostly imported.
On our last few days “down the shore” we found a seafood joint with the perfect happy hour; $1 oysters and $2 off craft beer. Needless to say, we felt it rude not to stop. The perfect end to a sunny salty day at the beach.
Although the trip went way too fast we crammed in as many experiences as we could, and precious time with family and friends. Now it’s time to head back to our island and the gym to work off the holiday flab! And though getting back to the city is great, it makes you appreciate the peace and tranquillity of our tropical island paradise.