Ky Takes Chicago Part III

I took time in the morning just to relax. It was Sunday, so I read my bible, prayed and sat in silence—completely left with my thoughts. I was at peace. My first stop would be the Art Institute of Chicago. My plan was to get there by 10:30am when it first opened but once I got outside on Magnificent Mile, I was entranced by the liveliness around me.

I decided to walk to the American Girl Place. When I was around 10-years old, my mom planned to take me there for my birthday. I was so excited. However a few weeks into planning, she realized she couldn’t afford such a pricey trip. For me, it was one of those childhood heartbreaks. I acted like it was ok, but I was disappointed. When I got to the front of American Girl, I just cried. Growing up, my mom wanted to give me so much but financially she was limited. I felt so blessed to know God had exalted me to a position where I could make some of my dreams come true. It was the most therapeutic tears I have ever shed. I walked in and acknowledged all the beautiful dolls. There were hair salons and restaurants for the dolls and mini clothing boutiques for their clothes. Mother and daughters surrounded me. It was special, to say the least. I proceeded to some big girl (window) shopping at Neiman’s before heading to the three museums I wanted to tackle:

  1. Art Institute of Chicago
  2. Museum of Contemporary Photography
  3. DuSable Museum

AMERICAN gIRLAmerican GirlIMG_1189After my tour of Chicago’s museum, I planned to have a nice dinner to conclude my weekend. I got dressed and went out to the Wild Hare. In the movie Love Jones, Darius and Nina spent the night dancing to live reggae music at this spot. I wanted to recreate the same scene or feeling. When I first got to the restaurant there was a soccer team enjoying beers and a few couples on date night. I asked for a table for one and enjoyed a delicious Jerk Chicken plate with an ice-cold drink on the side. The music was epic, old school reggae that reminded me of my childhood (My mom and dad loved this kind of music). There was one last thing on my itinerary that I did not get done—The Chicago Theater. I wanted to ask my cab driver to drop me there but it was getting late. Eh, maybe ill come back in the future to see it.

The Wild Hare The next morning on my way to the train to get to the airport, in the distance I saw a sign that said CHICAGO—Wait was that the theater? With my suitcase in tow, I walked about 10-blocks along State Street until I was close enough to see it for sure. My trip to Chicago was officially complete.IMG_1356

My First Experience as a Solo Traveler

Alone. Not by choice. My boyfriend (at the time, we are no longer together) and I got into an argument. We parted ways that weekend. I was on my own in a huge city much like my own, but it was not NYC, it was different and I would be doing a disservice to Chicago if I compared the two.

Alone. I never anticipated Chicago being a trip for one but God always has other plans for us, doesn’t he? After settling in my new hotel, I decided to wear my hair in its natural state to represent the sudden burst of freedom I now felt. It was liberating to say the least. The first thing I did was explore the Magnificent Mile. I walked outside of my hotel, conveniently placed on the corner of Ohio and Mag Mile and proceeded down the strip admiring the tall buildings and the shopping. I was in Chicago for sure. There were stores for days—Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Guess, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Neiman Marcus, H&M and the list goes on. I decided to take a boat tour of Chicago along Lake Michigan followed by a trip to “The Bean.” I looked around at all the people swarming towards the bean with their families and friends and at that moment I wished I could share this time with someone—but I couldn’t so I did what anyone else in my situation would do…I found someone who had a nice and friendly demeanor and asked if they could take a picture of me—I was alone in Chicago, but that didn’t take away from the fact that I was still a tourist. I met two middle-aged women who were more than happy to take my picture. They complimented me on my natural hair, in awe of what I did to make it look the way it did and went on about their day. I felt exhilarated. My fear of being alone in Chicago wasn’t completely gone, but I loosened up. I would make the best of this trip and enjoy the wonders of solo travel.

The next morning, I woke up and had time to reflect. I sat in silence. I prayed. I talked to God. I was able to write. I planned out my itinerary. I talked on the phone. I did everything I wanted to do in MY time. I planned to do a museum day. I would visit all the museums in Chicago that were on my itinerary. Three museums in one day. As a matter of fact, three museums in five hours, since I didn’t get to my first museum (The Art Institute of Chicago) until noon and everything closed at 5PM. I say this all to say, I was on my own time. I didn’t have to answer to anyone else but me. I was accountable for how my trip would go. This was the day that my fear of being solo in Chicago completely left me. I no longer feared someone would notice I was alone, or that I would be kidnapped. I let go of everything and lived life. I enjoyed my time walking through the exhibits of the Art Institute, interpreting art from my perspective and not the perspectives of others. I enjoyed taking pictures of pictures at the Museum of Contemporary Photography and watching the Dandy Lion video over and over again without being rushed by someone else. I loved learning about the history of African Americans at the DuSable Museum and getting caught in the rain, looking for the bus on the way back to the hotel. It was beautiful. It was liberating. It was such a necessary experience to push me out of my element. That night, I decided to take myself to a nice dinner. I wanted to visit the Wild Hare with my ex. boyfriend and dance the night away to reggae music, but things did not turn out as such—so guess what, I visited without him. I arrived at the dinner around 7:30PM and I was surrounded by other couples on date night but that didn’t faze me. I asked the hostess for a table for one and ordered my jerk chicken plate filled with cabbage and rice and peas. I had an ice-cold drink to go with my dinner and danced for a few hours to old school reggae music. When it was getting late, I took a cab home and got back to my hotel around 11PM. The next morning I took the CTA Blue Line train and found my way back to the airport. Overall, it was such a beautiful trip.

My first time as a solo traveler was an experience. I am not going to act like it wasn’t scary because it was. I don’t like being alone, especially in a hotel room by myself but now, I understand that this time alone was exactly what I needed. I had time just to spend with myself. I had time to think and evaluate my life decisions. I was surprised by my own strength because I could’ve just remained in the room, stagnant since I was alone, but instead, I was empowered. I got up and did everything that was on my itinerary. I am now more open to an experience like this.

Ky Tip: 10 Tips to Conquer Solo Travel as a Woman

  1. Be Bold: Do not be afraid of conquering the city you are visiting. Make sure you know everything you want to get done and go for it.
  2. Prepare: Before I started each day, I had an idea of the things I wanted to do and how I would do it. I also googled what time everything opened and closed, and planned my daily itinerary based on my research.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, directions or someone to take a picture of you: Just make sure who you ask makes you feel comfortable.
  4. Try to get home at a decent time: I wouldn’t advise staying out until the wee hours of the night especially as a woman traveler. Safety First!
  5. Treat this new city like it’s your own and you deserve to be there: My friend gave me the advice to act like I was out and about in NYC and once she said that, my whole mindset about the trip changed. I wouldn’t be so cautious in NYC so why should I be afraid in Chicago?
  6. Enjoy time with you: Take time to breathe, read or even sit in silence when you’re on your solo trip.
  7. Don’t be embarrassed to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner by yourself: Again be confident. You may get stares, which is expected, but people will ultimately respect your independence. However, it’s okay if you just want to take your food back to the hotel. #NoPressure.
  8. Meet Up: If you’re going to a new city solo, see if your friends or family know of anyone you can connect with or if there are any events or meet up groups happening.
  9. Treat Yourself: Maybe it’s a cupcake or a new outfit but make yourself feel special…you deserve it.
  10. Little White Lie: Never tell someone you are alone. Safety First!

Chicago Travelbyky

Singapore’s Attractions

As far as tourist attractions goes, Gardens By The Bay is one of Singapore’s most beautiful displays. Holding true to its name and located in Singapore’s Marina Bay, the gardens found here contain plants and flowers from species found all over the world. Some coming from as far as Australia, and others modeling attractions from other countries such as the Eiffel tower in France.

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Walking through the inside of this gigantic flower mountain you can learn about all of the various species actually being grown along the outside.
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The beauty of this attraction was that these giant stalks collected rain water which supplied over 50% of the water used for the gardens.

If you want to get somewhat of a bird’s eye view of how gorgeous Singapore city is during the day take a ride on the Singapore Flyer; one of Singapore’s most famous attractions, this high flying ferris wheel takes you 541 feet in the air to witness the beauty and activity of the Marina Bay.

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A side view of the Marina Bay a Sands Resort

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From this point you can spy other attractions such as the Merlion which is Singapore’s national symbol. The statue with the head of a lion and the body of a fish represents the sea from Singapore’s origins as a fishing village and a lion from its original name “Singapura” which means Lion City. Replicas of this image can be found all over the city and on many of the local knick knacks.

IMG_0925Another popular sight is the Marina Bay Sands, this breathtaking resort host some of the most prestigious elements of Singapore’s tourist high life. Sadly for me I didn’t get to go inside but it is was still a beautiful sight at sunset and the night time laser show was amazing.

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IMG_0924One of the most amazing nights of my Singapore trip was spent at the Fullerton Hotel. Some friends of the family were having a 50th birthday party and to say the event was anything short of amazing would be an understatement. The hotel was across from The Marina Bay Sands and The Merlion. After taking in these two sites we enjoyed dinner on the balcony of the a wonderful boat house restaurant right across the street.

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The night time Marina laser show is one of the beauties of this site and creates a spectacular view.

Singapore By Tash

Really flying…yesterdays a thousand miles away“- Hoodoo Gurus

Waking up in Singapore for the first time was amazing not just because of the beautiful view from my sister’s apartment but because of the time difference; I was awake while everyone else was asleep.

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The view from my sister’s balcony the morning/night I arrived

Day one in Singapore was awesome. My niece and nephew were my personal tour guides which made the transition into this new country an easy one. Being shown the hangout spots and meet up areas that I probably would have bypassed had I not been with them made me think of all the areas New Yorkers know about that tourist won’t even think to look twice at or visit.

Many of the local hangouts in Singapore are primarily malls or outdoor food courts where the locals can come and sit around either between classes or during lunch breaks. The simplicity of these hangouts might be overlooked by tourists, but it was important for me to experience the essence of everyday life among the locals while there. The Ion Orchard is the “it” mall in Singapore city. Most of the malls use a tier system where the more popular, upscale and expensive brands are on the ground level and above, while the more affordable brands are downstairs.

Tasha Fact: If you get a Starbucks itch while walking through the mall, try a cheaper local delicacy instead. My tall frappe from Stbx was almost 8 Sing-yikes.

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Striking a pose amongst the professionals outside the ION Orchard

Areas like Holland Spring are another facet of the tourist-local blend in Singapore. Really popular for its low-key atmosphere and local amenities like supermarkets and convenience stores (i.e the 7-eleven behind me), its where many expats on a budget live. Overall, Holland Springs gave me a taste of what the everyday experience of shopping and living there might be.

Tasha Fact: Massages are a big thing in Singapore so finding a spa or massage parlor is really easy to do. The one behind me is on Holland Spring Road and offers really great foot massages for cheap.

get3(3)Walking the streets of the city was definitely an experience. I had so much fun people watching; just walking around observing the locals and some of their traditions was really awesome. Traveling throughout the different areas presented another interesting aspect of life there.

Singapore is notorious for its fines. Whether in a taxi or on the bus or train, fines for eating or drinking while en route can be as high as 500 Sing. So needless to say I kept the cover on my bottle of water screwed tight.

Tasha Fact: Singapore is known for being one “fine” city. Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore and fines for this petty offense can reach as high as 500 Singh.

The Singapore MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system is very similar to New York’ s MTA system except a lot cleaner. The EZ-link passes for riding the train are slightly different. If you’re from New York or have ever visited then you’re familiar with a metrocard. In NYC there’s a flat fare of $2.50 which allows you to travel the entire subway system. In Singapore however, when you enter the train station or a bus you tap your EZ-link card and when you exit you tap it again. The card is charged for the distance traveled, and don’t forget to tap when you get off or they’ll keep charging you.

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The view of a roundabout from a pedestrian overpass. Not featured in this pic many of the MRT buses are double deckers

DSCN1718Even though I stayed with family for this trip I was the only one actually on vacation. The family however was in the midst of preparing to move back to the States, so for the remaining days we stayed at the Orchard Marriott in Singapore city. This is probably one of the more expensive hotels costing about 400 Sing a night (or $300 USD). There are definitely more budget friendly hotels that you could consider. With local events and activities going on all around you, I doubt you’ll even remember what the inside of your hotel room looks like.

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The Singapore Marriott within walking distance of the ION Orchard mall.

Throughout much of the city, especially around the malls, I noticed random pop-up tents and stands with presentations of different products or events. Singapore is very fashion friendly-even the renowned luxury brand Louis Vuitton had their third presentation of their Fall/Winter 2014 collection while I was in town.

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This lady is eating an ice cream bar inside a slice of bread, which I came to find out was a local treat. Talk about local delicacies

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This tent was for Audi Fashion Festival that was happening that week.
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With some of the models from the Fall/Winter 2014 Louis Vuitton presentation. *For some perspective I’m about 5’8″ in this picture 😮

The local experience was fascinating and that was without even trying, so just imagine the wonders the city has in store for its tourist.

We Made It…Bahamas

I stayed up for about 23-hours without going to sleep on the day of departure. I had to go to work, then braid my hair, then pack and leave for the airport at 3am. My flight departed at 6:30am which meant I literally had no time to even nap.

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Absolutely Delirious-NO SLEEP

The flight attendant put me in a window seat with no windows. I was pissed, but luckily slept the whole way to Atlanta; it didn’t bother me as much as I thought. I met up with my friend Kirsha who would be staying in the room with me. She’s an airline employee so she was first classing it, honey. I sat in the emergency row during the flight to the Bahamas which was super annoying but spacious. Honestly, I was so drunk with sleep, I could care less. When we finally arrived in Freeport we headed straight to the Pelican Bay Hotel to unwind and explore.

Kydee WilliamsPort Lucaya was next door to the hotel so we explored the marketplace a little before taking a nap. Kirsha went straight to bed, but I decided to lay out by the pool and take in some sun before the beach party.

Kydee Williams BahamasThe Welcome Beach Party was the first event for wedding guests. Great music, great people and the food, oh my, I can’t emphasize the food enough, it was delicious. After crash dieting for a week, this was the first time I had actual food and I was just in heaven.

IMG_6254 IMG_6295 IMG_6288The beach party was eventually shut down by cops, so we made our way to the bars at Port Lucaya which comes alive at night time. As the night progressed we jumped into our hotel’s Jacuzzi and talked until the sun came out. The things that happened while in the hot tub were insane. Just when we started to talk about scary movies like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” a weird Eastern European man that we nicknamed, Ivan, appeared in the midst of the night and sat in front of the hot tub. He decided to smoke a cigarette as we watched him silently and he watched us silently. It was one of the most bizarre occurrences of my whole existence. Day One in the Bahamas was definitely one for the books.

Before Take-Off…The Bahamas

August 11, 2013, Akilah and Arion invited their closest friends to a BBQ to announce their engagement and wedding date which would be in exactly one year. My friends and I were so excited. Finally, not only were our friends getting married but they were having an amazing destination wedding…AHHH we were adults.

Summer 2014, vastly approached and before I knew it the wedding was drawing near. 4-weeks before the wedding, my ticket was not booked. Life happens; I decided to take a 2-week vacation to Europe for my 25th birthday which set a sistah back. 3-weeks before the wedding my ticket was still not booked. I somehow hoped that the ticket to the Bahamas which was now a whopping $540 would decrease to $500 possibly? I don’t know; wishful thinking. 2-weeks before the wedding, I had no choice but to book with Delta Airlines, which at that point in time I had over 15k frequent flyer miles and ended up spending about $600 for my ticket. I made a mistake, waiting for the last minute but it’s a mistake that I take full ownership of.

Freeport Bahamas