SEATTLE, DAY 1: OCT 30, 2015 (FRI). Arrival

WEATHER IN NYC AND CHICAGO: SUNNY

WEATHER IN SEATTLE: CLOUDY THEN RAIN

 

THE WAY TO SEATTLE

East side of Seattle, Bellevue, and I-90 over Lake Washington

American Airlines airplane shook off the thick cloud and made a final drop to under the cloud. It was the I-90 bridge so Seattle downtown was the opposite side. It wasn’t at least raining, but thick foggy sky as I expected. It was a long way from New York City. I took almost 9 hours from Newark Airport, including the connection at Chicago O’hare Airport. I was more excited as the airplane approached runway.

I left the gate area after eating some leftover of Baked Ziti I got for lunch at O’hare. I became both hungry and sleepy before arrival, so I decided to eat at the airport first and rest soon after arriving at the accommodation. That was actually a good idea as you read later. The waiting area next to my gate was empty with no scheduled flight, and I could peacefully take the meal with charging my iPad and updating Facebook.

I learned on a later day that many arriving airplanes to Seattle would fly on the same route upon approaching to Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SeaTac Airport). Airplanes would fly to the north over the east side of Lake Washington near Bellevue, across the Seattle, turn around in the north of Seattle, then fly directly above downtown Seattle to the airport located about 15 miles south. Because the place I stayed in Seattle was under the flight route, I saw many airplanes flew on the route every day. My host in Seattle also told me about it. Although I can’t guarantee, I think it’s a good idea to choose the right side of the seat (if your airplane is Boeing 737 or Airbus 320, F seat) if you want to enjoy the downtown view before arriving.

I was going to take Sound Transit light rail from the airport. Finding the station was very easy; it was just in front of my airplane window when it arrived at the gate. Going to the station was difficult, unlike my initial expectation. It would be the best if there was an exit close from my gate, but it required a lot of walking. I couldn’t find a sign to station after the exit to baggage claims, so I had to ask TSA person who kindly taught me how to get there. I had to go down and up to the parking garage. Just in front of elevators, there was a sign indicating up. I didn’t know that meant I would have to take the elevator to go upstairs or walk straight. I tool elevator…but there was no station. The correct answer was walking straight inside of parking garage. Finally, I found the train station at the end of parking space.

The light rail ran pretty fast along highways, instead, there was distance between stations in suburban. The train was clean, safe, and comfortable. I got off at Beacon Hill Station for changing to King County Metro bus.

  • SeaTac Airport has only one terminal (except two satellite on runaway), and there is a big parking garage in front of the main terminal. After baggage claim, cross underpath and proceed to 4th floor in the parking garage. Once you find the sign of “SoundLink”, keep walking on to that direction. The light rail station is located at the end of the parking garage. It’s 3-5 minutes walk after getting to the parking.
  • Direction to Sound Transit light rail station: http://www.portseattle.org/Sea-Tac/Maps-and-Directions/Pages/Terminal-to-Link-Light-Rail.aspx
  • Baggage claims to the parking garage for station: http://www.portseattle.org/Sea-Tac/Maps-and-Directions/Pages/Baggage-Claim.aspx
  • I suggest you to purchase “ORCA” smart card at the station vending machines. It is hard to obtain a card other than station vending machines because bus drivers do not have the card. For more info, please see “PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN SEATTLE AREA”. 


AIRBNB
This trip was my first experience to use any kind of bnb (home, apartment, or vacation rental), not staying at a hotel. There a few reasons I decide to use Airbnb as my new experience.

1. Affordable: Even it wasn’t peak season, hotel rates were a little high in Seattle. I would have to spend tremendous money if I stayed at a hotel for a week. If I got an affordable and convenient hotel, the location would be suburban like Tukwila near SeaTac Airport, about 30 minutes away from Seattle. Misterbnb had several options of affordable rental in locations closer to downtown.

2. Kitchen: Because I would stay in Seattle for one week, I wanted a kitchen in my accommodation. The majority of hotels wouldn’t have a kitchen, and those with kitchen were usually expensive. Hostels weren’t my type. Renting a private room at a residence was ideal for me.

3. Communication with local: The trip was by myself, but I wanted to communicate with local, too. I didn’t feel like I wanted to keep me isolated during entire my stay while I wanted to keep my privacy. Airbnb allowed me to enjoy communication with the host while getting my own private room. Plus because the accommodation was still a private residence, there would be only my host and me and wouldn’t get crowded like guest house or youth hostel.

My concerns about chemistry with the host and the accommodation were easily eliminated before booking by plenty information listed on the bnb’s website. Because I could find the host exactly same age with me, there would be more possibility that we would match. Many photos including my room, other areas, and the host gave me confidence. There was also accurate information about available amenities such as wifi. The location was perfect. The area was called North Beacon Hill, a quiet and safe neighborhood located just below Chinatown and Downtown, and bus network was convenient.

The host was a very nice, easy going person. He gave me a lot of useful information about Seattle only locals would know. While he valued my private time at his place, we could still enjoy conversation. He also kindly let me use his bicycle, one of my hobby, so I could enjoy going around Seattle with his bike on a rare sunny day. Without him, my trip wouldn’t be such memorable.


ROUGH DOWNTOWN…AND NO 24 HOURS STORE?
Only a con of my accommodation was there was no nearby store at all by land use regulation. No supermarket, no restaurant, no convenient store, no drugstore, and even no gas stand. I knew there wouldn’t be many stores by advance research on the internet, but I thought there would be at least some convenience stores like 7-Eleven. The reality was nothing at all. That was why I was glad I had meal leftover from O’hare Airport and filled my stomach before going to my host’s place. Because I arrived SeaTac around 5:00 pm and my host’s place around 7:00 pm, I would definitely need something to eat.

But I became hungry again after waking up from a nap around 10:30 pm. I expected there would be some places I would be able to buy in downtown. So I got on the bus to downtown.

I was required to change a bus at International District Station, located in Chinatown. Chinatown was a part of the downtown area, but there was no store opened around midnight either. Also, the area was visibly rough at night. There were many homeless people walking and not many regular people walking. I didn’t feel safe in pouring rain.

I moved to downtown next. I searched on the website that 7-Eleven there would be open for 24 hours. The information was wrong, and the store was closed at midnight. All surrounding drugs were closed also. I was surprised nothing was open because Seattle was such a big city. In New York City or big cities in East Coast, I would be able to find at least a few 24 hours stores opened in the downtown area. I later found out Target in downtown would be open until 11:00 pm, so I was a little late to go outside.

The environment of downtown wasn’t much different with Chinatown at late night. It was still rough for me. If I stayed in downtown, where the majority of hotels were located, I would probably be disappointed in the first day.

Then I got a new idea. There might be some restaurants were open if I went to an entertainment district. It was Friday night. Bars and clubs were open and some places to eat should be open, too. I hop on another bus to Capital Hill, located just above a hill next to the downtown.

I was right. There were many restaurants and stores opened, as well as all bars and clubs were open. The silence and roughness in downtown were unbelievable in Capital Hill. So energetic even wet weather. Not only because of a weekend night, it was also a day before Halloween. Many young people in costume were walking in the rain.

Busy weekend night in Capital Hill

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