Chicago Weekend

ChicagoTin and I went to Chicago for the weekend so that I could go to the Philippine Consulate there and renew my passport.  It was a very eventful two days for us to say the least.

First off, we left home around 3am in the morning  so that we could arrive there early to avoid rush hour traffic going in to the city. Chicago from Cincinnati was a 5-hour drive already and I wasn’t about to extend it beyond that. On our way there, the drive was going very smoothly until I missed a lane change and ended up in the downtown Gary, IN area.

The part of Gary that we drove through, looking for the I-74W exit, was very creepy. We passed through what I assumed was the main thoroughfare in the downtown area and almost every building was boarded up. The roads were in terrible condition, riddled with very deep potholes which made me very afraid it would ruin our car or something. Passing through there was like going through a ghost town. Later on, I would search on Gary, IN and I found this link by urban explorers who visited some of the abandoned buildings in the area. I am sure this is not representative of what the whole city is, but it was scary to see that there were areas as abandoned as it was.

We arrived at the Hyatt in downtown Chicago around 8am (a bit early because we forgot about the time difference) and was pleasantly suprised that they allowed us to check-in early. We settled in and left for the consulate around 9am. It was my second time in Chicago so N Michigan Ave was a bit familiar to me. We found the consulate quite easily and proceeded to renew my passport. I was actually so shocked by the excellent level of service that they  were giving out in the consulate.  At one point it seemed that there were 3-4 people who were assisting me throughout the process and all of them were so friendly and helpful. This is a very stark contrast when you have to deal with the government back in Manila. Most employees were either underpaid or undertrained that it’s usually like pulling teeth just to get things done. I know that the environment is very different, but still kudos to the staff over at the Philippine Consulate in Chicago for making my experience very smooth and pleasant.

After a lunch of fiery, extremely-hot-it-will-make-you-vomit, peanut noodles (due to an overdose of sriracha chili sauce) and a quick nap, we went to the Chinatown area to stroll around, take pictures and grab an early dinner.

ChinatownChinatown was a bit deserted because it was an ordinary Friday. We took some pictures in the market square and after a while proceeded to the much touted Ken-Kee restaurant in that same area. The menu was very long which had a list of preparations of almost all kinds of meat that included goose intestines, pig intestines, etc. We were not feeling adventurous so we opted for a fried Tilapia in sweet and sour sauce, and calamari with garlic-chili flakes. Ken-Kee did not disappoint as everything tasted very fresh and flavorful. After dinner, we had to go back to the hotel because we brought some chinese barbecue buns which we had to store.

After that, we again went out because we had tickets to the Bulls game that night (talk about a full schedule). We were so tired of all the walking that we already did that we decided that instead of taking the cheaper bus (which was a 5-block walk) we just took a cab going to the United Center.

United CenterThe United Center was a bit drab compared to other sports stadiums we visited. The atmosphere was not as festive as we were normally accustomed to when going to games. We took some pictures and quickly found our seats in the upper section. At the third quarter mark of the game, the Bulls were leading the Bucks by about 9 points, we decided to call it a day and avoid the crowds after the game. We took a cab back to the hotel and after a few minutes we were already in dreamland.

In the morning we took our breakfast vouchers (we got our hotel room with breakfast and parking for only around $129 before tax thanks to Travelzoo) and went to the buffet downstairs. We checked out at 11am and started the long trip home. Getting out of the Chicago downtown area was not that easy for us. Even though we were armed with a GPS, as soon as we hit the underground streets, we lost the GPS signal and were completely lost. We almost went into a one-way street which would have been disastrous. After a while of driving around, we finally found the exit to the highway.

The trip back home was thankfully uneventful, and we got home around 6pm. The whole ordeal was very tiring but was laden with very good experiences for both of us.