New Year’s Eve in Chicago, IL (2017)

Chicago was our third destination during our first trip to The States. Having learned from the previous couple of cities, I had a feeling that this city was also going to be all about expecting the unexpected. I’ve never had a particular amibition to make a visit here, as neither have I about NYC and Washington that were such metropolitan cities I thought I wouldn’t fall for, but Peter (and other sources on internet) convinced Adhi and me that we had to celebrate the New Year’s Eve in Chicago.

It was apparently a wise decision to make and I’ll sure tell you why.

Our first stop once we settled in was the Adler Planetarium which is said to be one of the major attractions in the city. As a somewhat fan of astronomy, the idea excited me, however it turns out that the place was more of a way too family friendly science exhibition filled with kids and their overwhelmed parents, hence I wasn’t quite impressed. Nevertheless, the planetarium was apparently located just on the riverside of Lake Michigan, hence the view was just amazing. I had to admit that for such a lake within an industrial country as well-developed as United States, the lake was probably a bit way too blue and clean than my expectation!

From there, we took a bus to get to Skydeck Chicago, which was once the tallest building in the world, sources said. My favorite part is actually taking the bus, not only because we had the chance to really feel how it’s like to be a local, but also because we could see the whole city coming to live with each of their own routines and tasks. The queue to get to the viewing deck was crazy long, and by the time we got to the top it was already dark. However, the view was indeed beautiful, with all those bright, glowing city lights surrounded by the unlit and quiet Lake Michigan.

And of course, a trip to Chicago wouldn’t suffice without eating their famous deep-dish pizza. As the dusk changing into the nightfall, we began to get the best idea of why this city is called as the windy city. But the warmth of Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria and their signature pasta were there to comfort our tummy. And with the late night train that brought us back to our AirBnB, we headed back to our comfy bed a few stations away.

The following day, we had the chance to explore the Shedd Aquarium. This, I guess, is my second favorite spot after Chicago 360, as I spent my childhood reading (or mostly, just viewing the photos) encyclopedia about fish and water animals. One of my favorite activities was inside the amphibia and reptile aquariums, where Adhi and I spent quite some time just to play a game of spotting the small animals who played hide and seek with us.

Since Peter was about to meet one of his old friends for afternoon lunch, Adhi and I were then continuing our sightseeing to Chicago 360. It was pretty much the same with Skydeck Chicago I guess, only with the fact that they had MUCH fewer crowds. And the vibe was even waaay better.

I would say it was just very relaxing to simply join thousands of other pedestrians on the pave ways, walking in downtown while seeing Christmasy and New Year’s-y decorations, quietly sit in the bus while watching the city unfold itself as the dusk fell, and then watch the whole city transitioning from a purplish evening to a dimmed night from the top of the Chicago 360 building. Such a peaceful way to give 2016 a final goodbye, I guess.

We walked way too many blocks that night, until we got to the Navy Pier to join thousands of other humans to celebrate New Ever’s eve in the riverside of Lake Michigan. We rode the ferris wheel at 11PM, then joined the crowds who were all getting ready to capture the fireworks. The wind was blowing heavily, and with the fact that we were all standing next to one of the biggest lake in the world, it was just dead freezing.

Then 12AM occurred, and the complete black sky was suddenly transformed into a canvas of colours, sparkling and alive. Although it wasn’t really the greatest fireworks I’ve ever seen (as for the previous years I’ve always been able to watch fireworks of the whole city of Bandung from the comfort of my backyard) but the vibe was just there somehow. Along with thousands of strangers of all races and backgrounds, there we were, watching the day elapsed into another year of new hopes and dreams.

Our skin was frozen, but our heart was warm with the joy of being able to be there, another strange place that has been our new friend. The city was showered by the bursting colours of pride and celebration, and us humans had our hearts filled with gratefulness of surviving another year to remember by.

Chicago was fine and fascinating, and we’re just glad we were there.


For more (and better) pictures, kindly head to my photo blog here.

Written by

A geologist, self-taught photographer, hobbyist writer, and wanderer who loves subtle colours, sunrays, mother nature, wilderness, adventures, flowers in the afternoon, quiet corners of a city, being literally - yet not figuratively - on top of the world, solo travels, trips by train, fascinating rocks, vintage postcards, and aesthetically pleasing urban landscapes.

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