13 SEP 2013 // KENNETH KOH
UIUC SSA commemorated the long Labour Day weekend with our annual trip to Chicago! We had an overwhelming take-up rate for the trip, with two packed buses (and a few cars as well) leaving Urbana for the 3-hour journey to metropolitan Chicago on Saturday morning.
As any Singaporean will attest, good Chinese food is not one of UIUC’s many strengths and so our first stop in Chicago was Chinatown. The siew mai, har gao and various other dimsum that we ate for lunch were savoury reminders of Singaporean cuisine and, with the trip off to a good start, everyone was soon eager to see what else Chicago had to offer.
We dispersed after lunch, some heading to the Museum of Science and Industry, others to explore Downtown Chicago (only a quick bus ride away from Chinatown). We kicked off the tour with a visit to Chicago’s famous landmark, the Cloud Gate (colloquially known as The Bean). The soaring Chicago skyline reflected in this innovative piece of architecture was an impressive sight, and, as a first-time visitor, it was easy to see why this icon has gained considerable popularity worldwide.
We next stopped by the Old Water Tower, the only building to survive the Great Chicago Fire, where we were treated to an impromptu tour by a security guard with a surprising knowledge of the building’s history. We then proceeded to John Hancock Tower, the fourth tallest building in Chicago, but the cloudy skies dissuaded us from visiting its observation deck. On a clear day, though, one can supposedly see all the way to Michigan…
Dinner was held at Giordano’s, the home of Chicago’s best (some would say only) signature dish, the Deep-Dish Pizza. Although we arrived at 4.30pm, we still had to queue for almost 90 minutes, but the food (when it finally arrived) was completely worth it. Basically a pizza combined with a pie, a Deep Dish is insanely cheesy, unbelievably filling, but impossibly good and definitely a must-try for any tourist.
We ended the day at Navy Pier, watching the Labour Day fireworks (Singaporean fireworks organizers, take note: synchronizing fireworks to music achieves a far better effect than simply blasting as many of them as you can into the sky) as well as taking a group photo with our flag in the background. Singaporean pride!
Our second day was spent at Aurora, an outlet mall, where we spent almost six consecutive hours shopping…and (some say) still didn’t have enough time to buy everything we wanted to! While the prices are not exceptionally cheap, the discounts offered are reasonable, and it was definitely a convenient place to prepare for the impending winter (or simply buy any clothes we forgot to bring from Singapore).
All in all, the Chicago trip organized by SSA was an extremely fun experience. The effort and dedication put into organizing the trip was evident in how smoothly everything ran, and the trip itself served not only as an introduction to Chicago, but also as an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other better, as well as a refreshing break after the first hectic week of school. I look forward to participating in more such events in the future!