No one could have said it better than Chandler Bing when he exclaimed, and I quote, “New York is AWESOME”! To say that I heart New York is an understatement. What’s a deeper level of love? Adore? Nevermind what that word is; the bottom line is that out of all the cities I’ve been to on this trip, New York is my favourite. The lights, the sounds, the smell and the people – what’s there to hate? We had a mere 4 full days to spend in this city so we knew every single day was to be maximised as much as possible. In hindsight, we should have kept New York to 5 full days as originally planned. But no matter how tight the days were I think we did a pretty good job squeezing most of the things that need to be done in New York in 4 full days.
Welcome to NY. As soon as we landed K and I made our way to the hotel, checked in, waited for a friend then headed off to dinner at Sapporo in Midtown. It was a good Japanese dinner, also evidenced by the number of people waiting to be seated. You may have read how I love the Miso Katsu from Taka’s in Perth so I was all excited to see this item on the menu in Sapporo. The verdict? Taka’s wins. The miso sauce at Sapporo tasted more soy sauce-y than miso but the chicken was good. And just to make us even fuller, we shared a plate of gyoza that was very delicious!
Since our hotel is located in a very convenient location (we stayed in Midtown) there was no problem with us getting around Manhattan. The first destination of the night was Times Square; and I thought Dundas Square in Toronto was cool enough. Times Square in Manhattan is just unbelievable – larger than life lights and ads in an overly crowded space. Now that feels just like New York. Even late at night with the rain the city is still bustling with people. Seriously, where do all these people come from? I have already almost forgotten what it’s like to live in a busy city and by the end of my first night in New York I have concluded that I should move and live there permanently.
Top of the Rock & All That Jazz. I woke up earlier than usual the next day so that I can fit in as many things as I can. I left K behind because she was feeling unwell and wanted to rest so I went ahead to Rockefeller Center and went up the Top of the Rock to see some foggy views of New York City. The line wasn’t long at all. I guess going there solo made it easier to squeeze into lines. A cloudless sky would have made the view more fantastic but, given that the weather forecast was thunderstorm, I am just glad that there was not a single drop of rain that day. As I made my way out of Rockefeller Center I stopped by the NBC Experience store and got dragged in to joining the NBC Sutdio Tour. I have already decided not to do the tour the day before but I just had to go and ask the guy at the counter what time the next tour was. He said it was in half an hour and I had time to spare so I just joined it anyway for $20. It was pretty cool touring the sets of Dr. Oz’s show and Saturday Night Live. They were actually preparing the stage and sets of SNL’s season premier (the one with Alec Baldwin as host) when we visited so that was indeed very awesome.
After that I went strolling around 5th Avenue. No I did not go shopping because I cannot afford anything there.
Afternoon came and I met up with K again and another friend, MP, who lives in New York. We dub her as a fake New Yorker because, even though she lives in New York, she hasn’t been around as much as we thought. It turned out to be that we were giving her the tour around the city. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed on to Broadway to watch Chicago starring Kara DioGuardi. It wasn’t until MP told us that I realised she was in American Idol before. I was more surprised to find out that Best Buy Theater is merely a small theatre unlike that of Burswood Theatre. Well, there are tons of plays going on at the same time in various theatres every single day in New York so I really shouldn’t be surprised with the size of the venue. Unlike Perth where plays and musicals are on for only short seasons we need a bigger space to accommodate everyone. In New York, just pop by the theatre and sometimes you can score cheaper tickets on the same day. Another thing I found unusual was that almost everyone who went to the theatre was every casual. Everyone except me, K and MP. It’s a habit of ours to dress up a bit whenever we go to the theatre so we brought something dressy and high heels for this show only to find out that New Yorkers are very casual when it comes to this. Jeans and flip flops to the theatre? Oh well.
SoHo shopping. We went back to the hotel to change into more comfortable clothes after the show. On the way we met a stranger, V, who popped by New York to see his girlfriend. V is K’s boyfriend, by the way, and you just can’t imagine my reaction. Even more so for MP. I haven’t had that “confused” look in a long time. Anyway, MP took us to the subway station and showed us how to ride one. The subway map looks exhausting, seriously. I didn’t even bother learning how to ride the subway and just went with the flow. MP says we take N-Q-R we take N-Q-R; easy peasy. We wound up in SoHo for a little shopping – a little only because if we went all out it would take the whole night! For me SoHo is way too crowded on a weekend. Everywhere you turn you bump into someone. It is a great place for shopping though. Just about every store is in SoHo.
Chinatown, NY-sytle. Feeling hungry after that little shopping, we decided that we want Chinese food because, first, we haven’t had a lot of decent Chinese food for this whole trip, and, second, Chinatown was very close by. By that I meant walking distance from SoHo. Wow. New York’s Chinatown is huge and, you’ve guessed it, very China-like. Here are my justifications (and guide for an awesome Chinatown) why NY’s Chinatown is superb.
- The chaos – There is chaos amongst the streets and people. Vendors trying to get customers and customers trying to get a bargain. People shouting here and there. Fake stuff for sale. It’s almost impossible to breathe and walk without tripping in Chinatown.
- The smell – The smell is…garbage. When you walk the streets of Hong Kong and smell something funny you’d know for sure you are in a Chinese town. Same thing goes for NY’s Chinatown because it smells like the streets of Hong Kong – garbage. Big black rubbish bags tied up and piled high on the streets. There is stench everywhere.
- The bakeries – Chinese bakeries are different from Western bakeries and seeing those Asian bakeries reminds me of home. The bread is different, the cakes are different, and there are other Asian treats like sesame balls that I love. Well, there’s pretty much bubble tea in almost all the bakeries too.
- The signs – These signs and shop names include the words golden, century, horse, lucky, dragon and Mr someone’s-last-name or the number 8 and are in red or yellow or gold colour.
- The people – do I really need to elaborate this one?
- The food – “Authentic” Chinese food everywhere. A lot of them claim to be authentic but, really, only a few are worth trying. A guide to which restaurants are good is the number of Asian people dining there. The number of Asian people should outweigh the number of Western people. No, I’m not trying to be racist but that’s how you’d really know which Chinese restaurants are good.
Based on the above, New York’s Chinatown is 4.5/5. Yay. We originally wanted to have dinner at this Peking Duck restaurant but it was very full and we had to wait for another 40 minutes or so for a table. Well our tummies were not up for that so we went to the restaurant across it, a Shanghai restaurant whose name I can’t remember. The xiao long baos, pan-fried dumplings and hot and sour soup were very good. Other dishes we had were a little off taste-wise. They were sweeter than saltier and I find that strange. Like a soy sauce based dish is sweeter that saltier.
Remembering 9/11. After dinner, which finished late, we walked around Chinatown still looking for dessert. Most shops were already closed by then so we thought we’d head off to the financial district while it’s not crowded at night. We passed by the 9/11 memorial but sadly it was all fenced out due to construction. We needed a ticket to actually see the memorial and offices were already closed. Plus, they only allow a certain number people to go in and see the memorial. I really wanted to see the memorial so I walked around here and there, up and down, and finally found a spot where one could see a glimpse of the memorial.
Stay tuned. New York City and I are getting married soon.