May 30-June 3
By the time Yeh Yang and I took the subway from JFK airport to Manhattan, it was close to 1AM. We were staying at Manhattan Inn Hostel, where I had stayed at previously with Rishi when we were in the City for the Singapore Day weekend. There was some minor delay with the checking-in because we had booked for three nights but on two separate bookings, so we had to wait for the guy to sort it out.
The next morning, I left for Ground Zero with Angela and Xinpei, while Yeh Yang went to do his own stuff because he’s been there before. You can’t really tell that the it was the site of a terrorist attack six years ago. Work is going on for the Freedom Tower, so you would think it’s just some construction site.
View from behind mesh and grille
We hung around the area for a good ten minutes, looking at the 9/11 time line, which explained the day’s events from when the first plane left Boston Logan Airport to when the cloud of dust cleared over Manhattan. There were various photographs and paintings depicting the confusion, chaos and pain the people endured that day. I can’t say I identified with what went on that day, but looking at the photographs helped me envision it, and one definitely feels sad at the suffering innocent people had to go through.
We left for the Wall Street financial district area. Seems like Donald Trump has a building everywhere. There are two in New York City alone. The New York Stock Exchange was worth looking at, but it was heavily guarded, and a huge American flag adorned its front columns. Other than that, Wall Street seemed really nondescript, a narrow street with financial bigwigs. Angela and Xinpei were quite disappointed. I think they expected more. They were probably as excited about Wall Street as I am about seeing the press room in the US Capitol and the White House. More on that in due time.
Next up was taking the free ferry service to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s free, so I shall not complain much. We were still pretty far away from the Statue though. Of course, also because the camera can’t zoom, so I was at a disadvantage.
Yes, that is the closest we got to Lady Liberty.
Lower Manhattan cityscape awfully nondescript without the Twin Towers
Half of Manhattan, and New Jersey in the background
We later met up with Yeh Yang again and had dinner at a Dallas BBQ restaurant located at Times Square. I think Times Square is my favorite place in the whole world. After dinner, we went to the TKTS booth to check out Broadway shows. Yeh Yang and Angela went for Phantom, which I had already watched in London. Xinpei and I went for The Color Purple, starring Fantasia. To be honest, and I admitted this to Xinpei at the intermission, I wasn’t following the dialogue very well because their Southern accent was very thick. It was hard to follow the story when half the time I missed what they were saying. I enjoyed the songs though, and I was very impressed by Fantasia. Her acting was just okay, but she knew how to work the audience with her singing. The Color Purple has a very gospel repertoire, with many of its songs having a similar style to baptist church music. It deals with the role of women during the time the novel was written and how women were gradually empowered to be equal as men and able to stand for themselves. It also spoke of the equality of mankind without being subject to differences in race and color. Surprisingly, Yeh Yang and Angela were done earlier than us, cos Phantom is notorious for being three hours long.
Met them again at the M&M’s store. There were very unique souvenirs here, obviously targeting children who will then bug their parents to buy them. I think unless you see the store for yourself, it’s hard to imagine what it is like. Three floors of everything M&M.
M&M stores have to be the most indulgent ones.
I don’t think I could ever get enough of Times Square.
The city doesn’t sleep, and its energy rubs off on you.
The next morning, we set off for Brooklyn. Yeh Yang and I settled at a bagel cafe for breakfast because Angela and Xinpei overslept and missed our meeting time. Truly, the bagels in New York are just different from those I’ve tried outside New York. It’s unexplainable but you’ll know when you try them. A plain bagel and cream cheese with hot coffee. Now, that’s a New York breakfast that I’m going to continue having in Singapore.
When the girls arrived, we walked to Prospect Park. It was designed by the same people who did Central Park. There wasn’t much in there. We came across many kids of all ages, some toddlers with their mothers or nannies, and fathers in some instances; teachers with their students enjoying a day of sports and games and other random people. From what I saw of Brooklyn, it was very much a residential borough. Of course I didn’t see enough to generalize the area, but in comparison to Manhattan, it is quieter and less crowded. It is where rich people who work in Manhattan raise their families.
It was a really hot summer day, (in my opinion, spring didn’t last long enough!) Deciding that Brooklyn didn’t have much to see, we left to return to Manhattan. Again, we only went to one place in Brooklyn and it is a very large island, so I maintain that we didn’t see enough of it to make a judgment.
We headed to Chinatown and had lunch. I’ve never had so much Chinese food in the US until I started touring with the three of them! Also walked through Little Italy, which was quite lively. The area was done up with red, white and green-colored decorative stuff, and there was a little festival of some sort going on with arcade game stalls like bursting the balloons or knocking the cups over. Soho was next. In my opinion, the stores at Soho are still kind of expensive. You can find a bargain sometimes, but generally, the area has a reputation for its vintage clothing stores, and some of the big names in fashion. It’s a mix really, you find Urban Outfitters, Banana Republic and Old Navy, together with FCUK and some other high class brands that I have never heard of. I want only cheap stuff, like everything at Old Navy prices but of a better brand! I need to be at an outlet!
We walked to Greenwich Village, which is lesser known as West Village. Jimi Hendrix used to live in this neighborhood and it also attracted many radicals seeking alternative lifestyles (read: hippies and marijuana advocates). As such, the area is rather trendy and has many bars, restaurants and cafes. Active nightlife, in other words. Also in part due to the presence of New York University in this neighborhood, hence the youthful and vibrant crowds.
We stopped for drinks and a rest at MacD’s, and also saw the famed basketball cages. Apparently quite a sight; there was a sizeable crowd standing around the court and watching a game.
See? New York City is so diverse. How can anyone not like it?
We headed towards 34th St. to meet Ha Phuong, a Vietnamese girl I met in Ithaca for dinner. She brought us to an ice-cream parlor where she said served the best ice-cream. It was actually yogurt or sorbet, I can’t remember. But it was interesting because it had fruit toppings that were actually really nice. I preferred the fruits to the ice-cream, but that’s just me.
Dinner was at a Korean eatery at Koreatown. I can’t remember why I don’t have pictures of our food, but the food was good. We shared some dumplings among the five of us, and had individual stuff. Ha Phuong and I shared stir-fried vermicelli and an udon. After dinner, the girls wanted to rush to Macy’s to buy Coach bags but Macy’s was closed. Awww.. They were so disappointed because they couldn’t buy their Coach bags. To be honest, I didn’t know of the existence of the brand until we went shopping in Chicago and I could not understand Angela and Xinpei’s fascination because I didn’t know Coach was very expensive in Singapore. Well, Angela is earning a lot of money now so she can afford Coach bags in Singapore. HAHA.
Walked Angela and Xinpei to Times Square to finish up the last of their souvenir shopping and then back to their hostel because it was their last night in the US. They were leaving for Tokyo the next morning. Spent three weeks with these girls from Miami, to Bahamas, to Chicago, to Toronto and now New York. Saying goodbye wasn’t that hard HAHA, but definitely had a lot of fun and laughter with them. Can’t wait to get home and meet up with them for dinner – but Angela can’t join us, she works odd hours now for Credit Suisse.
The next morning, it was just Yeh Yang and me. Sian. He went to search for the mysterious Macy’s while I left to get a hair cut. It was so weird cos we both thought we saw a second Macy’s the night before, but as it turns out, there’s only one Macy’s in New York City. Funny. After I got my hair cut, I left for Central Park. Actually I wanted to go to the Museum of Natural History, but the subway line that would bring me there was not scheduled for that day. Instead I had to take the subway to Columbus Circle and walk there through Central Park. In the end, I decided not to go, and walked through Central Park to get to MET instead.
Shakespeare Garden in Central Park
View of Belvedere Lake and Delacorte Theater from the castle
Lake and Upper East Side skyline
When I finally got through Central Park and out the other side, I was hot and itchy from the hair cut. I was just not in the mood to go and look at art pieces, even though it was a world-class museum. I had to leave it for another time (like in 2 weeks time, when I leave Washington, D.C. for New York, my last two days in New York, before I leave for Singapore.)
I decided to go back to the hostel, take a shower and have a change of clothes. Yeh Yang was back at the hostel too. After the shower, we left for Chelsea and Union Square. There was a flea market somewhere there and I bought a double-CD recording of Puccini’s La bohème, recorded by Andrea Bocelli, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Zubin Mehta. For $10. What a find.
We ended up at the Farmer’s Market at Union Square, where there were many farmers from around New York selling their local produce. There were potted plants of all types, vegetables, hot soups, homemade jam and local wines. Speaking of local wines, one of the stalls was from Ithaca, selling wine from the Cayuga Lake region.
We passed the Flatiron Building and settled at Madison Square Park for a rest. I think both of us were pretty tired from traveling and with the girls gone, we didn’t really feel like doing much. I know we were in New York City and we should have been high from all the energy in the city but somehow we were just a little jaded.
Flatiron Building, in the shape of an iron. Really narrow in the front.
It is a really narrow building.
We sat at in the park devising ways of how I could kidnap a baby. I couldn’t help it, they were just so cute!
I figured this could be our mug shot for The New York Times headlines after we kidnapped the baby.
Canan, Naomi and I enjoying our gryos in the same park on May 14
We were meeting Ha Phuong for dinner again, this time at Little Italy. So we abandoned our kidnapping plans and made our way to Soho for a last bit of shopping. Walked north to Chinatown too to check out the bus from Fung Wah that would bring us to Boston.
Some arch thing being built at Chinatown, near Manhattan Bridge.
Cigar maker at Little Italy
There was a stall selling fresh nougat that they weighed and chopped on the spot for you. Yeh Yang bought some to bring back for his girlfriend. I think I might buy some back too, since I’m stopping by in New York before going home.
The atmosphere in Little Italy was still rather lively. There was some kind of Catholic festival going on and a street band was marching down and playing some songs as loud as they could manage. The trumpet player at least, was pretty entertaining. He looked nonchalant as he played, but he always punctuated the ending of each song with a blast or a glissando as loud as he could manage. Trumpet players always like to steal the limelight and draw the focus to them, it’s the same everywhere. 🙂
We had dinner at a Italian restaurant. I can’t remember what we had but we had mushrooms for starters, and pasta for mains. It was yummy. I love pasta so much. Pasta with prawns, mussels and squid… Even better. Following dinner, we settled for tea at a cafe in Greenwich Village.
Ha Phuong and I at the cafe. I never realized my eyes were that small, and I have dimples. HAHA. Fat cheeks and dimples never coexist.
At the end, we concluded that I am more attractive than Yeh Yang. Earlier in the day, a Latina salesgirl at a store in Soho greeted me with a smile and a hey that seemed pretty over friendly. For a while, I thought maybe she was in one of my classes at Ithaca, and Yeh Yang too thought that we knew each other. She came up and started chatting like we were old friends, and even commented that she liked my color – the tan from Miami and Bahamas. It was really quite weird. Then at the Greenwich Village cafe, the waitress didn’t really address Yeh Yang, but me instead. HAHA, so we drew that conclusion that they just found me more attractive than him. 🙂
It really was quite a lazy day. After tea, we lazed at a park listening to a busker performing. It was quite a nice ten minutes actually, sitting there enjoying a summer evening in New York. The next morning we were leaving for Boston, so we bade goodbye to Ha Phuong, who is interning for RBS for the summer, and returned to the hostel to pack.