an otherwise good day trip to new york city (including flushing chinatown) with my parents ended with me pooping my pants on my way home. the lesson learned here is not to drink prune juice on the bus. actually, i was due for one of these majorly embarrassing scatological moments, it happens on average once every decade or so. it goes without saying that i'm currently finishing washing a load of laundry at around 2:00 in the morning.
also i came down with a cold but i don't think it was because of the trip but it certainly didn't help.
i did get a haircut though.
more tomorrow, i'm pretty tired, and once my clothes finish drying i'm off to a well-deserved night of restful sleep.
the worst part of any new york city trip is waking up in the morning. usually i get very little sleep, figuring i could sleep on the bus instead. but have you ever tried sleeping on a bus? i was better prepared this time and actually squeezed in about 4 hours of sleep before waking up at 4:30 to get ready. at 5:00 i left the house and walked 10 minutes in the freezing cold to porter square to catch the first train leaving alewife at 5:16. while i was descending the escalator my father called to met me know that they (my parents) were already at alewife. we'd be taking the same train, arriving in south station together.
porter square smelled of fresh paint from the ongoing weekend station renovation work that's scheduled to last until march. there was about 20 other people waiting for the train. when i got to south station i didn't see my parents but decided to go upstairs and wait in the main train terminal. when they still didn't show up, i went back down to the subway. that's where i found them, still wandering around after all the other passengers had already left.
usually to new york city i take one of the classic chinatown buses, either fungwah or lucky star (mostly fungwah these days). i've also taken the world wide bus that leaves right from alewife station but it's more expensive on the weekends and doesn't run as often. this time however we'd be taking the megabus, a service line i'd never tried before but have often seen. the first week of december they had a promotional sale, free rides for all routes and travel between january and march (there was a 1¢ reservation fee, and only the first 200,000 customers were eligible). i got in touch with my parents and booked these tickets in advance.
there was already a long line when we got to the bus terminal. we were there early enough to catch the 6:00 bus, but the tickets we had were for 7:00. we decided to wait in line anyway, figuring maybe we could talk our way onboard the earlier bus if it wasn't crowded. when the clock struck 6:00, the bus driver himself boarded the passengers. there wasn't any careful checks and if you had a piece of paper with some kind of computer printout, he'd wave you through, so that's how we ended up taking the 6:00 bus.
the coolest thing about the megabus is they're all double deckers, so we made sure to grab seats on the second level. and i didn't notice it at first because it was dark, but the entire ceiling of the bus was a glass canopy. there was also free free onboard wifi and power outlets. i noticed the overhead lights were energy-saving bright-white LED's instead of bulbs. also something else i'd never seen before: seatbelts! basically riding the megabus felt more like riding a plane than a bus. on the negative side, the seats were smaller (narrower), none had foot rests (although they did have dividing collapsible arm rests), and no overhead compartments. there wasn't that many people riding so we ended up putting all our bags and jackets on the empty seat next to me. interspersed ceiling mounted LCD monitors played a video familiarizing the passengers with some safety rules and bus features as we rolled out of south station.
riding a double decker bus was a new experience, i was watching everything from higher up. even in semi trucks i was looking down into the cabins, a view i'd never see riding a regular car or even a regular bus. i listened to a bit of game of thrones podcast before falling asleep. our bus driver was great, none of the herky-jerky sudden stop-and-go of drivers i've experienced in the past. he never sped, and it felt like he was driving so slow at times i worried if we'd even make it to NYC on time. great for sleeping though, as i was never rudely awaken by any sudden breaking.
the megabus drops off passengers around penn station, so we entered manhattan from the north via macombs dam bridge. we then traveled south from harlem down 9th/columbus avenue. i thought it'd take forever, stopping at every intersection to wait for the light to change, but the bus would normally travel down a handful of blocks before stopping on a red light. also there was some great sightseeing, as the double decker seems to be designed for watching all the activities outside and down below.
we arrived at our destination around 10:30. the megabus dropoff point is on 28th and 7th, right outside the 28th street subway station. we walked a few blocks north to penn station so we could use the bathroom after our 4.5 hour bus ride. this was actually my first time inside penn station, i've only passed by it in the past. my parents seem to know it a lot better from their own NYC trips arriving/leaving penn station. we took a 1 train one station to time square then switched to a 7 train to flushing (main street). an express train would've saved us a lot of time but all express trains were coming into manhattan so it wouldn't do us any good since we were going in the opposite direction. it ended up taking us about 40 minutes to get from time square (10:56) to flushing (11:38). it didn't seem that long partly due to the fact that most of the ride was above ground so there were things to see outside.
stepping out of the subway station and into flushing was a bit of a culture shock. everything was chinese, from the people walking the streets to the signs and billboards cluttering the buildings. "what do you want to eat?" my mother asked me. i didn't answer, still dazed from what i was seeing.
in all their new york city trips my parents never fail to make a stop here at flushing. the last time i was here was 7 years ago, when i drove down here with my parents for a day trip (gas was probably still 99¢ so it wasn't a big deal). i don't remember much from that trip other than the photos i took. this was before my parents discovered the food malls. they've brought back a few things in the past, but the only way to get the full food experience is to come down in person and eat for yourself. since my parents had been here more times than i have, they were the experts so they led the way. they first bought some "chinese chive box" pastries before heading to one of the food malls.
golden mall (41-28 main street) was the place, the sort of inconspicuous venue that's easy to miss, featuring 2 floors (ground floor and basement) of authentic chinese eating. we went all the way to the back to a crowded place serving authentic dongbei lamb noodle soup. you knew this place was for real because all the customers spoke with a think dongbei accent (one fat man talking on the phone sounded exactly like our chinese relative, it was scary). seating was cramped, made more so by all the thick winter jackets everyone wore. the only non-chinese customers were a man-woman couple dressed in business suits; they were obviously culinary adventurists and it didn't seem like it was their first time eating there.
right across the hallway from the dongbei noodle place was a hairdresser store. my father got a decent $10 haircut from there the last time he was here so i decided to do the same. i had a sullen-looking hairdresser with a bieber-cut dressed all in black. he worked fast with no chitchat. i opted not to have my hair washed so the haircut was only $6. afterwards i saw my hairdresser standing in the hallway smoking a cigarette (so much for fire codes).
next we moved downstairs to check out more food stalls. there was even more people and more places to eat. we were already full, but decided to try the A1 sour & spicy cold skin noodles ($4, vegetarian) and the B2 spicy cumin lamb burger ($3) at xi'an famous foods after checking out their picture wall menu (much easier to order; besides, at least one of the workers there didn't speak any english). there was also a foodie celebrity customer shrine, including photos of anthony bourdain, andrew zimmern, and kelly choi. we also got a cup of suanmeitang ($1.50). my father came back minutes later with a container of fresh homemade dill dumplings as well.
our tour of flushing eateries took us next to the new world mall (40-21 mains street). surprisingly, my parents had never been here before (one reason: it only recently opened in the first half of 2011). we came in on the first floor which was a supermarket (jmart, not sure what the "j" stands for). the 2nd floor was full of shops, anything from clothes, cosmetics, electric bicycles, confections, etc. upstairs (3rd floor) looked to be a restaurant. but where was the food court? we were starting to think maybe there wasn't one until i looked down the banks of escalators and saw there was a basement level.
here was the motherload of food courts, with roughly 2 dozen different places to eat. even though it was only a monday, the place was crowded and buzzing with people eating, nearly almost all asians (the place must get crazy on the weekends). unfortunately we already ate, otherwise we could've stayed here for most of the day, dining our way from one stall to another. we took a tour to see what kind of food they had then used the bathroom.
my parents decided to check out the upstairs jmart. new york city chinese supermarkets have more selection than the ones found here in the boston area. i picked up some strange flavored peanuts and fishsnacks. the only problem we had was everything we bought we had to carry with us for the rest of the day. when we were finally done shopping, everyone ended up carrying a portion of the load.
there was at least one other flushing food court we were trying to find. we went inside the new century mall hoping this was it but it was just a lot of closely-packed asian clothing retailers. by that point we gave up.
the last time my aunt was here in flushing, she got 2 parking tickets. hoping to contest them both, she asked us to take some photos for her as proof that she's in the right. this was the large multi-level municipal lot that separates the established flushing chinatown from the burgeoning flushing koreatown. the signs were confusing and hard to tell the difference between reserved and public parking spots. while we were there a meter maid was patrolling the area, busy writing tickets.
we took one final pass through the flushing chinatown, buy up some food items to bring back to boston (on top of whatever we already bought from jmart). before we took the subway, my parents made one last stop at one of their favorite places, a little pastry shop that had good coffee and even better portuguese-style custards.
we took the 7 train to grand central, then took one of the express green trains south to the brooklyn bridge station. my parents have never walked over the brooklyn bridge before, not for lack of trying. on their last visit, the brooklyn bridge was one of their goals but they got it confused with the williamsburg bridge instead.
i was recently here, having brought my roommate on a new york city tour back in november. my parents and i made it as far as the middle of the bridge. my mother wanted to wait and see the sunset but we all mutually decided against it once we realized how cold it was exposed on the bridge.
union square * lion brand studio * flatiron building:
murray "curry" hill * korea town:
megabus back to boston:
riding up madison avenue:
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