at porter square, there was an advertisement for a new target store opening in central square. it's long overdue, as i still remember when central square had a woolworth. when i arrived in south station i bought a bottle of water from CVS (99¢), as i didn't bring my contigo travel mug. i arrived at the bus terminal with 25 minutes to spare. there wasn't a lot of people in line, so i was hopeful i would have 2 seats to myself. my wish came true, as 2 seats were to be had when i climbed onboard and the bus began to leave.
i thought wangyang's bus leaving washington dc to new york city was at 7am, that's why i texted her at 6am. she texted back at 6:30am saying she was just waking up. i got my a little nervous because i thought she was cutting it close. i texted her a few more times as we approached 7am. she wrote back at 7:18am to let me know she was leaving the hotel now. now? i wrote her back saying wasn't her bus at 7am, but while i was typing it i realized it might've been 8am instead.
the bus was quiet for the most part except for an annoying couple sitting across from me who just wouldn't stop talking throughout the trip. the girl had a most unpleasant snorting laugh. after a while though it didn't much matter as i drifted off to sleep with nothing else to do.
with about an hour before we arrived simultaneously in new york, wangyang sent me a screen capture of her gps location. she had yet to arrive in philadelphia, while i was already in manhattan (harlem). by 11:20am i was in time square, while at 11:37am she was just approaching jersey city. 11:46am i was waiting outside of penn station. it wasn't bad, i was sitting out in the sun, and if anything, i was worried i might get a sunburn, or look too suspicious sitting outside for so long. 12:20pm sent me one last capture, with her at 42nd street. i went to the eastern shuttle stop to meet her as soon as she got off the bus. she finally arrived at 12:40pm, setting foot for the very first time in new york city.
i hadn't seen wangyang for almost 3 years. i was afraid she wouldn't recognize me with my crazy hairdo. she looked exactly the same as i remembered her, with longer hair, and maybe skinnier than before. i gave her the choice between eating first or heading to the flushing hotel (which would take about an hour). she selected the food option. we walked down to koreatown to grab some quick korean food for lunch.
i took wangyang to food gallery 32, one of my favorite spots in koreatown (actually, it's the only place there i go to, as all others seem to be too expensive). it was crowded, but we managed to find opposite seats at the end of a table right where we ordered our food. i got the tteokbokki and sundae which also came with two cups of miso soup. wangyang herself had been to south korea twice, once for business, once for personal. she's had the spicy rice cakes before, but never tried the korean blood sausage (although she did have blood sausage while she was working in venezuela). after we finished eating we grabbed the subway from 34 street - herald square to switch to the 7 train at time square. in washington wangyang met a chinese girl from wenzhou staying in the same hostel, where they exchanged subway passes, so she had a NYC metrocard good for one last day of free rides. it took about an hour until we finally arrived in flushing.
besides the peek of manhattan when she first set foot off the washington bus, wangyang's next experience with new york was arriving at flushing, one of the largest chinatowns in the US. it's like she never left china! it took a while to get our bearings, what i thought was the direction of the hotel turned out to be the completely wrong direction. both of us had our phones out, checking the gps location. we finally figured out. what i thought was main street was actually roosevelt street. we eventually arrived at the flushing hotel at 2:40pm.
hotels are never as nice as the photos on their website, and this was the case here. my expectations were low to begin with - being that this was a chinese-operated hotel - but it was actually better than i imagined. for one thing, it didn't smell, and the place looked clean. the room (406) was likewise clean and odorless, although the carpet could use some steam cleaning. the first thing i noticed was how sunny it was, with a western facing window where we could see the freedom tower, empire state building, and the chrysler. down below was the free hotel parking lot.
first chance i got i paid wangyang my share of the hotel ($190 for 3 nights). i noticed she was just taking photos with her iphone so i asked (although i could already assume the answer) if she brought her camera and she said no. i remember she had a really nice sony camera she showed me one time in the back of a company car, something like a mirrorless or at least a shooter with a good lens.
we finally left the hotel about an hour later around 3:50pm, seemingly losing track of time, as there was still the city to be explored. when we first arrived we could smell the outdoor xinjiang barbecue, so on our way to the subway station, we stopped to get some skewered lamb. it ended up taking far longer than we anticipated, as we waited patiently for nearly 10 minutes before our two skewers were finally ready. i also showed wangyang the new world mall food court basement. unfortunately there was no new taiwanese stalls.
it took us an hour and 10 minutes to get from flushing to bowling green station at the southern tip of manhattan, arriving at 5:20pm. good thing sunset wouldn't be until 7:30pm, giving us 2 hours of daylight to sightsee downtown manhattan. we went to battery park to view the statue of liberty in the harbor. wangyang remarked how small it seems. we left the park and headed towards wall street, passing by the charging bull statue swarming with tourists clamoring to get their photo taken with the famous landmark. i saw the new fearless girl statue. we made our way to the new york stock exchange, and as we came up to wall street, wangyang caught sight of trinity church and excitingly ran to go see it.
i didn't realize churches were her jam. unfortunately the church closes at 6pm and we got there right when they were shutting the gate, missed it by just a few minutes. wangyang looked like she was willing to climb over the fence just to get inside.
next we headed in the direction of the 9/11 memorial. along the way we stopped off at 4 world trade center to use the bathroom and took a quick browse of the high end italian food at downtown eataly. approaching the memorial, we decided to go checkout the large white spaceship structure. i've seen it before, and thought it was an extension of the memorial museum, but turns out it's actually a large spacious indoor underground high-end shopping plaza - the westfield world trade center. we visited the apple store there, which actually covered two levels.
at the memorial, wangyang was impressed with the design. we saw both infinity fountains before leaving. we passed another church, st.paul's chapel, but like the trinity, it too was closed. we walked to city hall park, where we stopped to take a seat and admire the woolworth building, which wasn't much to look at enveloped in renovation scaffolding. it was already a bit after 7pm and the sky was getting dusky. i suggested we walk a bit across the brooklyn bridge to see the city at sunset then grab some indian food for dinner in the east village.
although i didn't plan on it, we got to the bridge around sunset, which is one of the best times to be on the bridge in order to see the manhattan skyline all lit up. i'd actually planned on walking across the bridge as one of our activities, but in hindsight, that would've been an exhausting waste of time, and just walking the bridge partially is plenty good enough for an excellent view. as expected, the bridge was crowded with tourists who had the same idea. tourists and cyclists, who i can only imagine were annoyed with out-of-towners standing in the bike lane (i was guilty of time on a few occasions, but only because the pedestrian walkway was simply too crowded). there were also some hawkers selling new york themes photos and paintings, as well as a resourceful old hispanic lady selling unripened mango slices that wangyang decided to try (crunchy and sour).
we caught a subway from the brooklyn bridge city hall station to astor place station in the east village. the restaurant i wanted to go was panna II garden, which came up as a first result when i did a google image search for "cheap indian restaurant new york city." i was impressed by the decorative christmas lights festooning the ceiling and walls.
to get there from the subway station was a 10 minute walk, but we couldn't quite get our bearing and followed our own directions instead of google map, heading east down st.marks place then a detour on 6th and 2nd to finally getting to 6th and 1st. i wasn't expecting the myriad of cheap restaurants, mixed with a nearly equal number of head shops selling marijuana paraphernalia, and a smattering of tattoo/piercing parlors. we passed by so many great places to eat that if the indian joint wasn't good we could return and find someplace else. we also came across another church (middle collegiate church, 112 2nd avenue) but was more focused on finding a place to eat than exploring christian temples.
when we arrived at the address for panna II garden an indian man sitting outside a restaurant quickly came out to beckon us into his place. we hesitated, then looked upstairs, where there was another indian restaurant. the different was the upstairs place was packed and simply had more lights. a few indians standing out that restaurant noticed us and beckoned us to come upstairs to their place. turns out the upstairs restaurant is the real panna II garden and the one downstairs is just a copycat trying to cash in on the former's success. though the place was crowded, we managed to get one of the last remaining tables at the far end of the restaurant, after walking through a dazzling gauntlet of hanging christmas lights enhanced by wall mirrors and reflective panels. it was like being inside an indian kaleidoscope.
when i asked wangyang if she's ever had indian food before, she said yes, when she visited singapore. i told her that didn't count (it probably did though, since singapore is a multi-asian cultural metropolis after all, with an indian population of about 10%, and closer in proximity to indian than new york city). as far as indian cuisine, i'm no expert, but i do know a little more about it than wangyang. we each got the dinner special ($19), which comes with appetizer, soup, main course, and dessert. we also each got a mango lassi.
while we waited for our food, we looked at the information taped to the wall. apparently this restaurant was featured in an episode of netflix's daredevil (season 2 episode 5). i ordered the samosas while wangyang got the fried eggplant which tasted so sweet i could've sworn they were sweet potatoes. the soup they delivered was mulligatawny, which i've only heard about but never tried before. it tasted good, but hard to pin-point the exact flavor (as often the cause with indian food which contains a complex spice blend). by that point we were already a little full, and the main course hadn't arrived yet! wangyang got a mixture of barbecued meats while i got a sweet lamb curry that had coconut milk, raisin, and almonds in it. i ate until i was nearly bursting, and couldn't finish everything.
before we left east village, wangyang went to a cvs to get some maxi pads. from astor place we rode the subway to midtown, to time square. i showed her the new year ball, and pointed out the pro-china propaganda intermixed with all the commercial advertisement displays. i'm not 100% sure, but i think i saw grant imahara filming a segment in time square with a dSLR cameraman.
from time square we headed in the direction of grand central, which would be our final destination before catching a 7 train back to flushing. passing by bryant park, we could see the empire state building all lit up in green. by that point wangyang seemed pretty tired, but get a renewed dose of energy when she saw the inside of grand central station. up from the balcony stairs we saw a group of ballerinas performing in the near empty station. the station security were pretty unfazed by it.
we left the station by 11:40pm. when the 7 train arrived, it was crowded enough that we didn't have seats until a third of the way into our trip. it was about an hour later before we got back to flushing, getting to the hotel by 1am. the walk seemed a lot faster than earlier this afternoon, now that we knew where we were going.
at the hotel we took the elevator closest to the entrance. we got to our room and i used the key card but it kept getting rejected. suddenly someone opened the door. a thief in our hotel room is opening the door for us? that's when i realized this was not our room. this was 405 (odd numbers). our room - 406 - was in the second building, accessible by the other elevator. i apologized and we beat a hasty retreat.
after a bit of drama, we finally made it our hotel room. it was already the next day and after respective showers (good water pressure and temperature), we both crashed into our beds. wangyang said she'd be waking up early to do some office work, to have the semblance that she was still on the job.
- arrive in new york city
- food gallery 32 (koreatown)
- flushing chinatown
- xinjiang street food
- battery park
- statue of liberty
- charging bull/fearless girl statues
- wall street
- trinity church/hamilton grave
- westfield world trade center
- 9/11 memorial/freedom tower
- brooklyn bridge
- panna II garden (east village)
- time square
- grand central station