i slept well, a good 7+ hours according to my mi fit app. maybe it was the king-sized bed, which is like sleeping on a cloud where i can't even see the edge of the bed. last night frances and i tentatively agreed to do flushing chinatown today, meet at the hudson yard terminal station. she texted me this morning at 9:48am, asked if we could meet at time square instead. we could all sit at the first or last car, so we could easily find each other.
i left an hour later. my close proximity to hudson yard station meant that i arrived in time square in just 13 minutes. there was actually a track fire on the 7 train earlier this morning, and the 7 train was actually closed between 34 street and queensboro plaza, but was now running again. i texted frances, who said they were 10 minutes away. the platform was small enough that i wouldn't miss them so i sat on a bench next to the elevator in the center of the platform. during that time, 3-4 7 trains (heading to flushing) must've passed through the station, so trains were plentiful, a farcry from what i've heard about our own boston MBTA, where trains are still slow to arrive. when frances and family showed up, i was surprised to see hans had opted to go without his motorized wheelchair today. a 7 train arrived and we all got onboard, riding it all the way to the end.
the train ride took nearly 40 minutes, but it didn't feel that long, because most of the time we were above ground, and had the new york scenery to distract us. we arrived in flushing a bit after noontime, just in time for lunch. it was still raining but the forecast said it would stop for a bit in the afternoon. like yesterday, i couldn't get my bearing, and it was frances who pointed out the way to new york food court. along the way we passed delicious food places one after another.
i only had to travel 250 miles to enjoy some taiwanese food; compared to frances and her family, who traveled nearly 3700 miles. i'd heard the food court had undergone some renovations recently, and not all stalls were opened. but seeing 8090 "taiwan little eats" was like returning home. unlike last time, i made sure everyone had ordered before getting my own food. i got a bowl of cuttlefish nuggets with rice noodles, some fried squids, and of course stinky tofu. it was so good, i immediately wanted a second serving, even though i was already full. times like this i regret having only one stomach, because i'd love to try out some of the stalls.
next we went to the skyview mall (1:30pm), which was practically next door (for some reason i thought it was slightly farther). the kids wanted to hit target first, the boys in search of rare collectible hot wheels, the girl looking got score some target-exclusive kpop albums. hans earlier asked me for a favor: since he couldn't walk very fast, he asked if i could be his surrogate, to get to the toy department before his older brother lars, and secure any valuable hot wheels. i agreed, but once we got into target, the boys raced to be te first to find the toys, while i was far behind. sadly, there was no limited edition hot wheels at this target. it seems like maybe some collectors had already visited the store because there were some empty spots where hot wheels should've been. hans even spoke with another boy who was there who also seemed to be a collector.
elsewhere, june was looking for her kpop. there were shelves for the albums she wanted, but they were empty. later she went to a store clerk to ask if they had any still in stock, and they actually did, behind the counter. june ended up buying the latest blackpink album, and two copies of twice's new album between 1&2, one of which she'll sell to one of her followers for profit (it's scary to think an 11-year old would have online followers, or that they'd be so entrepreneurial).
while frances took the kids clothes shopping at uniqlo (uniqlo was new, it wasn't here last time), i went in search of the bathroom. coming back, i checked out some of the other shops in the mall: beard papa's cream puffs, subways, a dim sum restaurant, and a new asian supermarket! i couldn't resist and took a quick tour through the supermarket. i found frances at uniqlo, where i sat outside and waited. later fredrick took the kids to chuck e. cheese while frances and i went to check out the supermarket.
i didn't realize it, but we were in the supermarket for nearly an hour, taking our time browsing through every aisle. at one point lars came to find us, while we were nearly done with shopping.
we joined the rest of the party at chuck e. cheese. this was my first time visiting said establishment, as a kid i've always wanted to visit one, but was never invited. now as an adult, i don't understand what all the fuss was about. june has already opened up her blackpink cd, laying out all the cards and stickers and posters and photo books all over the table. hans wanted me to play a racing game with him and i joined him for a few rounds on his unlimited game card. i also rolled some skee-ball with him and june, haven't done that in a long time. one thing i thought was really weird was they had a salad bar there. what kid wants to eat at a salad bar?
we left skyview mall by 5pm. the rain had finally stopped. now we were in search of a place for dinner. frances wanted hot pot while the kids said they wanted korean barbecue. she asked me if there was a place that had both. since we were going to get korean barbecue tomorrow, frances decided we'd have hot pot tonight. we visited a few places but finally decided on spicy palace AKA 马路边边. this was no ordinary hot pot but sichuan-style chuan chuan hot pot, which i haven't had since leaving chongqing in 2014.
spicy palace had the glass-door refrigerators stocked with skewered meats and vegetables. each skewer was 60¢. there was also a well-stocked saucing station. the interior was decorated like we were eating out on the streets, with faux telephone wires and ceiling painted to look like the sky. the basic setup was a $20 half & half hot pot, one side spicy, the other side sour vegetables duck broth. i noticed the menu was entirely chinese (including eating instructions) with only english for the various ingredients. we had a corner table which was cramped but cozy. before we ate the waiter gave us all disposable aprons (to prevent stains); it was okay for someone my size, but on frances and fredrick they looked like bibs.
i got all my favorites on skewers: tofu, duck gizzard, taro, tripe, duck intestines. but the most important thing was to get the right sauce combination. i started with a heap of chopped fresh hot peppers and minced garlic, followed by some fermented tofu, cilantro, and scallions. added to that a generous serving of sesame oil and sichuan peppercorn oil. it was saucing perfection, although very spicy, which is what i like.
while we ate, a waiter who was watching us with amusement told us that we should try the duck broth first. we did as instructed, that soup was amazingly delicious. the sour vegetables mixed with the savory duck oil, it was culinary heaven. i was tempted to drink more but i didn't want to empty the non-spicy side. later i got a second serving of skewers, including sour bamboo, tofu skin, squid, mushrooms, and enokitoki wrapped in beef (plus more tripe).
while we emptied the table with some using the bathroom, fredrick went to pay for dinner. his norwegian credit card was declined and i made an effort to use my card but he said he had cash instead. we left by 7:30pm.
after dinner meant dessert and frances was in the mood for taiwanese shaved ice. having looked at google maps earlier, i knew there was only one place we should visit: meet fresh. we followed the instructions and went to where meet fresh was supposed to be but we didn't see any signs. turns out it was actually hidden inside of a new shopping mall. everything was bright and new inside, there was even a movie theater, but many storefronts were still vacant, though there were a few restaurants, as well as meet fresh. they were out of mango and strawberry, so we got a large bowl of shaved ice to share and i got a bowl of grass jelly.
when our orders finally came, it completed the trifecta of flushing deliciousness: stinky tofu for lunch, chuan chuan hot pot for dinner, and now shaved ice for dessert! i haven't had so much delicious in a long time. after we finished eating, i went in search of a bathroom. lars had just returned and said the bathroom was so new the sink didn't even have plumbing yet. sure enough, it was just a plumbing-free sink, with a tub of hand sanitizing gel for the time being. fortunately there was a drinking fountain outside, so i rinsed my hands in that and finished them off with the dryer.
i also checked out some of the other businesses. there was a old hot pot restaurant across meet fresh. on the floor below was a peking duck restaurant. next to that a xi'an food place. there was also a miniso which i wanted to check out, but by the time we went downstairs (8:30pm), they'd already closed. this miniso seemed more full of toys than the useful everyday things of a china miniso.
we finally left the tangram mall by 8:40pm, walking to the subway station. the kids seemed especially sleepy as we rode the train back to manhattan. frances and family got off at time square, i took the subway one more stop to hudson yard. i was back at the hotel by around 9:30pm.
even though i was very full, i still wanted to try getting pelicana fried chicken. last night i discovered there was actually a shop about 10 minutes from the hotel. i was about to leave when i checked google maps which told me the chicken place closes at 9:45pm. no!
instead i used the bathroom then took another bath. i was in bed by 11pm, but spent some time surfing the web. frances texted me, said they didn't want to go to the brooklyn chinatown tomorrow, but instead will go shopping in manhattan. i told her i was still going to go visit the brooklyn chinatown, but i'd rendezvous with them after lunch. around midnight i heard loud banging outside, like somebody trying to get into a room. i was tempted to call downstairs, but then the noise finally stopped.
i also noticed today that for some reason i've been paying for everything in cash in new york city. maybe because i brought so much of it out of habit, back in a time when swiping a card credit wasn't so ubiquitous, and i was still a citizens bank customer, with no ATM's here in NYC. but now that's entirely unnecessary, as i can use my credit card to practically pay for anything, and my new bank TD bank has plenty of branches here in the city.