As promised, a quick run down "photo journal" of our family vacation in New York! Above is the checklist I created for myself leading up to the vacation weekend, which was actually quite helpful... and pretty to look at with all the colors! I had fun just planning what to pack and finding things to do and places to eat in New York.
We flew into New York on Friday morning, with a connection flight through Dallas, landing at the La Guardia airport around 4:30 P.M. eastern time. Along the way, we met up with the rest of the family--my eldest brother and his wife in Dallas, Texas; my youngest brother from Kansas City, Kansas. The hotel we stayed at was the Sheraton, located right dab smack in the middle of Flushing Chinatown, which was super nice, because that meant we would run into shops and restaurants everywhere, right outside of the hotel.
And now, I didn't think to take a photo of the hotel, but it was pretty nice. My parents, my youngest brother, and I stayed in a connecting set of rooms, one of which was a suite and the other was a regular hotel room. For convenience sake, we decided to keep the connecting doors propped open, and the four of us just hung out in the living room each night and each morning. It was kind of nice, and it was kind of like having a small apartment.
Meanwhile, my elder brother and his wife, and my other younger brother and his wife, stayed in another set of connecting rooms similar to the ones we stayed in, but on the floor above ours. Because they seemed to want more privacy, they DID NOT keep their connecting doors open.
Anyway, on our first evening in New York, we spent walking around Flushing Chinatown. Our first stop was the New World Mall Food Court for dinner.
This is by far the largest food court I'd ever seen, and according to my brother, one of the largest Asian cuisine food courts in New York. Basically, all the food shops were lined along the entire perimeter of the lower level of the mall, with a lot of rectangular tables scattered in the middle of the room. There were a lot of dumpling shops, a couple Japanese places, some Korean places, and some Taiwanese places.
We ended up all buying a few things from different shops and attempting to meet back at a table. The idea had been to share what we got so we could all try different foods from different places. But because of how crowded the place was, it took a long time before we could find a spot to accommodate all eight of us. By then, my youngest brother had already inhaled his bowl of udon noodles, and didn't care to try what everyone else got.
We really didn't even find a spot, and eventually just nudged away others who were sitting near the spot we decided to congregate at--stealing chairs, squeezing into the table... etc....
I bought a thing of jumbo takoyaki (octopus balls), and some fried beef buns from a shop in which I couldn't figure out how to read all the Chinese characters. Unfortunately, no photos either... I liked my food too much and ended up eating all of it before even thinking about pictures. Of course, apparently no one else was interested in my fried beef buns or my octopus balls...
After this brief dinner, we headed out into Chinatown to wander around and walk off all the food. Below is a photo I took of a roast duck and roast meats restaurant, which is most definitely a staple of almost all Chinatowns I've ever been to. Mmm... yummy hanging roast duck...
If you've ever been to any of the Chinatowns in America, you'll notice something standard, and I don't mean the abundance of Asian people wandering around.
Every Chinatown I've ever been to on all of my previous trips have always been a bit rundown looking. There are crowds everywhere, and there's a feeling of old buildings, and old-fashioned business fronts. A lot of the shops don't even take credit card, preferring to take cash only. A lot of the menus are hand-written. A lot of the restaurants seem a little less than cleanly polished. It's a very cozy, homey feel, and despite sometimes finding them a bit messy, a bit dirty, or a bit chaotic, I also find them very familiar as my parents have always taken us to the Chinatown areas in each city we'd vacation in, if there was one.
Flushing Chinatown is no different, and there is definitely a lot of crowding. And while all the shops are unique on their own, to be honest, if you've been to one Chinatown, you pretty much get an idea of what all the other Chinatowns in America will look like.
But one thing is for certain, there is no lack of restaurants for seafood, spicy foods, dim sum, and bakeries.
We ended our first evening by stopping at a dessert place that served a lot of ice cream stuff. The top photo is my baby brother's egg waffle cone and ice cream with mango, caramel and whip cream topping. The bottom photo is my vanilla ice cream topped with lychee, and while you can't really see it, there's also a mix of tapioca and lychee flavored jelly cubes mixed into the ice cream.
All was yum. I took four Lactaid to help soften the impact I knew eating ice cream was going to make. Fortunately, this was our last stop before walking back to the hotel, so at least if I was going to have a bad digestion night, I'd be in the hotel by then.
On a side note, the Sheraton hotel we stayed at had a lot of Chinese channels, which made my dad very happy. He spent the rest of the night watching some Chinese news before going to sleep.
The next morning we headed out to Manhattan for some more exploring, starting in Times Square!
My parents were quite excited about riding the Metro in New York for the first time, so wanted a photo to document this moment. Aren't they cute? The two dudes to the side are my older brother and youngest brother.
I live in a very flat city, so sky scrapers are still an awe-inspiring sight for me. The above is the building where the New Year's ball drop takes place. If you look all the way up top, you'll see the 2019 ball. My brother took a better picture, but I couldn't coax it out of him in time to publish this post. He'll probably send it to me after this post goes up. I may or may not update.
Meanwhile, my sister-in-law (a fellow Friends fan), told me that there was a Friends 25th anniversary thing going on the same weekend we were in New York. Unfortunately, she said that by the time she'd realized it, tickets were already sold out, so here's a photo to commemorate the Friends event I couldn't really go see. Darn...
On the other hand, we did go into a lot of other shops, including a place call 'Line Friends' which housed a lot of BT21 goods, including loads of stationery. Being a stationery nut, I was like a kid in a candy store. So here I am, posing next to one of the BT21 characters holding my stationery haul.
Anyone not familiar with BT21--they are a set of cutesy anime characters drawn by the Korean boy band, BTS, and ended up becoming a pretty big hit. Of course, I didn't even really know about them until I saw a random YouTube video about trendy, fun stationery that involved the BT21 stationery.
And so here is my stationery haul, which includes a lot of sticky notes, some washi tapes, and a pencil baggy. (I also included in this picture some washi tapes and small sticky slips that I'd bought from a different store, just because I'd promised my BFF that I'd send her a picture of all the stationery I bought in New York.)
We also walked into a Disney Store where I bought a notebook as a souvenir for my friend. We ended up having to go to a Gap for my mom, whose nose and ears were getting so cold we bought her a warm wool hat. New York was pretty chilly during this weekend, and even in spite of all the walking we did (we all clocked an average of 20,000 steps Saturday and Sunday each), it was still pretty cold.
Our next stop was the Rockefeller Plaza where we got some lunch of Chinese pork burgers to go, wandered into a Nintendo Store, then went up to The Top of the Rock.
Isn't that a nice view?
I bought some magnets, a couple key chains, and, of course, a metal bookmark from the gift shop.
By now I've already clocked over 10,000 steps and it was only a little after noon. But there would be even more walking ahead of our little group. My elder brother said something about not realizing we'd be done at The Top of the Rock so early, so then we had to improvise and find other things to do.
So we ended up walking until we got to Central Park.
Before entering the park, we came across these statues of horses. At least at first I thought they were three different horses, but as we got closer, I wasn't entirely sure what this was and I didn't notice a plaque or anything explaining the work. Strange looking, interesting, and the second pic, I didn't get a good one, but it kind of shows the horse's innards.
We walked along the trail of Central Park and followed it all the way to the fountain above. Along the way, there were hot dog stands, pretty much every few feet, and around every corner. I ended up buying a bag of honey roasted cashews... just because, even though the price of that two ounce bag of nuts could have gotten me a whole can at Wal-mart.
But whatevs... vacation.
Again, a lot of crowd, a lot of people... and apparently Central Park is a hot spot for wedding photography, because, by my count, there were at least six couples, their bridal parties, and photographers wandering and posing around the fountain.
And then there was also a guy singing the same song on repeat off to the side.
After making it to this part of the park, we were all pretty pooped and ready to head back. I hadn't realized how close to evening it was until my brother mentioned that we would head back to Flushing, rest up and then get ready for dinner. It was nearing five in the evening by then and would take about forty-five minutes to take the Metro back to Flushing.
Dinner that night was a place called 99 Favors, which is a hot pot and Korean BBQ restaurant. Food was great, but the problem with all-you-can-eat places like this is that you really DO take the all-you-can-eat too literally. I might have over stuffed myself with more meat than I needed.
But you can't go to a Chinatown without trying their hot pot restaurants. Anyone who isn't familiar with hot pot or Korean BBQ... The concept is pretty much an experience-based deal, where you cook your own food at your table. With hot pot, they give you flavored soup broth in a pot at your table where you can dunk your raw meats or veggies into and boil until cooked, then eat. Korean BBQ is the same concept, except it's mostly meats, and you grill your food.
It's just a lot of fun. The pot of red broth in the photo above under the plate of raw beef, is my kimchi broth, which was both yummy and pretty spicy, and I liked it a lot!
The rest of the night was spent lamenting the fact that I ate too much food and had a hard time sleeping. Meanwhile, my father had somehow bought a bag of Cheez Doodles at some point the night before... and even though I was full, I couldn't resist eating a few doodles...
Sunday morning saw us heading out to Manhattan again, this time with no actual destination in mind. But first, we wandered to a nice dim sum place in Flushing for breakfast, stopping at a place called Joe's Steam Rice Rolls. These are basically really thin crepe-like rice flower rolls with different meats and toppings wrapped inside, such as BBQ pork, shrimp, curry fish balls, or beef or pork.
After breakfast, we hopped on the Metro again and ended up going to visit the 9/11 Memorial first thing. Along the way, I finally learned how to figure out the subway lines and trains, and which train lead to where, how to figure out which stop you were getting off on, and such. Google maps had a lot to do with my new found understanding.
In place of the original World Trade twin towers are now two pools, lined with plaques with the names of all the victims lost during the tragedy. Between the pools is the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which we didn't get a chance to go into.
One of the signs next to the pool notes that a rose is placed under the person's name on the day of their birth date. I thought that was a nice touch as a memorial.
|One World Trade Center
We sort of just spent some time sitting around the memorial and reflecting and just hanging out.
I couldn't help buying another bookmark, along with a set of mini magnets. At the same time, I went ahead and made a donation to the memorial.
After leaving the 9/11 Memorial, we just started wandering with no real destination. Sunday never really had an itinerary, and we soon found ourselves in a lot of random places around Manhattan.
We stopped for lunch at Joe's Pizza. I believe this is a Sicilian with spinach. It was pretty good. But huge!
And I took a random picture of a pigeon art... just because.
This is a statue of General Sun Yat Sen in a small park that looks like a playground for senior citizens. There were tables scattered about with chess boards etched into them where a lot of the grandpas and grandmas were either playing chess or playing poker. Another group were hanging around listening to some music and dancing some old fashioned Chinese dances. Another group brought their own karaoke set and were singing with each other.
After this, we wandered into the Manhattan Chinatown. Fun fact: There are three major Chinatown areas in New York--one in Queens (Flushing Chinatown), one in Manhattan, and one in Brooklyn. We have yet to visit the Brooklyn Chinatown. Flushing is a mostly Chinese culture Chinatown. Manhattan is dominated by the Cantonese. It was kind of nice to walk into a sweet shop in the Manhattan Chinatown and actually understand what someone was saying to me.
Not that I don't understand Mandarin Chinese, but my main language is Cantonese (next to English, of course). So while I always responded to the people in Flushing in English, I happily responded to the shopkeepers in Manhattan in Cantonese and bought some sweets.
We soon ended up in Little Italy, and so my sister-in-law could use the restroom, we stopped in at Caffe Palermo and ordered some sweets.
I ordered some bombolinis, which just seemed like filled doughnuts--two were regular vanilla cream, the other two are hazelnut chocolate cream. They were pretty good.
My brother ordered a lobster tail pastry, which seemed to be crispy puff pastry-like with a ricotta cheese filling.
We also ordered a cannoli and a creme brulee... which got eaten too quickly for photos. Sorry guys.
More wandering later, we decided to head back to Flushing, but ended up stopping off at Grand Central Station on the way.
|The ceiling of Grand Central Station
Outside of the station, we found that there was a parade going on right in front of the New York Public Library. It took a while for me to realize that this was a parade celebrating the Polish community in New Jersey.
Unfortunately, as interesting as the parade was, the streets were blocked off, which meant that we couldn't get into the library without going around somehow. So I contented myself with taking a picture from the outside. Ah well... This just means I'll have to come back to New York another time just to see their library... and maybe eat more food, because there were a lot of little food places in Chinatown I didn't get to try yet.
And speaking of food... are you guys ready for this?
We went to a Cantonese seafood restaurant after getting back to Flushing. Seafood soup started the dinner off.
|Abalone and Sea Cucumber
One of my personal favorite seafood dishes is abalone, and add onto that sea cucumber and I'm a very happy person. It was just unfortunate that this dish was a bit skimpy on the abalone. But it was still good.
|Ginger Scallion Lobster
Ginger Scallion Lobster is one of the most standard Cantonese seafood delicacies. My coworker told me she felt the need to eat my phone when I showed her the picture. Isn't it pretty? =D
Peking Duck is something I've only ever had one other time previously in Toronto... where, to be honest, I remember it being much better. The roast duck here was good, but it could have been roasted a bit crispier, and, in fact, should be crispier for Peking Duck.
Peking Duck is a pretty popular Chinese dish where the duck is roasted to a crisp, then sliced into very thin pieces. You then eat it with either steamed buns, or in the case of traditionalists, a thinner crepe-like bun, adding some hoisin (seafood) sauce to it, and eating it like a little roast duck slider sandwich. In fact, the traditional way of eating Peking Duck has the the wait staff actually slicing the duck into thin pieces right at your table so you can see, hear, and smell how good and crispy it is.
|Singapore Stir Fried Rice Noodles
My mom actually makes this dish regularly at home, so we wanted to try it here at this restaurant, and the truth is, I wasn't all that impressed. Mom's is definitely better.
|Red Bean Sweet Soup
If you will recall, I wrote a post for the 24 Festive Tasks last year talking about a lot of different sweet soups, which are an Asian cultural dessert. More than anything, sweet soups are an inclusion at a lot of Cantonese restaurants, and I've been to several where you always order a sweet soup to conclude your meal with... and if you didn't, they'd bring you a sweet soup, free of charge anyway.
It's kind of like how some Chinese restaurants bring you a fortune cookie to go with your bill... but this is better. You get a small bowl of sweet soup, because the Chinese believe that it's important to have a balanced set of flavors. So after all of those savory dishes, a sweet soup and some fruit (yes, they brought us watermelon slices, too!) is a great way to end dinner.
I don't particularly like Red Bean Sweet Soup myself, but I also don't say no to free food unless I absolutely don't want to eat it.
So that was New York, the first family vacation we've had in a long time since everyone started working and moving away from home. My parents always took us on little trips each summer when my brothers and I were just kids, still in school, and those are always memorable. We even talked about it one night at the hotel while playing Tetris on one of my brothers' Nintendo Switches.
So I felt like we made a pretty good run of New York for just a short weekend trip, and the truth is, I feel like we could have used an extra day or two. My mom had wanted to go to the Queens Botanical Gardens, and I wanted to visit Flushing Meadows, specifically the site of the two Worlds' Fairs that had taken place their. There were also a couple museums that I would have liked to see.
And then maybe in the future, when we get a chance to visit New York again, I'd also like to see a Broadway show.
But for now, I think we managed to get a lot done in just one weekend.
On a side note, I don't fly well and have really bad motion sickness; I also never truly sleep well during vacations. I'm still catching up on sleep and tired as heck. I always find it interesting how you sometimes need a stay-cation at home to recover from a vacation away from home.
Thanks for sticking with me throughout this insanely long post!