Posted by: elgringoperdido | January 21, 2011

All things Asian in the Big Apple, pt. 1

And so, I have decided to write some sort of travel blog on this grand tour as well. I do have a certain knack for writing walls of text but will perhaps try and limit my posts a little bit more. Don’t think it will work, to be honest. I really like to write quite detailed descriptions of events, places, feelings and impressions. Leaving too much out creates texts that lack soul, and especially in a travel blog there are few things more boring than “First we went to Z, then to place Y. Y was better because there were popcorn”.

Anyway; this trip I will be going overland through five countries by using local buses, cars, camionetas, boats, walking, by mule – and perhaps the odd personal carrier. Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and a bit of Bolivia is the itinerary of choice. I started off with a quick stop (4 days) in New York City, which is a place I’ve dreamt of visiting for most of my life. This post will be about that. Right now I’m down on the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and I cannot walk outside at this hour since it is noon and my bleak Scandinavian skin will burn away. Anyway…

The trip started out with a weird incident on Arlanda Airport. I was standing in the toilet queue in the mens room and three females walk in. Which was sort of strange but all the other toilets were crowded so it wasn’t that out of order. The one other dude who was standing with me in the queue had a complete fit, though. He started screaming at these girls for being in the mens room. And threatened to take out his… if they didn’t leave. OK… then he started calling them bitches and stuff. Crazy thing to do for a person from one of the less confrontational cultures on earth… but I guess now even we are going cosmopolitan and globalized and all that.
And then, once again, I left the land of snow and ice. Transitted on Heathrow and celebrated my first visit on the British isles with a traditional English lunch consisting of potato chips and a beer. Great. Shortly thereafter, I was on an American Airlines flight to John F Kennedy Airport, New York City. Even greater.

My first impression upon landing and passing immigrations was that I had no idea where to go. Of course, the idea of printing out the adress of the hostel hadn’t even crossed my mind. And I was told there was no internet cafe around JFK either. I did know my hostel was on Manhattan somewhere, so I figured just taking the subway to Times Square and hope for the best would be a good idea. The classic, silver chrome metal giants rolled in, and I was on my way. The subway passed through some classic Brooklyn areas before the train went underground which was kind of cool for a rap aficionado like myself.

When I exited the subway at Times Square, I deliberately didn’t look up until I was all the way up the platform to maximize the experience and get a clear view of being around some of the tallest skyscrapers on earth. Mind you, the highest building I had seen before this was like Hötorgsskrapan in Stockholm which bears more resemblance to a windmill than to, say, the Bank of America Tower.  It was, of course, a surreal feeling. I guess everyone feels the same way the first time they get to Manhattan; a Lord of The Rings-like feeling where you feel so amazingly small and the sidewalks feel like walking on a tread in a vast forest, surrounded by thehighest trees imaginably. Impression overload. Hard to catch on photo, though…

Manhattan

I went into a nearby college library and asked to use the computers to get the adress of the hostel. Then, I hailed down a cab right outside and after perhaps the shortest cab ride ever, I arrived; I was about two blocks away from the hostel door. The location was excellent; just one street away from the absolute centre of Times Square. Checked into the dorm, and then I hung out for a bit before going to China Town to grab something to eat. Got out and there were Asians all over and signs in Chinese  so I figured I was at the right place. Had some great, fried noodles with seafood in it and a Chinese beer with that. 8$. I was now officially back on the road.  The carbohydrates  took its toll, and soon I found myself back at the hotel. A powernap turned into 15 hours of sleep. I needed it…

In the dorm were two  friendly Japanese guys. One, Yuichiro, had quit his job in Japan to go travel, escaping from the inhumane working hours of corporate Japan. Like 07 – 21 every day and then extra work outside of schedule. All of the time I was there, he was down in Greenwich Village looking for spots from Sex and The City. Like the houses of people from the series and stuff. He had a special guidebook in Japanese for Sex and the City-related places to visit. He told me had been trying for almost two whole days to find the house of Carrie in the series, which was apparently several houses of which some were nowhere to be found. The other guy, Daichi, had lived in San Francisco for two years and spoke spotless English. He was doing the usual tourist things.

My friend Susan had told me about a great Japanese restaurant down in East Village so the first thing I did was to go down there and look for it.  I did have the adress but it was kind of hard to find. Ended up just walking around, which was great. East Village is a really cozy place to walk around, it had this sort of bohemian feel to it which reminded me a little bit of the Grünerløkka area in Oslo. There were lots of cool clothes stores and restaurants, and I got a really nice slightly oversized vintage shirt for like 30$, so I was happy. Then I had a big sushi plate and listened to an American dude having a date that was going terrible a few tables away. Being filled up and amused I went on down to the neighbourhood of Tribeca which is to the southwest. Walked around, bought a NY Mets baseball hat (getting addicted… to hats) and had some Dunkin Donuts.  Also saw this weird skyscraper that didn’t have windows and was just like a huge piece of stone shooting high up in the air. Someone told me it was a TV-tower…

 

Then I went down to Ground Zero which wasn’t anything to see really, just a big construction site. Right next to it was Century 21, a clothes outlet that lots of people had told me about beforehand. I didn’t find anything of interest, there was just alot of tacky mint green shirts with feathers and shit, and boring clothes in general. Times Square after dark was cooler. Alot cooler. The surreal feeling I had got when I got out of the subway arriving returned. All the huge billboards and shit. The classic cliche saying that everything is bigger in NYC is just so true. When I got back to the hostel, I had a (real) powernap and then went down to the common room to see what’s up. Some Dutch dude that was really cool, his brother and his American girlfriend were going to a comedy show down the street, so we decided to team up. Turns out it was a bit of a ripoff, tickets were OK cheap but then we were forced to buy expensive drinks at the show – they hadn’t told us that. The show was pretty good though!


This is one of the new skyscrapers they are building at Ground Zero

After the show, which as I mentioned involved a few cold ones, I really felt like partying. Tried to persuade the Dutch dude to ditch the girlfriend who wanted to go sleep and come with me to do some drinking fun instead. I almost succeeded – but when we were just about to go, the girlfriend showed up in the hostel common room and gave him the evil eye. So he obeyed, and went back to the room. Whipped…. luckily, the Japanese dude really wanted to come, so I didn’t have to go  fiesta all on my own. I had been told there were some good drinking holes down in East Village, where I had already spent most of the day, so we went there. I’d been told of a place called PDT (Please Don’t Tell) which was a club/bar that was supposed to be really good.

My friend had told me that the club had no sign and that you needed a password to enter. So we asked people on the street for directions and those who knew gave us clever smiles and pointed us into this small hole-in-the-wall hot dog place. We entered, and for a moment we thought we were completely lost. There were a counter, and benches where people ate hot dogs. However, there was one detail that made us a bit suspicious. A small glass door to the side hid a very small phone booth room, which contained nothing but a big, red telephone. Shortly after, we saw someone enter the phone booth, pick up the phone and say something. Then what happened? The teak tree wall inside the phone booth slid to the side, and inside there were music, strobes and tons of people. The guy entered, and then the secret door closed once again and it all looked like a phone booth again. Only in New York City!

So we figured that the password was to be told to the person on the other side of the telephone line. Big problem – what is the password? Can we ask all these super-trendy New York people or will they laugh in our face and think we are stupid tourists? We really wanted to get in so I swallowed my pride and asked a girl that looked friendly. As an answer, she just gave away a clever smile and said nothing. 0-1. My Japanese friend asked someone else and got the same answer. So we just had a hot dog each, and went to some other bar and did shots. Bummer…

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