Travel Dates: 22 March - 27 March 2016
My feelings for the concrete jungle is a mixture of ambiguity and nonchalance. I'm not sure if I hate this city, or love this city, but I'm probably not the only one to feel that way about this place.
New York City is the city we all know, whether you're a fan of American dramas, or into Chinese opera, you would have learned about the big apple somehow. How could we possibly not hold any expectations for NYC?
When I first arrived to America in 2007 I had no idea what to think. The only references I have had to the US were pop musicians and the TV show, Friends. It was so long ago that I can barely remember much but little bits and pieces of that trip, and New York was definitely one of the more significant pieces.
I remember it being crowded and loud, so similar to my home city, Kuala Lumpur, yet strangely so drastically different. The streets were straight, so straight it was almost as though you could see to the sea beyond. The buildings were gigantic, tall and dominating, a well-organized colony of metal giants. Times Square felt like the world had exploded before my eyes, with dramatic lights going overboard, enough to give anyone a headache. But I loved it. To my 13-year old self, it was exhilarating; not the same slow pace in life that most Malaysians take, none of that sitting around in mamak stalls spending hours chatting, it's go-go-go. People here had a purpose and a point.
The second time I came to New York, it was for Fung Siang's graduation. We arrived in Virginia and spent a few days there, before renting a car to drive down to New York.
Now, this wasn't even that long ago, perhaps 6 or so years? But much of city then has also disappeared from my memory, except for a few key moments:
This time round, New York didn't feel particularly glamorous. No matter where you were, there were always these construction frames blocking certain areas of the sidewalk.
Trash bags were everywhere, littering every corner. Chinatown stank of days-old fish and exhaust fumes. A guy in the subway threatened to stab my brother because he started retaliating against him because he was making my mother very uncomfortable. I hated New York then. It became my most disliked city in the US. Parking was virtually impossible and because there were so many of us, we had to rent a GMC!
This time round, I was curious as to what Bianca's reactions would be. She had never been to New York before, and she was extremely excited, as I was my first time there. Needless to say it became one of her top 3 cities in the US. But I, I realised New York wasn't as bad as I remembered, and that perhaps I may have demonised it a little in my head. New York was a little the same: miserably cold even though it was Spring, the oldest train station I've ever seen, and food that proved to be very mediocre. On the other hand, I absolutely loved watching Chicago on Broadway: it was a great performance, despite the small stage. I also found myself admiring the architecture and structure of the city. I concluded that the planners of Manhattan had to be intelligent, for the neat grid layout always ensured that you knew exactly where you were, despite not knowing New York at all. The accessibility of the entire city from its subway system is also noteworthy, and the service was excellent.
Ultimately New York is impressive, in its own way. Sure it is still a little rough around the edges, and the trash bags are still aplenty. But it didn't end up turning out as badly as I thought it would, which in turn, has left me a little stuck in between "it's okay" and "eh".