Recently, I travelled to New York City for vacation. It was my second time in the city and I saw and experienced a lot I missed out on in my first trip there. In this post, I’d like to share my highlights from my visit to the Big Apple. Overall, although I didn’t get to see many of my college friends in the city due to unfortunate timing, I had a good time experiencing a lot of things you can only get in NYC.
One of the cuisines I was determined to try in New York was Cuban-Chinese food. A few years ago, I remember watching the video about a Cuban-Chinese restaurant by Real Big Story. Unfortunately, La Caridad 78 closed down early on in the pandemic. However, there are still a couple Cuban-Chinese restaurants still around in New York so I went to La Dinastia. The food and portions were really good (I ordered the tortilla de platano and egg fo young) but the highlight of my meal was chatting with the owner. Turns out, he’s mixed Chinese and Peruvian and grew up in the city when the Upper West side had more Cuban-Chinese spots than typical Chinese places. This restaurant is his attempt to preserve a unique culture in a time when Chinese-Cubans are ageing and priced out of the neighbourhood.
Tibet House US
I’m an avid listener of the Tibet House US podcast – Dr Bob Thurman’s podcast for his lectures and talks about Tibetan Buddhism. Tibet House US is an organization comissioned by the Dalai Lama with the goal to preserve the Tibetan cultural and religious heritage. The gallery was really cool – there were a couple things I’d never seen before like a Buddhist rosary made of snake bones. However, the real highlight was talking to some of the Tibetans who worked there. It was really cool to bond over Tibetan media and culture. Tashi-la and Tenzin-la were really eager to share their documentary, restaurant, and language-learning resource recommendations. I feel like my interest in Tibetan culture is a part of who I am that I don’t get to express very often so I always feel a special connection with people who share that common interest.
For my trip to Jackson Heights’s Little Tibet, I made sure to try out one of the Tibetan restaurants in the area. I went here from the restaurant recommendations from Tibet House. My go-to for any Tibetan restaurant (I haven’t actually been to that many) is the veggie thenthuk (ཚལ་འཐེན་ཐུག). Thenthuk literally translates to pulled noodles but it’s different than Chinese noodles (拉面). Instead of long noodles, the dough is pulled into broad and flat pieces. The thenthuk was really satisfying. However, the cool part about my meal was I spoke completely in Tibetan and that was completely normal. I got to speak with the owner too – he’s a Khampa which explains why the tables were stocked with both sepen (སི་པན), a kind of Tibetan chili chutney, and chili oil (སུར་སྣུམ).
Museum of Chinese in America
In Chinatown, there’s a small museum about Chinese Americans. For anybody who has done their homework in Asian American studies, there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy but their new exhibit about COVID’s impact on Asians made the visit worth it.
Every new city I go to, I have to visit the zoo. For my NYC trip, I couldn’t miss out on the famous Bronx Zoo. I saw some species I’d never seen in person before. Some of my animal highlights were:
- Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) – As an avid fan of both animals and the Himalayan region, I can’t believe it took me this long to finally see the Himalayas’ most iconic animal
- Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruvianus) – The males of this species are so goofy looking – they kind of have a little mohawk on their beaks. I didn’t know they were so noisy though
- Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica) – This bird is so cool looking – it has long feathers on its upper neck with iridescent plumage on its back.
- Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) – If you remember the movie Madagascar, there’s a scene in which fossa attack the lemur village. The fossa is a real animal native to Madagascar that preys on lemurs.
One thing that I found really cool was the architecture and design of the exhibits. First, I was really impressed by the amount of immersive exhibits – there were several bird exhibits where you’re in the same room with the animals. I also think the exhibits do a good job of giving the illusion that animals are in the same space but are actually hidden by hidden glass walls. Both of these two design aspects really enhance the immersive experience of going to the zoo.
I’ve been trying to go to more art museums to become more cultured and this place definitely had its fair share of culture! This place was so big I don’t think one afternoon was enough. That said, I tried to prioritize the regions and cultures most interesting to me. I really liked the art of East Asia, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Here are some pictures from my visit to the Met:
I consider myself an adventurous eater who’s always looking for new foods to try. One of the foods that I’d been really meaning to try was khachapuri and I finally got the chance! I tried two different kinds of khachapuri: the adjaruli and the penovani. While I preferred the eggy, fondue-like adjaruli khachapuri, both types were really good and I’m glad I got to try them out. Now, time to try out other Georgian dishes!