The Big Apple.

They’ve braved alien attacks. See: Battle of New York in The Avengers (2012) and Independence Day (1996).

They’ve survived animal onslaughts- King Kong (2005), Sharknado 2 (2014), and Madagascar (2005),

They even faced the apocalypse- The Day After Tomorrow (2004).

If memory serves right, they also braced a food storm once, when a giant bagel barrelled right through an office skyscraper- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009).

Tendency for fatal destruction notwithstanding, New York City is equal parts romantic and lunatic and exuberant. It is only in this wildly sexy city do you see cuddling man and woman, kissing man and man, flirting woman and woman; closely proximate to the madman preaching on mankind’s inevitable doom.

But nobody even blinks.

There is mad liberation yet a tinge of reservation. Or maybe crazy reservation, for New York is a city where everybody owns a PhD in not giving a damn.

Also hedonism. Because Americans are obsessed with the pursuit happiness.

In the spirit of sensualism, Broady and I watched the sun set from the dock between Pier 40 and Pier 45. And kissed under the vivid screens of Times Square on 42nd Street. Then, we hold hands on the C train hurling through midtown Manhattan. The air is cool, yet electrifying. Rousing even. Fault us not, it is after all our long due honeymoon.

The setting sun is swallowed by Newport, as viewed across the Hudson River from the dock between Pier 40 and Pier 45.
Cheerful screens beam down on us from every angle of Times Square.
Subway station.

A real plus point of New York City is it’s pretty easy to navigate, thank you grid system. Streets increase numerically. If you’re on 55th Street now, the next street is 56th. Easy, huh?

The subway, on the other hand, require some brain gymnastics. The same track house different trains. These trains are identified alphabetically and travel to different destinations. Unlike many other subway systems, one can’t just hop on any train of the same track because they don’t all travel to the same place.

When in doubt, just google map. #justgoogle

Having said all that practical stuff, exploring New York is both exciting and stimulating. I felt like a kid with sensory overload. Rather than overload your senses too, I decided to break my gibberish down into several sections: buildings, broadway plays, museums, statues & monuments, and food.

Jeng, jeng, jeng.

BUILDINGS

In New York, there are many buildings. There are small buildings, averagely-sized buildings, and big buildings. But most notably, there are skyscrapers that reach into the sky like the beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk. They pierce into the heavens so unashamedly that I have to crank my neck silly to spot the top.

Of all the superstructures in New York, one towers above her peers- not necessarily in dimensions, but- in reputation: the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building towers over her peers.
The Empire State Building. I probably twisted my neck trying to see the top.
At the foyer of the Empire State Building. Here are some rapid-fire facts about this iconic building: Completed in 1931. Was once the world’s tallest building. Builders of this building worked several hundred feet in the air without a safety harness. I peed my pants looking at black and white pictures of builders on the job.
Night view of the Empire State Building as seen from Rockefeller Center. Obviously, the best place to admire the Empire State Building is not the Empire State Building itself. Therefore, we made our way to Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center to drink in the glory.
Scenery of the city as viewed from the Empire State Building. Spot the Flatiron Building!

Flatiron Building

The buildings in New York City aren’t just tall, they are also uniquely designed. The kind of unique that makes you wonder if the architect was crazy, or in love. Here, the romantic and the lunatic are split hairs.

One such building is the flatiron building, named for its uncanny resemblance to a clothes iron. Wrote a journalist of New York Times of the Flatiron Building in 1902,  “The peculiar office structure appears to exercise a strange fascination over some minds, for not only do hundreds of people stand for five and then minutes at a time looking up at it, but many of those who have detached themselves from the groups are obliged to return in a minute or two to examine the structure from another point of view.”

Guess I wasn’t the only person to stare intently at her acute angles then.

This is the Flatiron Building!!

Many days, we walked around the city just looking at buildings. Looking at buildings suddenly became entertaining. Here are a couple of pictures of buildings, check them out if you are as fascinated by buildings as I am. Also, I’ve just said “buildings” 4 times in the past 3 sentences.

Rockefeller Centre

“Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy time.” Another iconic landmark of NYC is the Rockefeller Centre. You might remember this as the place we ascended to catch a proper look at the Empire State Building.
“Creativity and imagination shall be the stability of thy times.” Lego says it better, me thinks.

Radio City Music Hall

The Radio City Music Hall Building. I actually don’t know why it’s a big deal, but take my word for it, this building is a big deal.

NBC Studio

NBC Studios- the home of The Tonight Show, starring Jimmy Fallon. Dang, he’s so funny. Now, if only Benedict Cumberbatch guest on the show more often.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal. It is either here or the opposite stairwell, where Serena Van Der Woodsen was spotted in the pilot of Gossip Girl.
The ceiling of Grand Central Terminal. Olden people have an inkling for ceilings with paintings of celestial beings.

The Financial District

The financial district is where people do, um, important money stuff.

Random Residential New York Building

This is how- after seasons of How I met your Mother– I imagine New York City: fire escapes. All we need now is dysfunctional young working adults eating pizza on the fire escapes.

Greenwich Village Houses

The houses in Greenwich are pretty and colourful. And pretty colourful.

Upper East Side

The Home of Gossip Girl, where women carry Gucci and men wear goatees (it’s the only word that rhymes with Gucci, I think.)

World Trade Centre Transportation Hub

Looks like my hair in the morning, to be honest.

BROADWAY

If buildings are imperative to the New York experience, so are broadway shows. NYC is home to 41 broadway theatres. It is safe to assume, like I did, that all the theatres are concentrated on Broadway Street, right?… Wrong. They are actually scattered all around the theatre district, from the 42nd Street up to the 65th.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

We knew ahead which play we needed to watch- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play is so long it’s broken down into two parts, each part approximately 2 and half hours long. I read the the screenplay to prep for the occasion. Although an amateur of the theatre, I was no fool. This play will not be easy to pull off. I had high expectations. I had expectations higher than the Empire State Building.

Yet, the play surpassed my expectations! It was that good. The effects, the lights, Ron’s ginger red hair- all so beguilingly exceptionally thrillingly impressive. Frankly, at some points, I was more intrigued by the effects than the actual performance.

It is the epitome of prized entertainment.

I read the screenplay in anticipation of the play.

Waitress

Because there was time to kill, we decided to watch Waitress the Musical.

Full disclosure: all I wanted was to see Jeremy Jordan live, and his presence will cover a multitude of shortcomings.

But there are shortcomings in this play, and I’m about to do a little nitpicking.

Note: Skip down to MUSEUMS below if you are not interested in my opinion of this play.

Waitress is based on the movie, Waitress. (Same name, what a coincidence!) The story is about a waitress named Jenna, who’s stuck in an abusive marriage. She accidentally gets pregnant (“when I get drunk, I do stupid things like sleep with my husband”), but keeps it a secret. It is around this time that she strikes up an affair with her gynaecologist, Dr. Jim Pomatter (Jeremy Jordan).

Here goes: number one, I’m exhausted of the cliche boy falls for passive girly-girl narrative. Although writer Jessie Nelson tries to work in the feminism angle, the whole set up still feels rather… damsel in distress.

Waitress is like a Cinderella story remake, except with aprons and a growing embryo. Oh, look at me! So helpless! I get that it’s about feminine growth, but enough the covering woman already. Give me a fierce woman. Give me a woman who will unapologetically walk out on her abusive husband. Give me a woman who will grab her own destiny by the balls like a determined mother******.

The ending is empowering. But it’s too little, too late. Way too little, way too late.

Number two, she and the good doctor were both married during their affair. To other people. They committed adultery. Yet, the narrative just glazes over this fact like yesterday’s news cycle. I find this portrayal disturbing. According to an article in the LA Times, Nelson says that the affair is supposed to be an objective development, about the “humanity that affects us all.”

But humanity is not one-dimensional, sister. There must be consequences. Or do we resign to placid snippets of humanity? They just cheat and get away with it? It matters that they cheated.

But although I don’t love this particular production, I must say that Nelson has the right idea.

“I think the idea of a male and female sensibility is a myth. There are a lot of women I know who would love to make a superhero movie and would make a very good superhero movie,” Nelson said. “And there are a lot of men who could make a beautiful story that people would say is more ‘female’ in sensibility. It drives me bananas when people say a story has a male or female sensibility.”

Thank you, Jessie! You are one director I would love to hear from more.

We watched Waitress. Full disclosure: I had only one reason for watching this play, his name is Jeremy Jordan.

MUSEUMS

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

One of my favourite moments in New York is our visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Here, for the first time in my life, I shared solid ground with the legendary Concorde aircraft.

I also selfied with the space shuttle Enterprise.

Sigh. Amazingballs.

The museum is a decommissioned aircraft carrier.
The Concorde. My favourite aircraft of the past and present. Sometimes, I see her in my dreams. And here she is, in the flesh composite alloy.
The Concorde has no horizontal stabiliser nor elevator.
The space shuttle Enterprise. Built without engines or a functional heat shield, she was meant as an experimental prototype. But those other space shuttles that came after her, they stand on her shoulders. She is the reason they became what they became. (Before this trip is over, we’ll come nose-to-radome with another space shuttle. Stay tuned to find out which one!)
This is a Soyuz TMA-6, of the Russian space programme. I used to be so fascinated with the Russian space programme and resolved to learn Russian and move to Star City (where the cosmonauts live). That never happened though, because I realised upon introspection that I’ll never survive a winter. Or look good in fur.
“The more women at work, the sooner we WIN!” So true. Likewise, the more we embrace the individual strengths of women in our society, the sooner we WIN!
Could you live like this?
This is the guidance system aircraft use to land on the aircraft carrier. It works like a PAPI (Precision Approach Path Indicator). Centre the lights to nail your approach path.
The Lockheed A-12, of Project Oxcart “Blackbird” 1967. This is a spy plane built for the CIA, so it’s super hush hush. Officially, it doesn’t exist (although it’s now sitting in the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum).
TBM-3E “Avenger”. Many Avengers flew off the Intrepid during World War 2. Arguably, the most famous Avenger pilot
(other than Carol Danvers… haha.. get it?) is former U.S. president George H.W. Bush.
The MIG-17, code name Fresco.

The American Museum of Natural History

Our museum tour didn’t end with the Intrepid. The next day, we joined a long line at the ticketing counter of the American Museum of Natural History. Came our turn, a cheerful white girl asked simply, “recommended entrance fee is $23. How much would you like to pay?”

That means, how much extra we’ll like to gift, right? We hesitated a moment and replied, “$50 for two.”

She raised her eyebrows in surprise, so I assumed she heard me wrong. “$25 each. Total of $50,” I repeated slowly because white people aren’t always receptive to the lustre of the Malaysian accent.

“You want to pay more?” her astonishment was evident.

This is when we learned that recommended doesn’t mean minimum. Recommended means recommended, and nobody pays more. People go as low as 2 cents. Instead, we stroll in, these two “crazy rich asians”, offering to pay more?

…Really, 2 cents??

Statue of former U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt on horseback and flanked by an American Indian and African. His dedication to conservation is the reason his likeness is currently preserved in granite to welcome visitors to the American Museum of Natural History.
Dino bones greet us at the foyer of the museum. Come nightfall, they’ll spring to life and do the cha cha. Really! Did you not watch Night at the Museum??
Took me awhile to figure out which end is the head.
Touching something old has never felt this thrilling. But then again, we’re all made of stardust, so goodness knows how old we really are. P.s. this is not an injuction to touch yourself.
I could use a skull this hard.
This is how Malaysians are represented at this museum (most of us wish we have boobs that perky, so thank you, America!). This glorious model is a Semai woman, an orang asli (indigenous person). It is paramount I mention that the Senai people are an egalitarian society.

Unless you’re Barry Allen, it’s impossible to finish the entire museum in a day. But Barry Allen can not get drunk, so it’s not great to be Barry Allen.

Given the enormity of the place, strategy is salient. Choose the exhibits that best interest you. My personal favourite is the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Disclaimer: this place is not for the young earth creationist.

The Fossil Halls, too, was rather beguiling (also not for the young earth creationist).

Also, the Human Origins and Cultural Hall is packed with engrossing information (most definitely not for the young earth creationist).

I really enjoyed those exhibits, but that’s just my 2 cents.

STATUES, MONUMENTS, AND OTHER RANDOM MAN-MADE STRUCTURES

Statue of Liberty (and Ellis Island)

Lady Liberty. Her actual name is “Liberty Enlightening the World”. To get here, we had to board a ferry with a bunch of school kids on a field trip.
Mickey Liberty. Who wears the garb better?
Between the years 1892 and 1954, over 12 million immigrants from various parts of Europe and Asia entered America via Ellis Island. They traveled here in search of a better life, but many were turned away. It was brutal, really. Incomplete papers? Out. Medical condition? Out. Despite the odds, they all wanted a piece of the country where the “streets were paved with gold”. Yet, upon arriving, they found out that “first, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all; and third, (they) were expected to pave them.” (An old Italian saying)
The New York City skyline is clearly visible from Ellis Island.

The Charging Bull

What the… oh wait…
Ah, much better. This is the famous Charging Bull. The bull was once paired with the Fearless Girl, a bronze statue of a ponytailed girl. She stood for gender equality, installed during a movement for more women board members in wall street companies. She has since moved to the New York Stock Exchange.

9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 memorial, to commemorate that day airliners crashed into the World Trade Centre Complex in Lower Manhattan. I’m from Malaysia, so I know all the conspiracy theories. Know that I’m very happy to entertain their plausibilities, as soon as I see some concrete evidence.

Madison Square Park Statue

Right next to Flatiron Building is Madison Square Park. Right next to Madison Square Park is a Lego store, but we don’t care about that. However, in Madison Square Park is the statue of William Henry Seward, former U.S. Secretary of State.

Waverly Place

I’m here to meet the Wizards of Waverley Place.

BRIDGES

Brooklyn Bridge

Broady and I rode the Subway to Brooklyn where we sipped coffee, learned that some lawyers are “so inefficient” (the girl at the cafe was talking soooo loudly), and caught a spectacular view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The tourist. The drizzle. The mist. The exhaust fumes. That’s what the Brooklyn Bridge is made of.

Manhattan Bridge

The Manhattan Bridge, partially obscured by a cloud of heavenly fog.

PARKSP

Central Park

Central Park is Manhattan’s absolution from concrete plethora. It is home to a zoo, a castle, many lakes, many trees, and many homeless people (the number of homeless people in NYC was a point of desolation I had to come to terms with).

Sprawled across an area of 3.41km square, I now understand why Central Park is a New York must see. It offers a tang of serenity amidst the city that never sleeps, like mangosteen after durian.

It is also the wedding venue of Blair and Chuck in Gossip Girl. XOXO!

The city skyline soars over the greenery of Central Park.
There are a total of 29 statues in Central Park. I even came across an entire book about it. Naturally, they all have origin stories.

Washington Square Park

The Washington Square Arch, located at the entrance of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. It is here, at this very spot, that the Avengers battled a bunch of mean looking aliens in Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
Washington Square Fountain is the centrepiece of Washington Square Park. In Someone Great (2019), Jenny and Nate marked a spot on the fountain rim with a marker pen as “their spot”. Omigosh, I need to stop thinking of everything in terms of pop culture.

FOOD

Okie, let’s talk food. I’m going to be upfront and admit one thing: I missed my rice (yes, I’m that asian). But when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So I tried, I really did try, to immerse myself in the culture of burgers, fries, pizzas, and more burgers.

Here are some food items I deem worth sharing:

Russ & Daughters (Bagel)

Wholemeal bagel with scallion cream cheese and Norwegian salmon. The bread was a little hard, but the cheese and salmon? Yum! (Cheese and salmon are my favourite foods, so go figure.)

Minetta Tavern (Burger)

Minetta Tavern Restaurant
A picture of a picture of Minetta Tavern.
Black Label Burger (medium rare). I know my photography skills do this burger no favours, but trust me, it’s sooo good. Burned a hole in our pockets at $29 per burger though. (It is our honeymoon, plus we saved 2 years for this trip, so excuse our extravagance.)

The Spotted Pig (Burger)

Inside The Spotted Pig. Very grateful to the nice waiter here who explained the workings of the American tipping culture.
Burger and shoestring fries. I know this should be about the burger, but loved the shoestring fries! (This was actually Broady’s order, but I helped myself.)

Shake Shack (Burger)

Shake Shack is a fast food restaurant chain based in NYC. Word on the street is that they recently opened a branch in Singapore. Careful guys, soon Singapore will claim Shake Shack as a “Singaporean dish”, like they did Cendol and Yeesang.

Roberta’s Pizza (Pizza, duh.)

The Bee Sting pizza. The blend of sweet and savoury is savour-worthy.
Truthfully, I can’t remember this pizza’s name (paiseh wei). However, I’ll like to point out the perfectly baked crust- just slightly charred, exactly how a pizza should be.

Motorino Pizzeria (Pizza, too.)

Brussel sprouts pizza. This is classified as a “red pizza”, which I assume is a tomato base.
Prosciutto de Parma pizza. This, on the other hand, falls under the “white pizza” category.

Lapalapa Taco Bar (Taco)

The La Palapa Taco Bar at Urbanspace Vanderbilt.
Again, I know this is supposed to be about the tacos, but the guacamole is tots amazing.

Takumi Tako (Fusion Taco)

I got my rice fix from this, so obviously I’m gonna sing praises like a canary. Why have only Mexican food, or only Japanese food, when you can fuse the two into a taco with rice and Japanese curry sauce?

Magnolia Bakery (Cake and Pasties)

Magnolia Bakery have branches all over the city. They’re supposed to be famous, so we the tourist had to check it out. We visited two branches, one in Grand Central Terminal, the other at Rockefeller Centre. Both times, I was convinced that New Yorkers take too much sugar.
Magic cookie bar. No, I’m not calling the cookie bar magic, it’s literally named “Magic cookie bar”.
You never go wrong with chocolate.

Papaya King (Hot Dog and Papaya Juice)

These hot dogs are surprisingly tasty.
This papaya juice is supposed to be “the bomb”. I maintain that New Yorkers consume wayyy too much sugar.

THE SUN SETS OVER THE CITY

Each day in New York left our feet sore and exhausted. According to my trusty Garmin wristwatch, we walked an average of 20k steps a day. When the night creeped in, we dragged our feet- in fatigue and reluctance- to retire at our tiny accommodation on 45th Street, where we anticipate another day of hedonistic pursuits.

Where we… liberate… six in the city.

Note: This wraps up leg one of our honeymoon. Next stop, Florida. This adventure is to be continued