Travel Date: August 10-17, 2012
I know a lot of people say this, but New York City is one of my favourite cities in the world. I’ve been to a lot of places, but none have ever left me as awestruck as NYC did. The minute my feet landed on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, right by the bright lights of Times Square (Times freaking Square!!), I just felt so alive. Like there were infinite possibilities erasing the places where finite lines had once been drawn.
After a long day of travelling, which involved a one-hour delay on the tarmac in Vancouver because we had the wrong luggage on our plane (seriously) and a bus ride from Newark, New Jersey to the city (it was closer to the side of the island where my friend that I was staying with lived), I finally arrived in New York at close to midnight on a Friday night.
In Vancouver, most of the streets would be nearly empty at this hour (with the exception of downtown). But no. This was a hustling, bustling East Coast city – the one that never sleeps, to be exact.
The friend I was staying with, DC, met me on the street and took me back to his studio apartment so I could quickly freshen up. He had an epic view of some great landmarks: the Empire State Building, Conde Naste building, and the New York Times. It made it hard to fall asleep at night, especially since I was calling the couch by his picture window my bed for the next four days.
DC had planned to take me somewhere nice for dinner, but since my flight had been delayed and it was midnight, we trucked on over to a New York landmark instead: The Halal Guys cart.
Located on 53rd Street and 6th Avenue, this cart is the go-to place for street food as well as after a night of partying. Take note that copycarts abound and the real one is only found on this corner from 7pm to 4am. According to DC, the only thing worth having is the chicken on rice.
The foil plate that was handed to me was filled to the brim with yellow rice, hot chicken pieces, lettuce, and a few pieces of pita bread. DC instructed me to be generous with the white garlic sauce at the condiment station and told me to be stingy with the spicy sauce, which could actually cause an inferno in your mouth. I love my food hot, so I squirted an extra bit on to my plate when he wasn’t looking.
Chicken over rice reminded me a lot of a deconstructed shwarma. The chicken had a great smoky, Mediterranean flavour that went really well with the tangy, garlic sauce. The rice was perfectly cooked and definitely completed this dish. At $6 a plate, it was easy to see why the after-clubbing crowd flocked to this cart. All that rice would definitely soak up any alcohol coursing through your system. But that spicy sauce? Yowch. That’s the last time I would try to be some kind of hero.
Because it was only 1am by the time we finished our grub, we hailed a cab over to Koreatown for some drinks. Keep in mind that I’ve been up since 8am and I was dealing with a three-hour time difference. I’m terrible at math but this pretty much meant that I had been up for a very freaking long time.
But my secret for getting over jet lag has always been to stay up extra late the day I arrive somewhere and drink some alcohol whenever possible. Usually works like a charm – if you don’t mind the hangover, that is.
Pocha 32 was packed with people when we arrived. I loved the kitschy décor, which consisted of fishing nets, LED lights, and pictures that depicted different patrons having a good time at this tiny bar. Did I mention that NYC was absolutely HUMID in August? Like you need a second shower humid. As a result, we ordered the watermelon soju to cool ourselves down as we talked and caught up on each other’s lives. It was light, sweet, and totally refreshing. And yes I do mean both the soju and conversation.