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I can’t believe that It’s been a month since we’ve been back from our holiday.  I’ve been a bit lazy and putting off writing on this blog.  But I’m keen to continue to write as it’s a nice way to look back as we tend to forget the little things in life.

New York was amazing.  I wanted to visit New York because it seems like so much more than a city. It’s the setting of so many movies and books.  It’s often a character in itself in stories and blogs.  It seems to be a place where writer flock to.  It seems to be a place where you can be totally anonymous but somebody at the same time.

I knew that I wanted the experience of living in New York City.  So we opted to rent an apartment from a reputable letting agency rather than an expensive hotel in Manhattan.  We ended up with a cute studio in Long Island City, Queens which is only a 7 minute subway ride to Manhattan.  And it ended up being 50% cheaper.

I loved the vibe of Long Island City.  It was mellow, the people were cool, and had a real community feel.  We also spent a bit of time in Brooklyn which was also really awesome.  I loved the old brownstone buildings with views of Manhattan.

Some trends I noticed in NYC:

  • French bulldogs.  I thought it was hilarious that a breed of dog is so trendy that every other dog you see is a French Bulldog.
  • Cupcakes.  Cupcakes everywhere in different themes and all sorts of flavors.
  • Toms vegan shoes.  They cost about ~$50 for a really basic pair of cloth shoes, but the idea is that all the profits go to charity.
  • Hipsters.  I talked about this in the last post of Downtown LA, but it was even more prevalent in NY.  In my opinion, Hipsters are those who mastered the art of trying not to look like you tried too hard (if that makes any sense).

My personal highlights from the trip:

  • Cindy Sherman exhibition at MOMA.  I first studied Cindy Sherman in high school and it’s interesting to have a look at her work now 10 plus year later as an adult and it makes so much more sense.
  • Our apartment in Long Island City.  It was such a cute place with good access to public transport.
  • Waking up in the morning, walking down to the local Deli for a Peanut Butter and Jam toasted Bagel with a big coffee for less than $5.00.  There will never be anywhere in Auckland where I can get the same.
  • Catching up with my friend Alex and hanging out in Brooklyn.  We went to a really neat concert with trapeze artists performing to a band.  Way cool.

I’ve been living in New Zealand coming up to 10 years. Although I come back once a year to visit my family, I haven’t lived here for a long time and the place has definitely changed. I know that I’ve also changed in the sense that I’m now in my early 30’s with responsibilities and a few more life experiences. But it’s still a strange feeling to feel like a tourist in my own home town.

D and I took the bus Today and went to Downtown LA. The place has changed so much since I left 10 years ago. It’s still littered with little shops around the fashion district and a wide array of ethic and fast food joints around the streets. But there is also a group of “hipsters” who live in the renovated lofts in Downtown LA walking their dogs especially around Gallery Row.

We had an amazing day walking around Downtown LA, taking random photos on Instagram and of course people watching. Some of the highlights from Today include:

  • St. Vincent’s Court– A little alleyway off Hill Street with a cluster of Greek restaurants and really cute looking buildings.
  • Hive Gallery– I saw the coolest paining of a bear dressed like a gangster.\
  • Raw Spicy Tuna Roll– made with almonds instead of rice. Tastes surprisingly like real sushi.
  • Dogs everywhere. A couple walking 3 bull dogs told us that all the apartments in the area allow dogs and there is a good community of dog lovers.

One thing is for sure. I need to go back and have another look at Downtown LA as one afternoon is not enough to soak up the atmosphere of the area.

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ImageImageI’m currently planning my next vacation which is coming up in April.  This year, we’re going back to California to visit my family but also spending a week in New York City.  I can’t wait!  But I thought it would be fun to reflect on my big trip last year when I spent a month in Malaysia and Vietnam.  It was a pretty crazy trip.

I kept a diary and here is an excerpt from my second day in KL.

28 March 2011

We’re up at 6AM or 11AM NZ time.  We shower and get dressed.  I’m famished and I want some food and more importantly, I want some coffee.  The guard at the hotel tells us to go down an alleyway to get some “Malay” food.  There is a small number of street food restaurants open but it’s not really Malay food.  We keep walking but soon realize that it’s just too early and nothing else is open.

We head back to the street food restaurant.  The lady has short spiky hair and eagerly takes our order.  D orders a black coffee and I order an iced coffee.  She shouts “Kopi-O” and “Ice Kopi” loudly to the kitchen.  I have a simple breakfast of steamed bread and a boiled egg.  D goes all out and orders Mi Goreng which is a noodle dish.  The lady also talks us into a Malay dish which is rice wrapped in banana leaves.  The coffee is surprisingly good and really strong.  But it’s sickly sweet.  I don’t know how D can stomach noodles so early in the morning.  But I do taste the Malay rice dish which is delicious.  

After breakfast, we keep walking.  Our goal is to walk to the twin towers as it’s a good way to see the city.  We get to the twin towers only to realize that they are shut on Mondays.  We walk back and catch the mono rail back to Bukit Bintang.

We find another street cafe and order an iced coffee and juice.  Free Wi-Fi is good.  I quickly check my e-mail and facebook updates.  I look up to see a guy sweeping the street.  I love people watching.  I can’t get over the fact that everyone manually sweeps the leaves off the street using an old school broom.

Lunch is at an Indian restaurant with a selection of meat and vegetable dishes.  This is the best Indian food that I have ever tasted.  The roti is flaky and warm.  I peer over and see the locals eating next to us using their hands.  No cutlery required.  They scoop up the curry and rice with their hands and skillfully into their mouth.

After checking out a few more shops, we head to Chinatown for dinner.  The markets are crazy and bustling.  I buy a cheap knock-off wallet to use for the trip.  Dinner is a steamboat with meat and veggies.

We find our way back on the monorail to the hotel.  I’m exhausted.  It’s been a long day.