It was a delightful three in the morning when we woke up and got ready for the trip to New York City. The drive to the airport and security line were not long which was a welcome change to some of our other previous domestic airport experiences. We then ended up having a long wait for our JetBlue flight to New York City. While we would be flying on a slightly bigger aircraft compared to the one we flew earlier it was still small. It was an Embraer 175 and my suitcase struggled to fit in the overhead bin. This was because of my poor folding skills. The seat on JetBlue was unbelievably comfortable. It puts some US domestic first class seats to shame. It is as comfortable as an SIA Economy class seat. You have great leg room and a nice soft leather seat. You also get great service on board and in-flight entertainment.
On-board the aircraft
My gleeful reaction to the seat
I ended up sleeping for most of this flight as I wanted to be well rested when we landed in New York City.
The flight was only about 3 hours and we soon landed in the JetBlue terminal which, fun fact, is the home of the original TWA terminal which is an aviation landmark. We soon grabbed our Uber and headed towards our hotel which was on the lower east side.
The TWA Terminal
The drive in was marred by horrific traffic but eventually, we reached the hotel safe and sound. We were booked into the Sago hotel which at the time of booking was less than three weeks old. We had the unexpected privilege of being one of the hotel’s first guests. As we had arrived at the hotel well before our allocated check-in time, the room was not ready. We decided to leave our suitcases at the hotel then headed out to grab a bite of brekkie. Since we were in New York we decided to grab a bagel but finding one which didn’t have a huge line was proving to be a huge hassle. Eventually, we found one which was near Grand Central station. This turned out to be a good thing as we were going to be taking the train into Connecticut to see our two aunts whom I hadn’t seen in about 5 years. Nalin elected to get himself a classic plain bagel with cream cheese. I elected to get something quite different. I decided to get myself a tomato and mozzarella bagel sandwich as unlike my brother, I didn’t get anything to eat on my flight to NYC.
We both headed to the station to get our tickets and found a quiet spot to enjoy our bagels. Soon it was time to board our train to rural Connecticut. The train ride was about an hour and we also caught a glimpse of some large patches of snow and picturesque scenes. Eventually, we reached the station where our aunt Shantha would be picking us up. The wait was quite long and I felt like James Bond in Spectre when he was waiting for the car. We did not know what to expect. Then our aunt came and picked us up and by the way, I was dressed, it looked like I was going for a job interview. This was funny as my jacket was blue with fun patterns, narrow lapels and I was wearing jeans. IT was nice to see them again. Soon after my other Aunt Anu came with my cousin and we all got together to have a nice lunch. They were asking me what I was up to since at that time I had recently finished my National Service. I told her I was looking up internships and part-time jobs for me to do to pass the time in between NS and university. Travel across South America and North America had already taken up about three months. In actuality, I only had about six months remaining in Singapore. It was a period of uncertainty I hope would pass quickly as I was itching to start the next chapter of my life.
The rest of lunch was a simple affair and soon Nalin and I caught the train back to New York City. We decided to relax in our hotel room for a little bit before heading out to meet Nalins friend John who was now working on Wall Street. John had come to Singapore about 8 months prior as part of a world trip of sorts. It was good to see him again and he took us to a pizza place called Beecher's St pizza. It was a proper New York-style pizza. A giant slice full of sauce and cheese. It was simply heavenly. Afterwards, we headed to a famous dessert place for a spot of dessert. We went to the Momofuku milk bar for a spot of dessert. The place is famous for its cereal milk soft serve with cornflakes. Since I wouldn’t be in New York for some time I decided to indulge myself with the soft serve. It did not disappoint and I was able to enjoy it despite the bitterly cold weather. We headed back to the hotel room to chill and it was here where John had to head back to do some work. It was great to see him again and we would be seeing him again tomorrow. For now, we decided to rest up as we would be out and about the entire day.
The next morning after Nalin did a quick run to the nearby bakery to get some bagels we headed out for the day. We decided to head towards the Highline which is an abandoned subway line that the New York City government has turned into a park. Even though it was winter and it was windy we had clear blue skies which were just amazing. It made for the perfect day out. We also got great views.
Some of the views on the high line
After walking around on the high line we headed toward a café to kill time before meeting Roma for lunch at Artichoke pizza. We were about ten or twelve blocks away from the place so we decided to walk on over. After the reasonably long walk, we soon met up with Roma at the pizza place. Artichoke pizza is famous for serving pizza which is made with a white sauce. My god it was probably the unhealthiest I’ve eaten on this trip. It was outrageously filling but like all unhealthy things it tasted great!
The menu at Artichoke Pizza
While we were having this pizza shaped indulgence Roma and I spent, this time, catching up. She also got to know my brother a little bit better. It was great hearing about what she was doing because I am always intrigued by what people are doing in university.
After the lunch, we said goodbye to each other we agreed to meet for lunch tomorrow at the famous Halal Guys. Nalin would be off to meet his friends but for now, we headed back to our hotel just to chill before going out in the evening. Nalin had arranged for all of us to meet up at the Ippudo ramen restaurant in New York. Nalin wanted me to meet a mix of his undergraduate and postgraduate classmates who were now residing in New York. Before dinner, we decided to try the famous cookie shot from the Dominque Ansel Bakery in lower Manhattan. It was at this time where I bought some new shoes and found the café and sat to enjoy this popular Instagram-able delicacy. Thankfully it wasn’t just a fun looking dessert, the taste lives up to its appearance.
My new shoes
The cookie shot Soon it was dinner and Nalin and I were the first to arrive and we treated ourselves to a Kirin beer with frozen foam served like a soft serve. It actually added a nice taste to the beer which is a welcome change since Beer isn’t one of my favourite beverages. Soon Nalins friends arrived and we all headed for our table. One of the girls whom Nalin had invited I had actually met before. I met his friend Olivia about 5 years ago when I was still in UWC and when she and Nalin were undergraduate students. We had all met for high tea when I was visiting in October 2011 during a school break. It was nice catching up and we were all getting to know each other very well. Nalin and I both ordered the vegetarian ramen and we all shared a carafe of house sake. The ramen was amazing and it suited the cold winter wind that was bellowing from the outside. Afterwards, we were looking for dessert and John told us about a dessert place that serves up some amazing cannoli. We walked over to the place which was in Beecher St. Soon after we all had a farewell and headed back to our hotel room just to chill and relax before resting for tomorrow.
We woke up to our last day in New York and continued the routine where one of us going down to get some bagels from the breakfast before heading out for the day. We decided to head to Times Square to check out the Nintendo store and the Met store to get our mother a birthday present. She had recently become a fan of intricate colouring books. Naturally, we got one with rather complicated designs for our mum to use along with a shiny new colouring set.
Some of the sights we saw in Times Square
Afterwards, we went our separate ways as I went to go meet my friend Bea for lunch at a Vietnamese place near her university. It was quite a small place and they served a mean vegetarian Ban Mi. I spent the time with her asking her about the myriad of film projects she had produced at her time here. She asked me about my South America trip and how I managed to survive. The lunch time with her was short but incredibly sweet. She had to rush off to yet another one of her film projects which knowing Bea would be amazing. I then headed up north on foot to the famous Halal guys to meet up with Roma again and her boyfriend.
The restaurant was crowded as expected but meeting up with them was good fun. I learnt how the two of them had met during their anime club meeting and they have a lot of mutual interests. We took a walk after the meal to their university where Roma took me on a tour of the campus. It had a great mix of modern and classic buildings. Roma took me inside the new building which only opened around 2014-2015. It was an impressive looking structure. After the tour, Roma had to head to class and I had to go catch up with my brother.
I caught up with my brother back in our hotel room and he informed me we would be meeting another one of his Northwestern Friends who is residing in New York. We decided on a small Mexican place that was near our hotel but first we decided to pick up some cheesecakes. We purchased some for her and ourselves at one of the best places in the city, Eileen’s Special Cheesecake. After some rest and a cheesecake run, we headed toward the Mexican place. It is a small place just a couple blocks from our hotel but the food and cocktails were exceptional. So I got to know more about Danielle and she is currently pursuing a start project she started called AK Kerani. It is a start-up that is designed to promote knitting not as a fun hobby but as a form of therapy and stress-reduction. It was all rather fascinating. I also found out she was getting married later this year and I wish her all the best for the future. After the delightful meal, we headed back to our room for some cheesecake and soon I had to rest for the flight tomorrow.
We woke up on our last day in New York City and in the United States. We got up nice and early so that we could avoid long security lines at JFK airport. The journey allowed me to look over my time here in the US. It was easily one of the best times I’ve ever had in the united states. I got to see new places and meet some great people. It made me incredibly excited for August when I would finally be starting university. I got to make great contacts in the form of my brother's friends and it would make settling in the United States a whole lot easier. As I boarded the ANA flight back home, I looked forward to the uncertainty that lay before me.
The journey home