"Never start your essay with a quote" was an unspoken rule that was constantly drilled into me in high school. Yet today I've decided to disregard literary conventions and go ahead with this cliched beginning, as nothing quite captures my sentiments towards New York like the above quote by Tom Wolfe. Despite my constant bouncing around between Philadelphia and Hong Kong, I've always had a special affinity for New York ever since I first descended upon the city in 2013. I love the slew of museums on the Upper East Side, from Frank Lloyd Wright's spiraling Guggenheim to the stately Met - a haven from America's cultural malaise. I love the wealth and diversity of food, from late-night ramen to the addictive and aptly named Momofuku crack pie - all the better to feed my insatiable hunger. Perhaps I've read the The Great Gatsby one too many times, but despite the grit and inequalities of New York, I love people from allover are still drawn (like moths to light) to nurture their ambitions in this cradle of the American Dream.
In the limbo between finishing exams in Philadelphia and returning to Hong Kong for the holidays, it's only fitting that I was able to call New York home, if only for 48 hours. Yet two days can go a long way in the city that never sleeps - fitting in leisurely ambles around art museums, rummages in thrift stores, late-night Japanese food binges and the obligatory walk across the High Line. To bluntly reiterate what Tom Wolfe so eloquently said, you don't need very long to feel at home in New York, and to experience a slice of city life as I did.
Living | The BORO HOTEL
It's a well-established fact that New York living costs are extortionate. I found out personally on my first visit to the city, when I paid almost $200 per night for a room in the Chinatown Comfort Inn, next to a subway track that inadvertently caused my room to shake and me to wake up every half hour. Such sleepless nights led me to look for cheaper and quieter alternatives in the outer boroughs, and I struck gold with the minimal chic Boro Hotel, a newly opened boutique hotel in Long Island City. Many visitors have the myopic view that New York consists only of Manhattan and resort to staying in sub-par hotels in Times Square, but fail to realize that the Brooklyn and Queens are just several subway stops away. With its panoramic views of Manhattan and modern industrial decor that would satisfy any minimalist, the Boro Hotel trumps any institution on the island.
Culture | The Whitney Museum of American Art
Rising from the horizon of New York's West Side, against the backdrop of the Hudson River, the Whitney Museum is like an elegant ocean vessel filled to the brim with artistic treasures. Recently relocated to the Meatpacking District location, in a building designed by Renzo Piano, it was worth a visit just to enjoy its stunning sunset vistas...but also the current Frank Stella retrospective featuring larger-than-life, intricately twisted metal sculptures (and the somewhat aesthetically complementary old men standing next to them - see the photos below).
Culture | MoMA PS1
The lesser-known sibling of Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art, MoMa PS1 features equally stunning and perhaps even more experimental art, as well as significantly less people queuing at the door. Located in Long Island City, the contemporary art museum houses work from emerging artists around the US and particularly New York, documenting real-life issues in the city's past, from the AIDS epidemic to gay rights. On a less serious note, it has large expanses of concrete facade that are perfect for taking outfit shots.
Food | Mu Ramen
Yet another hidden gem in Long Island City, this intimate Japanese eatery serves up piping hot ramen till late - catering to my near midnight Asian food cravings. Not only does Mu Ramen offer unique iterations of Japanese appetizers, such as the gyoza stuffed with foie gras, it also excels at the classics, with a delicious tonkotsu ramen that is guaranteed to warm you up significantly in the New York winter chill.
Photos by Emily Cheng and Fabian Hutter