Try to picture one of those tacky postcards: white, sandy beaches, palm trees marking up the shore line and the turquoise sea water battling it out with the sky to see which blue nuance is the brightest. At Perhentian Islands, postcards don’t do reality justice. I stayed a whole weekend in this paradise where my fellow travel-companions and I quickly got spellbound by the island-vibe, where time seems to slow down and errands and to-do lists get tucked away somewhere in the back of the mind. Little was on the agenda other than slurping mango smoothies and soaking up some sun with the occasional dip in the sea. We also took a 3 hour snorkeling trip to other, smaller islands lying around the Perhentian Islands, offering colourful fish and untouched corals. It is safe to say that it was an unforgettable snorkeling experience, with a blue marlin jumping near our boat, turtles coming up for air as we were lying in the water and of course, not to forget, the finding of many a cute Nemos. To make sure that we didn’t miss our flight back to the city we decided to take the jetty back early on Sunday and go explore Kota Bharu and its famous central market, Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah. This colourful wonder offers a wet market with the usual produce like fish and veggies, and it was also here that I got to try the famous Nasi Kerabu, a beautiful blue-coloured rice dish that is really popular here in Malaysia. As you ascend the stairs in this building you get to the dry market – a myriad of small pathways that will lead you around dried snacks, cooking utensils and beautiful batik clothing. It is easy to get lost in here and lose all sense of time. Getting over my dengue fever also gave me back my appetite, and food suddenly became appealing to me once again. That opened up for countless food adventures around the city – everything from local Malay to fine Japanese food. One such local adventure was a trip to the nearby Imbi market, which hid itself from us for some time but proved worth the chase once we found a spot at one of the glitzy plastic chairs and tables, barely shaded by the sun. The heat was heavy, but with a plate of Sisters Crispy Popiah in front of me, I forgot all about the sweaty circumstances. Other edible delights included an amazing experience at Gangnam 88 in Mont Kiara where kimchi stew and bulgogi blew my mind and made me want to fly away to Kpop-land right away. Dim sum also crept its way back into my life, and I realized how much I have missed this usual Sunday ritual from when I was living in Hong Kong. This weekend we simply had to try the afternoon high tea session at The Majestic Hotel, with fine bone china of teapots and teacups and a circular tower of goodies. Of course, the only correct way to eat your cucumber sandwich is with a pointy pinky. Yes, the colonial feel is a bit much, and yes it is a bit pricey, but once you dig into that scone you have already convinced yourself that you have to come back. The 2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix also came to Kuala Lumpur, attracting thousands of enthusiasts from around the world. Not being a car or adrenalin junkie, I did not plan to go to this big event, but was lucky enough to be invited along on some free tickets. And though I must admit I never understood the fascination e.g. why my dad would want to spend a whole Sunday watching cars driving around and around and around on a pit (and still don’t), I am happy that I was fortunate enough to try it and “tick it off” the list of musts. One weekend was also spent traversing all of the acres of the ‘Lake Gardens’, also called Perdana Botanical Garden. I was very surprised by all the colours and how bright the greenery was. Due to the intense heat that follows you everywhere you go, I often have a difficult time accepting how green Kuala Lumpur actually is. Of course the almost daily afternoon showers give plants and trees the necessary sustenance, however, these rain showers always seem to escape my memory (which might also explain why I always forget an umbrella). The garden area is absolutely stunning and offers an orchid section, a hibiscus section, a small deer park and everything in between. Walking around the big lake in the center of the park made me reminisce about my time in NYC the past few months, wondering if this heritage park is KL’s equivalent to my beloved Central Park. KL is still treating me real good and apart from the usual cab driver trying to press me for an extra ringgit or two, the past month has offered me some amazing memories, like a funky jazz night at No Black Tie, a mojito at Marini’s rooftop bar, not to forget the many snacks and deserts that find their way to my tummy. If you are a resident in KL, please share with me your favourite food spot, and any local must eats– always up for a new food adventure. Follow me on instagram if you are a foodie yourself. Until next time! /Krissy
The first month in Kuala Lumpur flew by, confirming once again that time is my worst enemy!
I arrived mid-February, ready for a life as an intern in one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the country. My fellow interns – who also happen to be my roomies – took good care of me and showed me around through all the alleys and crooked streets that make up KL. Also, one of the interns managed to persuade his girlfriend to come along for 6 months, making up a great male-female ratio in our apartment, and I predict late night beer talks, and fun, weekend shenanigans the next 6 months.
One such memorable shenanigan already unfolded in the cooler regions of Cameron Highlands, a 4hrs bus ride outside of KL. While getting there was quite the challenge (as the gear lever proved uncooperative), the gentle hills served as an open farmland, with rows-upon-rows of tea shrubs. The perfect and cooler weather conditions provide the perfect home for hundreds of floral species, and traversing around the mountains makes for a breathtaking excursion. We stayed at a cute cottage-like bed and breakfast in Tanah Rata, which served as our base for exploration. We spent most of the weekend hiking through the forests with mud up to our ankles – the best way to spend a weekend! The views were stunning and it felt great to walk the distances on foot, rather than hiring a touristy-bus tour. Leisure time was spent at a strawberry farm – after all that hiking the red, shinny berries never tasted better.
And now, lets turn to the tea… The second day we walked to Boh Tea Plantation, to get a colonial-inspired scone and sandwich. Now I don’t want to waste any more space on the food, but instead turn to the best peach ice tea I ever had in my life – the Boh peach tea! If you are ever able to get your hands on this stuff (it is available also in most supermarkets in KL to our great delight upon return), please fill up your suitcase – every single drop of ice tea is worth it!
The first few weeks of the internship also coincided with this years Chinese New Year, the year of the goat. This naturally served as a window of opportunity to visit Thean Hou Temple as it was decorated with the most beautiful, Chinese red lanterns during the festivities. Thean Hou is probably THE Chinese temple to visit while in KL as it offers some great views over the city. With all the big malls and streets being decked out in Chinese decorations, the sea of red proved a beautiful, welcoming gesture.
Other, first month highlights include eating my own body weight in food within all the different Asian cuisines: Malay, Chinese, Vietnamese and the list goes on. Goreng and fresh, whole fish are a must, and with Jalan Alor and other street-food options right around the corner from our apartment it is most likely that I will put on some weight – no regrets though!
Apart from all that goodness, Malaysia has also tested and tried me this past month. The greatest test was undoubtedly no bigger than 0.3 to 2 cm – a bloodsucking, stupid little mosquito carrying the infamous tropical disease also known as dengue fever. I wish this upon no one, and after spending three days in the hospital, with a water drop in my wrist and under constant observation; I left the hospital scarred for life with a collection of blue marks from the many blood tests. Let the mosquito-spray frenzy begin!
My last post about New York and my second exchange experience is written in the comforts of my apartment in Copenhagen, with a warm cup of tea looking out at the gloomy, Northern weather. This delay was certainly unintentional as Christmas somehow got torn out of my calendar and time truly betrayed me. With the last December days creeping up on me, I barely had time to notice that I was sitting in JFK on the 24th of December waiting to go home. Somehow, however, this unintentional delay does provide me with a retrospective advantage, allowing me to give a better account of my last city-life escapades. However, as a disadvantage, dear reader, this means that you are subject to what they refer to as an unreliable narrator in literary courses, or as a hindsight bias in psychology, and I therefore leave it up to you to see through the thick fog of romanticism and partiality that naturally will dilute my last recollections of my life in the greatest city, that is New York.
Before sharing my last memories, I must dedicate a section to the great American tradition of giving thanks for the harvest and the year that went by, otherwise known as Thanksgiving. I got to be a part of the ‘giving thanks’ traditions together with my family residing in the lovely Sunshine State. I only had a vague idea of Thanksgiving being all about turkey and American football, as seen in all the movies – but it felt like an even bigger deal being part of it. And seeing as I can embrace any tradition that revolves around food, I found myself quickly taking it to heart. Pie-making and pie-eating definitely makes the top of my list, but watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade from the front row on the couch was somehow nostalgic, though it was my first time witnessing the biggest spectacle of the holiday season. Thanks go out to my Florida-family, making it such a great experience.
But to rewind a bit, I had some lovely late November days in the city with my mom, dad and my not-so-little brother before getting some vitamin D in Florida. It was quite nice to be “forced” to see all the touristy things once more, as the season naturally brought about a change in appearance of all the famous sights, streets and eateries. Particularly the change of colour and light of the city as seen from The Highline, was spectacular, as pigments of red, yellow and orange were magically fading away in favour of brown and barren hues. To be able to experience such visual changes is exactly what makes this city so great to live in. Not to visit, but to live in. Of course seasonal change is an undeniable fact all over the world. But to witness the change of nature in one of the largest urban settlements created by mankind makes for some thought-provoking moments. Just like the visuals of the city constantly change throughout the year, so does the people who make up its population and the events and spaces that make up the backbone of the daily routines. There is always something new going on in the city – a critical requirement for a young lady out of a restless generation, always looking for a new place to call home.
December month was brisk, making it necessary to tuck in that scarf. Yet with deep blue skies and sunny rays finding its way around the glistening skyscrapers to brighten the pavement that I walked, I forgave the icy winds. The weather proved to be quite sporadic during the last month, ranging from arctic cold to shorts-weather – Perhaps Mother Nature was going through menopause? All poor-jokes aside, I find it necessary to give tribute to the rainy days that also made quite the impression on me whilst living in the city. Having always had a weird fascination with rain ever since childhood, the city is undoubtedly at its prettiest in the pouring rain. While rain might be a nuisance in my adulthood, it really did transform New York to a prettier version of itself, by somehow softening the urban landscape – taking off some of the New York edge. The reflections of buildings and lights gave the city an additional dimension and made for some great exploring. Of course, getting soaked by passing cars on corners or loosing the battle of umbrellas on the sidewalk naturally does not make the list of top experiences, yet remains vivid in my memory. In particular, the umbrella war is nostalgic to me, reminding me of my exchange in Hong Kong, only the war would be fared during sunshine hours.
One of the December highlights was visiting Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Despite being quite the landmark, I feel that visitors often overlook it. Yet, going for a quick stroll amongst the tombstones and beautiful lakes is absolutely stunning, and it is hard to believe that this peaceful cemetery is also part of the make-up of New York. You won’t forget too long however, as numerous hills offer you a beautiful view of the city. A fellow explorer and myself came at the perfect time, with dusk luring any moment, adding a spooky feel to an otherwise beautiful setting.
December is of course also a month of tinsel and caroling, and unless you do not like to watch movies, you are most likely aware that New York is the perfect setting to get in the right Christmas spirit. It shall be no secret that Christmas is my favourite holiday, and the roomies and I upheld the Danish Christmas traditions of ‘jule-hygge’ – a cozy day of decorating the apartment, eating Christmas cookies and singing ‘Last Christmas’ one more time. If you are a faithful wild-wonton’er, you will know I also carried on the Danish traditions in Hong Kong during Christmas time, and always makes for great memories.
The rest of my days ended up being a battle against time, with a long list of things yet to see and eat, but hindered by an infinite amount of long essays and exams. The list is of course saved for next time, but I did manage to squeeze in a terrible amount of doughnut places (YUM), hours of perusing MoMa, several peeks of ice skating New Yorkers, numerous ‘battle’ days of Christmas shopping, and too many tearful goodbyes to all the new friendships I made this half year. Luckily the goodbyes were made over food, alcohol or rooftops to make the end a cheery one. I am excited to one day return to what I got to call home for a few months and to meet familiar faces again that are currenlty scattered across the world.
And at last: a minor announcement. While this is my last post about New York (for now), a new adventure is awaiting just around the corner, as the next 6 months will be spend in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. So do not fret, a new exciting chapter of wildwonton will soon begin – possibly with more, actual wonton’s on the blog.
Stop right there. Let me rewind time a little bit. I’ll take you back to October, when I visited Krissy in NYC. It’s difficult to put into words how amazing this trip was. I fell in love with the city fairly quickly. I was only there for 8 days, unfortunately, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I guess my experience of the city was enhanced by the fact that I was overjoyed to finally see and be with Krissy again.
There was a lot to see, and a lot to experience. We tried, as much as possible, to be efficient in seeing and trying new things every day. When Krissy would go to class in the afternoon, I would wander off on my own and just explore the city on foot.
Apart from all the beautiful, new things to see, I was also very excited by what I could hear and what I could smell. Something that stays fresh in my mind is the sound of the subway. This might seem weird to many, but in Copenhagen, I take the train every day and the two experiences are significantly different that it creates a stark contrast in my mind. Imagine this: you’re waiting for your train; the tunnels are dark lit only by underground lights; you hear background chatter from other commuters; as the whirring train arrives, you set yourself up to get in swiftly, trying to find your place in the out and inward stream of people. Inside, the chugging sound of the subway train fills your ears, overlaid with the often-garbled sound of the PA system. Blurred silhouettes from passing stations flash your eyes. It’s really the small details that I really opened myself up to. The result was (literally) sensational.
I even love the feeling of emerging from the subway station, especially in mid to downtown Manhattan, where you find yourself walking in the midst of the hustle and bustle, where the busy streets overshadowed by towering skyscrapers. This animated and breathing concrete jungle offers a unique palette of imagery and an orchestra of sounds that, to me, is undeniably exciting and stimulating. With the imagery and rhythm all around me, it was easy to feel the heart of this metropolis pulsating to the beat of New York City.
Have a look through my photos. I wrote captions to most of them, and these help give a better idea of what this trip was like for me.
Thanks for reading.
Autumn in New York has been all about those crisp mornings as I walked to school, with the sight of beautiful, sun-dappled building exteriors to keep me amazed before burying myself in the library. Central Park has evolved into that perfectly filtered picture on Instagram – only this is the real deal. I have put a substantial share of my budget towards PSLs (=pumpkin spice latte – and yes, I know the joke is on me), and I have been cuddling under the duvet, looking out across the street as the rain drums on my windowpane on those lazy Sunday mornings. Rain droplets aside, the weather has been absolutely beautiful, and my summer jacket has served me well, even on the other side of the 1st of November – something I had not dare to hope for.
Essentially the highlights of my autumn in New York boils down to three main events
1. Road trip to Bear Mountain State Park
Somehow, you only truly appreciate what you got, once it is taken away from you. Or, how you always want curly hair after you spend hours straightening it (I guess this is mostly a reference the ladies can relate to). A similar state of mind reached me, after a few hours drive in a rented car with some fellow exchange students, all eager to get back into nature. Not only did we witness beautiful fall foliage as we drove through the country, but we also embarked on a minor hiking adventure whilst inhaling cleaner air, and our feet got to enjoy something else than pavement underneath those soles. It felt good to be out of the city! But just as we reached the top (sadly by car, I guess we really have become sad city folks), you could just make out the Manhattan skyline in the far, foggy distance. And what a sight! It made me miss the city all over again, and appreciate all its magic, just a few, rolling hills away. The road trip was concluded at the infamous Woodbury Outlet, and though only little was purchased, it was nice to spend some quality time with some great people.
2. A Day at the Botanical Garden + Halloween Dog Parade
More nature was consumed with a day in the Bronx, to experience the famous Botanical Garden, one of the top visited sights of NYC. It truly was very beautiful, but I do acknowledge that my eyes might have tricked me, and that everything just seemed a little greener after having lived for a while now in the ‘concrete jungle’. We got into the right Halloween spirit by walking through the pumpkin themed garden, and took the tram all around the premises. A little tip – the orchid “garden” was a let down, with only one plant on display
And let’s face it – no NYC experience is complete without attending a Halloween Dog Parade in Tompkin Square Park in the East Village. As we hurried away from the tranquility of the garden grounds to the madness that necessarily follows a DOG costume parade, the day was concluded by scouting for the best dog-halloween-costume. And while this may seem maddening, it made a lot of sense at the time. My favourite was without a doubt the Martini dog – sometimes less really is more. It is undoubtedly events like this that makes this city so great.
3. All Hallows Evening
I was as excited as a little child for October 31st. Having never been in the US during Halloween, the entire month became all about pumpkins, spooky themed decorations and trying to think of details for the costume. I could lie and say I didn’t know what to dress up as, but all along there really only was one rational choice for me: Pikachu. That’s right. A graduate student and all I wanted to be was Pikachu. Also, “sowing” up a costume from Danish kitchen cloths (aka the famous and much beloved ‘karklud’) was almost as fun as spending a night as a pokemon in NYC.
A friend had come up from DC and as a team of three (Pikachu, creepy scientist aka roomie, and Snoop Dog/Jessie J/British Chav/insert whatever you like) decided to spook the hell out of the NYC streets. The NYC Halloween Parade was absolutely amazing once we actually pushed through the crowds, and were able to witness the shenanigans. Luckily we pushed hard enough just in time to watch a bunch of zombies dance to ‘Thriller’. The evening ended in a dance-off between Pikachu and creepy scientist. A scary night to remember.
The sound of the NYPD pulsating down the avenues. The Chrysler Building gleaming in the sunlight. Smoke seeping up from the mysterious steam system underground. The flashing yellow cabs, all too busy to be hailed. The line to Shake Shack twisting and turning out of Madison Square Park. The blasting music from a ghetto blaster being the center of attention of a roller skating dance-off in Central Park. Spending a day leisurely at the beach, with the excitement and adrenalin of Coney Island behind me. The hipster-feel in Williamsburg, making me almost forget that I left Copenhagen.
….And so begins the adventures of Krissy in New York City!
You might ask why it has taken me this long to break the silence and begin documenting my exchange experience in this big city!? To be honest, it took me a while to adjust to the American way. Having left my heart in Asia, there was a big part of me questioning the infatuation that the world has taken to this city. As I wandered the streets, I kept thinking, is this really it? Is this what they call the greatest city on earth?
But now, two months into the whole experience, I don’t want to leave. It is hard to put my finger on why I’ve completely switched side, but the streets are literally pulling me in and locking me in a firm grip. I don’t know if it is the endless amount of events occurring in all corners of the city every day, or the great diversity traversing the streets, giving rise to great opportunities for people watching. I have eaten everything from shady looking doughnuts to beautiful and experimental Malaysian cuisine. I have soaked up Hong Kong memories in China town and pretended I belong in SoHo and Greenwich Village. If you get bored with one area of the city, you just transport yourself a few blocks north, south, east or west and you will dive head first into new escapades and aesthetic experiences.
Living in Upper West side has been an adventure in and of itself, having Central Park as my backyard, which has served as the spot for Sunday leisure times and morning runs (But ‘Great Hill’, I dislike you when my calves are tired). Entering this greenery space of bridges, lawns, alleys, lakes and other secrecies, serves as a much-needed escape when the grey concrete surrounding you, gets too firm of a grip. Also, I have had several encounters with longtime UWS-residents, all giving me tips and stories about the neighborhood. For instance, did you know that one of the most uncomfortable benches can be found near the entrance to Central Park at 103 street, near the pool ‘lake’, and if you look hard enough, you can see a bird carved out in the left hand side of the bench? Why am I disclosing this? Well, it turns out that it is the small things, which really make up the magic in this city. It is not the Empire building, it is not the shoe sale at Macy’s nor the Statue of Liberty – no, it is things like cute little coffee shops, the lady at my grocery store calling me ‘my sweet honey’ every time, the reflection of city lights in that huge puddle you are afraid to plunge into in rush hour – and the hidden, wood-carved birds on benches.
At Uni I am trying to figure out the conundrum that is American politics. Coming to the country with a baggage full of average knowledge, I am time and again confounded, surprised, enraged, enthralled, hopeful and excited about the topics of my classes. Also, I’ve quickly discovered that NYC isn’t America. The values, the attitudes and the visions differ from the rest of the country, and I am soaking in all of the diverse opinions. But folks, Uni is no joke! I thought I would be able to divide up my time more evenly between being adventurous and still hand in all the assignments on time. Doing my very best though, to shut it down when need be, and leave the library for the concrete streets.
To give a glimpse into a few of my highlights over the summer, I give a short account here:
- Enjoying a mild summer night at MoMa PS1, turning wild when Skrillex played a tune or two
- Brunch-ing at Tom’s in Brooklyn – I mean, blueberry pancakes, what’s not to love?
- Watching a basket ball game at Barclay’s Center, always a highlight when the dinner conversations at home always have been centered around this sport (thanks, bro)
- Fashion week giving me the opportunity to stalk all of my bloggers
- Helping out at a charity event and meet some “real New Yorkers”
- Walking over Brooklyn Bridge (several times) and taking the elevator to the Top of the Rock, literally made by heart jump from excitement – I become a little school girls who thought she saw Justin Bieber
- The Highline – only the best urban, public space idea since the dawn of humanity. I do not think I can get enough of it, and as the season is now changing, so is every stretch of this old railroad track.
- Jazz nights and modern ballet at Lincoln Center
- Having already had 3 visitors – yes, this is what happens when you live in a popular destination. Everyone wants to come visit!
- Having a gin and tonic at the Wythe hotel, overlooking Manhattan skyline
- Meeting amazing people <3
I have basically saved most of the museum shenanigans for rainy and snowy days, and have instead tried to utilize the warm weather and blue skies as much as possible. Guggenheim, American Natural History Museum and Brooklyn Museum are, however, crossed off the list and I cannot wait to soak in the art and the culture that the city offers this autumn/winter.
I will go back into silence for now, but promise to be better at providing shorter, but more regular posts to try to give a glimpse into what this city has to offer.
Keep an eye out for my Halloween post, and who knows – maybe Gideon already visited me, and have the 101 info on this years Comic Con!
If you read Gideon’s post on ‘Castles, Kilts and Haunted Vaults’, you also know that he made a peculiar remark on an upcoming announcement of mine.
And today is the day where the silence will be broken and a new adventure will be revealed. Whether you are a new visitor passing by along the interconnected blogosphere – or an ancestral wild-wontoner, I hope you will share my excitement… drumroll please?
Wildwonton was originally created for the purpose of documenting my travels and exchange in China and Hong Kong. Since then, other travel musings and creative rants have made up most of our posts, and has been a fun and creative way to share personal stories with the world as a couple. We hope you will keep following us on a new adventure, as I will be embarking on yet another exchange semester to complete my Master’s degree. To give a few hints of my new city I am to call home:
Hip hop and Sesame Street was invented here. World-class skyline. Most theatres in the world. The ultimate pop-culture reference. A young, freed lady welcomes you. It never sleeps. It is nicknamed after a fruit. You guessed it: NYC!
To send me off in proper American style, my parents threw me a full-on patriotic goodbye-party with paper cups, balloons, Budweiser’s and as many burgers, hotdogs and cakes as my tummy could contain.
Family and friends came from all of Denmark’s corners, and I had an amazing weekend with lots of laughter, games and nature walks. With an intimate concert by my friend (like her fan page on Facebook, pretty please: Cecilie Glenthøj) and all the happy smiles, I leave Denmark next week with a cheerful soul, yet a body filled to the brim with excitement and nerves.
Thank you to all who came, and I hope followers out there are ready for some New York blogging!