Christmas in New York City, N.Y. (2016)

I’ve never been a fan of bustling, light-striking metropolitan city and I don’t think I ever will. Even after NYC. Where concrete jungles where dreams are made of sanction the majestic pillars of modern urban livelihood of 21st century, the streets that make ones feel brand new are always far from quiescence, and the lights inspire its people to keep on chasing their own American dreams. Because, well, sirens are all around, the streets are mean, and noise is always loud, yeah?

I might have just copied most of the ideas above from the Empire State of Mind lyrics but nevertheless, those are true at least for what I felt during my trip to NYC. But I guess, just like when you’re not a fan of a metal band but there’s a song or two that would always stick onto your brain forever that make you think, ‘Hey I think I actually kinda like it!” there’s also a thing or two about that NYC trip that I am in fact very much into.

The very first thing, is obviously because of whom I spent the trip with.

Adhi

Adhi and I never really planned to travel the world together before we actually commit ourselves in a legally binding, formally proclaimed bond (if you know what I mean and yes, you do) because.. Well. Being a Muslim couple from two not-so-liberal sort of families, let alone with me wearing hijab which pretty much adds up to society easily judging you if you do anything that might not adhere the basic norm of living as an unmarried Muslim in Indonesia, sort of lead to the conclusion that we might never have the actual chances to pursue our dreams of seeing the globe together. However, many thanks to our lovely companions along the way, the trip was more like a bunch of college mates hanging out together in NYC (some of us didn’t know each other back in university despite the fact that we all went to the same university) which is going to be the second thing I like the most about this trip.

Arum

Arum is one of my closest friends from university and living in New York has been her top-ranked bucket list ever since as far as I know. I guess it’s safe to say that she was the reason this whole trip even existed, because frankly, with such political and social instability during last year’s presidential election I did not have much courage to travel down south to The States without a companion. And of course it was a huge pleasure to accompany her fulfilling her number one travel dream, being right in the place that she’s truly passionate about!

Peter and May

Coming from Edmonton with me are two of my very first friends in Canada, Peter and May. Peter is a Malaysian studying in UK who comes to UofA for students exchange program, while May is in fact my first friend in EAS Department. She’s from Hongkong and the three of us live in the same residence in IHouse. They’re among the closest friends I met here in Canada, and two of those I know that has most passion about travels just like myself.

Kak Bimon & Kak Ntep

And of course, the five of us would really love some help from the locals. Kak Bimon was Adhi’s best friend since high school, and few months before that Adhi and I came to his wedding with Kak Ntep who’s currently pursuing her Master at NYU. Fun fact: we Indo’s were all going to the same university back in Bandung, and Kak Ntep and I even went to the same senior high school! It’s always funny how our circles seem to get bigger but actually stay in the same loop, I guess.

Anyways, we then embarked upon a week of exploring the winter version of NYC. My very first impression of this city was: way too much noise. It might have had something to do with having been living up north in Edmonton for the previous five months, where there was just too much contrast. The pedestrians are everywhere, the traffic is a real deal, and we almost cannot come across a quiet neighborhood. From Brooklyn to Manhattan, the city is just always busy.

The very first place we went to was American Museum of Natural History. They. Just. Have. Everything. This really excited me as I got so looking forward to seeing the Smithsonian Museums in DC for our upcoming stop after NYC to see what they have that we haven’t seen here. And when the night began to fall, surely we had to go to the Times Square and Rockefeller Center.. to see thousands of humans trying to take pictures of themselves surrounded by beautiful artificial lights of Christmas spirit. No kidding, it was such a pain to try to take proper photos among thousands of people with similar goal at the moment. But however, that’s the main reason why we’re there: to see how New Yorkers light up the finest Christmas the world has!

Sunny day in front of MoMA.

Another thing that I like from NYC is how they stick to using Helvetica as the type font for a bunch of things, such as the subway system, which is just like the font on the direction’s banner that we use everywhere inside UofA. And the day we went to MoMA, the weather and the sky were all perfectly blending to one perfectly fine afternoon. Even though most of the time we were sticking as a group, I had the chance to stroll around a pond of swimming ducks in Central Park by myself after that and witnessed the mini rainbows made as the water fountain sparked from afar.

We, of course, didn’t forget to take the ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. There was not a single cloud on that day, and the shining sun was our best company of the day to keep all of the pictures we took flawless. The Empire State Building was a long queue worth to wait, as the view from the top of the building was just brilliant. We only saw tons of buildings, of course, but somehow I don’t know if it has anything to do with how the city was arranged or just because the angle of the sun on that day made the place look absolutely stunning from above, but it was just impeccable.

And Brooklyn Bridge. Truthfully, I didn’t find this major attraction to be attractive if it wasn’t because of–again–the perfect blue sky circling hundreds of humans walking on top of this bridge that afternoon. I didn’t even feel like I got a single proper photo of myself here, lol. Anyways, we then also managed to see the ultimate Christmas experience of NYC by visiting a beautifully decorated neighborhood of Dyker Heights, where I’m quite sure will probably forever be my best Christmas experience ever! It was just amazing to see how passionate people could be about decorating the whole neighborhood even for only few days celebration, not to mention that the lightning were indeed superb.

On our last day, we decided to walk separate ways. And of course after spending days of observing common most touristy places, my keyword for Googling on that day was “New York City hidden gems” which brought Adhi and me to explore Pomander Walk, which I myself honestly think one of the best sightseeing spots I’ve encountered in Manhattan. It is basically a supersmall neighborhood of Old English charm, full of colorful houses in a quiet, serene block that seems to be desolated from the hustling NYC life outside the entrance. You’ll have to peep through the gate because apparently that vintageous, Victorian-styled door was locked for outsiders, but that’ll still get you some picturesque images worth Instagramming!

Adhi and I are fans of walking casually in a street of a city that’s new to us, so we then walked to the Hudson River Greenway, where I think I have found my favorite spot in Manhattan. The road to get there was surrounded by houses of red bricks in some rather quiet blocks of neighborhood, so American urban yet peaceful at the same time. We walked upon those calming streets to get to the river, where a green, beautiful park is situated in a background that somehow even reminds me with San Fransisco even though I’ve never been to San Fransisco, lol.

This was a typical park, with neat benches along the small paveways that separate us with the river, where New Yorkers bicycle, walk their dogs, jog with their headphones on, in other words doing things other than working. Just living life in casual ways worth living for. That bench under the trees was a perfect spot to sit and stare at the horizon, while listening to your favorite chilling tunes from a shared headset with your companion. I could sit there for hours, reading books that I never had time to finish because the moment was there to bring such reading mood back again. But after some time, we then decided we should probably get going to explore the most hipsteresque neighborhood in NYC: Williamsburg.

When we got there, it was evening already, but we managed to go to the park next to the river where the lights from all skyscraper buildings surrounding the river were all lit and seemed very enchanting. The next best thing that happened to us was to stumble upon this super-hipster store that was still open at night, and was definitely the store of my lifetime dreams.

And of course the street food was a wrap. I cannot name all places where we had the chance to taste American diner at the very heart of the country, but nevertheless, my tummy was all about being joyful.

Other places that we visit that you probably should too if you haven’t, although these are not my personal favorite:

  1. Dumbo
  2. City Hall Station
  3. 911 Memorial
  4. Wall Street area

And of course, Atlas Obscura has always been my top source of hunting hidden gems. They even have 276 places listed on New York which should be more than enough for you to explore even the most less-taken pathways in every corner of the city.

Last but not least, NYC might never be my typical favorite kind of city, as I’m not even bothered by the fact that we skipped Top of the Rock, Flat Iron Building, Madame Tussauds, and many other top touristy spots, but I think these has been one heck of a trip of visiting a city I never knew I would be very much interested in. It’s true that I was leaving not as a new fan, but nevertheless this city makes me believe that even in the strangest places, you could still find home, as long as you have right companions to guide you along the way.

Cheers.


Kindly visit my photo blog to see more (and better) pictures from the trip, here.

Written by

A geologist, self-taught photographer, hobbyist writer, and wanderer who loves subtle colours, sunrays, mother nature, wilderness, adventures, flowers in the afternoon, quiet corners of a city, being literally - yet not figuratively - on top of the world, solo travels, trips by train, fascinating rocks, vintage postcards, and aesthetically pleasing urban landscapes.

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