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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The High Line - Section one

I first learned about High Line  from PBS documentary in 2004 and was really intrigued by it's history and future development. Coincidentally, I started working in a building right next to High Line a year later. For the past three and half years, I watched the constructions taking place and transformed this abandoned elevated train track. 

The building where I used to work.

By the time when High Line Park section one was open to the public this June, the company had moved to a different location and I was no longer working for the company.  I tried to check out the High Line Park on one Saturday in June, and it was impossible. The crowd just killed my curiosity.

The Gansevoort Street entrance

When the temperature was in the low 70's last Thursday, I decided to bring my camera, went back to my old office neighborhood, and finally checked out the High Line Park.

A very cleaver way to use the old train track.

Details of the park design

The standard hotel

Old rail track

View from the High Line

The end of section one on 20th street

High Line Park section one was in the trendiest neighborhood in New York City. There are so many amazing boutiques, cafes, restaurants in the area to explore.
I would recommend the following route for the first time visitors:
  1. Take A, C, E, or L train, and get off at 14th street stop.  
  2. Make sure to check out the Chelsea Market from 15th street and 9th avenue entrance.  
  3. Exit the Chelsea Market at 10th Avenue, make a right turn and use the 16th street entrance to enter the High Line Park. 
  4. Walk north to 20th street and turn back.  Get off the High Line Park at  Gansevoort Street. 
  5. Continue your walk with the meatpacking district and/or west village. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kunjip Korean Restaurant - Korean Town

As the temperature drops, I start craving for Korean food. They always taste better when it is cold outside.

A Korean friend introduced me to Kunjip. A simple Korean restaurant that is always crowded.

I love all the free appetizers that come with any orders. You can request for refills on the dishes you like.

Some spicy goodness....

Seafood pancake --- Must order item in any Korean restaurants.

Korean cuisine is one of my favorite foods.
There are so many yummy Korean dishes that this note really does not do any justice to the variety of the Korean food.
Some of the all time Korean classics are:
korean B.B.Q,
Bibimbob (rice with assorted vegetable, various meat or seafood, and fried egg),
Sulungtong (light beef soup),
variations of bean curd casseroles.

The restaurant opens 24 hours. This is a good place to eat after a night of drinking if you are in the area.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Max Brenner -- chocolate feast by Union Square

Met up with a friend for lunch at Max Brenner near Union Square.

If you like chocolate, this is the place to come, especially around the holiday seasons when the weather is freezing cold and you need a heavy dose of sweets.

The restaurant has extensive menu selections:
Chocolate soup, chocolate pizza, and chocolate cocktails included!

Spicy chicken & 3 cheese pizza:
black beans, diced jalapenos, cilantro, mozzarella, cheddar, & goat cheese.

Munchies Waffles:
Warm waffles topped with whipped cream, candid hazelnut crunchy bits and dark chocolate ice cream. Served with crunchy chocolate wafer balls and warm melted chocolate sauce.

The Belgium waffle was super delicious. I also loved the chocolate wafer balls.

Not having enough? You can always buy their chocolate products to go.

DOGMATIC -- snack stop near Union Square

DOGMATIC is a small gourmet sausage shop on 17th street near Union Square.
I often come here for a snack break when I am nearby.

You don't have to sacrifice flavor or style for a quick bite at this place.  
The restaurant uses sausages that have no hormones, no antibiotics, no nitrates, no artificial flavors or colors, artisan bread, and gourmet sauce options. 

I always order Asparagus with Horseradish mustard.
Be forewarned: the horseradish mustard is hot and potent. Make sure you can handle the heat!

Pork Sausage with Truffle Gruyere.
The bread was crunchy and crispy, very much like warm baguette fresh out of the oven.

Make sure to try their hand made sodas in ginger, grape, strawberry, coconut, or lemon lime flavors.
It's like nothing you have tasted before.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yellowstone -- After Thoughts & Tips

A rookie's experience to J.H, GTNP, and YSNP

Growing up and having lived in metropolitan cities for all my life, this was the first time I planned a whole week trip that was only about nature and wildlife.  

I did not own any outdoor gear, and my sneakers only touched the floor of the gym.   I ordered a pair of hiking boots online 2 days before the trip, which was probably unnecessary since the minimum of hikes we did were all very mild and tame. 

Turned out, lacking any connection to modern society was very easy to handle at this part of the world.  I did not miss any TVs, cellphones, newspapers, or internet access.  When facing such beautiful surroundings, life could be so simple.  It was hard not to feel joy when I see all the geographical wonders and exotic animals.  We did not even turn on the radio in the car when driving because the music felt like noise.  We wanted to hear the wind, the river, the geysers erupting, animal sound, and occasionally, something very very rare, complete silence....

Here are some tips I learned from this trip:
  • When to go:

    • I imagine we would feel less relaxed dealing with all the people and cars, if we visited the park at the peak of the tourist season in July and August.  I thought we were lucky with our timing as the weather was still warm enough for most of the park facilities and activites to stay open, and the crowds much smaller. 

    • The western cookout was extremely popular and could have as many as 200 people during the peak summer time.  The cookout only last till mid September.  There were about 50 people on that day for our cookout. Again, I imagine our experience would be quite different if we were there with 200 other people.

    • We were quite lucky with the weather when we visited.  There were only two brief thunderstorms and quick showers.  The temperature was in the 30's in the early morning, but it would warm up to the 70's during the day.  I am guessing that spring time would be a great time to visit if we wanted to see more animals.

  • Itinerary:

    • 7 days 6 nights felt like a good amount of time for the way we traveled since we did not do any serious hiking.  A half day for Jackson Hole and one full day for Grand Teton was enough for us.  

    • For a first time visitor, the geyser basins between Old Faithful and Madison junction would take two days to visit. 

    • If I could do something different, I would visit Lamar valley again in the early morning, book a two hour horse ride at the ranch, and spend one night in Grand Teton National Park. 

    • It is essential to stay in the park if you can to save the travel time back and forth. The speed limit is between 25 to 45 miles per hour.  The road close/construction and occasional animal traffic jam add time to the drive too. 

    • We loved our room in the original section of the Old Faithful Inn.  It was so quaint and full of character.  If you want the old room with bathroom in the Old Faithful Inn, book a year in advance. 

    • We had the best luck seeing wildlife at the crack of dawn.  It was so peaceful and serene to be on the road alone and watch the sunrise. 

    • Personally, I thought the Snake River Float was too slow and too long, but Hans enjoyed it.  There are many companies providing float trips.  Most companies have meeting points at the Moose Entrance, south end of the Grand Teton National Park.   I believe the Grand Teton Lodge Company is the only one that has its meeting point inside the Jackson Lake Lodge, which is at the north side of the Grand Teton National Park.

  • What to pack:

    • Layers of clothing is essential to deal with the drastic temperature changes throughout the day.  
    • Packing up food for lunche made our travel so much easier since restaurants and groceries are few and far in between inside of the park.  A cooler to store your food is definitely a good idea. 

    • A good camera is worth the investment.  Bring back-up batteries and memory cards. A pair of binoculars is a good addition if you have it.  A telescope would not be necessary to purchase just for this trip alone. 
    • Sunblock! I really did not realize how strong the sun can be at this high altitude until my chest got burned after the first day. 

    • A Swiss knife with a cork screw, knife, and scissors definitely comes in handy. 

    • Flashlights are a good idea, even for walking from the hotel/lodge lobby back to your cabins at nights.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Yellowstone -- Snake River, Moose Bridge & Jackson Hole 9.7.09

                                                                             * Snake river float trip
                                                                             * Moose bridge
                                                                             * Jackson Hole
                                                                             * Gun Barrel Steak & Game House

    View 9.7.09 in a larger map

    We tried to check out of the Lake Lodge at 4:50 AM for our Snake River float at 6:45 AM in Jackson Lake Lodge.  There was no one at the lodge reception so we could not check out.  We left a note and left the room keys in our cabin and left. 

    On the way down to Jackson Lake, it was cloudy, cold and drizzling.  But a little after we were on the float, the sky cleared up.  

    The float last about three hours.  It was peaceful, slow, cold, and frankly, a bit boring because it was two hours too long for my taste.  

    I was hoping that by taking the early morning float, I was able to see some wildlife.  On the snake river, we did see some birds, geese, two female elks, more bisons, and a few bald eagles, but I would have loved to see black bears, wolfs, and moose before I would leave the park.

    By the time we finished the float, my lips turned blue because I was so cold.  

    After the float trip, we headed down to Jackson Hole.  We wanted to drive by the moose bridge to see if we could spot some moose before we leave the park.  And as we drove closer to the bridge.  There was a traffic jam, many parked cars, and animal paparazzi crowded on one side of the bridge. Hallelujah!! It had to be a moose!!  We parked our car, brought camera and binocular, and ran to the bridge.  

    There it was!! A moose bull with giant antlers, laying in the grass by the river! YES!!!

    We stayed a good twenty minutes, and took tones of pictures and videos.  It was so exciting. :)

    After the moose sighting, we left the park and drove to Jackson Hole. The scenery there reminded us of the Alps in Austria where Hans grew up. 

    After we checked into our room at the Buckrail Lodge, we walked around Jackson Hole.  After 7 days of no TV, Radio, Internet, and Cellphone access, we re-enter the modern world.  We stopped by the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar to get an elk burger and some local beer. 

    We went to Gun Barrel Steak and Game House for dinner.  After 6 days of cold cuts and park food, this meal was such a treat!

    Fried Green Tomatoes: herb encrusted and lightly fried, drizzled with a chipolte mayonnaise sauce. 

    Bison Carpaccio: rare, hickory smoked buffalo, thinly sliced and chilled, drizzled with dijon mustard, served with fresh smoked gouda and garlic toast. -- Super delicious!

    French Onion Soup

    Buffalo Sirloin: Tender buffalo top sirloin, mesquite grilled medium rare and served with cajon onion straws with garlic mash potato and string beans. -- It was so juicy and flavorful!

    Chocolate Ganache Cake: Dark Chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache, fresh whipped cream and chopped pistachios.

    After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, watched some TV, checked some emails, and packed up for our departure the next morning.

    Photo Album

    Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, Yellowstone Day 6

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    Yellowstone -- Grand Teton & more Geyser Basin 9.6.09

                                                                       * Jackson Lake Dam
                                                                       * Jenny Lake & Hidden Falls
                                                                       * Antalope Flats Road
                                                                       * West Thumb Geyser Basin 

    View 9.6.09 in a larger map

    We got up today at 6AM and drove down to Grand Teton.  On the road between Yellowstone South Entrance and Grand Teton Colter Bay Visitor Center, we spotted a Grizzly bear!!  It was soooo surreal!

    We stopped at Colter Bay Visitor Center to get some tourist information and booked a snake river float trip for the next morning. 

    We followed the driving tour and stopped at many viewpoints and overlooks to take pictures.  Jackson Lake Dam was picturesque.  

    We also stopped at South Jenny Lake, took the shuttle boat across the lake, and hiked half a mile to Hidden Falls. 

    We drove to Antelope Flats Road and took some more pictures with old ranches in the background. 

    We headed back to the Yellowstone park in the early afternoon and there were many more cars on the road for the labor day weekend. On the way to the West Thumb Geyser, it started to rain for a few minutes.  Luckily when we arrived at West Thumb Geyser Basin, it was sunny again. 

    The thunderstorm across the Yellowstone lake provided an amazing backdrop. 

    The contrast of the color was so dramatic.  Some of the scenery looked almost like white sand beach in the Caribbean. 

    After the West Thumb Geyser Basin, we headed back to the Lake Village and took more pictures on the road.  This picture reminded us of a motu in Bora Bora.

    We had dinner at the Lake lodge cafeteria and hung out in the lodge drinking wine and playing cards in the evening. 

    Photo Album
    Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, Yellowstone Day 5