Saturday, August 22, 2009

Flushing, Queens

Flushing, Queens is the epitome of cultural diversity. It's home to immigrants from all over the world, but contains the largest Chinese and Korean populations in New York. Since it's one of the largest boroughs, there was no way we could have covered the entire territory during our short year here. So we focused our attention on the following areas: Main Street, Union Street, Roosevelt Avenue, and the surrounding areas which make up the largest Chinatown in New York. Flushing is where you go to for the affordable food cooked by people who know how to do it best as they did in their place of origin. We'll share with you some of the foods we tried in the next post in more detail.

To get to the heart of Flushing's Chinatown, you catch the 7 train from Times Square to the very end of the Queens line. It takes about 45 minutes to get there, but the train ride is actually fun since you're not underground. It's a great ride as you pass the different areas of Queens and you're able to clearly see which section of Queens is the Korean neighborhood, which is the Indian area, which is the Hispanic area simply by seeing the changes in the signs, banks, grocery stores, and restaurants. If you're ever on this ride deep into Queens, make sure to get your face out of the book and look outside.

The last stop is at the Main Street station. As soon as you exit to the street, you feel like you've taken the train to another country, especially when you notice that most of the signs aren't written in English. The area is extremeley crowded, chaotic, and noisy. It makes Manhattan seem like a calm walk in the country in comparison. And the Chinatown in Manhattan is like a baby sibling compared to Flushing's Chinatown. Really, you'l feel like an outsider that's not in New York or in America anymore.

You'll need to get used to airplanes constantly flying overhead (and uncomfortably low) as they make their way to the nearby LaGuardia Airport.

Flushing Mall (133-31 39th Ave, at Prince St) is probably the weirdest "mall" you'll step foot in. The main reason you go here is to sample cheap, delicious and authentic Chinese food at its Food Court. Most of the stores at the mall were downright tacky and cheapy (but not cheap); however, there were some stores that were interesting as well.

So here's a section of the food court with over a dozen vendors.

Before we came here, we did some research, as we normally do, and most of the reviewers said that it's always best to bring someone who can speak and read Cantonese, and by looking at the signs below, you can see why.

Massively lost in translation.

This shop that sold unique combs and mirrors was one of the few shops worth the visit.

And of course the small food stores are always fun places to find uncommon snacks, sauces, and drinks.

After spending the whole day in Flushing, we felt a little beat up. Actually, it felt like our most tiring day in New York thanks to walking up and down overcrowded streets and trying to find the restaurants we were looking for (next post). Nonetheless, it was a great experience and something every visitor to New York should do. If we had more time, we would have stopped at every few subway train stops to explore the other areas of Flushing, notably the Hispanic and Indian areas.

Let's go Mets. Catching a baseball game is another thing we didn't have time to do. We'll save that for our next visit (or hopefully "return").

Another thing we noticed about Queens - more graffiti on buildings than any other neighborhood we've seen (then again, we haven't made our way to the Bronx yet).