Weekend Escapes

Weekend Escapes

My weekends have been filled with adventures ever since I arrived in D.C. The thing is, there’s so much to do here that you’ll probably have trouble settling on anything at all. If you’re as indecisive as I am, my advice is to let your weekend itinerary take shape spontaneously.


On one particular weekend, though, I actually made plans (although I admit the logistics were settled at the very last minute). As I mentioned in my previous post, I had been planning to visit my sister in New York for her spring break. Her roommates would be away, and I would have free accommodations for a weekend in the Big Apple. Who would pass up a chance like that?


*Note: Take a bus if you’re planning to visit nearby states for the weekends. It is the cheapest and most convenient method of transportation. Here’s a link to find yourself some cheap bus fare.

So, on Friday afternoon, my friend (who is also an intern at TWC) and I made our way to Bethesda, Maryland  to catch our bus at the station right outside Regal Cinemas. If you’re wondering why we traveled to this station, it's because it offers the cheapest available bus fare ($50 both ways per person). However, it took 12 Metro stops and one painstakingly long elevator ride to exit the Bethesda Station and finally get to the bus stop. And by ‘painstakingly long,' I mean the elevator was 213 feet long and 106 feet tall! This escalator is actually the second longest in the Western Hemisphere, falling behind Wheaton Station (which is another station in D.C.). To those of you who are afraid of heights, DO NOT look back as you’re going up!


Where’s the end of this thing?


After that, though, it was a smooth 4-hour ride to NYC. We arrived after sundown, and the breathtaking sight of the Manhattan night skyline welcomed us into the city.



Food Indulgence in Chinatown

When you come to New York City, most people would tell you to make a trip to the cultural towns in the city for food hunting adventures. I say, heed their word and do it. Chinatown and Koreatown are places you would find really good eats.


*Note: Chinatown’s price range is much lower than Koreatown, but the downside is that most stores only take cash, no credit. Take cash with you, but if you do forget, there are ATMs all over the place for you to use.


On our first official day in the city (after arriving at midnight the previous day) my sister, friend and I made our way to Manhattan’s infamous Chinatown, which is the oldest and biggest in the city. When we were there, I got to load up on groceries at one of the many oriental supermarkets in the area. As we strolled the busy streets of this historical town, it was nice to see little stands selling exotic fruits like dragon fruits and durians (aka, the king of fruits and also my country’s national fruit), and wet markets with fresh seafood on ice. It all reminded me of home and all the foods I’ve been missing in Malaysia. Authentic Asian food is scarce in Lubbock (where my college is located), and the best Asian restaurants are in major cities like Dallas and Houston, more than 5 hours away! Because of this, I'm so glad that there's a Chinatown in Washington D.C.!



In D.C., I end up going to Chinatown more often to catch a movie than to eat (there is a huge cinema just a couple blocks from Chinatown’s entrance). But in New York, I go to Chinatown primarily for the food. So for this trip, I decided to satisfy my dim sum cravings. My favorite place is the city’s oldest dim sum restaurant. I go there for brunch every time I’m in town. Now, it’s not that you can’t get good dim sum in D.C. It’s just that it’s usually served in trendy restaurants like Ping Pong’s, where you don’t get the fun of picking out dim sums from the cart. Less upbeat stores have them too, but choices are limited and carts only come out on the weekends. Hence, I rarely go for dim sum while I’m in D.C.


Brunch at Nom Wah Tea Parlor


D.C’s Chinatown is more of a mixed bag of ethnic/cultural restaurants. You can have Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Mexican and Irish, among other cuisines. You can also find plenty of American franchises such as Starbucks, Subway, Fuddruckers, McDonald's, and Dunkin’ Donuts. One of the things I found fascinating was that these stores all have additional signs that spell their names in Chinese characters, which I suppose is to prevent them from detracting from the Chinatown ‘vibe.' But I wonder if some of these Chinese names might be a little misleading at times. I mean, imagine if a Chinese family on tour decided to try out a place called the “Owl Restaurant” only to realize that they’ve entered a Hooters. That could be…awkward! But in all seriousness, D.C.’s Chinatown does have good Chinese restaurants. It also has a beautiful “Friendship” archway at the entrance that transports you to the Far East as it welcomes you to the area. But if you’re not into Asian food, come down here for a photo op at the entrance instead. It’s totally worth it.



To be completely honest, the Capital’s Chinatown could stretch a few more blocks and bring in more Asian eateries. It would be nice to see wet markets and little stands selling fresh produce along the streets, too. But hey, it’s still a great place to spend an afternoon eating, shopping (you can find shops like Urban Outiftters and Loft here) and exploring museums like the National Portrait Gallery and International Spy Museum. If you want a full-blown Chinatown experience, you’d best make a trip to New York or San Francisco. But D.C.’s Chinatown is still a nice place to hang out and relax. Plus, the Metro conveniently brings you right to the entrance of Chinatown. Sweet!


Shopping Madness at SoHo

New York City is well-known for its shopping districts. My favorite place to shop is SoHo, which is where we spent our afternoon at stores like Zara, Topshop, Mango and Uniqlo. The area was packed with people, with insane lines to the fitting rooms and checkout counters. Which is why I only bought stuff I really, really wanted. Being an unpaid intern on a tight budget, I guess the long lines were a good thing for me! But if you have steeper pockets than I do and feel like splurging, you can find NYC’s best shopping spots here. From streets to malls to famous markets - be ready for lots of walking as you explore these shopping havens. They’ll easily take you a whole afternoon to cover.



Sunday Worship at Irving Plaza

On the last day of my trip, we decided to make our way to Hillsong Church for their Sunday morning service. Hillsong has two branches in the city, one in Downtown (where we went) and another in Midtown at the Playstation Theatre. Since the church is something of a tourist site, almost half the congregation are people from other states or even across the ocean. Because we arrived late to the service, we ended up standing on the second tier for the whole service.


The view was great from up here, at least


We enjoyed the service, despite the lack of seats. I’ve always loved the concert-style music put out by Hillsong Church, so it was really cool to be able to attend one of their services. An interesting thing I found about this branch is that because of its size, the Sunday sermons are sometimes live-streamed from Hillsong Church in New Jersey. It may sound a little odd at first, but the sermons are powerful and uplifting and it doesn’t matter where you hear them from.


After the wonderful service, we decided to head off to lunch at BonChon Chicken in Koreatown and tour the city more before catching our bus back to D.C. Time truly does fly when you’re having fun in one of the busiest cities in the world. But at the end of the trip, I realized how much I actually missed D.C. It’s much more laid-back than New York, and the weather is also a tad warmer. Also, the Metro is definitely something I became more appreciative of. The subway system in New York is convoluted (as I mentioned before in my previous post), and at times crazy. So while the food, shopping and sights in New York are amazing, I think D.C. is just as amazing in its own way.


So guys, if you’re ever in D.C. for the semester, plan to travel around a bit. States like Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York are just a bus-ride away. Additionally, D.C. is also a day-trippers paradise for those who can’t afford to give up the entire weekend. Averaging on less than two hours by bus, train, or car, you can easily make your way to many great cities/towns nearby and make it back to your good ole’ bed by the end of the day. Overall, it would be a shame if you didn’t take the advantage of the short traveling hours to different locations from D.C. Back in Texas, a 6-hour ride could only take you as far as the other side of well, Texas, so to me this is fantastic!


*Note: If planning is not your thing, don’t worry! TWC occasionally host day-trips for students. You’d only have to pay a price of $25 (usually) and this includes transportation and a ticket for a tour. That’s a sweet deal. So far for this semester, TWC did day-trips to Annapolis and Philadelphia.


Wrapping it up, my weekend escape had finally come to an end, and my friend and I got on the bus at the corner of Penn Station. It was a nice ride back to D.C., (unlike the ride to New York, where I had to sit in front of a guy who would not stop complaining about his life), and I got a good view of the skylines once again before I dozed off from the excitement slowly wearing down. Now, it’s time to head back and take on the rest of the semester!



If you are bored and craving a bite, make your way down to Union Market. It’s one of D.C.’s best places to eat, and It’s only about a 10-minute walk from the RAF. It’s in a somewhat seedy part of town (hidden among a bunch of warehouses), but once inside, you’ll forget where you are. This neighborhood gem has a variety of food options, from Korean tacos to Indian dosa to Italian pastas. Additionally, there are some small shops and vendors that sell fresh produce and baked goods. It’s kind of like an upscale food court with a hipster flair. The last time I was there, I got some fresh oysters at Rappahannock Oyster Co. and treated myself to some Belgian waffles at Saison Wafel Bar for dessert. The food is good, but a little pricey. But during happy hour (4-7pm T-F), oysters are $12 a dozen, so drop by after work for some. Overall, I really enjoyed the quaint atmosphere of the market—though not so much the crowds. Take note that it gets way more crowded during the weekends, making it hard to find tables. If throngs of people turn you off, I suggest coming here on weekdays.






Read Lizzy's previous blog posts here

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