Roadtripping to Upstate New York (Day 1)

The whole idea of this trip started off after Vu, one of my closest friends, and I failed to meet up in New York City due to a terrible flood.

A little background, Vu and I always attended Nguyen Sieu School, but we weren’t classmates until secondary school. Then he went to Japan for high school, while I continued the rest of my mine in Vietnam. I remembered we always gave each other special souvenirs after summer trips and worked on so many creative and exciting projects together. Even when we were in different time zones, we would still catch up at least once a month. Now, we still do so online and we consult each other all the time when we make decisions, sometimes as significant as writing a Vietnamese poem, or as grand as what internship to take.

Anyway, since our plan to meet fell apart, I decided that I would come to upstate New York during Fall Break to visit him at Union College. Eventually, Kyle and I planned a little road trip not just to visit Vu, but also some of Kyle’s high school friends. We rented a car, brought our backpacks, and packed some snacks for the trip. We were simple people, so we didn’t need a ton of clothes or lots of extra stuff- everything was compact and easy!

Our first stop was New Jersey, where we went to Kyle’s family’s favorite Asian store, 99 Ranch. We bought a ton of snacks, including some as gifts for Shiyu, our mutual Villanova friend in Jersey City. My favorite memory in this stop is the shrimp cracker that Kyle hyped up. He advertised it for the entire time we were in the store and insisted that I should try it. When I finally did, I was not at all impressed at all – the cracker was very bland and crunchy.

Then, we visited Shiyu, her boyfriend, and her apartment. I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of her apartment, but it was small, cozy, and right by the boardwalk. Isn’t it so cool to be able to walk along the beach anytime you want? Shiyu gave us a warm welcome by inviting us out for a delicious lunch in a Japanese restaurant nearby. The ramens were bomb, so were the gyozas. Besides the food, I also loved the walk because she intentionally took us on the long way to see more of this vibrant city. Today when I’m writing this, I’m still so glad that I knew Shiyu in my sophomore year. She was the one who encouraged me to apply for EY’s Women in Tech conference and gave me tons of advice to survive in Villanova as an international student. I will definitely hang out with Shiyu again and invite her out for many more dinners when I do my internship in Hoboken this summer!

After Jersey City, we drove a very long way into downtown Manhattan then out of New York to Schenectady. Kyle didn’t mind driving into the city to show me a little bit of New York. He also tried to help me take a picture of Xin Fu Tang, a famous bubble tea place (we were too full to order any). The street was super busy, but we navigated through it fine. One highlight in NYC was witnessing a random fight on the street. NYPD took like 2 minutes to show up and stop it. They were so fast that we didn’t even realize that they parked their car right in front of ours! Kyle and I loved seeing the hectic New York, as it was so different from Philly, but we really went crazy after, when we tried to escape the busy traffic to head to upstate NY. To give you a better idea of the traffic, just Imagine seeing a single red line on Google map for like 2 hours straight! It was truly an experience! And I’m glad that I did this with Kyle – he was super patient and thought of many random things for us to talk about. After that, the traffic got a little better and we were counting yellow objects on the street to pass the time. Oh, on the way, we also stopped by Staple and a little street shop for bathroom breaks. We were basically just walking around and enjoying the view as the sun set.

We then finally arrived at our hotel and checked in at around 7:30 pm. We took no break and went straight to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to visit Saaif, Kyle’s friend from Church Farm Highschool. We and Saaif ended up having dinner in Rensselaer after giving up finding other eating spots off-campus that were open at 9pm. I enjoy that though, since we got a glimpse of his school and Kyle and Saaif talked about so many funny memories back then. I can’t quite recall clearly, but I remember the ones about Do Nhat Nam. This guy was a celebrity in Vietnam and he went to the same boarding school as Kyle and Saaif! It was a great proof that the world is tiny! We said bye to Saaif then we went to Vu’s place to hang out with him and his housemates until super late at night. Vu showed us his artistic lifestyle and we had a great time traveling back time to middle school together!

We ended the day driving back to our hotel, The Century House. Did I tell you about it? We got a sweet deal – $120/night including tax and booking fee. It was decently decorated with a king-sized bed and free breakfast. We definitely had a long day so a nice hotel room like this was much needed. We fell asleep reflecting how much fun we had visiting our friends and catching up with them.

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