Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Exploring Philadelphia - chinatown edition

Well, I grew up and have always lived in the suburbs of Wilmington, DE. We have a section of I-95 running in close proximity to our neighborhood, and there's the city of Wilmington right closeby...that's it, the rest is very plain and inaccessible by foot. The nearest store is over a mile from my house, and there aren't any sidewalks so driving is the safest option. Buses hardly ever run through our neighborhoods; I've always been highly dependent on my parents for transportation to, well, anywhere.

SO, this whole independence thing and lack of cars/parents driving said cars is incredibly, INCREDIBLY new to me. I gathered a couple new friends - Marilyn, Kirana and Marilyn's boyfriend Carlos - and coerced them into accompanying me to chinatown. We took the broad street subway to the vine-race station (they had to explain to me how to use the day pass: at first, I tried swiping it without activating it first. It was soooo confusing) and then walked the three or four blocks down race street to the Chinatown area. Surprisingly, I was the navigator! Me! An out-of-state girl who's not only directionally challenged: I completely lack common sense and am a horrible leader. By some miraculous stroke of luck, I led our party there and back without incident. AMAZING!!!

While in Chinatown, we did some light shopping and stopped for lunch at a corner restaurant that served general Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. First, we jumped into a cool little cafe on race street that serves bubble tea in adorable Hello Kitty-print disposable cups! At a 99 cents store (I don't think the store owner understands the concept of "99 cents", because half the items in there were over $10 O_O), Marilyn and I picked up some delicious red bean mochi while Kirana selected a bag of dried fish sticks. They had some seriously awesome and exotic packaged food at astoundingly cheap prices: pickled ginger, ginger candy, dried pickled plums, those fruit-filled marshmallow things, dried sardines, etc. etc. Afterwards I insisted on stopping at a produce store in search of canned lychee nuts, because they're delicious and food stores NEVER have them. But I digress. Of course, being a group composed of mostly girls, we stopped at the "Sanrio" store right down the way from friendship gate, although we refrained from purchasing anything because the prices at this particular shop are nonsensically high. Finally, we made a stop at one of the many Chinese bakeries in the area where I picked up a couple bean buns and almond buns (I don't think anyone else followed suit), and then we made our way back to the subway, arms laden with bags.

Finding our way back into the subway system was another adventure entirely. We didn't realize the vine-race station was only an exit, and it took us about an hour of interrogating passers-by and wandering back towards the Ben Franklin building that the only accesspoint was in that direction. GRAH it was infuriating. And THEN, while we were waiting for the train, two people started fist-fighting several yards to our left! This attracted a sizeable crowd of onlookers, and even a Septa worker stopped to watch for a second before wandering off again, and just as the punches were gaining accuracy, the train made its noisy entrance and dispersed the crowd - even the fighters.

I refuse to ever ride the subway alone. EVER.

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