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Imagine you just spent well over two weeks confined in the small space of a boat where you were fed what was given.  Imagine before that you spent the better part of 5 months in an isolated and homogeneous northern town.  And imagine before all that all, you were living on a 2 mile wide island whose entire restaurant scene was catered to tourists, providing little in the way of diversity.  Yes, this was not necessarily a good year for my passion for ethnic foods.

So my first objective when I got to New York City: authentic Chinese food.  Outside of going to China itself, I don’t think you’re going to get much closer than the NYC Chinatown.

Getting off the subway into what was supposed to be the Chinatown area was a little bit confusing.  I was in a park with many people of Asian descent and speaking languages other than English (though that goes for a good portion of the populace I encounter in New York anyway).  However, there was nothing overtly Chinatown-esque about where I was.

The Manhattan Bridge Arch near one of the open-air flea markets in Chinatown.

Wandering a few blocks in a randomly chosen direction fixed that, though.  I ended up smack-dab in what was quite evidently Chinatown.  Shops and stands and markets and trinkets.  I really wish I had taken pictures of more of it, as I’m not sure that I can accurately describe the delightful chaos that the neighborhood entails.

But still, my goal was a good Chinatown lunch.  So, walking around with my eyes glued to my app, I finally came to my winner: Big Wong Restaurant.

The seating scheme was unlike any restaurant I’ve ever been in before.  I was unsure about it at first, but after ten minutes, I loved it!  Everything was communal.  They put you where you fit, on a bench, in a chair, at a counter, in the air.  By the time I ordered, I was somehow surrounded by 2 Australians and an Englishman.

My meal at Big Wong.

Luckily the menu had English translations; otherwise I would have had no idea what I was looking at.  About 2 or 3 different people came by to take different orders. Back home at Chinese restaurants, I usually stick to something similar to General Tso’s Chicken. Figured I’d venture out a bit this time.  I’m still not sure exactly what it was I ordered (even with the English help) but when it came to the table it was absolutely amazing.

A street in Chinatown looking toward the south.

Wandering out, very full, I had no idea what to expect from Chinatown.  My sister had been here a few years before and was a big fan of the “unofficial” brands sold around here.  Shopping has never really been my thing but I couldn’t help but to pop into so many of these shops just to see what was in them.

After a couple hours, I began to gather that I had looped through about as much as I was going to see.  A good deal of day remained, and a whole skyline of some of New York’s tallest buildings loomed over the nearer buildings to the south, calling me toward them.

Benjamin Williams

Hi all, my name is Ben. I’m a native Michigander with a passion for human culture and new places, and more than that, new experiences. I have degrees in archaeology and writing, pursuing a career in the latter. However, I never quite lost that fascination for archaeological theory. For the past 11 years, I’ve been living and travelling between Asia, Europe, and North America, documenting ancient sites and the peoples who built them, and then adapting them into practical archaeological travel information at

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