a city of islands: beaches and art

Sometimes I forget that New York City is a city of islands with easy access to water because I spend the far majority of my time surrounded by skyscrapers in Midtown or Lower Manhattan. But yes, Manhattan is an island. Queens and Brooklyn are part of Long Island (a rather giant island). Staten Island is an island. Only the Bronx is not an island … and coincidentally it’s also the only borough I’ve never been to. But there really is water everywhere. Which means beaches! And since it’s still New York, it also (sometimes) means art! Woot!

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The Rockaways (Rockaway Peninsula in Queens) were pretty devastated during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, so it’s nice to see how it’s recovered. Over at Fort Tilden is the site-specific installation Rockaway! by Katharina Grosse. Basically it’s an abandoned structure full of sand that got a spiffy red and white paint job. Cool. Kinda random, but still kinda cool. I mean, if it’s going to be abandoned, it might as well be pretty.

So far I’ve been to Rockaway Beach, which has a pretty spiffy new boardwalk, and Jacob Riis, which is less crowded with better/closer food options, but is harder to get to (we took the Beach Bus to Jacob Riis; Rockaway Beach is accessible by train). But getting out of the city in any manner feels AMAZING! And if I’m being technical about it, we never really left the “city” since we were in New York City the whole time!

Oh, and while at Rockaway Beach, we created a masterpiece. What do you get when a group of architects builds a sandcastle? Why, a ziggurat of course.

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Happy summer!

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if the little mermaid was a man in qingdao (tbt)

Did you just have a nightmare from that post title? As I briefly mentioned previously a really, really long time ago, I went to Qingdao for a few days of sorta-R&R back in August. And … all in all, I was underwhelmed, but I’ll expand more on that later. Right now, I would like to direct your attention to the glorious photo below that inspired the post title:

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When you see a person on a rock in the middle of the water, you think of the Little Mermaid, right? This guy was fairly far out just chilling there for a while and I found it hilarious, mostly because I kept imagining the guy dressed up and posing as the Little Mermaid.

Anyhow, Qingdao is known for two things: European architecture (because it was a German concession) and its beaches. I really hope I don’t come across as incredibly elitist saying this, but I’ve seen better architecture elsewhere, I found the trash-covered beaches appalling, and I’ve gotten used to Shanghai-style China. Everything was just kinda eh. A lot of the people I encountered were mainland tourists, so to them, Qingdao is probably pretty fun, but I couldn’t get over how dirty it was and how rude people were (spitting, littering, pushing). I guess I expected more from a tourist town like Qingdao, because while the behavior wouldn’t phase me in the countryside, it’s downright low-class by Shanghai standards.

Here are some of the highlights from my trip:

But people don’t really go to Qingdao to see the sites or shop. It’s all about the beaches! When I went, the weather was super nice and the beaches were crowded. I was a bit iffy about getting into the water because of all the floating trash and algae, but I did end up wading in knee-deep and walked along three or four beaches, which was super tiring and gave me some pretty serious tan lines.

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Takeaway: Qingdao is good for a max. two-day trip (or as part of a larger trip as it was for me), just don’t expect too much and be prepared for a mass of tourists. Everything was fairly inexpensive and it’s a good place to get away from the city, walk along a beach, eat fresh seafood, and enjoy blue skies, but not much else. Qingdao was never on my must-see list of places to go, and although I doubt I’ll go again, I am glad I went.

eating ice, busan in winter (tbt)

Of all the countries I’ve visited (excluding China and the US where I’ve lived), I’ve visited Korea the most – three times. That being said, I haven’t actually seen much of Korea because all of my trips were more for visiting people than exploring or adventuring. So when my sister and I took a short trip to Busan in January 2015, we went to the beach and ate ice. Yeah, we’re all about contradictions like that. But it was good. And it had mango. Yum.

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We went to a place called Binguru just across the street from the Gwangalli Beach, and although there are many, many places in Korea that sell shaved ice, it’s definitely more popular in the summer. I was told that this was Taiwanese shaved ice (baobing) rather than the very similar Korean version (bingsu), but honestly I’m not too sure what differentiates them … I think they’re basically the same. Both use a fluffy form of shaved ice and are served either with red bean topping or sweet with fruit.

In contrast, the good ol’ American snow cone is ground-up ice with syrup for flavor … totally paling in comparison to the fluffy and fresh Asian ices. However, as good as baobing and bingsu are, I could totally go for a snow cone right now.