New York: A Reflection

I’d like to start by saying that my goal of blogging weekly was such an incredible failure. But this blog post is about why I didn’t blog – because I was in this city! We hear so much about New York, and when people ask me where I’ve been over the summer and I answer, they respond with a “Wow!!!” and are excited. At least for me, growing up in the suburbs of Portland and the tropical island of Penang, New York has always been a city I saw on TV shows and movies (mostly Gossip Girl, let’s be real), somewhere I never thought I would experience living in. Now, I can’t believe my summer here has come to an end; it has been a colorful experience to say the least. I can’t even begin to list the experiences I have had that simply wouldn’t be possible anywhere else, with New York being a fashion and tech hub, an intern flood during the summer and such a huge cultural melting pot. I’ve categorized my experiences into a few sections to organize my thoughts!

vente-privee

I guess I should start with the real reason I came to New York: to work. At vente-privee! In case you’re not familiar, vente-privee is a French company which pioneered the flash sales model back in 2001. While now a huge company in Europe with almost $2 Billion of annual revenue, they came to the US a little more than a year ago in the form of a joint venture with American Express.

The reason I decided to intern here is because it was a perfect intersection of fashion and tech in a start-up environment. I have learned SO much about the different aspects of an e-commerce business – email marketing and how that drives revenue, social media engagement, PR initiatives, and even the finances and logistics of it. Along with the other interns, I even organized a sample sale to liquidate some of the company’s inventory. It was also a unique opportunity to learn about what a joint venture is like, especially between two companies that don’t have a lot of overlap at all, and come from different parts of the world. It’s such an interesting mix of cultures in the business, and it’s been really interesting seeing that.

But apart from that, it was a great place to work. I’ve made some great friends and had so much fun! vp has a great office on the edge of SoHo, so I enjoyed walking through New York’s fashion center every day. The office is a huge, open, collaborative space that’s mostly white with pink accents (pink is vente-privee’s color), and we always have a stocked kitchen (loved it, obviously). It was also so amazing having samples from different brands coming in everyday, and photo shoots happening all the time. There was one photo shoot for a swimwear brand, and the photographer created a huge fake beach with sand and everything in the front of the office – super cool!

The Office Entrance
The Office Entrance
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Lobby area

New York: Fashion/Retail Capital 

Of course, it was amazing to be in the fashion capital of the country. Fashion lives in New York, and people have their own very individual tastes, and it’s apparent everywhere (I love it, obviously).

Another thing I noticed while shopping and exploring in New York was how much effort and detail is put into the storefronts of stores. I guess that in New York, all stores are essentially flagship, so that’s necessary. Some of my favorites were the All Saints in SoHo, which has a whole wall of vintage Singer sewing machines in the front. At the Jill Stuart SoHo store, a wall has been plastered with 3D flowers and butterflies. For a while this summer, The Tommy Hilfiger storefronts had a convertible car that had been decorated with seashells and immersed in a beach scene. I just found it so interesting how much work and thought had been put into luring the shopper into the store, and to project the brand’s presence outwards.

Singers at All Saints
Singers at All Saints
Jill Stuart
Jill Stuart

In General

There are so many things about New York that so unique, and living in New York is an experience that definitely can’t be replicated. I was constantly astonished by how frequently I ran into people I know, or people who had mutual friends. It boggles my mind to think every time I was walking through Union Square (where I took the subway from), there was probably one person I knew within a two block radius of me; it’s unreal.

I’m also so happy that I explored different neighborhoods of New York. I love Williamsburg, because it reminds me a little bit of Portland. I can’t get enough of sitting on the Hudson and watching the Manhattan skyline. There was one night when my roommate and I watched the sunset while sitting on the rocks on the shore, and it was one of my favorite nights in Manhattan. We also found a consignment store there called Beacon’s closet which is certainly my favorite thrift store in the world (so far). I also had such a great time exploring food in New York (the list is too long to talk in depth about). A few of my favorites were Cuba (SoHo), Joe’s Pizza, Chloe’s Soft Serve (Union Square), Rudy’s (Nolita), Yakiniku West (East Village), Nyonya (Little Italy/Chinatown) and Chikalicious (East Village). There were more that I’m definitely forgetting!

All in all, an unforgettable summer. Thanks NYC!

Manhattan skyline from Williamsburg
Manhattan skyline from Williamsburg
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Places: Penang

I haven’t written a travel post yet, and I think it’s time I do. And what better place to write about then the place I would most associate with the word ‘home’ (there are multiple…#CulturallyConfused).

Penang is a small island off the west coast of Malaysia where I happened to move when I was eleven years old. At the time, it was devastating. I cried for three hours into my dad’s shoulder, asking him why he was making me move to the other side of the world away from my established sixth-grade routine. Six-and-a-half years later, I was crying again; this time, because I was at the Penang Airport, saying good bye to friends I know will always be there for me, and leaving the island I that had become my home.

Penang from the sea

Okay, sorry for that emotional but necessary (?) aside. Anyway, when most people think of a tropical island in Southeast Asia, they think beaches, suntans, snorkeling, etc. I’m sorry, but Penang isn’t the best place for these things. Of course, these options are available – water sports like parasailing, jet-skiing, banana boating – these I would actually recommend at the beach. But the actual beach and water are nothing to die for – the water isn’t very clear, there are jelly fish, and the sand isn’t soft. It is fun for bonfires and just general being-by-the-ocean (which is something not to be undervalued, I miss having the ocean around me). There are a number of restaurants, hotels and hang-out places near the beach that are great too – Sigi’s by the Seat and  Bora Bora (formerly Sunset Bistro) are great hang-out places, while Rasa Sayang (Penang’s “6 star” hotel), Parkroyal, and Lone Pine are all hotels along the Batu Feringghi beach.

Roti Canai
Char Koay Teow

Food is one part of Penang you can’t miss…I would say that it has arguably the best mix of food of any other city in the world. By that I mean that you can find delicious food of any type and any price range (besides Mexican. That one’s difficult). The hawker (street) food in Penang is amazing, and probably cheaper than anything you could make at home. For this reason, many Penangites eat out more than they cook. Hawker food ranges from Malaysian Chinese food to ‘mamak’ (Indian-muslim) food to Western food even (I would check out the Northam Beach cafe hawker stands – they have a really good French hawker place!). My favorite dishes are Char Koay Teow, which is sort of Penang’s signature dish, and Roti Canai. I also really, really miss having Iced Milo and Iced Lime Juice…you really don’t get those things here! Apart from Hawker food, there are also some really nice restaurants. My personal favorite is Bella Italia, a really good, small Italian place started by an Italian man. Their pizza is amazing (it’s thin crust and really light), their pasta is good too, and their tiramisu is some of the best I’ve tasted (granted, I’ve never been to Italy). If you like Indian food, I would recommend going to Woodlands (in Little India) for brunch; it’s the some of the best South Indian food I’ve ever had. I feel like I’m forgetting most of the good food in Penang, but there’s only so much I can fit in a blog post!

There’s a lot to see in Penang too, and all of it reflects Penang’s unique mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western cultures. One of my favorite places in Penang is Armenian Street, which is an artsy part of town where there are art galleries, furniture shops, and my favorite jeweler in the entire world, Jonathan Yun. The tiles on the sidewalks of Armenian street are even artistic. It’s wonderful. Another must-see is Kek Lok Si Temple, a majestic Buddhist temple in the hills. It’s especially beautiful at night during Chinese New Year – it’s all lit up and looks heavenly. I really like going there just to relax and light a candle during the day too – it’s a spiritual, peaceful haven nestled at the base of Penang’s hills.

The tiles of Armenian Street
Kek Lok Si Temple, lit up during Chinese New Year

I guess there’s a gaping difference between living in Penang and visiting it, but I tried to merge the two in this post. Arguably the best part of Penang is having the ocean in sight at all times, it’s always a relaxing and calming feeling to see the ocean surround you; that’s definitely something I miss. Sometimes I can’t figure out what it is about this island that makes me so enthralled with it – it has a unique charm – but it’s definitely a mix of its landscape, culture and people. It will always be home!