It’s the first year in DC that I stay until late spring in June. And I feel obliged to check out Capital Pride.
I skip all the parties and the parade. Unfortunately, I missed the Equality March due to time conflict with my regular Sunday gym class. (Obviously, that’s my priority.) The only event I go is the Festival.
But I stay there for about two hours because the heat and humidity is just too unbearable. Although I find some similarities and differences with Sydney Mardi Gras, it is too much to dig deep into it. Besides, the event doesn’t really engage to stay until my volunteer shift starts at 7.30 pm. So, I just log on the volunteer portal and cancel it. They could live without me.
It’s the first LGBT celebration since I left Sydney. My takeaway is that I have moved on. It doesn’t get me excited and having fun with discovering and sharing it like I took photos of Fair Day event for the first time ten years ago.
In fact, I have been over this scene for a long time. My last engagement with Mardi Gras was in 2010 when I got a rooftop spot to shoot the whole parade. However, I consider my early works on LGBT exposed myself to the world and I am grateful for that. That could be the main reason for my feeling of obligation for the Pride this year.
In my little London adventure, there are two things that come to my thoughts: the experience of excellent public transportation and, to my surprise, pubs and beers that turn to be a big let down.
First of all, as a first-time visitor I commute in London without any confusion. These days, my main tool for travelling is Google Maps. With its accurate information, I can get around without having to ask anyone for directions. Moreover, the clear signs on the ground reflect exactly in the app. I have had this problem in Detroit where I couldn’t find the bus stop, which appeared in the Maps.
However, when you plan the trip with the app and start to get into the Tube system, it could be difficult to change the route because there is no mobile signal down there and will have to find out from that complex Underground map. My friend and I have to do that while in the pub crawl session.
I just can’t help comparing it with other cities I’ve lived. Sydney improved when I visited last year. DC is adequate but Metro network is not widespread. Bangkok train systems are reliable but they are not totally integrated with each other or with other systems—i.e., bus and ferry services.
More evidently, getting from/to the airport shows how to move people painlessly. Even though Sydney, DC, and Bangkok are not bad, Heathrow Express is the best. Many cities frustrated me in terms of getting out of the airport. To name a few: I queued up for a taxi for hours in Kuala Lumpur, I got confused with Uber pick-up point in Detroit, I was rudely dropped off a wrong destination in Chiang Mai because Songthaew driver misheard me.
I’ve got prior perception of the city’s public transport system from a couple of works I was involved. London was one of the success case stories in a report about urban transport in Malaysia. And we once interviewed CTO and Director of Customer Experience, Transport for London on how they could assist other cities with their experiences. To finally experience it first hands with this background is great.
On the other side, my expectation with pubs and beer is high but it just lets me down. Two nights out of three in the city, I get last call bell before midnight. I’m not sure if this is a norm but I don’t remember the last time I had to rush out of a pub.
And a quest for good local ale also fails. London Pale Ale I have in Oxford is fine. But others than that don’t jump at me at all. The tap selections are quite the same along the pubs I’ve been too. Unlike DC or Sydney, where they’ve got different beers in different pubs. My regular, Songbyrd, always changes beers on their taps.
To end this note, I’ve got one of the most embarrassing moments in my life in the last night in London. I can’t hold it to the hotel and have to release it on pathway by a park. Just a few second later, a police car pulls over behind me. The cops get out of the car and ask me questions. This could be the first time ever I got caught red handed with no excuses. I know I could be in a trouble with it but they let me go anyway. Oops! Lesson learned.
April 2017 is the first time in years that I don’t get a chance to celebrate Songkran. However, it is also the first time I get to visit London. It’s only for a few days and I can just only see the city as some snippets.
Because of my work visa condition, I need to get out of the country after 90 days of arrival. That could be anywhere. And the timing coincides with a friend’s wedding in the UK.
I go straight to Oxford for the wedding, which is held in the afternoon on the day I arrive. The ceremony goes beautifully and I get meet wonderful people from both bride and groom sides. After the wedding party and dancing, the drinking continues until 4am. Thus, the morning after is a pain to get back on the train to London.
This counts as Day 1 in London. I need to recover from the hangover in the hotel room in Notting Hill. By the time I can manage myself up and function again, it is pretty much late. At least, I take the Tube to Waterloo, walk across the Thames to Tarfalgar Square, Chinatown, and Soho, then take the underground back to Notting Hill to explore what Netflix’s geo copyright has to offer in the UK.
The next day, I meet a friend from Cambridge whom we met in my Bangkok local pub. We visit Saatchi Gallery for an hour. Then we start a pub crawl from Camden to Soho. My mission is to find some local good craft ale. But after a few pubs, I give up since nothing has come to my taste. So, I just enjoy the company for the evening.
The morning after is not too bad because of the low ABV we drank last night. This is quite new for me, frankly, and I’m told by the friend that low ABV is actually designed for the pub crawl session. It’s the last full day in the city. Something I have to tick off my list are Tate Modern and some gay bars then end up with a Pad Thai for late night supper. I’ve got to try that in London.
This is pretty much it, the short time in London. But there are more in my head about it. So, that will be the next post about what I see about the city from these snippets.
I thought I would dodge the cold weather this winter. When I landed in the city, it was snowing just a tiny bit. That was pretty much about it in February. Until March a snow storm hit the northeast mid March. Unlike last year, DC was far south of the storm centre.
Even so, the warm weather in February triggered some of the flowers to bud. Those whom was tricked got damaged. Magnolia, for instance, was the first to come out and went brown in the cold snap.
That included almost half of the cherry blossoms. However, some late bloomers caught up to fill in.
Apparently, I went to Tidal Basin, exactly the same date as last year. It gave a good comparison to this year’s visitors.
One of my definite to-do lists when I was back in Bangkok last December was to pay respect to the late King. The main reason wasn’t for the sake of myself paying the respect but to see the people and their activities around it.
Totally, it took about six hours that day to eventually get into the Grand Palace for ten minutes to pay the homage to HM’s body. Most of that time was just a wait in Sanam Luang, outside the Grand Palace. That would be enough for me to get a glimpse of the mourning environment.