All posts by 'Pong

Beers in LA

One of some few things I liked about living and working in the States  was beer. I was curious to see what east coast had to offer when I got to LA last November. And it wasn’t a disappointment at all. On top of that, there was a good guide to take me for a pub-crawl—my nephew.

Angel City IPA, Angel City Brewery

The first taste of the local, Angel City IPA, was a brief introduction at a pub next to Egyptian Theatre before the movie. Unfortunately, the only choice I prefer at that same night at the Thai pub was Blue Moon. So, it didn’t count.

The day after we had a big yum cha lunch with my cousin and his family. And his son offered me to be a guide to the local breweries in Art District. We got to Angel City Brewery, Wurstküche, and Art District Brewing Co. That was one of the best things in the trip for having good drinks and chat with a right person. Moreover, what made it so special was that the person was your own relative you hadn’t met since we were little kid.

Somehow, it wasn’t enough. After parted with the family, it was still early in the night (with three hours time different from DC). I got down to the Brickyard pub to get some more beer. There, no beers on taps, no worries. It was a chance to explore from bottles. And I got some journal written and digested my thoughts on the trip so far. I had been full on. By the end of the night, I was pretty smashed.  Well, there were nine different beers I had that day.

The morning after, the plan to get out somewhere, like a cool café by Venice beach to write something, was scrapped. I stayed in the room for the whole last day of the trip. However, it really didn’t feel like I needed to do anything more. Considered missions accomplished.

A Glimpse of Thai Town in LA vs Sydney

I’ve always been curious about Thai Town in LA. So, another key thing, apart from visiting my cousin and his family, was to check it out. With a short time I had, I was looking for fragments that could tell some similarities and differences from Thai Town in Sydney. Not many established Thai overseas communities in this planet: LA and Sydney.

There wasn’t much time in the city. The plan was to see it in the day and night. By day was to walk along Hollywood Boulevard get glimpse of the Thai Town strip. Then, I needed to find out where Thais go out at night. And I would do those with my latest experience of Sydney in 2016 in my mind.

Obviously, the area stretched wider along the road than Sydney. Still, the two Thai Towns had similar shops: restaurants and grocers. I was pretty sure that I could find anything from Thailand in LA as much as I did in Sydney.

What I could observe, they looked they’d passed their peak. Lots of signs were decade old and some were broken, deserted, and frozen in time. It was Thanksgiving Holiday but the area was quite quiet, to my surprise. Sydney Thai Town would be busy on the long weekend like this.

I was able to find out from a Thai staff where to go at night. And apparently, the place where Thais went was just in the same block as where I had lunch.

After a movie, (2001: The Space Odyssey screening at Egyptian Theatre was such a fortunate timing to be there.) I got to Darabar Secret Thai Cuisine. It was just the right place. The bar was full with three birthday parties. All the patrons were Thais. T-pop live music was on stage. And you could get a bottle of Black Label for the table. What could be more Thai than that?

Back in In Sydney in 2016, I was taken to C-Bar, in Thai Town more than once by different peeps. It was good to see pubs for Thais to hang out even though the crowd was mixed. Thai community had come a long way. Those things weren’t there when I left Sydney in late 2010. And I was glad to see them.

It was impossible to get a deep picture of the community in LA as I could in Sydney, where I spent my life almost a decade. However, something told me that Thai identity was rooted deeper in LA than Sydney. Whereas Sydney had been catching up with more contemporary Thai pop culture than LA.

Ultimately, you could be able to tell that there was something about being Thai—whatever it is— wherever in the world. What an embrace!

Side note: the weather was a bugger. Coming from the cold in DC and hitting warm in LA was a challenge. It was steamy walking to Thai Town and then foggy and chilly at night when getting back there for a Thai pub. It reminded me a lot of autumn time in Sydney.

At The Royal Crematorium

One thing I couldn’t afford to miss when in Bangkok is the Royal Crematorium. The royal cremation ceremony was held in October 2017. The Royal Crematorium was still on display as an exhibition until December. I had an observation of people paying the last homage of the late King Bhumipol in December 2016. I was eager to see how they transformed Sanam Luang to glorify the monarch. They have done a very good job.

I don’t use a DSLR camera for a photo shoot much these days. But the day I visited Sanam Luang to take picture of it, I had so much fun. Because it was spectacular.

I arrived the place in late afternoon and the weather was perfect with overcast cloud to diffuse sunlight. It was not so busy that we needed to queue up. That gave me some rooms to take photos without bumping with the crowd.

Then, I realised that it was impossible to get deep down in details of the crematorium while photographing because of each element was created through the royal tradition with ancient Buddhist and Brahma believes. From the Funeral pyre to the surrounding pavilions converted into exhibition halls. And I didn’t do any homework on any of them what so ever.

So, yes, I was in awe and overwhelmed.

It wasn’t just the structures and the decorations that amazed me, but also the people. As the day went into dusk, the magic started to emerge—the golden hour of sunset. That was when the crowd started to form. There were some top spots for photographers stationed. But most visitors used their mobile phones or tablets to take picture considering it was a one-off event in their lifetime.

This was one of the most fun photo sessions I had for a long time. The last one I had real fun could be sunrise in Sydney I took in 2016. It reminded how much I could engage with photo shooting when the subject was astounding like this.

2017 Wrap up: Significant Times and Gratitude

2017 has been an interesting one. Even though I spent most of it in Washington DC for eight months all up, it was fortunate enough for me to be there with friends elsewhere for their significant life events. And I am so grateful for that. In chronological order, there were cancer, marriage, death, and monkhood.

In December 2016 when in Bangkok, one of my best friends got a breast cancer and had an operation just before New Year. She was released from the hospital on New Year’s Eve. We gathered at her place to support her. How melancholy to start the year! Fortunately, she’s got a strong will. And eventually, she beat it.

February to June, I was in DC and needed to hop out of the country within 90 days. Another good timing in April when a friend, whom I worked with closely during the years in Bangkok, was getting married in UK. It was a perfect occasion for me to be her wedding guest. Actually, it was my very first time to attend a Christian ceremony. Also, it gave me some snippets of London after that too.

Got a break Bangkok in July and August. The last two weeks of that break was a real blow. My best friend suddenly got a stroke and passed away. His death got me think a lot about life. I always think about life but that reminded how to live your life worthwhile.

Back to work in DC in September to November. And I took a detour to visit a long lost cousin in Los Angeles before another break in Bangkok in December and January. Good news, another close friend was getting ordained to become a monk for three weeks. In Thai culture, this counts as one of the most honourable merits for a son to do for his parents. That was actually a pleasant way to end the year.

Wearing saffron rope #buddhist #Bangkok #temple

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These events overshadowed what I original planned and thought about 2017. Since the bold decision to work in DC in 2015 (which got me the hindsight about the journeys that made me), I have been embracing my life to be back and forth in DC and Bangkok in 2016. The plan for 2017 was to get back on track on other aspects, especially on the hypertension issue.

I’d like to do something about my drinking habits. I’d say alcohol control has been better than the previous years in DC. However, Bangkok is still a challenge to be disciplined. But, at least, I could pinpoint where the temptations are. On top of that, I’m back on meds that was deliberately ignored when I first moved to DC and keeping monitoring blood pressure.

Workwise, here were some notable ones:

While back-and-forth life of mind sounds exciting to able to change the scenes constantly throughout the year, I just can’t help thinking about settling in one place in the future. In the end, we have to do it at some point but I guess I would keep pushing it while I could.

2017 was full of significant times of my close friends. It was mixed with sickness, joy, loss, and gratitude. Yes, gratitude, that I should be feeling about it. It also made me prepare for the years to come.

LA Trip: Family Reconnected

I’m back in Bangkok as usual for this time of the year. But there’s a detour to Los Angeles for a few days before heading to Thailand. The main reason is to visit a long lost cousin and his family. Reconnecting with them is something I have to digest more than it was anticipated. And this blog post should be something that I need to articulate it.

I remember they were the only relatives from my mother’s side my in childhood’s loop. Over 30 years ago, they left for the States and we lost touch since. So, apart from step dad’s extended family, growing up, it was a huge gap not connected to any of my own large families. Neither from mom’s side nor dad’s (the tie with him was cut off since the divorce.) That gets me excited to meet them.

A quick note on how we found each other. With the power of social media, my cousin was able to track my brother down on Facebook. It started from there. And I’ve got a luxury to physically be in just across the continent, not the planet.

A short time I get to spend with them includes. The first evening in LA, my cousin, with his wife, and I catch up at a Thai place called Palms Thai Restaurant. They drive me around Thai Town, which I plan to explore it on the next day.

The day after the following day, we—the couple with their son and his wife and I—had a yum cha lunch in Monterey. We get back to my nephew’s apartment in Art District. My nephew (with small age gap, I prefer him to call me brother) and I do a pub crawl in the area. I find that we have similar tastes and even some good core values. Our conversation over good craft beers in local breweries is very enjoyable. We finish the evening in Little Tokyo. The rest of the family joins us there for dinner at a place that my cousin-in-law is long-time regular.

The day with the long lost extended family is so overwhelming that I need to wind down in a bar by myself. And the plan to get somewhere, like Venice Beach, on the next day is scrapped. I spend most of the day being a veg in the room until my cousin and his wife pick me up for dinner at a famous Thai boat noodles. And that is it, mission accomplished.

I can’t help thinking about when I travel to Nong Kai to catch up my father in 2014. That one got me to the mindset to get on with my life. But this reconnection shines some glimpse about family. Frankly, that doesn’t come easily for me. I’d say it is one of those missing puzzles in life. In the End, we can’t reverse how we grow up. Certainly, we could pick up some pieces together to understand it. This one is definitely a real reconnection.