Category Archives: Travel

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.

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.

Getting around and Getting Drunk in London

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.

In the Tube
Getting to Waterloo

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.

Mushrooms at the World's End
A urinal at World’s End, Camden

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.

Late Night Underground
Getting back to Notting Hill, tipsy…

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.

Some Snippets of London

Tip of the Eye
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.

Saying the Sign

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.

The Original Pealed Art

Pad Thai at Tuk Tuk, 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.