Tag Archives: Sydney

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.

Those Three Weeks in Sydney

Arriving Sydney

To be honest, when I left the Australia in 2010, I had never had a plan to set my foot in the country again. But there I was, taking a trip in Sydney for three weeks last year. Something inside me made a quest to go back to where I spent my life for almost ten years—my second home.

My then departure was quite a bitter change from an uncertainty in Sydney to another life chapter back in Bangkok. But then again, I decided to take another big turn taking a job in Washington DC. Living in the States triggered me to explore myself what I was made of. In another word, it was a homesick, not just for Bangkok but also Sydney.

A five-month break from work in Bangkok gave a window for me to visit Sydney. How I spent those three weeks: Continue reading Those Three Weeks in Sydney

More Aussie Beers Please

Coopers Pale Ale
Coopers Pale Ale at Bank Hotel

Over the years, I have developed a fondness of craft beer. It could not be possible to resist exploring Australian brew when I got down there.

My drink list wasn’t as long as food craving mission. The very first beer I got had to be Coopers pale ale at the Bank Hotel, one of my favourite spots to watch the world flowing by. Coopers and James Squire were the two established breweries I was longing for. There were also  my new-found favourite local craft beer, especially Young Henrys from Newtown. Shame that I didn’t get a chance to visit their bar.

That was simply because my the pub time was in the regular one, Kelly’s on King. And another one that I went more often this trip was the Townie, where I stopped for variety of Young Henrys and to write travel journals.

It was good to see that Kelly’s, the Townie, and Warren View Hotel still had as the same vibe as when I left the city. Most of others in the local has changed. The Duke and Newtown Hotel became so hipster. The Sando was renamed to Newtown Social Club even tough it got the same spirit.

Closer to Sydney’s CBD, Lansdowne Hotel is gone. The Clare Hotel turned posh. However, Stonewall Hotel on Oxford Street were still the same gay bar. And fortunately, Brighton Up Bar were as a dive bar as I hoped it would be.

Brighton Up Bar
Brighton Up Bar on Oxford Street

Although the pub wasn’t my usual spot because of the location but it always have a special place in my heart. It was where I started transitioning works. One day in winter 2007, I randomly sat down there to write a script for Anywhere Chairs while sipping beer. Since then, I found pubs have been my preferred choice of writing environment.

My Sydney Hidden Beauty

Some of my big inspirations in Sydney might be in oblivion to many. They are texture in the back lanes and abandoned stuff on the streets.

The moment I got out to get my first craving food,  a couch and a mattress were sitting on a street corner like old friends, waiting to welcome me back.

These materials were actually pivotal for my creative works. They transitioned me from photography into making videos. It started from a short film about abandoned chairs, then ambient videos on a red sofa. When I got into COFA, broken TVs were used for a looped video assignment. And it concluded with video installation about torn mattresses.

No one would care how they got there or how they would end but they were so intriguing to me that I needed to exercise my imagination to tell their stories. Having explored them again reminded me how beauty could be discovered from discarded lives on the streets.

On another aspect, I was thinking of doing urban landscape comparison between my old photography and the latest visit. But there was no concrete plan for it and I enjoyed drifting in the streets and back lanes. However, I got a chance to do only one properly.

Corrode: Scratch (2004)
Corrode: Scratch (2004)
Corrode: Scratch (2016)
Corrode: Scratch – Twelve years later

Cravings for Food in Sydney

When you have lived somewhere in a long time, you developed your own local comfort food. That absolutely happened to me in Sydney.

In fact, the first thing I did was getting to Happy Chef for their Crispy Skin Chicken. And through out the Sydney trip, it was my quest to soothe my cravings for food I used to have.

It was a big list from Aussie big brekky to Indian diner and late night kebabs. And I barely got a room for something new. But some dish could be done somewhere new, like lamp shank in Manly Beach or fish & chips in Bondi. Nevertheless, I got to have a real good Turkish ice cream for the first time.

I tried to avoid Thai since it became redundant for me in Bangkok. However, Stilgherrian introduced me to the best of my all-time favourite dish, tub waan. Yes, tub waan at C Bar was better than average shop in the original Thailand. And when I had a night out with Thai friends at the very same pub, they also ordered it. That just confirmed it.

It is fair to say that Australian food has its own characteristics. I used to question it about Australian food. But I look at the variety of cuisines it offered just in Newtown/Enmore area. (And King Street never fell short of Thai restaurants and that’s a fact!)

Furthermore, my cooking also evolved around it with Aussie twist. When I got frustrated that there was no Thai dish my family used to cook for us so I had to make it myself. Then, it gradually had the spin of its own. For examples, kangaroo panang curry and roast chicken stuffed with rice in home-made curry paste. And it went further than Thai cuisine to, to name a few, Fijian-Indian curry, minestrone, cauliflower & blue cheese soup, beetroot & feta salad, my own spin of bolognese sauce. Like they do in Australia.