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Blooming and Damaged Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms and Washington Monument
Peak bloom cherry blossoms at Tidal Basin, March 2017

March 2017 was the first time in DC in 33 years that was warmer than February. To me, it was a rare chance to see damaged cherry blossoms.

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.

The crowd putting me off #WashingtonDC #spring #cherryblossoms can bear this fir only 5 mins

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It just shows how uncertainty life is.

Paying Respects to the King and the People

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.

Waiting to Pay Respect
One of the sections in the waiting area to get into the Grand Palace for paying respect HM’s body

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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.