Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’

City of exhaustion

November 5, 2012

I used to always consider being a removalist as one of the worst jobs conceivable. When I actually think about it though – the moving portion is really not too bad. I mean, when you’ve done it a hundred times, you’d have a fair head for what to move into the truck first and last, and applying the rules of tetris to every item in between. There’s none of the packing, the organising, the unpacking and the backbreaking cleaning (both at the new place and old).

Well today we finished moving the last items across, and finished cleaning the old place in Box Hill. Christ – we were absolutely *exhausted*. On top of this, it’s been hellishly muggy the past few days. All I can say is I am so glad – so glad, that that portion of the move is over. Now we get to simply enjoy living in the city and enjoy the freakin awesome view from our new little pad’s balcony (see below!). Here’s to that!

Helloooo Melbourne!

Farewell, Box Hill

November 2, 2012

I write this post feeling a little sad for tomorrow we are moving away from Box Hill and into the city. On the bright side, I have always wanted to live in the city – like, right in the CBD, though on the downside, I really like living in Box Hill. I’m a sentimental kind of guy, and while I do like change (hell – moving to China was testament to that), I also do get all funny when moving on from somewhere I have enjoyed living.

Box Hill is a great little suburb. We moved here just after we returned from China back in early 2009. We picked this suburb because it was like China – and it is. Not only could we find many of the local dishes that we discovered in China, but it also had a similar vibe and energy that we had come to enjoy. It also had a decidedly lack of the typical aussie bogan surburbanites, other than the occasional band of druggies between the centres.

We capped off our final night as Box Hill residents eating at one of our old favourites. When we first moved here it was known as DC Dumpling. The people here were always super friendly, super welcoming, and most importantly, the food was delicious. They have always provided one of the most delicious hand-made spring onion pancakes we have ever come across, and their xiao long bao’s are exactly what xiao long bao’s should be – delicate and delicious. A xiao long bao just isn’t the same when it’s in a thick casing. At some point along the way, DC Dumpling renamed itself to Dumpling Specialist – and it was quite possibly the best move they ever made from a business point of view as it suddenly became the ‘white people’s’ dumpling location of choice. We used to dine there among the Chinese – and when it changed its identity, it lost a lot of that charm. It became just any other Australian restaurant. It also was recently renovated with a fresh paint job (which you can still smell incidentally), a brand new chairs and tables. Again – with all the paintings made by kids gone, replaced by a big generic painting of flowers – it’s just not the same. (ps. also try the cucumber salad – cucumber + garlic + soy = happiness)

Ra Ramen was the same – once a quaint little super busy eatery with dumplings to die for – then expanded into the shop next door and went downhill. Ahhh.

Anyhow – I will miss Box Hill. I will miss the way it changes from day to day, with new restaurants, and weird little shops popping up and disappearing equally as fast. I’ll miss wandering into town and enjoying one of the amazing Vietnamese rolls from Baker’s Hill cafe upstairs in the new Centro, then washing it down with a coffee. I’ll miss the predominantly Chinese atmosphere and everything that goes along with it. I’ll miss it when white folk turn up my nose and look slightly surprised when I say I live in Box Hill and love it – because of course, with that many dirty Asian’s living there, it must be terrible!

 

Next stop – Melbourne. Zai jian, beloved Bok!

 

McCultures

December 11, 2011

Over the past couple of days, it’s been really quite hot in Melbourne. During my lunch break, I had a sudden hankering for one of my guilty pleasures…a Starbucks mocha Frappuccino. Yes yes, the name sounds incredibly wanky, and I feel like a bit of a douche anytime I say it out loud, but these things are freakin’ delicious! (Minus the whipped cream on top incidentally as that’s just…excessive)

So as I was standing in Starbucks; along with several Asian customers, a thought occurred to me; are these other customers locals, or are they drawn here because its familiar to them? In our own countries, fast-food chain restaurants are generally looked upon as nothing more than junk food outlets. You dont expect a fine dining experience, and usually, walk away feeling somewhat sick in the guts. Despite the lengths that McDonalds have gone to create a better image for themselves, there’s nothing prestigious about their restaurants. When overseas; particularly in a super foreign country, these junk food outlets take on a completely different appearance – they suddenly become bastions of the familiar and in particular, a reliable location to go to the toilet!

In a country such as China, the toilet situation can go from bad to worse. While in many cities it’s not particularly hard to find them, as you go further out, the humble squatter is the least of your problems. The worst scenarios I found, were toilets either lacking doors – or worse again – not even any dividing walls around you! Toilet tangent aside – there’s an unspoken yet always known rule; if you need to go, go find a McDonald’s. Western food chains are immediately familiar as no matter where you go on the planet, they are the same design.

There is an incredible number of western food chains on the Chinese mainland. In any sizable city (aka – every city), you’ll find at least 5-10 McDonalds and KFCs. You’ll find more Starbucks in China than practically anywhere else on the planet – excepting maybe the USA itself. Places such as Starbucks; which often has a name for its poor coffee, are thriving in China; the Chinese not knowing any better. Melbourne went from having many Starbucks to just a handful; the coffee culture simply not accepting the ‘fast food’ style of coffee. Another formerly numerous food chain in Australia; Pizza Hut, is likewise all over China, with several American chains also joining them, such as Papa Johns (who we don’t have in Australia incidentally).

Now, that all being said  – these places are so commonplace now, it had me starting to think – do the Chinese; when traveling overseas, now find a McDonalds, TGI Friday, Pizza Hut, KFC or Starbucks as familiar and comforting as we do? Do the Chinese see a McDonald’s as a reliable port of call if they need to go to the loo – or perhaps, a way to get familiar food in what to them, could be a very foreign environment? Has the humble food chain – which in many countries has a somewhat low opinion; certainly on the health front – transcended it’s traditional roots and become some form of cultural comfort zone?

My answer would have to be yes.  If I see someone from a foreign country in one of these city fast food outlets; particularly if they’re speaking another language to each other, I can’t not think about whether they have come to this place because like us when we travel, it’s familiar – thus, comforting in its own way. While I haven’t yet spoken to any travelers regarding this, I would be highly interested to actually find out.

The sky is grey.

February 18, 2009

Recently, my home state of Victoria has been beset by ferocious bushfires. Approximately 7000 people have lost their homes with a death toll of 200 and climbing. Initially our Summer was quite mild, but by the second month it had kicked into top gear. Through mid to late January and then into February we had what became one of the hottest weeks on record, with days of temperatures over 43 degrees Celsius. We actually hit the record high of something like 45.6 degrees.

Smoke from country bushfires lingers over the city of Melbourne.

Smoke from country bushfires lingers over the city of Melbourne.

This extremely hot weather combined with a lengthy period without rain became the perfect combination for an absolutely terrible bushfire. Even today, over two weeks later the smoke still lingers in the sky.

The sky in Melbourne for this past week has resembled how the sky in China looks practially every day. The horizon a constant grey haze which leads into a light blue grey sky. On the heaviest smoke day, there was no cloud definition; just like China. The biggest difference however was in China, the visibility is 100 times worse. In Melbourne, despite the haze, you can still see a very long way; in China – it gets so smoggy it’s just outright disgusting.

Smoke from factorys and man made pollutants lingers over China..permanantly.

Smoke from factorys and man made pollutants lingers over China..permanantly.

The Australian Open

January 20, 2009
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Melbourne Park, Melbourne.

Today, in blistering 41 degree weather, we spent several hours at the Australian Open. It was a bright sunny day, but man, was it hot. Funny that it should be this kind of temperature where just one post ago I was saying how I was glad that Melbourne’s Summer had been somewhat cooler than normal! It’s not uncommon for the Australian Open to be hit with heatwaves however. We often watch these poor players with uncontrollable sweat running down their faces battling it out – and on some occasions, calling it a day due to sheer heat exhaustion.

We watched a set or so of Richard Gasquet versus Diego Junqueira(Gasquet going on to win), but the heat was very difficult to deal with. While there was not the humidity of China, there was the burning sun in a clear blue sky. In China, while the heat was oppressive, the sun was not often out(when it came out..look out!). The sun was usually hidden behind cloud/smog cover – keeping the humidity in with nowhere to go. But in Sunny Melbourne..man that Sun had bite.

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Jie Zheng belting out a powerful shot.

Retiring from the court – which other than what you brought with you, was completely lacking in shade, we grabbed some cooling sushi, some water, then wandered around the other courts. We settled in and watched some games between China’s Jie Zheng and France’s Camille Pin. Zheng went on to beat her 6-3, 6-3. I found myself rooting for the Chinese player. I said to Courtney, “If there were no aussies playing, I’d go for the Chinese players.” I feel like I have this affiliation with the country.

We sat there smiling at an enthusiastic Chinese guy on the opposite side of the court. He was waving his large Chinese flag when not using it as a cape(aka protection from the sun). He would start a cheer, “Jie Zheng! Jie Zheng!”, pronouncing her name correctly, sounding like “Jong”, while the referee in true clueless westerner style pronounced it as “Jeng.” I suppose it’s good they at least had the ZH = J sound right, though you cant expect everyone to know every other cultures pronuciations I guess – particularly Chinese where some of them are really quite difficult and completely different to english(ie: zh, ts, x etc).

It was also great to hear some of the Chinese spectators chatting. Whenever we hear Chinese being spoken, our ears prick up, recognizing words. Hearing things like xiexie and ZhongGuo! ZhongGuo! (China! China!) really floats our boat!

Anyhow it was a great day though marred by the extreme weather. It hit 41 before cooling down in the late afternoon. We didn’t particularly favour being burnt to a crisp so retired early. We rounded out the day with a nice fish and salad meal and a long soak in the spa. Next year we’ll try and get to the open again. We were sad not to be able to catch the tennis in Shanghai while we were in China. For anyone interested in going to the Australian Open, we highly reccomend it.

Gasquest vs Junqueira

Gasquet vs Junqueira


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