Saturday, June 27, 2009

A traveller’s tale (part 3)

Finally the third installment of my tale. Do you know this is my first official look at Australia from the perspective of a tourist? I thought I was not a fan of travelling but this trip has certainly put new ideas in my mind.

After a few days on the road, we were back in Melbourne city with this customary city shot. The weather was largely nice–people say that it is slightly worse than Sydney’s but I do not agree.

There are plenty of interesting architecture as well as sculptures littered everywhere in the city. Melbourne is so much better a place to live in compared to Sydney (safer, cleaner, less scary, richer in culture and people seemed warmer). That was a dog-pig-like mini statue by the street I was sitting on. Notice the Chanel store? Yingying queued for an hour to buy a $3000+ bag for a friend! I simply cannot fathom why do people need those things? We went for dinner first instead of waiting with her.

We did a lot of walking around in the city.
This is yet another one of our “posed” candid shots.
There's something sexy about the picture that I can't put on my finger on.

Dinner at Singapore Chom Chom before watching "Angels and Demons" (a.k.a a lousy movie). They had the entire Newton Hawker Centre menu in one single restaurant and it was mighty impressive! It was a real gem-of-an-eatery as I really miss Singapore food. The rest were not very impressed though because of the price (especially Yingying). Here in close-up was my yummy dry prawn noodle with pork ribs. The soup (or should I say coloured MSG solution) was bad though.

We watched the musical “Wicked” at the Regent Theatre. It had a contrived plot as it was the prequel to Wizard of Oz and much too kiddy for my taste. Yingying fell asleep many times during the show! The ticket price included a one-course meal at a nearby restaurant with waiters who had no concept of picture-taking and forgot orders!

One of our numerous self-taken pictures (we all suffer the fate of narcissism at times, some more often than others, hehe). This was one of us taking a picture of ourselves–yes, we had a lot of time.

A capture of what I saw during the ghost train-ride that we had to take to enter the Dracula’s dinner cabaret show–a unique experience.
I missed much of the joy of the ride as a result of being too pre-occupied with taking pictures, which is a very common mistake made by tourists.

$16 gone and in exchange was this picture with the cabaret cast and staff. Everyone was in character which made our time there very enjoyable.
The performance was unexpectedly good too, especially that of the guy with the mop-like hair.

At the Queen Victoria Markets–a very small one compared to Paddy’s Market in Sydney (think Bugis Village in Singapore but with plenty of space to breathe). However this place was more interesting because...

...that was where I bought this venus flytrap!
Its growth right now is very stunted because it is winter but I am still giving it a lot of attention as if it were an animal (my new pet).
I hope the plant grows to maturity in time for it to eat up the summer files!

At the beach in St. Kilda–Ision thinks that we look like Hong Kong movie stars in this picture! I wonder who he is referring to...

We visited the Crown Casino where photo-taking inside was prohibited.
As you can see, it was a very cold night but it was a very good one for BK, who won $225 and gave us a dessert treat of cakes and coffee!

The hardworking me–I completed a blog entry (the one before "A traveller's tale") during the spare time I had (while waiting for others to finish shopping at the factory outlet mall).
I must work hard for my faithful blog fans!

So this concludes my tale in which I spent much quality time with my closest friends. It is like yesterday when Yingying was KNN-ing away with Meilian and I busy taking pictures of ourselves. Ah... good memories. With this tale now nicely wrapped up, these memories will forever be stored tidily in my mind, ready to be refreshed whenever I visit this blog.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A traveller’s tale (part 2)

Not to be outdone in the face of Meilian's slew of uploaded pictures, here is the second part of my tale. I know there are not many but do know that I only put what I think is pure gold here.

We stayed at very good (and reasonably-priced) apartments and hotels while we were on the road and this one even had a jacuzzi.
I was the only one who soaked in it though (it took an hour to fill)!

Sunrise along the Great Ocean Road and we made it in time!
It was not easy when Yingying had to complete her face every morning!

The magnificent Twelve Apostles.
It was a quiet and nippy morning but the view was breathtaking.

This is my favourite picture of the Twelve Apostles.
It is good enough to use as a desktop wallpaper.
I particularly like the foggy horizon.

Yet another view of the Twelve Apostles.
We did not manage to count all twelve of them.
Did we even try in the first place? If not, we should have!

Being straight for a second, even if it was only Yingying (hehe)!
During the trip she commented that I am the only guy who can touch her at will without BK batting an eyelid. What a privilege!

We even managed to catch a rainbow
which is something that always cheers me up.
I am sure it has nothing to do with being gay (how ironic).

One of the many great views along the road.
Many thanks to our tireless driver BK!
There was a long stretch where he had to drive in pitch darkness!

A classic Jetstar Star Jumper pose. I have entered the Jetstar photography competition with this picture. Hope I will win something!

Of course I could not resist a bare-chested photo op, even if the cold was a little much. One of us had to always stand guard by the road to warn the others of incoming traffic! It was fun!

Just exactly how cold it was.
(Yingying’s fantasies must have been running wild
when she was taking this picture…)

Our desperate attempt to be models...

...Only to break down into our usual fit.
Thanks for such an enjoyable and laughter-filled trip guys!

Watch out for the last installment, which will come very soon. In the meantime I will plan for my next holiday. Will it be domestic or international...?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A traveller’s tale (part 1)

At the beginning of Meilian’s trip to Australia, she gave me a pleasant surprise–the friend of hers who was coming with her on the trip was actually Yingying! She kept that a secret all those months and it was so worth it! We had a big hug in their hotel room–I do miss them very much! And then begins their adventure with me being the host in Sydney. After a week, we all toured Melbourne together and were joined by another surprise guest–Yingying’s boyfriend, BK. We had such a fun time together and the pictures below tell exactly of that!

Our first meal together in a Korean BBQ place in Sydney–it was my treat.
Yingying can shockingly eat a lot for her size!

Ision hard at work cooking for our guests over a hot stove–so cute!

The feast that had the girls raving for a while.
It consisted of a Japanese seaweed appetizer, Chinese herbal vegetable soup, baked chicken wings in special marinade, stir-fried pork in Korean miso and black garlic bread. The chicken wings were my favourite.

In the rain while waiting for the fireworks display
at Darling Harbour to start, we started horsing around…

…And the result of that is retri for my bibi!
My favourite picture of the lot!

Finally the sight we braved the rain for
(after much complaining by Ision about his hunger).
We later went to had Chinese food in Chinatown (where else?)

The start of our Melbourne trip, and I finally found my own shop.
Beware of the nasty shopkeeper (and the equally-nasty critic)!

At Panny’s Chocolate Factory on Philip Island.
We did not pay for the overpriced admission to see the chocolate statues.

We spent quite some time at an amusement park called Amaze ‘N’ Things.
Anyone wants to eat my head? Erm...

I never usually care to take such pictures
but it seemed like the perfect occasion for it.

We went to the Ashcombe Maze & Lavender Gardens
but only Yingying and BK went inside while Meilian and I sipped on our coffees while enjoying the cool weather at the outdoor cafe.

It was not the season to pick strawberries
but we still got to eat some
at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm in Mornington.

Close-up of the juicy morsels.
This was but one of the MANY food close-ups we took throughout our trip
with Yingying taking the most.

A visit to the Koala Conservation Centre (that came with free rude ticketing staff). The koalas were all sleeping high up in the trees–what a rip off. But we chanced upon this huge koala–without my bibi on the road with me, I guess this bear will do.
We also went to the Penguin Parade and saw penguins swim to the shore as part of their nightly routine. What a way to earn money from people! No picture-taking was allowed (believe me, I tried but it was too dark) so there are none to show.

Watch out for more pictures in the next post!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Reality check #1

In this same month last year I have just landed on the fertile shores of Sydney, all ready to begin the next phase of my life. Although I was not a stranger to this city (having lived here for half a year during my university student exchange programme) it was an entirely new ride for me this time round–leaving my friends and family behind and the beginning of “married” life. The excitement and adrenaline coursing through my veins brought me to this point in time relatively unscathed. Now that the razzle-dazzle has faded, I finally have the chance to see my new home in the raw, sans the fluff and make-up.

As you all know, I auditioned for Australian Idol 2009 and what I got from that was a very good lesson. Of course I am not referring to fashion tips from the noisy bimbotic airheads that I see (and worse still hear) all around me nor any singing or performing know-how I have garnered. I got to experience first-hand how people the likes of me are being viewed and treated in this country. And for once, what I am saying has got nothing to do with homosexuality.

The day started early and the friends who agreed to meet me there were all predictably late so I joined the queue alone. As the groups of typical rowdy and obnoxious Aussie youths gathered, I suddenly felt like a relic not because of the age difference but how progressed my state of mind and phase of life is compared to them. I know what I want in life and am absolutely sure of myself as a person and the swarming mass of insecurity literally made me an alien from outer space. I knew there and then that I was at the wrong place chasing after a wrong dream. But you know me–I always like to tell myself that at least I have tried.

As every second passed, my boredom and sense of being totally out of place grew and the usual faking and forced-acting associated with reality television were not helping at all. After waiting for five hours, I was there behind the door just before the time when I was supposed to impress the pants off the lone male vocal coach (the judge of the first half of the first round). I was fully prepared and I knew I would sing well. But I also knew from previous competitions that singing was one of the less significant items on the producers’ agenda.

The contestant before me came out without the pink slip of acceptance and then it was my turn. The song I chose was Rick Price’s “Heaven Knows” as it accentuated my vocal range and technique in the way I wanted the assessor to hear. A few seconds after music came out of my mouth, I could see a change in his expression and that single expression was stuck on his face till my very last note. At first I did not quite know how to interpret that bit of facial contortion because it was a mixed one but after hearing what he has got to say, it became crystal clear.

He said that I was lovely but just did not meet the standards set out in the programme. Gosh, could it get any more PR than that? While that guy was spewing that load, his face was tattooed with that same look on his face–a wow-he-is-good-but-what-a-waste-he-is-not-what-we-are-looking-for expression. I left the room just like the others and walked out of the building briskly trying to let everything sink in. I must admit I was totally taken by surprise and did not expect the results to be like this at all. The weeks of anticipation and the five-hour wait culminated in a sudden concentration of disappointment and it was a little hard to swallow.

Fortunately I have a formulaic way to treat times like these–when plans go awry and results do not match expectations and I began this rationalisation process as soon as I started walking out of that room of judgement. I am 30 (the entry age cap) [CHECK]. I am not as cute as Kris Allen [CHECK]. I am not an Australian citizen [CHECK]. I am Asian [CHECK]. And the final tally of all those checks could not be more unsatisfactory. I can take the attack in the age and looks department because those are the essential ingredients in the realm of showbiz. It is the nationality and race issues that got me a little riled up. But what else could I expect? How many Asian contestants have you seen in Western Idol competitions? Am I a good reflection of an Australian (and the country’s say, glorious beer-drinking culture)? Why did an intelligent person not see this coming?

As the walk out of the audition venue continued, I got increasingly irate. Here I am in the most cosmopolitan city of the continent contributing to its economy and development as a resident worker with skills that it sorely needs. Why then am I not treated just like any other Australian? Why am I not biting the hand that feeds me after being slapped by that same hand? I felt like a used-then-dumped item which is expected to be in an immaculate condition the next minute ready to be used again.

You might think that I am over-internalising an innocuous event and erroneously mixing the two disparate concepts of engineering and showbiz into a melodramatic whinge-fest. To that I have nothing absolutely rational to throw back in defence for what I felt then was what I felt then and no one can take that feeling away or say that is not true. Of course I have settled down now but I was noticeably upset for the rest of that day and I believe I had good reasons to be (especially when I have sung well). But with pain there is always gain–I got to see true-blue Australia. And for days following the audition, the fact that I have always known how racist Australians could be dawned on me more and more. You see, I have always purported that I have not encountered any racist episodes here but now I know that is a false assertion made when I was still blinded by the bright colourful lights. As I started to see Australia under the lens of truth, I noticed an increasing number of examples of such offensive behaviour.

As if to join the ends of the circle, I realise that racism actually works in a vicious cycle. The more the majority race sees the minority race as the species invading yet refusing to assimilate, the more the former will act out to express their disdain and the more the latter will retreat into its shell (and huddle together with its like in the spirit of “united we stand”). This vicious cycle fuels greater ignorance of the majority and fans the flame of offensiveness against the minority. This is the lesson I have learnt from the Australian Idol audition. Valuable? Maybe. Essential? Definitely.

The floodgates are now sadly opened and as much as I hate it, I am uncovering more reasons why Australia might not be the mecca of freedom I have once thought it was (google the Australian Matthew Johns sex scandal and the irrationally-conservative media fallout for a taste). Perhaps all this is simply a long-overdue culture shock or yet another fact of life. Reality checks are always good and this one makes me want to cling on much tighter to the fact that Sydney is still better than Singapore.

Now that I am more enlightened, I wonder what new levels of cognizance are waiting for me to attain by the end of my second year here. While I wait for that to befall me with my dream of stardom officially six feet underground and no new dreams to keep me occupied, maybe it is time to stop planning and only greet life one day at a time.