Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pretentious and impractical

The development of Canberra since I left has been surprising.  There have been an incredible number of hotels and apartment complexes that have been built and I cannot completely understand why there is a need for so many of them.  Even with the population growth that has happened in Canberra over the last few years, there still doesn't really seem to be the people necessary to fill all of these places.

Canberra still feels empty.

Driving around the town, walking around the town... there doesn't feel like there has been any increase in activity or density.  The traffic hasn't gotten any worse either (not that there ever was any traffic).

Even when I reached my hotel, I was a little bit shocked by the pointlessness of it all.  Everything looked nice, but even here there were numerous examples of design for design's sake without any real function or purpose.  In the bathroom for instance, the designers had decided against a sink and opted instead for a flat piece of metal like in a "fancy cafe".  It may have looked nice (arguably), but it was just a perfect example of missing the point.  This was a hotel where people lived (albeit briefly), and I needed a sink.

I didn't even bother to take any photos.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Easily pleased

It turns out I'm very easily pleased.

My mood can be immediately improved by simple things such as the result of a football game.

I was still in a pretty upbeat mood following the grand final win by the Hawthorn Hawks.

This happy mood became something tangible for me when I got to take hold of the premiership cup!


I had never been this close to the cup before!  Getting the opportunity to actually hold it was something special.  It made me feel like a little kid again, filled with the excitement that comes with seeing your team and celebrating the wins with friends at school.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Those are balls

I have a lot of friends who live in or who are from Adelaide.

When my parents first arrived in Australia as young immigrants, they each independently chose Adelaide as their first city to live in.  It was actually in Adelaide that they first met and it was in Adelaide that they fell in love and eventually married.

I also remember that Adelaide was the destination of one of the better childhood holidays that my family had.

All of this combined to give make me feel some kind of connection to Adelaide.

When a group of friends all decided to congregate in Adelaide for the weekend, I decided to jump on a plane and to join them.  It had been years since I had been there and it was the first time I had the opportunity to go there as an adult, independent of reliance on other adults.

The event I attended was of no real consequence.  It went off without a hitch and it was good to catch up with my friends.

What was more of a shock was the day we had left in Adelaide to explore.

Three of us had decided to take the evening flights out of Adelaide so that we would have the whole of Monday to look around.  We really didn't find much.  Within a few hours we felt as though we had wandered around most of the city of Adelaide.  We walked through the main CBD, through the museum, through the gallery, around some of the shopping malls and then we aimless wandered up and down the streets.

The highlight was the giant steel balls in the middle of Rundle Mall.


There is absolutely nothing "wrong" with Adelaide.

It's a beautiful city (city feels a bit strong... town may be a more appropriate description).

It just felt to us that it was the type of place that needed a weekend and a car so that we could explore the Adelaide region itself.  Staying in the town itself didn't give us tourists anything to be excited about.

By 4:30pm, we were bored enough that we decided to go to the airport.

It had been nice to reconnect with my Adelaide roots, but I don't think I'll be rushing back.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Fleet Review

There had been a noticeable increase in the military presence and regalia in sydney.  Most people didn't pay too much attentionto the changes. This was Sydney after all. There were events happening all the time.  In Martin Place alone, there seem to be memorial services held every second week next to the cenotaph.  Working in the city also meant that you'd be occasionally buzzed by black hawk helicopters as exercises were conducted around the city towers.  Most Sydney events are usually ignored by the locals as well.  No one takes any notice until several weeks after the event at which point they complain that they would have "loved to have gone" had they known about it.  To be fair to them, most events aren't well promoted.

As time went by, it became clearer that something was different with this event.  The number of military personnel kept increasing.  The decorations began appearing.  The chatter began to spread that foreign dignitaries would be arriving.  The words "Fleet Review" began to circulate the city.

This was no ordinary Sydney event.

This was the "Fleet Review".  It was a gathering of warships from around the globe for a "review".... the purpose of which is entirely lost on me.  Apparently it is a big deal.

So big in fact that this was the biggest event in Sydney since the Olympics.

I was fortunate enough that I had a dear friend in Rachel who had managed to get tickets to actually go on some of the warships as they were docked in the harbour.

It was special and unexpected treat to be able to explore these modern warships.  We went on three ships, one from each of the US, the UK and Australia.  Each one of these ships was the culmination of decades of research and development.  They were the pride of their nations and we were wandering around them poking and prodding, touching things we probably shouldn't have and generally gawking at all of the "cool stuff".

It was interesting seeing the different attitudes of the different countries as well.  For the Americans, we were shown very little, the exterior of the ship and a limited amount of the insides.  Through the whole trip, the Americans guided us very carefully through only the most superficial parts... such as hall ways and sleeping quarters.

The Brits on the other hand didn't seem to care as they seemed to let people wander through large parts of the ship.  Kids were seated in front of their computers, people were pushing buttons, trying to make screens light up and work.  All the while, the British sailors stood by smiling and helping the children up so they could get their chocolate covered hands on the precious equipment.
I grew up as one of those kids who was fascinated with the military.  As I've grown older, my interest levels have waned.  However, events such as these still have the ability to reignite some of the old passions.  
These are rare and wonderful events.  I keep searching the world when traveling for sights and events that will capture my imagination, when very often it is the things that are immediately in front of me that make me truly amazed with the wonders of the world around us.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Meat and the fruit baby

I was happy to be invited to the baby celebrations of my dear friends in Sydney.  They were some of the first people I met and became friends with when I moved to Sydney and it was fantastic to be able to celebrate this milestone in their lives.


Instead of having a traditional baby shower, they decided to have a semi-combined event.  The girls would have their baby shower in one room while the guys would be outside having a BBQ.  Everyone got to have their fun and I got BBQ.  I was happy.

There was a ridiculous amount of food at the BBQ, but I was even more happy with Jimmy brought out the enormous tomahawk steaks.  I had never seen anything like these steaks before.  They seemed to belong more to a Flintstones episode than to real life.




Inside at the baby shower, the girls were having their fun.  The weird food theme of the BBQ had carried over to them as well, with a "fruit baby" being the star attraction.


Personally, I found the fruit baby slightly creepier than others and so I decided to go back outside to eat some of the enormous steaks.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Finals Fever

I never seem capable of expressing the extent of my love for AFL.

It elicits an emotional response from me that I never experience in anything else.  I think it's because it helps me to tap into my childhood feelings and memories more easily than anything else.  When I'm at game, I lose my usual calm and collected demeanor and I scream and curse with the angriest fans.  It's probably cathartic for me and it definitely helps me to relieve some stress.

Going to games that don't involve the Hawks are also usually better for me as it reduces my passion levels and lets me enjoy the spectacle of the game itself.

That is when there is actually a spectacle there to be enjoyed.

I went to the finals game between the Swans and the Blues.

It was possibly the worst finals game I have had the personal misfortune of attending.  The game was over after about 15 minutes as the Swans overwhelmed the Blues and the game died a slow death over the next two hours.


Thankfully, there was a group of Melbourne boys sitting in front of me.  They had flown up for the match to the support the Blues and the shift of the game against them led to a stream of abuse being hurled towards all the Swans fans in the area.  Most of the Swans fans laughed it all off as "banter", but the hatred in the eyes of the Melbourne boys spoke of this as being far more than a mere joke.

It made for excellent viewing.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Office jealousy

My old friend Kieran and I started off our careers together.

Back in those days, we were just kids wearing unfamiliar suits trying desperately to be useful without being annoying to those around us.  It was a fine line we walked and it wasn't always walked successfully.

We've both moved on from our first job and onto newer and brighter things.

However, to my immense jealousy, Kieran's move has included something far brighter than anything at my new job.

Kieran's office includes a staff recreation room that seemed to have been created from a university student's dreams.  There is an open bar and food available for anyone who wants it.  However it is the entertainment available that is truly unbelievable.
There was the race car simulators they had.

The pool tables.  The table tennis.  The foozeball.
Then there was the open bar and the endless supply of food.
All free of course.

The stale biscuits in my office pantry didn't seem to hold the same appeal.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bracing mountain air

As part of my desire to see more of Australia, I had decided to actively begin focusing more of my travel locally.

Australia is a land of many wonders, but I had been clearly far too caught up in my own personal travel snobbery to fully appreciate what was there in front of me.

One place that I had not explored enough was the Blue Mountains.  I had been there previously a few years ago, but an injured knee had meant that I had been confined to the house whilst the others had went for their walks.

On a cold weekend, a group of friends and I gathered in cars and fought through the evening traffic to our destination in the mountains.  It was a surprisingly short drive and we were at our destination in under an a couple of hours.  It was dark when we arrived so there was no point in exploring at that stage.  We immediately began to enjoy ourselves and we woke with sore heads the next morning.

To clear our heads, we decided to go for a walk.

Only a short distance away, we found something incredible.
We hadn't seen any of our incredible surroundings on our trip in due to the darkness, so this morning reveal had taken us all by surprise.

We explored and we continued walking.  The scenery, all dense and green, was unexpected.  I still often think of Australia as a barren place due to my upbringing in the midst of the Australian drought, so I am continually amazed by the life that can often be found only a short distance away from barren hills and empty plains.
I need to see more of this country.  It is so unique and wonderful.  I pay it a disservice every time I ignore it.
Australians travel the globe far and wide to see and experience the natural wonders of our planet.  I love to travel and I would never discourage anyone from seeking out more, but there is a clear case to be made that there are incredible things to be seen only moments away from where we live.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

New habits

I never thought I was one for habits, but my mind is clearly developing in unexpected ways (it must be an old age thing).

My love of a local cafe has reached such a level that I have almost given up my search for newer places to explore and spend my time.  Instead, I find myself going through the repetition of going back to the same place again and again.

I've always thought that I prefered the excitement of the new, the pleasure of being able to be surprised.  However, there's definitely something comforting in the familiar.  I can understand the appeal and I am growing to appreciate it.  It is a simple pleasure like a warm hug or favourite book, always there and always reliable.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Late Autumn in Sydney

My good friend Chris was visiting from New Zealand.

I always enjoyed catching up with him.  It was incredible to think that we had managed to stay in touch after having first met in Aleppo all those years ago.

We caught up for breakfast at a Norwegian style cafe near King's Cross and reminisced about our days traveling and the painful realities that now faced the people of Syria.  We couldn't help but think of those people who had been so kind to us when we had been there and the torture that they must now be facing.

After breakfast, we returned to Coogee for a walk.

It was late Autumn in Sydney.  It was meant to be getting "cold".
Walking along the south of the beach, it was difficult to believe that winter was only days away.  It was an outrageously beautiful day.  The sun was shining and there were people on the beach and in the water swimming.
During these lovely days, it's difficult not to lose a bit of general life ambition.  Why work hard and why subject yourself to any hassles when you can just stare out into the water and enjoy the sun?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Tears to my eyes

Looking at the computer screen, I could feel tears slowly building up behind my eyes.

I blinked them away and recomposed myself.

I had just watched as the minaret in the central mosque of Aleppo had been demolished by a tank shell.  It had proved too effective a spot for snipers and so it had clearly been decided that it had to go.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22283746

It had only been a few years ago that I had walked around its courtyard and had one of my most eye opening experiences of my life.  Guy and I had been walking and chatting, marveling at the beauty of the place.  In one corner of the courtyard, a young Syrian man was seated but looking intently at the both of us.  His eyes clearly followed us as we walked and it was an intense stare that he was giving us.  As we walked past him, I turned, smiled and greeted him with a "salam alaikum".  He immediately pulled back, shook his head, then smiled back and responded with a "wa alaikum salam".  Any hostility that may have been interpreted in his face disappeared and we were given instead his warm welcome.  He clearly hadn't felt any hostility or anger towards us, but had merely been confused as to why a tall Australian man and a Chinese guy had been wandering around in downtown Aleppo.  I couldn't help but wonder how many instances of conflict in history had been caused by simple misunderstandings or situations where people had misinterpreted something said or done by another.

This mosque had survived for centuries.  Now it was gone.  It was the victim of the interaction between extremism, totalitarianism and global power struggles far removed from the place of quiet contemplation it had once been and that it was meant to be.

I will try and remember it as it the beautiful place it once was.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Give me some of that sweet vino

I don't travel enough in Australia.  I am stricken by an affliction that impacts most people.  We sneer what is local and we revere what we consider to be exotic.  It's a great shame and it's something that I am keen to redress.  My friends from overseas who spend time in Australia have almost all seen far more of Australia than I have, and I in turn have usually seen more of their own homes.

So one weekend, a group of us who play social football together decided to travel north to the Hunter valley.  We rented a house in the countryside for a fun weekend of wine and cheese tasting in one of Australia's premier wine growing regions.
It was an opportunity for us all to see a new place, but it was also an opportunity for some quality time together.  We had arrived at the house late, but the night kept going and it was the early hours before we finally decided to settle in for some sleep.

The next morning, we woke up early to begin our tours of the local cellar doors.  After nearly setting myself on fire trying to light the BBQ to make breakfast for everyone, we were amazingly ready to leave when the driver arrived to take us on our tour.

Each cellar door we visited gave us a free tasting and the opportunity to explore their grounds.
It was a beautiful part of the world.  The rise of the tourism trade in the Hunter Valley has made it important for each of the cellar doors to ensure that they offer immaculate grounds to attract the bus loads of wine hungry tourists.
It was a lovely way to spend a weekend.  Moving slowly from cellar door to cellar door, the journey loud as everyone became increasingly "happy".
This was a relaxing way to travel and to see something new.  I have never been overly excited or impressed by tours, but there are definitely situations where they are the most appropriate and effective way of seeing a place.  Their structure and timing make for an efficient way of sight seeing and reducing the amount of thought needed is actually quite liberating.
We drove back to Sydney with sore heads, but it was worth it.  Simply being able to leave the city and all the worries of work and responsibility behind for one weekend is something is never quite appreciated until it is experienced.  Yet I find it amazing that I constantly seem to forget how important this can be.

Monday, April 01, 2013

We ain't moving

I drive between Sydney and Newcastle frequently.

The drive should normally take me from door to door in around 2 hours.  If I am lucky and the traffic is favourable I have even been able to do the drive in under 2 hours.  It is a boring drive and when you consider that Newcastle is only 160km away from Sydney, it is too long.  It is a poor reflection on the infrastructure of New South Wales that a distance of 160km takes 2 hours by car to cover and a two and a half hours to cover by train.

It gets even worse if there is traffic.

I found myself in one of this wonderful situations where the highway reached a complete standstill.
It's an unnerving feeling being completely motionless on a highway.  My paranoia kicks in and I begin to imagine different doomsday scenarios as the reason for why we have stopped.  Is it the zombie apocalypse or is everyone trying to flee from a comet heading towards the earth?

What is most bizarre is that eventually everyone starts to move again and it's never even clear what the cause of the delay was to begin with.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Social Sports

I will always love Aussie rules football.  I know that.  It's too ingrained in who I am.  It is too much a part of my personality for me to give it away.

Sadly, I think my ability to play it seriously is finished.  My body can no longer handle the rigours of the game and I have had far too many injuries for me to be effective for any prolonged stretches.  My last season playing seriously, I found that my recovery times had made it near impossible for me to play week to week.  In the past, a bad hit would leave me sore, but I would usually be recovered by the Monday or Tuesday.  My body had changed though and now I found myself struggling even late into the week.

Happily, I found a replacement in AFL 9s.
 This was a non-contact social and gender mixed version of Aussie rules football.
With skills and speed being a premium in this game, it was suited to my strengths.  The lack of any major physical contact or tackling also meant I was able to give my shattered body the rest it finally needed.
It was sad that my Aussie rules days were behind me, but I was having fun with this new form of the game.  I had been fortunate to find this new substitute and I couldn't complain too much.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Rather unexpected

So I was walking down Martin Place to work one morning when I was confronted by some camels.
The last time I had seen any camels, I was in Egypt.  The middle of Sydney's central business district really isn't where I'd expect to see these animals.

Normally I'd say it seems cruel to bring animals to such a crowded place... but camels never seem to care where they are....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stormy weather

Wild weather is something that has always filled me with a strange sense of comfort.  Whenever there are storms, my thoughts are almost always drawn back to childhood and thoughts of being in my warm bed listening the rain.  Growing up in Melbourne, rain was a constant and I missed it terribly living in Canberra through some awful drought years.

Living in Sydney had brought me back into contact with the rain.

What I didn't expect was the ferocity of some of the storms that Sydney could experience.

When I was in Singapore, I had experienced truly torrential rains where it felt as though the entire sky was falling.  In Sydney, it was windy and ferocious storms that I experienced.
I woke up one morning after a party (completely saturated) to find the kind volunteers from the SES cleaning out the partially destroyed tree outside of my apartment block.
Even with this destruction, I still find it all so calming.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Car-less

This is annoying.

I can't even imagine the inconvenience I have caused for the other person either.

Having smashed my car, I found myself relying entirely on public transport.  This is fine for the short daily commutes to and from work, but anything else becomes a mind numbing hassle.

Sydney is simply not built for public transport if you want to go anywhere other than the city centre.

I found myself having to go to Newcastle.

It's not very far from Sydney, being only 160 km away.  Yet somehow, this trip of 160 km takes about two and a half hours on the train.  It really is outrageous that this is considered acceptable in a first world country like Australia.
I really wish I had my car back...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Prang

Well this just sucks.

I feel like an idiot and I'm sure the guy who's car I just hit would be in complete agreement with those thoughts.
I was driving out of the golf course at the strange time of night when it isn't quite dark and when the street lights haven't come on yet.  Most cars don't have their head lights on and I was lucky enough to start pulling out into the road just as a car that did have its headlights on pulled up directly behind me, blinding me for only the briefest of moments.  Somehow, I managed to completely miss seeing the car that was driving past to my right.

I drove straight into the poor guy.

Luckily neither of us were hurt and we were both able to drive away from the accident... but again.... I sure feel stupid....

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Look at the sky

I don't like Canberra.  Even when I was living there, I didn't like the place.  I have always found it to be sterile and manufactured.

I dread even the thought of having to go.  So whenever I am forced to return to Canberra, I generally try to accentuate the positives to reduce the annoyance of the entire experience.

One of these positives is the National Gallery of Australia.

The NGA has become an even nicer place now that the entrance has been completely refurbished.  Some may prefer the old entrance with its imposing brutalist style, but I personally think the new open scheme they have adopted is far better for the gallery and its patrons.  Instead of threatening and terrifying visitors, the new entrance actually welcomes people in.

I did my usual walk around, looking at the permanent displays and my old favourites such as Jackson Pollock's "Blue Poles".  I was even lucky enough to see an excellent exhibition of photographs by the Australian artist Carol Jerrems.  I was tempted to take a photo, but there was something strange about taking a photo of a photo that didn't seem quite right.

After I finished visiting the inside, I went for a walk on the grounds outside.  This was something I hadn't done before.  Visits to the National Gallery had usually occurred on bad days, so it was always an inside event.  I found something beautiful though.
It was an enormous installation piece.  An outside room that surrounded a central monolith.  Looking up, I the brightness of the sky filled into the entire room and gave it a lovely glowing effect.
The National Gallery is a lovely place.  It's a great shame that it always seems to be near empty.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Quack!

This giant duck in the middle of Darling Harbour is strangely endearing.

When it was first announced, most people scoffed at the concept.  Bringing a gigantic inflatable duck into Darling Harbour did not seem to be the best idea and it did not seem to be the best use of public money.

Yet in a relatively short amount of time, it seems to have won over most of the city.  People crowd around it taking photos, posing in all different manners.  All around the offices and in the city, people talk to each other about seeing the duck and others talk excitedly about how they are going to see the duck.
When I saw the duck myself, I was also quickly won over.
The duck seems to make light all of its surroundings.  Standing near it or even seeing it, makes it difficult to take anything seriously.  The stresses or the city and of work itself seem to disappear.
After all, how serious can a person truly be when standing next to a gigantic rubber duck?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Empire

This was so much better than Cirque.

Cirque has lost the special flavour it once had.  It is no longer the unique and inspirational company that it once was.  It is now part of a crowded market and it can no longer claim to be the best of the best.  Many of the acts that Cirque puts on are now mediocre and performed by artists that cannot claim to be the best in their field.  I'm sad (but not surprised) to say that fantastic shows like Empire have eclipsed it.

Sitting in the Spiegeltent and watching this new show gave me the thrill of seeing something new and edgy.
I could only imagine that this was close to what Cirque would have been like when it was first starting.  It wasn't as polished or as produced as what I had become used to in Cirque, but it was intense and there was a thrill to each act.  There was a sense of possible failure and that the performers were trying to push themselves further with each move and twist.
I watched with all my attention focused.  I was no longer dismissive as I had become with other shows.  My applause wasn't polite and my laughter wasn't forced.  I felt a true emotional response.  It was incredible.
I also found myself edging forward.  The show is so intimate and the performers are so close to the audience that edging forward actually had a real impact.  I was actually bringing myself closer to the stage.  Closer to the action.  Closer to these feelings that I thought I wouldn't have again!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Back to the future

I was in a new job in an old place.



I had been away from Martin Place in the middle of Sydney's CBD for about 3 years.  This move back to Martin Place (albeit up the street) made me feel as though nothing had changed in 5 years.  In fact, I was so close that I was able to see my old office from the windows of the new office.

My surroundings were completely the same, the walk to walk was almost identical and even the way people around me looked had barely altered.

There was a horrifying feeling of being on a stationary bike or a treadmill.  It felt as though a huge amount of energy had been extended to get myself absolutely nowhere.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Inside a Cracker Jack box

Cracker Jacks aren't Australian.  They are not something I have grown up with and they are not part of my childhood.

Yet I still remember the first box I ever ate.

The intense sweetness combined with the malty flavour was something I had never experienced before.  It was a complex flavour that I did not expect to come from something so mass produced.
Inside the box I found my "surprise" as well.  This I found a touch disappointing.  I had read that in the past you would get toys, but now it seemed that a sticker or a piece of fold out cardboard was all that you could get.
It made me think about that scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's when George Peppard paid for a ring he found in a Cracker Jack box to be engraved for Audrey Hepburn.

Paul Varjak: [reaches into his pocket at the Tiffany's counter] We could have something engraved, couldn't we? 
Tiffany's salesman: Yes, I suppose so, yes indeed... the only problem is you would more or less have to buy something first if only in order to have some object upon which to place the engraving... You see the difficulty... 
Paul Varjak: Well, uh 
[holds up ring from Cracker Jack box
Paul Varjak: , we could have this engraved, couldn't we? I think it would be very smart. 
Tiffany's salesman: [taking ring and examining it] This, I take it, was not purchased at Tiffany's? 
Paul Varjak: No, actually it was purchased concurrent with, uh, well, actually, came inside of... well, a box of Cracker Jack. 
Tiffany's salesman: I see... 
[continuing to look at ring
Tiffany's salesman: Do they still really have prizes in Cracker Jack boxes? 
Paul Varjak: Oh yes. 
Tiffany's salesman: That's nice to know... It gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing. 

The words just didn't seem to ring true anymore.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Apparently this is a thing now

So my brother and his girlfriend just came back from a holiday to New York.  They kindly brought back a present for me, a compost cookie from the famed Momofuku.

It was a tasty cookie.

But it was still just a cookie.
I don't even know what a compost cookie is to be completely honest, but apparently it's a thing and it's famous as well (allegedly).
I honestly believe the global obsession with celebrity chefs is overdone and must surely have peaked.  I am not saying that there will be no more celebrity chefs, but I doubt we will continue to live in times where every chef, irrespective of their true talent, seems to be feted as someone of great importance.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Hong Kong Tang

My views of Hong Kong have been completely changed by this trip.

I had always had a mild dislike for Hong Kong.  For me it had always been a city that was just missing something, almost like it was a machine without a soul.

It didn't help that didn't like the atmosphere of Hong Kong.  It was filled with a constant need for spending for no real purpose.  The lifestyle seemed to involve nothing more than moving from restaurant to bar to restaurant to bar.  The entire purpose of existence in Hong Kong has always been geared towards a never ending cycile of spending that has amazed me.  This was not the type of life that I wanted to be drawn into.  This was Mammon's city.

I was very surprised when I was taken to a Buddhist park near Diamond Hill.
I had been spending some quality time with my parents and my father had been invited to lunch by some of his pharmaceutical industry peers.  My mother and I are never ones to pass up a free meal at the best of times, so we happily invited ourselves to join him.

The location of the lunch was completely unexpected.  The local Buddhist community had come into possession of a large piece of land and had developed it into a traditional Tang dynasty style park.  They could have sold it or turned it into more apartments, but unstead they made something that was truly for the common good of the community.
It was beautiful.
This was an enormous park that was large enough that it sheltered everyone from the noise and intensity of the outside world.
Walking through the park, I wasn't sure where we were going for lunch.  All I could see was the immaculately maintained gardens, some pagodas and a large waterfall.  I didn't see anything that looked like it could provide me with lunch.

We kept walking towards the waterfall and it became clear to me that it was actually the waterfall that was our destination.

Behind its cascade of water was the restaurant.
Inside we were fed with a lunch of vegetarian Buddhist dishes.

The food was clean and simple, with none of the adulteration or additives so common in Hong Kong.

This had been a very surprising trip to Hong Kong.