Sunday, 11 May 2014

Perth Day 1 - "Chinatown"

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Young. Arts imitating Life imitating Arts.

 22 °C

The food on the SQ223 from Singapore to Perth is a bit disappointing compares to the SQ222 flight from Sydney to Singapore. This is to be expected because SQ223 is only a 4.5 hours flight while SQ222 is 7 hours flight, thus a more expensive fare. Still, there were ice cream desert in both flights.

When Etta asked me to go to Perth with her, I replied that of all the years (3+ decades) of living in Sydney, I traveled to all capital cities but Perth. If I didn't want to go there from Sydney, I would have less incentive to go there from Singapore.

Having said that, the flying times difference between the flight from Singapore to Perth and Sydney to Perth is only 1/2 hour. This is because Singapore is the closest Australian capital city to Asia as Perth city often boasts (don't know if 'boast' is quite the right word). Actually, when taken time zone into account, it actually takes 1.5 hours less time to fly from Singapore to Perth than Sydney to Perth because one is flying east to west, and the other west to east.

As the plane descending for the airport, the landscape that pockmarked with open-pit mines reminding me that WA is a mining state, and the world's biggest iron ore mines are found here. There's a mining operation right next to the airport.

To remind us what WA does further, the cab driver asked if we were here on business or pleasure. When we said business, his follow-up question was if we're here doing business with a mining company.

So here we were in Perth, which could very well be called the Swan City where the main river of the city is called the Swan, which also appears on the city's Coat of Arms (Sydney had taken the name Swans for the Aussie rule football team. Too bad Perth can't register the Swan as their city's trademark).

the Coat of Arms of the city of Perth.

The 1st thing we did after checked into our room was shopping for Chinese grocery for the coming days and grab some Chinese grub while we were there. So we headed straight for the Perth "Chinatown". I explain the quotes in this post Perth Day 14 - Northbridge (Foodies' Day Out).

A Fraser Suites Staff gave us the directions to find some Chinese chow, "at the end of the Old Shanghai food court, you will find a small alley. There you'll find Billy Lee's. In it you will find the magical pole that will transport you to Ancient China to find the Monkey King..."

You may have suspected that I'm making up stuff. But only the last sentence, which I borrow freely from The Forbidden Kingdom (2008). I did find Billy Lee's, and ordered a salt and peppered squid, and seafood hotpot. The salt and peppered squid was a party for our mouths. The seafood was  decent, but nothing to write in my blog about.

This is a hidden gem that if you know Chinese cuisine, you know that from what I ordered is Cantonese dishes. So if Cantonese dishes is your cup of tea, Billy Lee's is for you.

The Fraser staff who tipped us about Billy Lee's also told us to stay away the Old Shanghai. Even without his warning, we would have stayed away from it. It didn't look good to this couple of fussy eaters.

Old Shangai food court on James St in Northbridge, Perth
Old Shangai food court on James St in Northbridge, Perth

Old Shangai food court on James St in Northbridge, Perth
Since this isn't a Spanish football stadium, while the 1st world looks like "ola",
it actually is the English word "Old".  Ole !

Right opposite Billy Lee's was a Chinese grocery store. What a bonanza! This had to be the epic centre of the Perth "Chinatown". So I thought. After ordering at Billy Lee's, we asked the waitress what time the store closes. We were told it was closing at 6 pm. A Chinese grocery store that closes at 6 pm? Going bed so early?

This transported me to the sleepy Sydney 30 years ago. On Sundays, the national supermarket chain Woolworths (or Woolies as Aussies call it) and many shops close at 5 pm. An announcement on its website said, "Perth Metro Stores Open Sundays for your convenience". Apparently, it was only recently that it opens on Sundays at all.

I remember 30 years ago, the only place in Sydney to grab a cup of coffee after 5 pm on a Sunday night was Kings Cross, the red light district created by the U.S. 7th Fleet's need for shore leave. God bless America.

I wasn't a retiring young man, and had a constant need for action (it's not me, my adrenalin made me do it). So I found Sydney quite unbearable with its lightness of being so slow. The increased population over the last 3 decades had caffeinated Sydney. I like the contemporary, cosmopolitan, edgy Sydney much better, pulsing with zing, longer shopping hours, longer traffic queues, and plenty brushes with petty crimes. Yeah, that's my kinda city, bro. Yeah! High 5 !

I would have been much happier man growing up (or I should say, down) if only I've been Mr. Benjamin Button where I started life as a 60 year old in the Sydney in 1980, and by 2010, I'm 30 years old. This would make the buzz of Sydney matches my adrenalin level far better.

Even better, I have a time machine like the one in Back to the Future (1985) where I can control time. Or take a jumbo jet to different time destination.

Time machine's control panel. Kazzam !
As an old geezer, I don't find Perth's slow pace unbearable, just the inconvenience. I have been spoilt by living in Singapore for the last 5 years where there're 2 supermarkets within 5 mins walking distance from where I live that open 24/7.

Last but not least, while there's no such thing as a free lunch, but in Perth there's free buses. At least if you want to ride the buses within the city limit (called the FTZ), it's all free. Ok, there's no free buses, the city's commercial tenants paying council rates through their noses. Tourists should send them thank you notes.

You can read on Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in Northbridge in "Perth Day 14 - Northbridge (Foodies' Day Out)".

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