Just in case you are going to Delhi this week for the Commonwealth Games and oh, don’t have accommodation, or even a singular clue about the city, here’s a quick guide for the completely clueless. If you’ve been too busy to think about it because you’ve been practising your lawn bowls technique, we salute you, and good luck!
Where to stay, shop, eat and play.
Pic credit: Reuters & Sun-Herald
Can you choose a cafe just because you like the name?
If so, a newcomer to Fitzroy’s Brunswick St should pack ’em in, with the catchy name, ‘Naked for Satan’. Let’s try it.
‘Hey groover, let’s get to Naked for Satan for skinny lattes!’
Yeah, it works. The coffee’s not bad, either. And the $2 pintxos (that’s mini-tapas, for you down the back who haven’t been paying attention) looked super scrummy as well, featuring healthy-sized chunks of bread layered with jamon or cheeses, and rows of glistening green olives, each dish spiked with a toothpick.
Proving it’s not trying to lure the mum’s clubs (ooh, nasty!), it doesn’t open till midday and there’s a refreshing absence of large, tasteless muffins, with just one sweet on offer, a groovy little three-bite chocolate-cream cannoli that won’t have your skinny girlfriends angsting too much.
Open just four weeks, it also serves vodka (but we were talking business yesterday) and apparently the go with the pintxos is you grab as many as you like, and count your toothpicks at the end to tote up the bill.
Cheap, tasty, fresh Spanish food? That’ll give those money-hungry CBD big names a boot in the pantalones.
Naked for Satan, 285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, 9416 2238
The Egyptians in the crowd will love this: it’s a dress by Scottish designer Holly Fulton, which Cool Hunter has picked up in its current edition. It’s all very Cleopatra isn’t it?
Speaking of Egyptians, a friend from Cairo popped into St Kilda last week and saw one of the buildings on the foreshore swathed in a massive red, white and black flag.
Oh, they really love Egyptians here, he said.
No, that’ll be the St Kilda football club’s colours, before the big game this weekend. Nice try, tho.
Working through a Seoul shopping story today, I came across some notes about a reproduction of a famous Korea story about a magpie and a tiger, from the Joseon period.
In mythology, the maggie is a bringer of news from the gods, and the tiger is said to bring blessings and exorcise disaster.
I love the stylised tiger, with his big round eyes, and the fact a humble, plain magpie can be elevated to messenger of the gods.
If you’re visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace, nip into the gift shop to see some great bags printed with these classic paintings.
No doubt, here in Melbourne, fans of the Magpies (Collingwood) will be hoping the gods are on their side this weekend against the Saints for the AFL grand final!
I should be winging my way to Toronto instead of sitting here blogging in rainy Melbourne, dammit.
The plan was to cruise the Artic circle on the Clipper Adventurer, but I’m not going anymore because my ship hit a rock. Happily, no-one was hurt, but the ship won’t be repaired in time for our polar cruise to go ahead.
Next report from the Mornington Peninsula’s Safety Beach, instead of Greenland…
I was having a fight with Optus yesterday about my overdue phone bill. I had queries about it and they said ‘why didn’t you ring earlier?’ Because I was in Seoul, I said.
South Korea, like Japan, doesn’t sing from the same hymn sheet as the rest of us. Their phones are predominantly non-GSM, running instead on CDMA technology (isn’t this the technology that Australia just turned off so we could all go digital? Any illumination welcomed.).
So instead of wrestling with my Australian phone and gladly offering my bank account up, lock stock to Optus, I hired a phone at the airport from one of the line of phone companies set up at the exit doors.Not just a SIM card to slip into my phone, but the whole shebang.
When I got the phone, it was so clunky and old, I wanted to put a bumper sticker on it saying something like, “My other phone is a Blackberry.” Incidentally, out of all the Koreans and expats I met, they were all trucking god-ugly phones: mostly clam shells. (Toooo early naughties!) And this in a country where something like 95% of the population has a mobile phone, and the home of Samsung and LG.
The international wires say that smartphones have been slow on the take-up due to lack of mobile apps and the high cost of the technology. The cynic in my head says keeping the government is keeping the non-Korean brands out of town. Can anyone else smell the non-competition rat here?
My enduring image of Seoul is not its elegant Joseon palaces, neon signs or pretty traditional houses, but legs.
Legs, legs, legs.
Seoul, like much of Asia, is currently in the grip of a fashion obsession where short shorts are teamed with the highest heels – wedges or stilettos, whatever you can totter on.
Little Korean girls have, collectively, shot up overnight at least three inches, and will wade through rainy puddles, in sweltering humidity and even brave the unseasonable chill wind, bearing legs to the elements in the name of fashion.
Damn it if I can’t find a photo to show you!
Hooker Hill in the foreign enclave of Itaewon is, however, the first time I’ve seen cleavage in Seoul – and then it’s a pumped-up girl working it for the money. Tall transvestites laze on chaise lounges till the late-night rush hour, while buzz-cut off-duty US soldiers chase each other among the traffic, banging on car bonnets as they dodge through the taxis, laughing at their freedom. The Military Police move through the crowds, negotiating peace. The foreign tourist do last-minute shopping amongst the leather and large-sized branded sportswear shops.
Itaewon is where the restaurant strip sees Persian kebab houses face French patisseries, Thai restaurants and euro wine bars. There’s KFC and Burger King, Korea’s own bibimbap holes in the wall and roast chicken carts. Midnight fruit sellers and Cuban cigar convenience stores, bands blaring and clubs beating.
Bars, bands, GIs and girls, it’s down the road from the gay strip, Homo Hill. It’s the Kings Cross of Seoul, it’s the city’s foreign heart.
No kissing in taxis (see explanatory picture).
The B.U.M. Equipment clothing range. For men, women and children. Er, market research, anyone?
The Petronas towers. Yeah, they’re big man. Ok, they’re real big. And that’s really about it. No cure for cancer or the common cold. They’re. Just. Big. Call me a killjoy, I don’t care.
The fact the population is just 1.6 million (with surrounds, 7 million). “Melbourne looks so small after KL,” said the Kiwi in front of me as we flew into Melbourne lat night.
Clearly, her eyes were painted on. Or perhaps that we were flying at the time over the desolate northern suburbs, where the highest point is the VideoEzy store. Or it’s just that when we think of Asian cities, we think of megapolises. KL’s population is dwarfed by Melbourne, which recently topped four million.
KL’s a young city, too, with Chienese settlers dropping in to mine tin in the 1850s, relative to Melbourne’s founding in 1835.
However, I notice that we both now have Chinese language directions at both airports, so we’re not so dissimilar after all, eh?