Lumpini night market. Bangkok, Thailand. September 2007

One of the best deals in Bangkok is the Lumpini night markets. Not only is there a huge market selling just about anything that one could imagine, there is also free live entertainment and great food.

After a hot day sight-seeing there is nothing better than a fruit smoothie and the Thais make the best I’ve ever had.

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 The fruit is ripe when it is sold (unlike the green fruit we tend to get sold here in Australia) so the flavours are divine.

Off to one side of the night markets is a large area that is set up a bit like an Oktoberfest tent except it’s in the open air.  There is a retractable roof in case it rains.

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 Lots of seating in front of a large stage with women coming around selling drinks.

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All around the seating area are food stalls

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 that serve up, in a flash, some of the best Thai food you’ll ever taste, at prices that are better than reasonable.

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And to top it all off, there is live Thai pop music.

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 The atmosphere was great. The markets aren’t just for tourists and I couldn’t help but think that I’d love to see such a thing here in Sydney.

Lenin Park, Hanoi, Vietnam. September 2007

September is a hot and steamy time in Hanoi.  The locals know that early morning and evening are the best times to be physically active and that is when they can be seen enjoying their leisure. One of the really charming things that I saw in Hanoi was the large groups of people dancing in Lenin Park at about 6am. in the morning.

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There were different groups dancing to different types of music, ranging from rock and roll (in the picture above) through latin to ballroom (in the photo below).

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I couldn’t help but feel a little envy for the people of Hanoi as they unselfconsciously enjoyed themselves in a public park.  It made me realise how disconnected most of us are from each other here in Sydney. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of community back home and I can’t image dancing in downtown public parks here in Australia in the early morning.

As I was taking these photos the occasional dancer would look my way and give me a very warm smile.  I felt so welcome and that is one of the things that struck me about the Vietnamese in general, they are usually very warm and down to earth people.

Riflemind. A review of STC’s latest production

Riflemind on paper looks like a surefire winner, as it has a few heavy hitters such as Hugo Weaving as the lead and Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the director.  Over the years I’ve been very impressed with Hugo Weaving and I’ve also enjoyed watching almost anything with Philip Seymour Hoffman in it, so it is with a great sense of disappointment, that I have to report that such huge talents were wasted on what is essentially a poorly written self-indulgent ramble.
 
The first question, one has to ask oneself, is, does the world need another tale about self-indulgent tantrums within a rock ‘n’ roll band?
 
I think that Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and Metallica’s “Some kind of monster” covered that ground well enough to last me the rest of my life.  For me, Riflemind was just more of the same old stuff that I have come to expect from this genre.  Lots of shouted repetitive circular argument about the emptiness and grind of being “at the top” of the game.  I found it very hard to care about a single character in the whole play, let alone engage in the story.
 
The play centres around the group dynamic of the members of the once famous band “Riflemind” , wanting to go back on tour.  The play takes place at John’s (the band leader) house.  John, played with relish by Hugo Weaving, shares a house with his “yoga zombie” Wife, Lyn (played by Susan Prior).  From the very get go, it is obvious that John is a self absorbed bastard, who enjoys inflicting mental cruelty on his basket case wife as they both try and stay clean, off drugs.  I have to admit though, that after watching Prior’s over acting, I felt that John’s demeanor seemed justified.
 
After a nasty bit of sniping at each other, John and Lyn are joined by the band’s drummer, Moon (played by Steve Rogers) and his friend, a young guitarist called Lee (played by Ewen Porter). Steve Rogers makes a decent fist of his stereotypical drummer character, serving as a verbal punching bag for John. 
 
The other band members of Riflemind fly in by helicopter.  There is the band’s manager, Sam (played by Jeremy Sims), John’s brother Phil (played by Marton Csokas) and his bitchy blonde groupie wife Cindy (played by Susie Porter).  John welcomes all his guests with an egalitarian surliness and then storms off to the pub with Moon and Lee.  While John is off at the pub, the remaining band members try and make sense of Lyn.  Lynn who it would seem hasn’t been socialising very much lately, finds it all a little bit too much, dashes out of the house and goes on a drug binge.  Phill leaves his wife Cindy and the band manager Sam behind as he goes to look for John.  It is at this juncture in the play that we find out that Cindy and Sam have been having a sexual liaison, and we are treated to some comical gratuitous simulated sex.  Jeremy Sims is quite believable as an ageing and needy Essex boy, whilst Susie Porter plays the part of a jaded and disinterested piece of jet trash to the hilt.
 
Basically, the first act mostly consisted of churlish behavior and shouting. By intermission, I was wondering whether or not I’d bother to watch the second act as I didn’t care a fig for any of the characters and I didn’t care how it all ended.
 
After more yelling and shouting, we find that the band still has what it takes.  But will John and Lyn’s relationship survive the band getting back together again.  Who cares? I didn’t and I’d say neither did most of the audience.  The play was damned with polite and light applause that petered out after the second bow.
 
On the whole the play reminded me of an experience I had when I was in Spain.  I was camping at a campground in Madrid, opposite a large Spanish family, who are preparing paella.  I watched jealously as I saw beautiful ingredients being put into the paella pan.  Fresh fish, shrimp, octopus and shellfish slowly cooked with saffron rice.  It looked and smelt fantastic.  The family must have noticed my interest, and with typical Spanish hospitality they invited me to join them.  I can remember thinking to myself about how good it was all going to taste as I walked over.  Yep, you guessed it!  It was absolutely disgusting.  I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to turn all those beautiful ingredients into an inedible mess.