And so to ‘Marvellous Melbourne’, cultural bo-ho capital of Australia where artful tattoos, piercings and black-clad beatniks abound and residents enjoy a distinctly European style climate (i.e. it’s colder and wetter than the rest of the country). We swapped our scruffy backpacker sleaze for a slice of inner city urban life, hanging out with Scottish friends in their 10th floor super central Chinatown apartment hotel. It all felt rather incongruous.
We foraged down filthy graffiti covered alleyways, practically climbing over bins and Chinese chefs on fag breaks to find the cream of Melbourne’s inner city bars. Guided by the local knowledge of our Kiwi mate Ben (he of ‘handful of wet dong’ fame) we quaffed long-necked bottles of Coopers Ale in quirky surrounds, including the eclectic and frankly elusive Croft Institute. At the wrong end of a distinctly un-salubrious pissy passage the bar was styled in the manner of a medical research facility. Experimental glassware, clinically tiled walls and smoked glass windows on the gents toilet door that read ‘Department of Male Hygiene’ all added to the strange sanitorial air. All that was missing was a dose of anaesthetic to relieve the painfully trendy effect.
Stomachs a-growling we ate at ‘Dainty Sichuan’. If the food was ‘dainty’ then I’d hate to eat at a place called ‘Hearty Sichuan’ – it was quite possibly the most insanely hot meal any of us had ever eaten. We sat red-faced, eyes watering and sweating as our mouths went numb from the double whammy of potent red chillies and fiery Sichuan pepper. I spent the next day gently humming ‘Ring of Fire’ to myself as the meal, appropriately I thought, travelled slowly through my system (not sure about the low carbon nature of my personal emissions however).
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