From our house it was only a half hour walk till Chinatown. The two-block route on Dixon Street was stuffed with restaurants, bakeries, and pearl tea cafes. Our first stop was in front of the Emperor’s Garden Cakes & Bakery, where we waited in line for a walnut-sized pastry called an Emperor’s Puff. When we finally got up to the window, Barret pulled .60¢ out of his pocket and handed it over. A batch of the naughty-sounding pastries dropped out of the machine with a clack and the woman behind the window gave us two.
From there we went a few shops down to the Yin Li Sichuan Restaurant. It had paper screens covering the walls and the kind of heavy engraved tables that were popular in the 80s. We ordered dim sum dumplings and a steamed rice cake with beef, which were both way more delicious than the vegetable stirfry. Barret and I both agreed that most of the Chinese stirfrys we’ve had are very unexciting; the official verdict is still out till we get to China though.
We also discovered that the alley behind our restaurant had been renovated with an art installation by Australian Jason Wing. As an artist with Chinese and Aboriginal heritage, Wing wanted to “create an experience like walking in between two worlds or travelling between heaven and earth.” It definitely felt otherworldly with stylized plumes of blue smoke drawn over red brick walls and sliver and blue spirit figures floating above the alley. Of course I had put black and white film into my Polaroid.
After lunch we walked past the north gate of Chinatown towards the Chinese Garden of friendship. The gardens were built to celebrate Australia’s 1988 bicentenary and are a result of the relationship between Sydney and its sister city Guangzhou. Although the high-rise Sydney landmarks were visual distractions, the local Australian White Ibis birds seemed right at home. Their snowy feathers had the same wispy appearance as the weeping willow branches they rested on.
From what I’ve noticed, Sydneysiders hate these birds as much as Americans hate pigeons. My New Zealand coworker even went so far as to say the kiwi bird is incontestably superior and cuter. “They are cuter,” I agreed, “but you got to give the ibis credit for adapting to a city environment. From what I hear the kiwi is getting gobbled up by small mammals…”
My coworkers might think I’m crazy, but I still like the ibis. It looks exotic and reminds me that I am in a foreign country every time I see it. And you know what? From the pavilion where Barret and I were drinking a pot of jasmine tea, the ibis birds looked damn good nestled on the Phoenix Rock in the middle of the Lake of Brightness. You go bird!
How to get to the Chinese Garden of Friendship: Southern end of Darling Harbour, Sydney
How to get to Chinatown: Dixon Street, between Hay Street and Goulburn Street
About the Kimber Lane street art