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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 07:54 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 07:54 | SYDNEY

Blogging on beer, bikes and a book

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13 July 2011 15:57

Asia mixes sweet and sour into peoples and polities which are potent and pungent. That thought is where I start in the Asia Pacific Master Blogging Challenge, taking place in the most un-Asia-like snow-licked weather of Canberra.

This is a no-holds-barred battle of ego, typing skills and rampant competition. The inspiration for the contest is the TV show MasterChef and the idea of the mystery box. We have been given the contents of the box and now we have to rush to 'plate it up' in 40 minutes. It's atmosphere-plus. The audience have just given us a Mexican wave.

The contest is away — in future we will repeat this on clay, grass and hard surfaces. A new grand slam event. The mystery objects: a trishaw, bottle of  a sweet and sour with extra pineapple, a bottle of Asahi beer (the top prize, we're told), a map of the world in Burmese, a book called Culture Shock: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette in the Philippines, a tea towel on the British royal wedding (no Thai royal references, on request!), and some stats on Chinese trade.

We have to use at least three of those ingredients. I've listed them so let's mark that as technically DONE. Somehow, though, I don't reckon the MasterChef judges (especially the big guy with the cravat) would go for listing the ingredients, so I'm just going to reflect on how the ingredients remind me of bits of Asia I have seen and tasted over the decades.

The trishaw takes me back to Phnom Penh in 1989 as the Vietnamese military were withdrawing, along with the Soviet technicians who kept communist regime afloat. The Soviets had stopped shipping in oil, so for both convenience and cost, the trishaw was the best means of transport — plus the rider could guard the TV gear and actually do duty as a minder.

Sweet and sour with pineapple just means the Philippines for me: the most amazing mix of a place — the combination of convent and Hollywood. The sweet and sour sauce at the big Manila hamburger joint was tasty, but the real local flavour was the guard with a shotgun standing at the front door. Culture shock in Manila is working out the etiquette of going in for your fries while maintaining non-threatening eye contact with the chap with the pump-action piece.

The Asahi beer just brings to mind the streets of Tokyo, not the bars. The bars cost a fortune. But on every street corner there are the ubiquitous vending machines that will spit out a beer as easily as a coke. No Tokyo salary man ever needs to stagger more than a block without refreshments. Dry beer and pineapple sweet and sour. The taste of Asia, tripping off the tongue and tantalising the eye.

The votes are in: I came fourth (or last out of four). The winner is Andrew Walker who took his inspiration in the voting stakes from a few Asian elections which shall not be named. Don't call it rigged – just very well funded. A hundred in the audience but somehow 200 votes cast. Ah, Asia, the idea of vote-early-vote-often is wonderfully observed even in the blogging stakes. So the champion: Andrew Walker, second Cynthia Banham, third Shiro Armstrong and Dobell closing fast on the outside.

My best line didn't get on the blog but I shared it with the audience: how do I know what I think until I see what a write? The James Reston thought is the wonderful creed that should drive all blogging.

Photo by Flickr user alexbrn.

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