a summer in seoul

We left for the airport in the middle of Winter. This was the first time I travelled with my boyfriend and I was excited to just spend more than a day with him. Our first trip together.


Seoul was hot and humid. Our clothes would stick to our skin as soon as we set foot outside the comfort of our air conditioned room. We explored temples and shrines and palaces, learning and absorbing the history and culture of Korea. My shoes gave up on me within the first few days and I walked with sore feet, my torn soles flapping wildly on the pavement. At the end of the day, I would jump onto bed and lay spread-eagle underneath the air conditioning, airing my red feet and counting how many more blisters I had created on my soles.

I had a photoshoot with a French model from Tokyo in the quiet alleyways of Bukchon Hanok Village. We chatted and laughed and I can still remember her reaction when I guessed her hometown correctly (a small town where I had spent my 21st birthday the previous year). It's always great to go back to my roots and shoot with just a model and I. No makeup artist. No stylist. Just me and Laura, creating pretty pictures.

Animal shaped figurine roof tiles (Japsang) used to show the grandeur of a building and as a shamanic symbol to chase away evil spirits

Animal shaped figurine roof tiles (Japsang) used to show the grandeur of a building and as a shamanic symbol to chase away evil spirits

Injeongjeon Hall, the throne hall of Chandeokgung Palace

Injeongjeon Hall, the throne hall of Chandeokgung Palace

seoul22.jpg
Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Nakseonjae Complex in Changdeokgung Palace

Nakseonjae Complex in Changdeokgung Palace

Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village

Hanok rooftops

Hanok rooftops

One day we went on a tour to the DMZ, the buffer zone between North and South Korea. There was a feeling I can't quite find the words for as we drove past the two eerily quiet villages on either side of the demarcation line. The division between North and South Korea was apparent to see as the two rival national flags flew high up on their gigantic flagpoles (the North Korean flagpole was much taller than the South's). The whole experience was a reminder of the tragedy of war and the separation of the people caused by a divided nation and I left feeling more enlightened with education but sadder knowing that the tension between the two Korea's is ongoing.

The road to DMZ

The road to DMZ

The view of the North from the Southern side of the Joint Security Area

The view of the North from the Southern side of the Joint Security Area

The Bridge of No Return through the bus window

The Bridge of No Return through the bus window

At Dorasan Station, the northernmost train station in South Korea. The sign is a hope that one day, the train station can be used to travel all the way up to the North's capital.

At Dorasan Station, the northernmost train station in South Korea. The sign is a hope that one day, the train station can be used to travel all the way up to the North's capital.

Military boys reunited with their parents

Military boys reunited with their parents

A few years ago, I became friends with Lucy from South Korea while she was studying in Australia and I'm so grateful to have met her and to have formed this wonderful friendship. On Sunday, Lucy's boyfriend hired a mini van and drove us around the city. We travelled north to south, east to west, exploring temples high on mountains and eating shaved ice to cool us in the sweltering heat. One evening, we went down to the Han River and everyone rode bikes along the path. I sat on the grass and watched with a friend who also had a fear of cycling after falling off a bike. He had put his arms out to block his fall and ended up breaking it. I didn't and ended up face planting the gravel road. We showed our scars and shared our stories as the sun slowly crept under the blanket of the horizon.

One night we walked all the way up Namsan Mountain and enjoyed the view of the twinkling city from high up the tower. The grounds were swamped with couples in matching outfits and the railings on the tower were covered with locks declaring their love. I have never seen so many selfie sticks in the one spot before in my life.

Walking through temples with Lucy and her sister

Walking through temples with Lucy and her sister

Pumpkin and red bean shaved ice

Pumpkin and red bean shaved ice

Walking up Mt. Namsan

Walking up Mt. Namsan

The view from inside N Seoul Tower and out

The view from inside N Seoul Tower and out

A boy massaging his girl at the bus stop

A boy massaging his girl at the bus stop

We went swimming in an outdoor pool by the river one time before dinner. The water instantly cooled our bodies as we splashed around while large dragonflies dashed above our heads. We ended the day sharing plates of food with each other at dinner. Dinner was always so good in the company of friends.

The nights were spent wandering through markets. Some were big and filled with flashy neon lights and big screens showing K-Pop music videos. Others were smaller and packed with stalls selling snapback caps and big framed glasses and urban clothes. 

One time, on our way down the quiet alleyway to our accommodation from a fun night out, we walked passed a home dry cleaning business. There was an elderly couple standing out the front under a small tube light. They were hunched over a small table, cleaning and wrapping suits while the rest of city was sleeping and it hit me how much they reminded me of my own parents.

Gunpla Expo in I-Park Mall

Gunpla Expo in I-Park Mall

Gunpla Builders World Cup

Gunpla Builders World Cup

Priscilla Musical. It's so surreal and exciting to see an adaptation of an Australian production

Priscilla Musical. It's so surreal and exciting to see an adaptation of an Australian production

I giggled

I giggled

Walking around Myeong-dong

Walking around Myeong-dong

Soon it was time to leave and I found myself on a plane heading towards Japan. I am so thankful for meeting Lucy. Seoul would not have been as magical as it was without her and her family.

europe diaries: germany and colmar

I fly from Paris to Berlin and stay in the home of a relative's friend. Their son Nexo picks me up at the airport and I spend the rest of the morning having deep conversations with him at the dinner table over orange juice. It was from that day on that I knew him and I would become great friends.

I sleep in his sister's room. The furniture doesn't match and there are small trinkets in every corner of the room that holds something so memorable she doesn't throw it away. It reminds me so much of my own room and my first night here is one of the best sleeps.

I meet with Mai Linh again on the other side of town and we wander through graffiti laneways and take silly photos in a photobooth on the street. The last time I had seen her was the previous year and I still feel so blessed to have friends around the world.

We go to a party one night near a bridge that overlooks a large lake. The concrete wall next to the entrance is painted with a big graffiti mural of Mother Mary and loud music pulses from the window like openings above it. We don't leave until it's sunlight again.  

Alleyway art

Alleyway art

The Brandenburg Gate quadriga

The Brandenburg Gate quadriga

East Berlin Wall

East Berlin Wall

berlin4.jpg
Nexo's family took us to Potsdam where we visited the Sanssouci Palace, a former summer palace belonging to Frederick the Great

Nexo's family took us to Potsdam where we visited the Sanssouci Palace, a former summer palace belonging to Frederick the Great

One night we all crowd into a friend's apartment bedroom. Hans plays his guitar on a mattress on the floor while the other boys play console games on the TV. We look like zombies with dark bags underneath our eyes. Other nights we walk through the park, relying on the moonlight to guide us to the lake where we stay to chat, everyone giggling at me trying to pronounce German words. On my last night, we wander the empty streets for a döner kebap stand and eat our meals in the quiet train station underground to keep warm.

My time in Berlin is over and Nexo takes me to the train station where we say our goodbyes. I can't find my seat number through the crowded train so I sit on the floor in between the carriages, my luggage towering over me as I watch the view of the sky through the small window high above me.

I travel to Munich to see Oktoberfest. There are youths and families dressed in Bavarian clothes and I look so much out of place in my jeans and backpack that people take pictures with me. The grounds are loud with excited screams of children and catchy pop music, that often conflicted with the music from just across the way. There are rides with big, bright lights and loud colours for all ages and adventurers and it is now that I wish I had a companion with me to enjoy all this fun. The noise of loud, buzzing chatter hits me as soon as I walk into the beer tents. There are thousands of people singing, dancing, and celebrating away to litre mugs of beer. One lonely man with a thick moustache kneels on one knee and presents me with a small pretzel ring for my hand in marriage while others ask me to join them in dance.

Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, the former Hofbräu brewery site

Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, the former Hofbräu brewery site

Oktoberfest food stall

Oktoberfest food stall

Soon I am on a bus heading south and turn 21 in a little town called Freiburg im Breisgau. Here I stay with my relatives and for my birthday, they drive us an hour to Colmar, France where we eat fruit and pastries. The town is almost whimsical with charming cityscapes and quaint little buildings. The similarities to Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle are clear to see and I stand on a bridge overlooking the canal, pinching myself to make sure this wasn't some kind of ridiculously realistic painting. The people here are as sweet as the pastel-coloured houses. It is such a big and beautiful difference from the bustling city of Paris. I end my birthday back in Freiburg watching one of my favourite movies The Lord of the Rings (except this time it's Der Herr der Ringe) and eating my black forest birthday cake.

Buildings in Colmar, France

Buildings in Colmar, France

Riding on the Hasenhorn coaster in Todtnau

Riding on the Hasenhorn coaster in Todtnau

I spend another few days in Freiburg, riding bikes around town and finishing off my university assignments. On my last day, I eat my last serving of weisswurt for breakfast and make it to the nearest airport in Switzerland for lunch. After a few short hours, I am back in my cousin's home in London, eating dinner with my family. 

europe diaries: paris

I find it amazing how I can travel a couple of hours in Europe and be in another country. One Christmas many years ago, I traveled with my family from Melbourne to Sydney via train. It took us 11 hours of yellow-tinged grass and countryside for us to not do it again. Thus when I hear stories of how easy it is to take day trips to Paris from London with the Eurostar, I beam with excited eagerness.

Paris is unkind to me. She gives me the meanest cough that stems from my lungs and makes me breathe short, rapid breaths. The air is unnoticeably thick here and cigarettes cloak the cobbled pavements. It is Paris Fashion Week but I must be on the wrong side of town for I see everything far from glamorous here.

I stay in a hostel in Montmarte around the corner from an alleyway that is crowded with middle-aged women foraging plastic tubs full of underwear to buy at €1. At night, the alleyway smells of urine - but the smell isn't as putrid as the gardens at Notre-Dame. I never speak to the girls in my dorm room. They all seem to distance themselves away from me. I think it's because I keep them up all night with my coughs. 

I walk pass a luxurious silver sports car on my way to the grocery store one morning. I don't know anything about cars but I know that this one is one to envy. My eyes trace its body, from its angular headlights to the slight curve of its long bonnet. I wonder to myself if I should take a picture to show my boyfriend. But then my eyes stopped moving and I realise that I had stopped walking. Its passenger window had been smashed and both the black leather seats are now sparkling from the tiny fragments of glass. My eyes widen in shock and I feel my heart sink over something that isn't mine. On the way back to the accommodation, I walk pass the car once more. There is a young woman with long blonde hair sitting in the driver's seat. She holds the phone to her ear with one hand while the other is searching through her glove box. Her face glistens in the sun and I'm not sure if that is because of her makeup or her tears.

The view of Montmarte from Sacré Cœur Basilica

The view of Montmarte from Sacré Cœur Basilica

I am at the bank waiting in line to exchange my Australian dollars to Euros so I can have enough to spoil my mum with a pretty silk scarf. The lady behind the counter yells something and I take it as a cue to walk up to her. 

"Parlez-vous anglais?" I ask her. It's the only French I've ever needed to say here.

"Non. Pardon," she replies as she waves her hand.

I take out my foreign money and ask her if she could change them to Euros but she does not move.

"You cross zee road and at zee corner, turn right until you find zee American bank," she says through pursed lips and she points at the door that I had come from. "We are closed."

paris3.jpg

I am at Sacré Cœur where large groups of African men are hassling other tourists to tie strings around their wrists. A 'no' does not mean anything here and one follows us up the stairs and I quickly grab onto my cousin's hand so that I don't get left behind. At Notre-Dame there are gypsy girls who ask to sign petitions. I make the mistake of signing one thinking no harm but she persists for me to pay 50 euros and after I tell her I can't, more girls crowd around me, grabbing my arms and demanding that I must. I have never felt so scared about myself and my belongings before. I have never felt so alone in a place buzzing with people.

Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame

By the last day in Paris, I walk through the park trying to fight back tears. I am frustrated and sad and sick. I find my way back to the hostel and crawl into bed under the thin white sheet of a blanket. I have never felt so homesick before. I miss my mum and my home and my bed and the way mum knows exactly what remedy to heal me when I tell her I'm sick. I miss my boyfriend and his home and his bed and his cuddles and his words of comfort that soothes me when I'm not feeling the best. I miss the local supermarket down the road where I buy all my necessary things; I miss the highway that runs through Melbourne and takes us to places with pleasant memories; I miss being comforted by sights and sounds of comfortable things.

I wake up to the setting sun and a damp pillow. I hate Paris.

Love locks on Pont des Arts

Love locks on Pont des Arts

It is 4 in the morning and I am on a bus to the airport. The roads are quiet but not empty. Every street corner there is a figure lying on the ground, on the steps, on the benches. Some have blankets over them and some have newspapers. Some have pets snuggling close to them and some are just by themselves. I feel so disconnected to them, as though I am only just watching a movie through the window. 

Paris, the city of love and light. Of pastel coloured macarons and delicate patisseries. Of quaint little cafes that groove to live accordion music. Of beautifully dressed boys with chiseled jawlines. These are the things that I wanted to capture but the truth is, everything I had ever known about Paris, I had learnt through a romanticized lens and the reality of it haunts me.

Parc du Champs de Mars from atop the Eiffel Tower

Parc du Champs de Mars from atop the Eiffel Tower

Musée du Louvre

Musée du Louvre

Taking pictures of the Mona Lisa

Taking pictures of the Mona Lisa

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

europe diaries: london and canterbury

Back home in Melbourne, I am sprinting up the platform to catch my train. I am puffing and panting and begging the ticket reader to end its ongoing friction with the Myki card and allow me to touch on. The doors start beeping and soon enough, the train becomes a dot in the distance. I curse to the train gods as I hear the next won't arrive until 20, so I sit down on a bench, take out a notepad and start to reminisce about London and its magical public transport system.

In the middle of my final semester of uni last year, I bought a ticket to London. It ended up becoming a little spontaneous (and very lonely) trip around Europe.

I have always wanted to go to London since I was a little girl. Reading about it in literature and watching it on the big screen sparked this great interest inside of me and I fell in love with the city before I had step foot in it. 


London greeted me with hail and 5 minutes of sunshine. I stayed in a little narrow house in Brixton where the streets wailed with police sirens. The house had a small window on the top of the second flight of stairs and on days when the sun warmed our skins, we'd climb through it onto the roof terrace. Every morning I'd have excessive pins and needles from Charlie the house cat snuggling on my lap and every night I'd watch documentaries with my cousin, Steven before bed. There was a Sainsbury's down the road where Skittles were on sale for 75p. Needless to say, I had the worst toothache that lasted a good week but I regret nothing because ridiculously cheap Skittles are not one you walk away from. What I most liked about the little narrow house in Brixton was the old house smell that comforted me; like the smell of light musk, or rain on a Spring morning; like the warmth of home away from home.

A portrait of my grandpa hanging in my cousin's restaurant

A portrait of my grandpa hanging in my cousin's restaurant

London shadowed in gloominess. It rained all the time, and all the time I kept wandering. I took public transport everywhere and visited places that I grew up mispronouncing on the Monopoly board. There was this funny feeling I can't quite describe as I visited places I had only ever read about: when I walked through Westminster Abbey and saw all the tombs of monarchs and honourable people and learnt of all the coronations and royal weddings; when I stood in the middle of the Tower of London after studying A Man for All Seasons for the Year 12 English exam; when I walked by the Coronation Stone on my way to dinner in Kingston upon Thames; or even when I drove by Sir David Attenborough's house. They were all experiences I could relive in my head forever. In my mind, London was a faraway place that only existed in beautifully written verse. Yet there it was right in front of me, London and all its history, and I had to keep pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

On one of the days I met and shot alongside Cansu O, who was kind enough to organise a team together for us to shoot. We shot in Holland Park until we could shoot no more and I thanked her with Tim Tams before we went our separate ways.

I went to the theater for the first time 

I went to the theater for the first time 

I left London that day for a train to Canterbury where I stayed in a 300 year old house that looked like something out of Downton Abbey. It had a marvelous staircase and old, polished furniture adorned with decorations that should have belonged in a museum. The bathtub sat by a massive arched window that overlooked the most beautiful flower garden, but I was too scared to take a bath, even though I knew there wouldn't be any one out there.

I watched my cousin marry her love on Julianna's Island

I watched my cousin marry her love on Julianna's Island

I traveled back to London, only to hop onto a train at St Pancras for Paris. I didn't shoot much in London. Sometimes my camera would stay packed away so I could enjoy everything she had to offer, and she offered more than I could ever ask.

a family christmas - part two: home

My ultimate dream is to inspire somebody in someway somehow. And to do that I must be truthful to myself, to the world. I've always been withheld from writing about darker, more negative topics because nobody wants to hear about them. How can others have hope if there is negativity being spread around like butter? But the truth is, sometimes life is beautiful and sometimes life is messy and I can only feel satisfied with myself if I be real and honest. I've thought long and hard about sharing this part of my life and have decided that it should be told.

My father is ill with cancer. At first I was angry and pissed off at the world, at the force, at any theistic deity I could point the finger at. My father lived a healthy life and worked hard to provide a good future for his children so of course anger became confusion and I found myself one day standing in the middle of the shopping centre, bawling my eyes out with snot running down my face, strangers staring at me as they casually walked passed and my lover not knowing what to do and frantically opening his bag of chocolates to give to me. My father was diagnosed with a stage 4 carcinoma, the final stages of cancer.

Soon it was all about the blood tests; about the chemotherapy and radiotherapy; about the PET scans, MRI scans and CAT scans. I went with my father to the hospital one time for his radiotherapy. I sat in the waiting room with him and 30 others who had the same cancer. He had been in and out of the hospital so many times that he greeted everyone by their names. There was also a little locker room that had my father's name on a locker because he had now become a regular patient.

What felt like another life ago has only been 6 months since. Although the cancer is not gone, my father is much more happier, healthier and active than ever before. Most of my relatives from all over the world flew to my house to celebrate Christmas together. We had 30 people crowding around the dinner table as my father made a speech thanking everybody for their support.

'I will live a long life everybody, I promise you that.'

And we all said cheers to that and ate wonderful food and had a wonderful Christmas.

my father and his sister

my father and his sister

my grandmother after hearing about my father's diagnosis

my grandmother after hearing about my father's diagnosis

my cousin blowing bubbles on christmas day

my cousin blowing bubbles on christmas day

my littlest cousin biting my oldest cousin after he took her bubble stick away

my littlest cousin biting my oldest cousin after he took her bubble stick away