Slow pace in old Bangkok

Siesta time!

 

Seeking ‘slowness’ in the fast-paced culture and lifestyle we live in today is not easy. It is also becoming more widespread as you can see this in most big cities around the world ( just watch the locals when you take public transport and you will know what I mean). Luckily, in recent years, the ‘slow movement’ is getting more coverage and being promoted, which I think is more positive and healthier for most of us who have to deal with the stress of living in a technology-driven society.

I can’t say that I am good with being slow, esp. when I travel, so doing ‘less’ was my priority during my 3 nights’ stay in Bangkok. My advantage was that I have been to Bangkok a few times before, so I could skip the sightseeing and explore different areas and attractions.

Whenever I visit a city, I try to use as much public transport as possible, and the rest on foot, this way, I will get a more ‘real’ picture of the city and its people. I also prefer to visit less touristy areas, and exploring Bangkok’s Old city and Chinatown gave me a more authentic feel of how the locals live. Even though there are two major sights in the area, it is not as touristy as other parts of the city, and the best way to get to this area is by boat, which is cheap and frequent.

 

A street mural

 

Museum of Siam– If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Thailand, this interactive ( kid-friendly) museum in the Old city near Wat Pho and the Grand Palace is really worth visiting. Housed in a Colonial style 19th century building that used to be the Ministry of Commerce, there were more locals than tourists when I arrived. And without knowing, I got there just in time for the free afternoon entry!

What I like about this museum is their effort to make it as fun and interactive as possible, while being informative too ( it reminds me of the equally interesting Museum of Macau). I love the miniature models of ships and old Siam, as well as the map room. The gift shop is also not to be missed as it sells many interesting (non-tacky) souvenir and books.

 

 

Pak Khlong TalatFlower market – Located between the Old City and Chinatown, the wholesale flower market is an interesting area to explore even if you are not into flowers. Walking along the canal, it suddenly reminded me of Amsterdam, and it was just fascinating to watch the people at work here. When I return to Bangkok again, I will definitely spend more time wandering and getting lost in the part of the city…

 

 

 

Slow pace in Bangkok… Baan Pra Nond

I can’t say that Bangkok is on my top 10 favourite cities’ list, but it certainly has its charm despite the chaos, pollution and notorious traffic jams. I was meant to visit Bangkok in October for the gift and furniture trade fair, but had to cancel at the last minute because of the flood. Luckily, the trade fair takes place every 6 months, so I re-organised a business and leisure trip (beyond Bangkok), which caused much envy amongst friends in London!

I believe getting lost in Bangkok (on foot or in taxis) is unavoidable for all tourists. Even though this was my fifth time to Bangkok (over a period of 15 years), I still get disoriented easily… and I blame it on the lack of obvious landmark in this vast metropolis…

Bangkok can be extremely draining because of the heat, chaos, noise level and traffic, so on this trip, I decided to pace myself and try to enjoy the city differently… With so many accommodations that are reasonably priced and with amazing facilities, picking a place to stay is just as hard as trying to cross the streets in Bangkok! I have previously stayed at luxurious 5-star hotels, serviced apartment and even at friends’ house, but this time, I chose to stay at Baan Pra Nond, a colonial-style bed & breakfast near the river in the business district.

 

 

As you can see from the photos, this b & b is beautifully decorated and has an unique charm that makes you wonder what life used to be like in old Bangkok… The owners, Jason and Tasma are friendly and welcoming, and despite its location (under a highway and near one of the busiest intersection in the city), the traffic noise didn’t bother me very much. While talking to the staff, I found out more about the history and architectural aspect of the house, which was totally fascinating. The idea of maintaining the old heritage and modernising it to suit our modern day life is something that I love and believe strongly in, and like the Japanese, I think the Thai people are very good at this.

 

 

Having breakfasts in the dining room area (alone) was almost meditative-like, even with the traffic noise and heat, I felt incredibly calm… I wonder if it has anything to do with the green paint on the walls?

My only complaint is related to the nearby intersection rather than the b & b itself… trying to cross the busy junction requires patience, determination and courage, it’s a real test! My advice is to follow the locals, or just act quick… if not, you will end up standing there for 20 mins, which is not very comfortable in the heat!

 

To be continued…

 

 

Tango moments

tango

Tango al fresco at Regents Park

 

You don’t have to be a tango dancer to appreciate this sensual and elegant dance, and I am talking about Argentinian tango, not the dramatic ballroom or ‘Strictly come dancing’ style. A lot of people get confused with the two as they still have this idea of women dancing with roses in their mouths and find it hard to believe that we can dance in jeans, which is quite amusing!

I became interested in Argentinian tango and its music many years ago, but was too shy to take up group classes until a few years ago. As much as I love the dance and music, the journey hasn’t been easy esp. because it is an improvisational dance that requires two people, so it is not always within one’s control. Hence the term ‘it takes two to tango’ makes total sense to me now. What I find particularly interesting is the psychology and behaviour of the dancers, which can be turned into a book based on my own (and friends’) observation and experiences.

For me, the greatest joy of tango derives from being ‘in the moment’ or ‘in flow’. If you are familiar with Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi‘s ‘flow’, then you will understand that the state of flow is a liberating and ‘out of this world’ experience. However, like with everything else, this mental state is not something that you can maintain consistently, sometimes it happens unexpectedly, other times things just will not go your way esp. when you try too hard.

It never ceases to amaze me when a strong chemistry or connection is felt between two strangers dancing for the first time. For some dancers, they constantly seek that connection or the ecstatic state of mind, but from my personal experience, it is not something that happens regularly (for me anyway); though when does, you and your partner will not want to let go of each other’s hands and embrace for the rest of the evening…

Whether you like tango or not, these interesting tango videos will demonstrate how sensual, diverse and creative this dance can be:

 

Milonga, a short film by Marco Calvise

 

 

Perdizione – tango in the supermarket

 

One of the most popular tango videos on Youtube is this Los Hermanos Macana tango performance in New York Times Square. The legendary Argentinian brothers, Guillermo and Enrique De Fazio or ‘Los Hermanos Macana‘ as they are known, are not only technically brilliant but they like to add wit and playfulness into their dancing, pushing tango to a different level.

 

 

 

Ttable office & Korean stationery

As a huge fan of Japanese design and stationery, I was quite oblivious to Korean stationery until my first visit to Seoul two years ago. What I did not expect was to see so many independent stationery shops, occupying prime locations and in big shopping malls. This is quite rare to see in Asia because of the high property/rental prices, my guess is that Koreans must really like their stationery (and coffee)!

With Japanese yen being so high (vs. other currencies) in recent years, it hasn’t been easy for me esp. when I import from Japan. Most of my Japanese products are more expensive partly due to this reason, and so Korean stationery has a slight advantage in terms of costs. However, Korean stationery does have an unique appeal that differs from the Japanese ones; like the eco-friendly stationery brand, Gongjang, my latest discovery, Ttable Office is also one of a kind.

It was a few months ago that I came across Ttable Office while I was browsing on the internet and was immediately drawn to it. Yunsook Choi‘s work has a fairy-tale like/ dreamy feel to it, and it is unlike anything that I have seen before. Working from her 6 sqm studio tucked away in Sogyukdong, an old part of Seoul, Yunsook‘s studio is also a shop where visitors can enjoy the wonders of her creations. I particularly like the fact that with a bit of simple DIY, these cards can become mobile and be hung as decorations. Some of her cards carry short and heartwarming messages that are not specific for any occasion, making them quite flexible. Honestly, I am tired of seeing greeting cards with outdated jokes, and so I find these cards very refreshing and inspiring.

I decided to stock three of her cards and a letter set as a trial, but hopefully, I can expand the range in the future. You can see some of her other adorable products here:

 

 

I recently discovered this sweet brand promotion video and want to share it here:

 

Ttable office brand promotion video from Visual mutant on Vimeo.

 

You can find out more about Ttable office and our selection of cards here.

Walking in Cornwall

What are the key components of a perfect getaway? Good companion, great food and wine, cosy and comfortable accomodation, hassle-free transportation and stunning scenery. Well, I experienced them all when I joined a wonderful walking group to Cornwall last weekend! Words fail to describe the experience, so I will let the photos do the work…

Why travel abroad for holiday when there is so much beauty just outside of our doorsteps?

 

 

 

This is not a film & Iranian cinema

I first encountered Iranian cinema around the mid 90s, and I found myself being mesmerised by films from directors like Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaaf, and Jafar Panahi. Panahi‘s ‘The White balloon’ in particular, left a very strong impression on me. I liked the simplicity and humanity of the story, which has a similar feel to Yimou Zhang‘s earlier films like ‘The Story of Qiu Ju’ and ‘Not One Less’ from around the same period. Similarly, Samira Makhmalbaf‘s debut docudrama, ‘Sib’ is also memorable because it depicts lives of seemingly ordinary people living extraordinary lives in Iran.

For some reason, Iranian cinema lost its appeal to me in the 2000s and it was only after seeing Kiarostami‘s ‘Certified copy’ with Juliette Binoche in 2010 that my interest returned again. Then a year later came Asghar Farhadi‘s ‘A separarion’, which marked a break-through in Iranian cinema history as it swept most of the major film awards in 2011 & 2012 and received universal acclaim.

As things seem to be looking up for Iranian cinema, another story is being told in the documentary – ‘This is not a film’ by Jafar Panahi, who shockingly, has been jailed and banned from filming for 20 years by the current Iranian government! This documentary was made out of the blue with the help of his friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb – also jailed for helping Panahi – due to his frustration towards his house arrest and unforesee future.

The reason why people should see this film is not only because of the unjust situation that he is facing; but most importantly, this film is about a film-maker/artist, who is passionate about his work. It is a statement of passion, beliefs, creativity, humanity, freedom and courage. Apparently, the film was smuggled out of the country on a USB stick inside a cake, it was lucky that the custom officers were not hungry on the day!

 

 

Expect the unexpected: the film is unpredictable, raw, spontaneous, honest, thought-provoking and humourous at times. Although there are some sombre moments, the mood changes when a new subject appears later in the film. By that time, I became so engaged that I wished the story would continue…

The story does continue until today but the ending is unclear. Llike Ai Weiwei, even with international support and petitions, there is little that can be done to change the fates of those who take their stands against their governments. And what Panahi probably didn’t expect is that he has made a film possibly more ground-breaking and powerful than the one he was banned to film, so bravo!

This is not a film is now showing in the UK and US cinemas, and it is not be missed!