Food, Tipple, Travel

A Tokyo Minute

There was always something in the air in Tokyo. Some call it a pulse, an energy – yet unlike its counterparts across the globe, in this city there’s an odd sense of calm amidst the madness, a stratosphere of zen that if you just reach for, the rest of the clatter dissolves away. A giant mute button as you watch it all go by, close enough to see it all, distant enough to observe it all.

So much of Japan and things Japanese have become almost a caricature of sorts. That restaurant where Uma Thurman beat up a bunch of ninjas! Men in traditional wear serve you food on paddles while yelling up a storm (I don’t understand a word but it sounds foreign and fun!)

It’s hard not to fall in love with the food in Japan. It’s beauty – inside and out, for the eyes and the palate.

Some cities have the luxury of a rural escape whenever the urban life gets all too much. Here you get a couple of hours of fresh mountain air and a sunset in silence, before returning to the city for your last meal of the day.

Standard

As much as I enjoy freshly laundered towels and turndown service, there’s a certain charm that comes with living out of a local’s apartment in a residential neighbourhood.

Here we were, close enough to walk to the Douro River and Porto’s prettiest sights, but distant enough to sit out on the balcony with a bottle of port, and watch the world go by through this (both literal and figurative) window.

Tipple, Travel

As much as I enjoy freshly laundered towels and turndown service, there’s a certain charm about living out of a local’s apartment in a residential neighbourhood.

Here we were, close enough to walk to the Douro River and Porto’s prettiest sights, but distant enough to sit out on the balcony with a bottle of port, watching the world go by through this (both literal and figurative) window.

Image

“God Alone Knows”, Damien Hirst : A clever marriage of science and religion; an inventive use of preserved sheep carcasses in this instantly recognisable scene.

Contemporary art has always been somewhat of a hit and miss for me. When the contemporary man has neither time nor patience for frescoes or friezes, art can only seek to shock, intrigue, and scandalise; something to hold your attention just long enough till the next big thing comes along.

Could this be the natural evolution of art or merely symptomatic of our time?

Astrup Fearnley Museet
Strandpromenaden 2, 0252 Oslo, Norway

Art, Pangaea Picks, Travel

“God Alone Knows”, Damien Hirst : A clever marriage of science and religion; an inventive use of preserved sheep carcasses in this instantly recognisable scene.
Contemporary art has always been somewhat of a hit and miss for me. When the contemporary man has neither time nor patience for frescoes or friezes, art can only seek to shock, intrigue, and scandalise; something to hold your attention just long enough till the next big thing comes along.
Could this be the natural evolution of art or merely symptomatic of our time?

Image
Travel

When the Music ends in Rio: Part 1

The thing about all open houses – be it properties or universities – is that you only ever get to see its ‘First Date Face’. Weeks of planning and a plump (often overspent) budget ensures that only its best foot forward is put forth for your special visit. Floors are extra sparkly, the food in the cafeteria is astonishingly good, neighbours are a bundle of affable smiles.

This was what greeted me in Rio de Janeiro back in 2013, when I arrived in the city alongside 3 million other Catholics for World Youth Day. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I had spent hours on forums with some rising trepidation. “Avoid the beaches at night!”; “Beware of scams!”; “Was robbed at knifepoint.” It was my first initiation into South America, and we were two young female travellers who didn’t speak a word of Portuguese. And mind you, this was a language where nothing sounds like how its spelt.

Yet all feelings of apprehension evaporated within minutes of my landing in Rio. There I was, with multiple coatings of plane grime; buoyed by the flashes of bright banners waving gaily in the sunshine, the cheery choruses of greetings welcoming groups and groups of visiting pilgrims. The streets were teeming with people, the air was abuzz with a dozen native languages. Rio had clearly risen to the occasion. Public transport was running smoothly (or as smooth as one could expect from having to ferry literally millions); police and security were on every street. This was also the year right before Brazil was to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the government’s bid for approval was loud and clear.

It was a week of extraordinary kindness, warmth, and love (another story for another time), and like all good things that must come to an end – the days flew by faster than my 30-hour journey to Rio. Some of us stayed on to properly see Rio as tourists, but the city was already rapidly clearing out. Like a deserted dance floor left only with the remnants of confetti, there was an abrupt emptiness to the streets. After bidding a tearful farewell to our host mothers in Tijuca – one of the most traditional districts in Rio – we found ourselves an apartment in Ipanema, an upscale neighbourhood best known for that iconic bossa nova song and a beach second in fame only to Copacabana.

Our landlady proudly declared herself a true blue carioca. Malu was born in the city, extroverted and authentic, loved the beach and the warm weather. She worked to live, and never lived to work. After a rocky start caused by our late check-in (try moving in a human jam caused by the migrating millions), and a particularly unpleasant encounter with her adopted street dog (hid in our bedroom for hours after that), things warmed up after she made us a special green concoction that she declared “necessary to clear the hangover” the morning after our night out to Lapa, Rio’s party district.

Over toast and sips of green goo, we asked Malu about the photographs which lined her walls. The black and white portraits and headshots (“I am an actress”); the people in the frozen moments of glory days gone, whose knowing smiles wore just a hint of mischief, like they knew some of the city’s best kept secrets that they would never tell (“These are actors, artists, and friends”); the collectibles sown in her airy rooms (“From my travels”). Her space had all the trimmings of an artistic spirit, and there was every sense of a wild life well-lived.

To be continued.

Standard

Barbershop by day, and an intimate space where musicians gather to jam by night, we cramped into this tiny space, carefully balancing our glasses of wine while watching the live action from the loft.

Hong Kong never fails to deliver as an urban playground. Eternally awake and always overstuffed, discrete establishments are organically cramped alongside each other and life continually sprouts wherever it can germinate.

Visage One
93 Hollywood Rd, Central, Hong Kong

Pangaea Picks, Tipple, Travel

VISAGE ONE : Barbershop by day, and an intimate space where musicians gather to jam by night, we cramped into this tiny space, carefully balancing our glasses of wine while watching the live action from the loft.

Hong Kong never fails to deliver as an urban playground. Eternally awake and always overstuffed, discrete establishments are organically cramped alongside each other and life continually sprouts wherever it can germinate.

Image
Travel

Tokyo: Pride, Perfection, Punctuality

My first time was in 1999. Japan was in its heyday, blazing from its success of exports and the poster child for all things booming post-war. It was the go-to third language to master because this was the market to cater to, the tourist dollar that we hankered after.

My first glimpse of the famous Shibuya crossing was everything that a eleven year old hoped it would be. So. Many. People. Zipping across like a million ants scurrying about in their nest. And all with purpose, with some destination they all just had to hurry to. It felt like I was bearing witness to the Big Picture, a greater ecosystem that my young self was not quite ready to enter into yet. My dad still recalls fondly how my brother (then five years old), tugged eagerly at his sleeve while gesturing excitedly out the windows of our hotel room at the “Giant TVs!” It was a blitz of lights, products, and buzz. It didn’t matter that none of us could actually read the strokes and scratches that the Japanese language looked to the undiscerning foreign eye. Here we were, in the thick of things – the excitement was palpable.

Fast forward 15 years later, and there I was back in Tokyo, looking at the same famed crossing with older eyes. Tokyo was by now, a slowed giant, but by no means weak. People still hustled and bustled. Things still worked perfectly. Things looked old but there was still a newness to everything. It was a strange dichotomy. So much had changed, but yet many of the same buildings looked exactly like how they were. This was something the Japanese did well. When something broke, they always found a way to fix things instead of throwing it out for something new. You would see the cracks that came with age, but there was a pride in the way something old or broken was carefully put back together, or reinforced to make stronger. A Japanese-American lawyer recounted to me the days that followed after the 2016 Fukushima disaster (during yet another visit to Tokyo in 2018). While the Americans scrambled desperately to book flights out (when they weren’t swarming the embassy daily for Iodine pills), the Japanese simply carried on, as they were. Life just simply doesn’t stop until it does…

In many ways, this city embodies good, healthy, qualities which would do us humans all some good. Punctuality – nowhere else in the world does a train arrive precisely at 10.32am on the dot; Pride in everything – no task is too small to be done with purpose and self-respect; Perfection in all details – every craft, every act of service; everything has been honed and perfected to the minutiae.

Standard