12 08 2017

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The end to a glorious adventure

12 08 2017

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

This post brings to an end not only my Bangkok trip but also a larger adventure. After ten years (yes, ten!) I have decided to discontinue this blog.

Ilbonito has followed me from Tokyo to rural Australia to Bangkok, Hong Kong and back again, through the start and end of a marriage, and all kinds of tumultuous personal changes. But now the time seems right to take a bow. I am on the cusp of forty, about to start a new chapter and a new decade on a new island, engaged in a hitherto-unknown endeavour, property ownership.

It feels like time for a clean break.

The truth is too that I just don’t have the passion for it that I once did. Perhaps it is encroaching (or arrived!) middle age but I don’t feel the need to document and dissect things the way that I used to. Maybe it is simply that I no longer feel the need to define myself by lists of music I like or films I have seen. At this age, I know who I am and I have nothing left to prove. And after all, aren’t life’s pleasures meant to be transitory and fleeting, not endlessly analysed, recorded and re-lived (or so the Buddhists and modern mindfulness gurus always say) ? This blog has served as a record of the songs I listened to, the books that I read, experiences, sights of my everyday life that surprised or delighted me, my ever-changing obsessions and interests and inspirations and the places I went. But I think its time to let go of that safety net and keep those things only in my memory.

Part of this has been the influence of an author too, Karl Ove Knausgaard. Last year I devoured his “My Life” series and it was a revelation:  his writing was so clear, honest and impassioned,  unapologetically delving into the minutae of one man’s life. It made me wonder: what is the purpose of a record like this, writing about my life? Is it to be honest about my emotions, the things that have moved (or frightened) me? If so, this blog is not the right place for it. I can’t be that honest and exposed here (or at least, I don’t have the guts to be).

I need to acknowledge too that changes in the online eco-system have forced my hand. When I started this blog, facebook had not yet launched. The social media tsunami had not hit. In its early days, back in Kanagawa, this project served as a log of social events, pictures of me and my friends and what we did – a function now more than adequately filled by facebook. Over the years, as people have become more reticent about appearing online (and partners especially) I have ceased posting these kinds of things, to reformat as a blog devoted to whatever I consider “interesting” – whether that be architecture or street art or (overwhelmingly the most popular topic with my readers) gay life.

Yet now as everything online moves towards a social network model, the blog format itself is looking increasingly dated. My host, wordpress, was late to pick up on this change and is now scrambling to catch up and monetize: it has introduced a “subscription” model. On another front, photobucket (which hosts most of the images on this blog) is also pushing for payment to host links to third party sites (like this one), a service that had been free. In both cases, the costs are significant. It seems that the day of the vanity personal blog, (as opposed to the corporate webpage or the social media profile), might be ending.

So, I take a bow. On to the next chapter and the next daring adventure.

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New horizon

12 08 2017

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Goodbye song

12 08 2017

My summer of 2017 anthem.





I wanna

12 08 2017

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12 08 2017

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Bangkok: the money monster

12 08 2017

Bangkok is a late capitalist capital par excellence. Everywhere, from the thronged pavement stalls of the tourists strips, to the plush and shiny malls, the seedy red light bars and the alleyways of Chinatown is laden with stuff: things to buy, services to purchase, all provided with a ready smile. There is no city I can think of  where consumption is so conspicuous, and so varied. If you can’t buy it in Bangkok it likely doesn’t exist. As I once wrote, everything the human mind can devise or imitate is on sale here, often advertised commandingly on giant billboards or slick skytrain commercials. I saw one new (and well-situated) condo development tagged shamelessly, “Make yourself the centre of the universe!”

But this city of instant gratification and temptation can be a fickle monster. Trends are big here. Fads sweep through the city and then ebb away, like tsunamis. One minute everyone is crazy for yakiniku restaurants and then suddenly its all about tapas bars or organic wine. That is part of the fun of the city, gauging its obsessions du jour.

An interesting and unexpected trend I noticed on this trip was that the iconic Thailand elephant pants – beloved of backpackers but something of a running joke among the country’s more fashion forward citizens – have been (re)appropriated by Thai young people. I saw more than a few baggy Koh Phangan-style pants on hip Bangkok youth in the night markets and “walking streets”.

Even more interesting was the adoption of thanaka. The traditional Burmese herbal face-paste, until recently the preserve of the elderly and provincial, has made a big comeback in the capital, with a repackaged version given a push from a local personal care goods company. Charmingly yellow powdered faces were visible (often on working class people) around the city.

At the other end of the spectrum, well-to-do Bangkok seems to be flirting with another unlikely import. The city’s African music scene has always been surprisingly healthy but following the lead of trailblazing world music club Studio Lam, there are now at least two other African music-friendly venues aimed at upwardly mobile locals: 12 x 12, another bar in Thonglor described as a “Japanese hipster’s dream” and Third World Bar, on the second floor of the old Tapas on Silom Soi 4.

A less wholesome trend was one I read about in alarming news reports. Apparently the practice of facial surgery to create dimples – by piercing the cheeks with metal pins – had caught on and was now being practiced by unregulated and unqualified merchants at Chatuchak market, according to the lurid reports in the press.

But metal cheeks and Afro beats aside, the trend that had the biggest impact on my trip was undoubtedly an app. “Grab” is a must-download for anyone spending time in the city, a superior Southeast Asian sister to Uber. Not only is the Malaysian-based app wildly popular  – meaning that a car is never more than a few minutes away –  and cheaper than Uber with a better designed interface, it also eliminates the need to give your driver directions. You enter your destination and it pops up in English on an extremely detailed database, with a map directing your driver right there. No more tortuous conversations about “turn left after the Big C” across a language barrier, or taxi drivers who can’t read maps (or often, read at all, even if you have an address written in Thai). Grab revolutionises the ease with which you can explore Bangkok.