Above, the supernatural beauty of a Madagascar red owl (or is it photoshop), bamboo forest on the wall of a Soho massage parlour and below – surprise rooster.
Tsuguharu Foujita was one of the first Japanese artists to find acclaim in the West – a bohemian dandy who lived in Montmartre, drinking with Matisse and Picasso and experimenting with a blend of Western techniques and Japanese ink brush art. Unlike many of his now-big name contemporaries he found commercial success in his lifetime, becoming a toast of the Paris art world before decamping on extended tours of the Cote d’Azur and South America, where he stayed in Brazil for some time. After World War 2 his star dimmed, tarred as a Japanese government sympathiser after returning to Tokyo, and his reputation gradually fell out of favour. He was recast as a kitschy decorative artist, not least for his highly collectible but quite kawaii “Book of Cats”, rather than being considered a ‘serious painter’. Perhaps its time for a re-evaluation?
Ratchaburi’s most compelling attraction, although still surprisingly little known outside the city, is its astonishing batcave. In one of the karst outcrops that erupt suddenly from the fields a short drive outside the city, six million bats nest in a cave system, emerging each night in a continuous stream for some forty minutes, wave after wave forming intricate rippling patterns as they emerge into the sky.
It is truly awe-inducing.
The bats can be viewed at Wat Khao Chong Pran, a “bat temple’ decorated with effigies of the creatures, where locals comes to lie on the grass, some wearing Batman T-shirts, to enjoy the free show.
In one of these bizarre, only-in Thailand turns of events this week, protesters converged on a Bangkok television station (ineffectually, but where else to protest?) to protest the revenge-attack eating of a dog in the country’s Northern province of Sakhon Nakorn. The attack, subject of a recent report by Channel Three, took place after a villager’s beloved husky dog, Joco, escaped and slaughtered 38 ducks in a neighbouring village.
The duck owners struck back the next night, allegedly dognapping, killing and eating the pet. I hadn’t known that Thai eat dogs, a specialty of that province.
On hearing the news, the Thai Huskies Association and “animal rights activists” led by a soap opera star sprung into action, protesting for “justice for Joco” although some online commentators were quick to point out their double standards; where was the concern for the rights of the ducks? And furthermore, given the cruelty of keeping a husky in a tropical climate, shouldn’t they be looking a bit closer to home before taking the moral high ground on animal welfare?
This was brought to home forcefully when I stumbled on to Bangkok’s (and surely the world’s first) late night gay dog cafe this week. Silom Soi 4’s former gay bar One Night Only, which used to have topless male models and a stripper pole, has now morphed into a living room-like space where patrons can sip a coffee, read quietly in the comic corner or pet the two huge Siberian huskies, three labradors or resident Afghan hound. Although the dogs certainly looked healthy, loved and well-cared for, the Afghan was passed out under a sofa desperately trying to sleep and the huskies lay for the most part with the faces pressed against one of several fans, trying to keep cool.