Bangkok: design city

18 02 2017

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The Thai capital continues to blossom as a design force with this co-working space in the Habito mall recently awarded a prestigious prize from Archdaily magazine for “Best interior of 2017”.

Below, street art from Lisbon artist Vhils on the wall of the historic Portuguese embassy, marking the four hundred year old ties between Thailand and Portugal, one of its first Western traders, who left a now-almost-vanished expat community on the Thonburi side of the river for centuries.

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Subhashok The Art Centre, an impressive concrete structure in the leafy Sukhumvit hinterland, is another addition to the city’s growing and impressive art scene, with mural by Cece Nobre.

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And finally hair salon Klinsuwan reconnect with the city’s Southeast Asian roots, through walls of golden bamboo.

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Cholet!

12 02 2017

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Travel magazines are a guilty pleasure. Utterly disposable and laughably transparent, they are purely devices to stimulate spending. To this aim, everything always has to be “new!” – all the time. “The new Paris”, “The new New York”, “Hottest new destinations for 2017” (are they really going to be so different from the hottest destinations of 2016?), and so many “extraordinary” new hotel properties, yet all offering overpriced variations on a well-worn theme…a room and a swimming pool. Got it.

And yet, I like them. They are pure escapism and a very cheap way, for an hour or so, to feel rich, idly leafing through the pages and deciding which of these places I would (will?) go to.

Conde Naste Traveller, with its well-executed Instagram-inspired art direction (above) is a particular favourite.

This weekend I read an article in it on “South America’s New Hippest City” which was – to its credit, surprisingly – La Paz. But the article put a strong case and I learned something about the city I had never known before, namely that it has sparked a new architectural trend dubbed “cholet”, a portmanteau of “Chola” (Andean native) and “chalet”. Apparently a sign of greater indigenous affluence under President Evo Morales, the buildings have been commissioned by the indigenous nouveau riche from a riot of influences: art deco, street art, Transformers and traditional Aymara culture among them.

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You can read more about the cholet movement here.

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Melbourne cholet

12 02 2017

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Well, not quite. Still this “Lego Tower” apartment block is definitely a colourful break from Melbourne tradition – and I love it. I missed it on my recent trip and only learnt of its existence from a friend’s facebook pictures; when I asked where it was, I was surprised to hear her answer “St Kilda!”

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Riding the back of the dragon

7 02 2017

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Bana Hills

7 02 2017

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Less than an hour from the Danang Beaches lies the starkly different – and noticeably cooler – Bana Hills, a fantasy resort made up of a fake French village, located atop a mountain. The resort is reached via the world’s longest cable car which glides up over spectacular jungle scenes – rushing mountain streams, enormous ferns and towering Tarzan-like rainforest trees, before entering the clouds and mists near the mountain’s summit.

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The “village” itself is mainly home to mediocre restaurants and shoving crowds of Vietnamese tourists, but the sheer scale and slickness of the operation came as a surprise to me (what else did Vietnam have up its sleeve?!), the beauty of the ride up is undeniable and the faux-Alpine village, wreathed in mist, is pleasingly surreal.

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Heaven…and hell.

7 02 2017

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An Gia was our favourite restaurant of the trip, a beautifully furnished traditional home turned Thonglor-style hipster restaurant, serving delicious local food in a leafy courtyard, complete with dogs, kitschy-tasteful ornaments and lovely ceramics. We ate there three times.

This little piece of heaven is located, incongruously, by a dystopian stretch of beach ten minutes from our hotel. Here, the coastline sand had been almost all eroded away, with walls of sandbags left to try and retain what little was left, and shorefront hotels and shops looking forlorn and trashed. It is worth seeing in itself as a metaphor for the things we are doing to our planet – I couldn’t help wondering if sand extraction for cement used in tourism developments had spurred the carnage?

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Hoi An street

7 02 2017

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