64. That’s My Impression

from “Alternative”, Pet Shop Boys, 1995.

One of our favourite places to go when we are in Bangkok is the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (หอศิลปวัฒนธรรมแห่งกรุงเทพมหานคร) located right in the heart of the city. The BACC is home to art, music, theatre, film, and design, as well as cultural and educational events that take places in its various exhibition and performance spaces. It also includes a number of cafes, commercial art galleries, bookshops and craft shops, so it really is quite a busy and fun place to visit with plenty to keep you entertained. And it is free to enter to boot.

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Bangkok Art and Culture Centre – the view down the central atrium from the 8th floor. Looks a bit like an angel!

We went along to take a look and found two new exhibitions since our last visit. The first was Traces and Trails featuring the works of contemporary Thai artist Pratuang Emjaroen. The second was Unseen Siam: Early Photography 1860-1910 featuring more than 150 old Siamese photographs from the very beginning until the end of the reign of King Chulalongkorn, the fifth monarch of Siam.

We decided as there were two exhibits for us to see that we would tour these over separate visits to BACC, and so this blog entry just covers the artworks in Traces and Trails.

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Bangkok Art and Culture Centre – inside the exhibition space on the 8th floor visiting Trails and Traces.

Contemporary art can be hit-and-miss with us – there were some works in this exhibit we found a bit odd/creepy – but nonetheless there were plenty of pictures that we really enjoyed and we have included a few of our favourite ones here.

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Traces and Trails – we have three dragon vases that look just like this, so not quite sure the pictures are all the artist’s own work! 🙂

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Trails and Traces – the artist’s palette and paint mixing shell.

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This was another good visit to BACC and great to see works by local artists featured. If you are ever in Bangkok we can highly recommend a visit to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

63. What A Day That Was

from “Stop Making Sense”, Talking Heads, 1984.

So we are back again in our travelling base-camp of Bangkok as the Philippines recedes into the distance and Indonesia begins to loom on the horizon. Having been here so often and the fact we have an apartment here (currently rented out) it feels both like a holiday and home whenever we are in town. So, especially given one thing we needed to address, we decided we would get a couple of matters that needed attending to out of the way before shifting into a more relaxed mode.

On the way from Manila to Bangkok Philip started to say that his ear was hurting a bit and he was having difficulty hearing in it. So the next morning after arriving back in Bangkok we headed to Bumrungrad Hospital (โรงพยาบาลบำรุงราษฎร์, meaning “to care for people”). Bumrungrad is Southeast Asia’s largest private hospital and one of the world’s most popular medical tourism destinations. This makes it very useful for us as a facility in Bangkok whenever we are not in the UK, especially as it is located just fifteen minutes walk from our condominium.

We headed off from our hotel in Silom catch the BTS skytrain to Ploen-chit, which is the nearest station to Bumrungrad. As we headed up to Sala-daeng station to the train we saw some workmen installing a cable: in Thailand like many other Asian countries these are done by stringing them from posts in the streets.

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We were just about to cross over and avoid the work when a cry went up as a tuk-tuk zoomed by: the tuk-tuk had caught the cable as it dangled and started pulling the loose cabling along the road. Cue a sudden halt of the tuk-tuk and much hue and cry as the workmen and driver attempted to disentangle the cable and vehicle. We tutted at the lax engineering standards and continued on our way 🙂

We arrived at the hospital and the main reception directed us to the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department on the third floor. Philip registered at the ENT reception to see one of the doctors and despite the fact we did not have an appointment it was less than five minutes later that a doctor was available to check his ear. Being a 21st century facility you get to experience the full extent of your affliction as when the the doctor put a micro-camera into Philip’s ear and you could see for yourself all the delightful yellow gunkiness in full HD! 😛

The doctor used the Special Sucky Machine to clean out Philip’s ear (yuck) and said it was slightly infected and prescribed a treatment of antibiotic eardrops. We think the infection may have come from the pool at the Airbnb condominium we stayed at in Manila, as Philip only used this once and in the last few days before we left. But who can say for sure? We paid the treatment bill and picked up the medication and about thirty minutes after arriving at Bumrungrad Hospital we were on our way again.

The next thing we need to deal with was our electoral registration status in the UK. We had received an email reminder/registration for upcoming voting but as we are currently travelling and our flat in Hampstead is presently rented out, we needed to change our voting status to overseas and register for postal votes. We were able to register as overseas voters on the UK government website within a matter of minutes, needing just our passports and other basic personal details. We then received a form via email that we needed to complete for Camden Council, and this could be sent back in the same manner. We just needed to print out the form, complete and sign it, then scan it back in for emailing. And this was all very easily done using the business facilities of our accommodation at the Bandara Suites hotel. It is great that we can deal with matters like this via the internet with a minimum of hassle.

So with our matters duly addressed it was time for some dinner. We decided to visit Yayoi, which is part of the Yayoiken chain we dined in quite often during our three months in Japan. Yayoi is a teishoku restaurant, which means the meals come in predefined sets: a main dish, always with miso soup and a bowl of rice, and then accompaniments such as pickles, salad, etc.

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Yayoiken – a camera-phone shot of dinner one evening at the Yayoiken in Fukuoka while we waited for the trial run of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa.

At Yayoiken in Japan you order your food from a machine at the entrance – basically you just feed in your money, choose your food and drinks, and get a ticket for each item. You then sit down and a server takes your tickets and brings your meal to you. The Yayoi restaurants we have used in Bangkok were more traditional in that you ordered your food from a menu rather than a machine. And so it was with much excitement when we visited the Yayoi in Silom for the first time that we discovered than you could order your food and drinks from the table using a touchscreen 😮

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Yayoi – food and drinks ordered, but what it needs now is a webcam so you can watch the chef!

We duly did order with our fingers (the menu is in Thai, English, and Japanese) and enjoyed a yummy teishoku meal that served to make us just a little bit homesick – in a good way – for our long stay in Japan.

With full tummies it was time to get back to our hotel and for Philip to rest and recover. Walking back we were close to the spot where the earlier tuk-tuk / cable incident had taken place when we noticed a crowd of people ahead and a policeman waving traffic around them. As we got closer we saw a number of stopped motor-scooters, several policemen and one person on the ground – ‘oh perhaps there has been an accident’ we thought. But when we walked by it was clear there hadn’t been an accident; the man face down on the ground had been, as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane would say, “cuffed and stuffed” and was even having his picture taken while prone. Deciding that hanging around to see what was going on was probably not a good idea, we continued on our way.

All in all not exactly a typical day 🙂

62. Good Things

from “Echoes”, Will Young, 2011.

Another museum to visit and this time it was the Yuchengco Museum in Makati located not too far from where we are staying. This museum was created to house the collected art and other objects that belonged to Alfonso T. Yuchengco, and was opened to the public in September 2005. With its stated goal to foster a greater appreciation Filipino and Filipino-Chinese visual arts and creativity we thought this would be a great place to visit.

Outside the entrance to the museum is a statue commemorating the EDSA I and EDSA II Revolutions that both took place within recent Philippine history. The statue, called The Spirit of EDSA, was sponsored by the Yuchengco group.

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The Spirit of EDSA – the commemorative statue to the two EDSA Revolutions.

The first EDSA Revolution culminated in February 1986 when President Ferdinand Marcos was toppled from power after alleged cheating in the presidential election. The second EDSA Revolution occurred in January 2001 when President Joseph Estrada was also toppled after an aborted impeachment trial.

Although a paid-entry museum where the entrance fee is normally 100 pesos, we were told that as a couple of the smaller galleries were being updated with works that the admission price would be 50 pesos each. Not ones to argue with a reduced price, we handed over our money and headed in.

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Yuchengco Museum – arriving at the top floor to start our visit.

The Yuchengco Museum is predominantly housed within a conical building that is part of the RCBC Plaza complex, and the best way to tour it is to take the lift to the top floor and then work your way down each level via the circular stairway, all the while enjoying the exhibits of art as you go.

And so we did, and here are some of the collected items and artworks that we enjoyed the most.

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This was a great little museum to tour; big enough to keep us interested yet small enough that it was not overwhelming given that a lot of the works are a personal collection. Definitely worth a visit and we are glad we did.

61. Same Old Scene

from “Flesh and Blood”, Roxy Music, 1980.

Always keen to tour a good museum, especially when it features displays that provide insight into the history and culture of the country we’re visiting, we were happy to take a look at the Ayala Museum located in Greenbelt not far from our accommodation.

The Ayala Museum is set over several floors and has both permanent and temporary exhibitions with the main permanent exhibit being The Diorama Experience. This features sixty handcrafted dioramas – or 3D modelled scenes – that chronicle Philippine history, highlighting major events and themes from prehistoric times, through conquest by the Spanish Empire, and to the recognition of Philippine independence in 1946.

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The dioramas were a great way to explore the historical timeline of the Philippines, and certainly one we’ve not encountered before. It was very quiet during our visit – as the photos show – and this meant we could really appreciate the historic scenes and the Filipino story they told.

In the same hall as the dioramas there were also several large models of the different vessels that sailed the seas around the Philippines and contributed to the development of its maritime trade and the Spanish colonial economy.

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There were several other exhibitions on at the Ayala Museum, some of which you could not take pictures in unfortunately. The most impressive of the these was the Gold of Ancestors exhibition featuring more than one thousand gold objects from Filipino culture prior to colonisation by Spain in the 16th century. Gold of Ancestors featured many adornments worn by the powerful and elite of ancient times and included a dazzling array of golden sashes, necklaces, earrings and many other artefacts. It included as the centrepiece a whopper of a gold sash that weighs almost 4kg!

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Gold of Ancestors – the huge gold sash centrepiece (image copied from the internet).

There was also an exhibition on Fernando Zobel, a pioneer in Philippine modern art, which featured several pictures we wouldn’t mind having on the walls of our apartment in Bangkok 🙂

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Finally there was a small temporary exhibit on the meaning of colours and their use in Filipino culture. One of the most interesting aspects of this exhibit was the display of different regional Filipino words for colours along with the patterns and shapes often used in those regions as part of their art and culture.

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The Ayala Museum is a great place for anyone touring the city and is certainly a wonderful introduction to the history of the Philippines. Definitely one of the highlights of our time in Manila.

60. Enjoy

from “Post”, Björk, 1995.

Our stay at Raffles Makati was part of Philip’s 57th birthday celebrations and while there we learned that Raffles hosted a tour of the artworks that grace the hotel. We were therefore very pleased to accept Raffles Makati’s invitation to enjoy the Raffles Concierge Art Tour. As it turned out the tour ended up taking place over two separate visits as all the artwork and the historic and cultural information exchange did not quite fit into a single session, mainly due to a lot of talking by all concerned. This was good! Without doubt both halves of the tour made for a highly enjoyable whole and we came away afterwards both wiser and enlightened.

So we are very pleased to include here a small sample of the artworks that we particularly enjoyed seeing at Raffles Makati.

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Finally we must of course give our most grateful thanks to Reiner and Myles who were our hosts and guides on the Raffles Concierge Art Tour, and also to front office manager Myra Bass for arranging the visit.

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Raffles Makati – Reiner (left) and Myles (right), two of Raffles Makati’s finest fellows and our delightful hosts.

Reiner’s and Myles’s commentaries and insight were both enlightening and entertaining and we are very appreciative of the time they took to tour us around the artworks at Raffles Makati. They were charming, polite, and very knowledgeable about the art and Filipino history, which gave us a wonderful introduction to the Philippines as a country new to us both. And we hope we were able to enlighten them in return with some of our own historical knowledge and cultural understanding including the Spanish – South American connection.

Once again thank you very much to all concerned at Raffles Makati for a highly enjoyable experience that we will always treasure and remember.

59. Heart Of Stone

from “The Innocents”, Erasure, 1988.

Having mainly toured within Makati so far we decided to venture further afield and visit one of Manila’s main areas and tourist attractions of Intramuros, also called the Walled City. Literally meaning “within the walls” Intramuros is the oldest district and the historic core of the Filipino capital, having been the seat of government when the Philippines was part of the Spanish Empire.

But first we had to get there. Manila does not – like many capitals we have been to – really have a comprehensive mass transit system. Essentially it is a city where the only real way around is by bus or car. The buses – or jeepneys – are certainly not an option for us as non-locals as it’s almost impossible to go from any A-to-B we would need and they are somewhat “primitive” 😛

So taxis are the only real option for use to travel around the city. However, based on the opinions and advice of some online sources it seems that the local taxis have some “problems”; you know the kind we mean especially if you are a tourist. The answer, according to most, is to the use the ride services of the likes of Uber and Grab. We’ve never used these before but in the interests of being able to travel around the city in relative ease and security we got a very cheap mobile data SIM card for our dual-SIM phone and set up the Uber app.

With just a couple of taps a nice car magically appeared and within a few minutes we were on our way to Intramuros. Manila is certainly busy with regards to road traffic but we made fair progress and around 45 minutes and 220 pesos (£4) later we arrived. All good, so it seems Uber is definitely the way to go here; a very cheap ride in a nice clean car and with a sensible driver.

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Plaza Roma – the small square outside Manila Cathedral and our first port of call in Intramuros.

We arrived near Fort Santiago and the Manila Cathedral and planned to just wander around and see what there was to see. Almost immediately upon stepping out of the car we were approached by hawkers. Carriage rides, guided tours, hats, souvenirs and more all available for immediate purchase and for “very good price” 🙂

Riiight. So ignoring the hawkers – which we find is generally better than trying to tell them “no” and revealing you understand/speak English, etc. – we headed first to Manila Cathedral. Built in 1571 and restored on a number of occasions due to earthquakes, the cathedral has also been visited by several popes during its history.

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Manila Cathedral – at the heart of the Intramuros district.

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Manila Cathedral was very quiet and peaceful, with more tourists than worshippers in the early afternoon. It was very pleasant to wander around in the relative cool of the cathedral and admire the architecture of the building. But there was no escaping the sunshine and it was time to wander the streets a little and see some of the character of Intramuros.

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Intramuros – San Augustin Church, which is both a church and also a museum.
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San Augustin Church – the main door.

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During our wandering we were slightly surprised that Intramuros was somewhat more dilapidated than we had expected. Obviously there are historic ruined sections and these are always a pleasure to view, but other parts of the district that we had hoped to be more quaint were not so – perhaps we had expected a little more surviving colonial influence. We later discovered that this was due to a lack of restoration and rebuilding after the war.

However, we only walked around a third of the area and there is still more to see so we are definitely planning to return and sample some more of this historic area.