Wednesday, March 30, 2016

6 Great Cafés of Siem Reap

Everyone goes to Seim Reap for Angkor Park. I assumed this would be a saturated touristy town like Hoi an or Bagan, but I was pleasantly surprised by the culture and atmosphere of Siem Reap. The town itself should be an attraction, and I certainly wish I had more time to stay and explore it. In my short 2-day stay in Seim Reap, I visited 6 great cafes.

The Hive
A favorite among Western tourists and expats. This is a small café that boasts an eclectic menu of food and juices. I ordered a Rotti and banana honey milkshake.

Common Grounds
Common Grounds is a coffee joint that seems to be a popular place for NGO meetings. The coffee is good and cheap. They were the most spacious of the cafes I visited.

Essodrip opened the day I arrived in Siem Reap. I believe this café is run by a Korean ex-pat. The atmosphere is both quaint and contemporary. Not only do they make good lattes, but they even have an interesting selection of non-coffee lattes, such as Blueberry and Sweet Potato. Where else can you get a Sweet Potato latte?

Sister Srey
One of the most popular places in Siem Reap. It’s more of a lunch/brunch place than a proper café to work from. I saw people with their laptops out, but I would feel bad staying for more than an hour, as the place is always full and often with a wait.The burger is definitely the thing to order.

New Leaf Book Café
An atmospheric, open air café with both sophistication and culture. On Monday nights they show foreign films, such as The Seawall, which was adapted from the Marguerite Duras novel. I enjoyed my Khmer iced coffee.

Blue Pumpkin
A local success story. This ice-cream chain started in Siem Reap and has several locations in Phnom Penh as well. I consider it an expensive place, but is worth a visit for the sofa bed seats.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Angkor Temple Profile: Ta Som

Name: Ta Som

Built: late 12th century

Distinctive feature: giant spung trees growing over crumbling buildings and a distinctive entrance.

Conservatory Body: World Monuments Fund

Visitor's note: Ta Som is the lesser cousin of the infinitely more famous Ta Prohm. Just as beautiful, but not on the beat for most tour buses,  it is surprisingly quiet. When I visited in the mid-morning, I was one of only a few people there.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

LA Day 2 outfit

It was almost 75 degrees when I visited LA this past winter. Can't say I don't miss it.

Denim shirt: gifted from my mama
Dress: H&M from Stockholm
Pants: Uniqlo
Shoes: thrifted
Necklace: vintage from a shop in Long Beach
Bag: Louis Vuitton

Monday, March 21, 2016

My Trip to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, Los Angeles, CA

Recently I met up with an old friend, who insisted that my trip to LA not conclude without a visit to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. He raved about the place, but wouldn’t tell me anything about it. “Don’t look anything up online,” he said, “Just go.”

I trusted his recommendation enough to take a chance, and a $10 uber ride from Koreatown to the un-glamorous Culver City.

From the outside the museum is unassuming, even disappointing. It looks like it could barely be bigger than an apartment. I had no expectations, but was suspecting that it might be a gag or hoax museum. Upon entering, I was saddened to find that no photography was prohibited. I respect the rules so I didn’t take any pictures, instead I doodled and furiously scribbled notes into a book so that I could describe all the details of this strange place.

When walking in one is greeted by a miniature replica of Noah’s arch. Ah, I thought, a religious/creationist/biblical literalist museum. But then things got stranger. Visitors are soon greeted by what look like fetus in jars of formaldehyde, but fear not, they are actually globes of water with floating wax figures that are supposed to predict the future depending on the direction the ax figure points after being shaken. Like a magic 8 ball.

Few things are more terrifying than being alone in the room with the Bell Wheel. A room so dark, I could not even see what I was writing as I furiously scribbled notes on a notepad. The loud cacophony of chimes ringing above me, in a room in which only the plants in each of the four corners were illuminated by light. 

In that room, one can find such exhibits like. “Why the tower could not reach the moon” which explains that the tower of Babel would have needed to be 178,672 miles long to reach the room, which would have been so disproportionate to the size of the earth that “the uneven distribution of the earth’s mass would tip the balance of the planet and move it from it’s position in the center of the universe.”

The text was accompanied by a visual of a Styrofoam planet with what appeared to be a unicorn horn affixed to it. 

Artist's rendition of "Why the tower couldn't reach the moon"

The same room also offers dioramas form the lives of saints, in which holographic images of saints are juxtaposed form clouds made of cotton balls. At first the diorama appears empty, and only when looking through a lens  does the cartoonish figure appear in the scene. A miracle.

Another scene portrays “the first century C.R. Roman general and his conversion while hunting via a miraculous vision of the crucifix between the antlers of a stag.”

Artist's rendition of "the miraculous vision between the antlers of a stag"

Videos housed in podiums with uncomfortable seats are obnoxiously cliché and almost impossible to watch. If the video is about a person in Scotland, Scottish bagpipes will play. In a video about the life of Hagop Sandadjian, a micro miniature sculptor who was born in Egypt, middle eastern music can be heard in the room “Eye of the Needle” which is dedicated to his word. 

Another room displays unremarkable dishwear, dresses, and lace dollies that look as if there were thrown out by Goodwill. All items are awkwardly arranged in glass coffins, while the walls tell of the history of trailer home manufactures. At this point, my view shifted from that of a religious museum to a collection of oddities, that is, until, I entered the room of old remedies, none of which, I'm sure, ever actually existed. A sculpture of a duck’s bill inserted into a child’s mouth is supposed to illustrate that breathing a duck’s breath will heal mouth and throat illnesses. A toast with two dead mice on it claims to help cure bed wetting if eaten. Mouse pie was also supposedly given to children who stammer. Other absurd ideas, likely the product of the imagination of the curator, can all be viewed to the tune of Mozart’s requiem, played over a recording of a storm. Is that supposed to be ominous.

Other rooms pretend to display pseudo-scientific charts and instructions, neither of which is possible to understand.

Artist's rendition of a bunch of bullshit

Artist's rendition of more bullshit

One wall offers a collection on tobacco pipes juxtaposed against quotes from famous people, about, guess what? Tobacco pipes. When walking up stairs there are portraits on the wall of, guess what? Stairs. The first room on the right is dedicated solely to the Cat’s Cradle. The most useless pastime in the history of the earth, which involves twisting rope between the fingers in a variety of ways. The very fact that there existed a real person, by the name of Honor Maude, who devoted her entire life to documenting all the possibilities of Oceanic String Figures – as they are called – hopelessly depresses me. After 6 weeks in Nauru she gathered methods of 107 string figures. And amassed over 1,00 figures in the course of her lifetime. The result of her life’s work: apparently there are many ways to ties strings which differ all over the world. Who would have thought? The rooms dedicated to her show at least 17 different versions of Cats Cradle with instructional videos.

And just as I was getting annoyed and frustrated by this obnoxious museum and its bullshit displays, we entered a room with oil portraits of dogs and a small teahouse, apparently a scaled down version of the czar’s tea house in his winter mansion in St. Petersburg. After being offered  tea and cookies (they were technically free but I paid for them with my sanity and time wasted) we followed the sound of what I thought was a violin and wandered into a beautiful rooftop garden, where we saw a man playing a stringed instrument with keys like an accordion. It’s called a nyckelharpa.  Since I could take no videos or photos of the scene I witnessed, I am inserting a youtube link of a random person playing the nyckelharpa. 

Listening to the nyckelharpa on a rooftop garden at twilight was the perfect time and atmosphere to ponder the question I had since walking into the museum. “What is this place?”

There are no answers, but a lot of interpretations. My partner thinks it is a satire of all museums. The curator is presenting a critique of the authoritative tone of museums, and the gullibility of the audience. The museum wants us to question why we trust museums, and what leads us to accept, without question, their installations and inscriptions as facts. My partner loved the museum. Me, not so much. I understand the interpretation, but I think that could be archived in one small installation, not an entire two-story building. I found the museum annoying and crazy-making. It provokes too much confusion, requires too much guessing. A friend of my once wisely said, “I can´t see any charm or poetry in guessing; life is complicated enough.”

Friday, March 18, 2016

Skirts in winter

I snagged this amazing vintage skirt from Austria at a local thrift store and have been waiting all winter to wear it...

Faux leather jacket: Primark
Blouse: Target
Scarf: from a department store in Berlin
Skirt: thrifted
Handbag: Louis Vuitton
Grey backpack: from a department store in Okayama 
Shoes: thrifted

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Angkor Temple Profile: Neak Pean

Name: Neak Pean

Built: late 12th  century

Distinctive feature: surrounded by a large lake, the temple is built on a tiny artificial island

Visitor's note: this temple is on the main route and is well traveled. Although busy, there is a long narrow bridge that leads to the temple, so the crowds are dispersed

Saturday, March 12, 2016

LA Day 1 Outfit

On my first day back in LA after a 7-year hiatus, I wore this light jacket and gloves for a stroll through downtown's art museums. 

Coat: thrifted
Gloves: Target
Purse: Louis Vuitton
Shoes: thrifted

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My old friend, the Los Angeles Public Library

Hope Street entrance

From July of 2005 to February of 2006, the Los Angeles Public Library was my only refuge. I was eighteen years old, insecure, single, and friendless in an unfamiliar city, and one that proves difficult to adapt to for even for the most mature and seasoned individuals. This was an era in which I didn’t meet people in clubs, I met them in books. My mentors weren’t teachers, or friends, or family, they were Murakami and Morison and Garcia-Marquez. I was too busy ready the Well of Loneliness  or 1984 to go out and explore LA. Eventually I moved far away from any public library, and eventually I had to make real-life friends and mentors. But the Los Angeles public library will always hold a special place in my heart. 

"Books invite all, they constrain none"

My walk to the library  was five blocks up Hope street, fro Olympic to 6th. In those days downtown LA had yet to be cleaned up and my walks were more like a tour of the city’s homeless. When I was frequently harassed I would clutch a copy of Joan Nestle’s The Persistent Desire like a weapon, thinking it could protect me. I bought a yellow tote bag in the gift shop and carried home ten books – the maximum number I could take – at every visit.

Beautiful art deco interior

old file cards used as decoration in the elevator

The best view in the library

Though I would move on to become an obsessive reader and visit libraries all over the world, ten years would pass before I would return to the beautiful 1926 art deco building that first spawned my love of literature. 

books quotes in multiple language on the fence

a view from behind

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