Visions of Providenciales

Turks and Caicos.  These moments from our honeymoon several years ago.

First of all, there’s Grace Bay.  Look at this perfect nonsense.  The sharpness and clarity of that pristine water, the arc and loft of the clouds.  The sand is fine, soft, forgiving, like you’re strolling along on just wrapped in a blanket of warm memories, breeze on your carefree shoulders.

Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos Caribbean Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos Caribbean Sunset in Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos CaribbeanThen, if you drive to the southwest part of the island, there’s Chalk Sound, a majestic crystalline lagoon of this crazy teal color.Dock at Neptune Villas Chalk Sound Providenciales Turks & Caicos Continue reading

Stockholm Sweetheart

Even in the winter, or maybe especially in the winter (unclear on this distinction, frankly), Stockholm is a beautiful city.

It’s a wonderful walking city, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the snow.  Everything’s actually pretty close, and worse case, you’re thirty minutes from the next thing.  And there’s all this water and open sky.  Reflections on ‘flections on ‘flections.

View of Djurgarden from the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm Sweden View of Djurgarden from Fotografiska, Stockholm Sweden Stockholm, Sweden Look at this badass motherfucker.  Courtesy of a gallery of old school portraits at the Fotografiska.Fat chef, Fotografiska, Stockholm, Sweden Orchid in Kungsholmen, Stockholm SwedenDjurgarden, Stockholm, SwedenDropped by the Vasa Museum, where they have a reconstruction of an actual ship from a bunch of centuries ago when they made ships out of wood.  Also, whoever made this particular ship fucked up real good because it sank after a few miles.  By a few miles, I mean less than five miles.  That’s about as good as those origami boats I used to make in third grade and put it in some sink water.  But it does look like a pretty badass warship.

If it could only float.Vasa Museum, Stockholm, SwedenShipbuilding tools at Vasa Museum, Stockholm, SwedenAnd of course, Stockholm has some cool shops.  Check out this dope poster.  City of champions indeed.Poster in Sodermalm, Stockholm, Sweden

Palais de Tokyo, Paris

The Palais de Tokyo is my favorite museum in Paris (thanks, Russ).  I visit every time I’m back in the city. There’s this indelible image I have from the museum’s Superdome exhibit in 2008, of Daniel Furman’s elephant Würsa (I’ll leave the Google image search to you).

This time, it was Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s enormous revolving bookshelf, La Bibliothèque Clandestine.  Check it out:House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster La Bibliotheque clandestine 1 House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster La Bibliotheque clandestine 2 House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster La Bibliotheque clandestine 3 House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster La Bibliotheque clandestine 4The double-sided door opened up into a secret exhibit room.

There was also Brazilian sculptor Henrique Oliveira’s Baitogogo, a stunning Gordian knot of gnarled roots, a hydra of stories out of some plantation backwoods.  The really cool part was that it was in the children’s area of the museum – it gave the area an unmistakable aura of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and ‘Bridge to Terabithia’, if you grew up with those books like I did.House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Henrique Oliveira BaitogogoAnd of course, the photobooth.House of Haos Palais de Tokyo Paris Foto-AutomatPalais de Tokyo
13 Avenue du Président Wilson
75116 Paris, France
(map)

Jinli Walking Street – Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Another popular recreational draw in Chengdu is the ever-crowded Jinli Walking Street, which features a whole bunch of street food vendors selling mouth-watering and sweat-inducing snacks.

House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China EntranceThe most basic and popular item is the BBQ skewer, which frankly isn’t my favorite.  I realize that’s somewhat blasphemous, the skewer being such an integral part of Chinese street food culture.  The force of the chili powder and cumin is a bit much for me, although it depends on what’s on the skewer as well.  I won’t say no to a bit of crisp chicken wings or some gizzards, but I’m not so motivated by most of the scant strands of nameless white meat.House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China BBQ SkewersPineapple rice, though, I can 100% get behind.  Especially ones that are basically freshly steamed (one batch every twenty minutes or so), first come first served.  While not as intense in acidic sweetness as the ones I had in Xishuangbanna, they were still pretty tasty, and a welcome diversion from the otherwise ubiquitous taste of chili.House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China Pineapple Rice House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China Dumplings House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China Stuffed Pork PancakesThese mung bean jelly rolls were at once light, refreshing, and deceivingly spicy (partly because of the light and refreshing part, but also because of the vinegary, cilantro-tinged complexity of the spice).  Sort of like a great, cold papaya salad at a good Thai restaurant, where even the intense heat won’t stop you from eating. Continue reading

Museum of Sichuan Cuisine – Pixian, Chengdu

About an hour-and-a-half by car outside of Chengdu proper is a museum dedicated to the history, nuances, and ingredients of one of China’s major culinary traditions, Sichuan food.  As a side note, it is not easy to get to, and most cab drivers from the city are either unwilling to go that far or don’t know where it is.

Once we got there, after the driver getting lost and a fee renegotiation, we wandered around the empty grounds.  We were the only visitors, but we didn’t really mind.  The room or two of historical exhibits yielded some pretty interesting collections of old-school utensils and stories:

House of Haos Museum Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu China Chopsticks House of Haos Museum Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu China Spoons House of Haos Museum Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu China Pickle Water“The pickle water, of course.”

This poster reminded me that there’s still much yet to be eaten.

House of Haos Museum Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu China SnacksBut the real stars of the show were yet to come.  First, the stunning array of massage standing pots of fermenting chili bean sauce (豆瓣酱, or doubanjiang), which must be churned daily for a year, with exposure to the sun and open air.  Each row of the vats represents a different stage in that yearlong process.  Pi County is unique (the Chinese name is Pixian) as the most famous producer of chili bean sauce, so we were smack dab in the middle of where the magic happens.

House of Haos Chengdu Sichuan China Food History Museum Fermentation JarsA peek inside: Continue reading

Stone Forest – Kunming, Yunnan, China

We left early in the morning to visit the Stone Forest, about an hour and a half outside of Kunming, Yunnan.  I had been so happily surprised with the landscapes and hidden treasures that Yunnan had provided so far, and the Stone Forest was no different, a stark and poignant emblem of the rich natural beauty of this corner of the country.

House of Haos Stone Forest Kunming Yunnan 1It’s odd that all the Chinese tourists essentially flock to that one little pagoda, winding their way up and down crowded stairways, snap a few quick photos, and then head back to the entrance, especially when there is the whole rest of the park to explore. House of Haos Stone Forest Kunming Yunnan 2We covered perhaps half of the park, almost all secluded.  There were steep, claustrophobic ravines, with glimpses of light and green shimmering through.House of Haos Stone Forest Kunming Yunnan 4 Continue reading

Mengkuan Market – Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China

As we’re leaving Mengkuan, I stopped to browse the wares at the local market.  The pictures below are actually a mix of the one in Mengkuan and a slightly larger one that we also visited on the trip back to Jinghong.  But they felt similar in spirit, calm despite the crowds, full of supremely fresh produce and live animals and things that were mostly interesting to the outsider passers-by like me, but extremely so.  And a few small, wonderful moments of levity.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Hawker StallsHouse of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village MarketA steamed bun morning snack, with red bean paste brushed onto the rolled dough.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Steamed Red Bean BunThis spread below is what the Dai locals usually eat with sticky rice for breakfast: mashed eggplant, mashed tomatoes, or chicken, with little baggies of fried pork skin.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Sticky Rice Continue reading

Mengkuan Dai Village – Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China

After the hike through the Pu’er tea fields, Stone and I headed back to Jinghong, and then took a short bus ride to the southeast, to a small Dai community just off the main highway.  I wish I had gotten some photos of the view from the bus window, because the scenes were some of the most awe-inspiring that I had seen that day, including the hike.

This had been right around dusk, with the sun peeking up intermittently from behind tall, boisterous cloud cover, and the bus, with its open windows, was zooming past hillsides thick with banana trees and gorgeous, plunging valleys cross-sectioned with rice paddies and rows of tea trees and corn stalks, every turn of highway revealing a change in landscape, as if one of those old red View-Master stereoscopes.

We spent the night in a Dai house raised on stilts, harassed by mosquitoes.  The next overcast morning, we took a leisurely stroll around the village grounds, accompanied only by the pattering of scattering chickens and the occasional motorcyclist.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village 1 House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village 2 House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Banana Tree House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Chickens 1 Continue reading