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

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

Temple of Soul’s Retreat – 灵隐寺 – Hangzhou

The grounds around 灵隐寺 are quite picturesque, with aged statues carved into sloping rock faces, plenty of shade and greenery, as well as a small stream that runs along a good length of walkway across from the main temple.House of Haos Lingyin Si Hangzhou China Temple of Souls Retreat Buddha SculptureDSC_0072-001 DSC_0071-001 House of Haos Lingyin Si Hangzhou China Temple of Souls RetreatThe main temple itself is quite large, and the pavilion full of incense smoke and people silently casting prayers.DSC_0086-001 House of Haos Lingyin Si Hangzhou China Temple of Souls Retreat Incense House of Haos Lingyin Si Hangzhou China Temple of Souls Retreat Decor

Cu Chi Tunnels

You may notice that I don’t have much in the way of the actual tunnels.  One way of looking at it is that it is difficult to take photos while crawling on your hands and knees through a claustrophobically small space that simultaneously feels like an oven.  Another, more enlightened viewpoint is that the other things we saw on our hour-long walking tour were more interesting.  The bombs, for example.  And especially the booby traps.

Needless to say, war is such a crazy, crazy thing, twisting humanity like a wet rag, wringing out all forms of odd and cruel genius.

DSC_0493 DSC_0482 DSC_0467  DSC_0472 DSC_0500

Vientiane Wanderings – Wat Sisaket and the Golden Stupa

Built in the early 1800s, Wat Sisaket sits just north of the presidential palace in Vientiane, one of the most prominent relics of the long-ago Kingdom of Vientiane and perhaps the only temple in Vientiane to survive the city’s sacking by Siamese armies.

Most of the photos are of the temple grounds surrounding the main building – like the library above and the multitude of Buddha sculptures below – photography of the prayer room which houses the Buddha was discouraged.  Myra and I both drew fortunes (you blindly choose one numbered stick of bamboo from among a handful, and took a piece of paper with the corresponding number from a small cabinet full of numbered drawers) that we later asked the hotel staff to help us translate.

In the afternoon, we took a short tuk-tuk ride to the Golden Stupa (Pha That Luang), Vientiane’s other main Buddhist site.  The stupa is fabled to be located on the site of a third-century Indic temple, and whose original construction was ordered by the Lao King who moved the kingdom’s capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane.  The main temple’s style contrasts sharply with that of Sisaket’s.  The stupa’s current incarnaton is much more recently built, as the site has been damaged or destroyed many times over the last two centuries during regional and colonial conflict.  Its golden silhouette dominates the landscape around it – its shimmering pyramidal center rising up into the sky.

Scenes from Xi’an – Terracotta Warriors and Beyond

Our second day began with the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist pagoda built in the 7th century during the Tang dynasty, and repaired and renovated many centuries later during the Ming.  A Chinese Pisa of sorts, for its several degrees of westward lean (not particularly perceptible below): In the afternoon, we headed to the massive mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China whose rule kicked off two millenia of imperialism and was marked by sweeping societal reforms, grand public works (in Northern China, a predecessor to the current Great Wall, and the Lingqu canal in the South), and sometimes tyrannical and paranoid acts of a man obsessed with the eradication of historical scholarship and the alchemical pursuit of immortality.

There is always an element of mystery in the histories of such outsize figures from so long ago, so much that one must assume has been embellished or twisted or popularized for some purpose or other, especially when that ancient history has so closely mirrored China’s recent history – Qin Shi Huang’s anti-intellectualism and book-burning was replicated on grander scale during Mao’s rule, but both periods were important first steps in unification, platforms for China’s rises to global power.  But what is usually lost in theoretical debates are the wonder and the scale of human achievement, something that the army of terracotta warriors remind me of.

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