Roasting Coffee Beans

Shot this during a return to Bang Rak a couple of days ago. I eventually walked into Warehouse 30, a cluster of vintage storehouses near the Chao Phraya River and which have been repurposed as a hub for local artists and designers. The owner of one of the dozen or so vendors, The Fox and The Moon Café, had just installed an industrial scale roaster which he said had set the café back some USD$17,000/€52,000.

To me, it seemed like a hyperbolic investment for such a relatively small – albeit cool – café. But then again what the hell do I know about coffee roasting? Especially now when I’m not even drinking the stuff.

Fact is, I haven’t had a cup of coffee for close to a month.

At home, after some form of exercise and a shower, I usually begin the day with a smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal and then start hitting the coffee straight after. By the time the rest of the family is up and about, I’ve already poured a second cup of French press. And by ten, I’m at my third cup and sometimes even a fourth, if Charlotte’s made a new brew. I don’t think my level of consumption was abnormal for someone living in Scandinavia where coffee is an integral part of society’s social fabric.

Still, I have to say that I’m surprised at how easy it’s been to kick that particular habit – without being tempted by the multitude of trendy coffee bars and cafés here in Bangkok. Do I feel any effects of not drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day? Hard to say, really. But if nothing else, it’s one less thing my digestive system has to deal with. And since I add cow, soy or coconut milk to my coffee, I’ve also reduced my calorie intake. Do I miss the smell and  taste of coffee? Absolutely. But as it turns out, coffee isn’t quite as addictive as I’d thought. Or, maybe my character is stronger than I gave myself credit for.


This is from last night’s sumptuous Mexican dinner at Barrio Bonito where as an appetizer, I ate DORADITOS DE GUACAMOLE, which is a set of six small crunchy cones filled with salsa and guacamole (served in an egg carton!) and then, TACOS DE PESCADO, three fish tacos in soft shell corn wrappers as an entrée (presented in a small wooden crate about half the size of a shoebox).

The venue where Barrio Bonito is neatly tucked into a corner is an indoor and outdoor foodcourt and shopping mall called The Commons. This is where a wide range of eateries and bars serve some of the best food and drink you can get in Bangkok here. Several of the city’s most popular vendors have also set up shop here, including Absolut You, Bangkok’s popular fitness and yoga studio chain.

I’m a little curious as to what the name The Commons is supposed to imply. I read there story, and it seems they want to be a community or at the very least, a part of the community.. Thing is though, you don’t see a lot of Thai commoners here, that’s for sure. If you don’t count cooks, servers and cleaners, that is. It’s mostly well-to-do patrons that can easily afford to spend more or less what an equivalent dining experience would cost in L.A., Manhattan, Paris or London. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept, backstreet location, assymetical architectural style, laid-back ambiance and all that. But let’s be upfront about who the Commons are really catering to: a demographic that usually doesn’t care an awful lot about their community. Just sayin’…

It was busy last night, but still enjoyable and despite the large crowd of hungry/thirsty locals, tourists and expats, I thought the service was really good. We all ate different stuff, but the consensus was overwhelmingly positive. From left to right, Lena, me, Peder, Lotta and Thomas. Next time we gather for lunch or dinner, Charlotte will hopefully be among those smiling faces.

Can’t remember her name, but I spoke with the woman that owns Barrio Bonito the other day. Turns out she’s from Mexico City and has been cooking authentic Mexican food (not Tex-Mex) in Thailand for close to 11 years. That’s stamina.

After dinner, we crossed Thong Lor and headed over to a beer garden called Beer Belly where a few of us played a round or two of table tennis and chatted some more. I walked a few meters shy of 15k yesterday’s filming in Talad Noi, Worachok and Chinatown, so by 10:30, my body was exhausted and ready for bed.

There’s a couple of nearby galleries I want to check out today and then have dinner at what used to be one of our favorite sushi restaurants, »Isao« off of Sukhumvit, about halfway down soi 31. Might even take in a movie. We’ll see.


The Sidewalk Tailor

Yesterday, while eating dinner at a small restaurant here in Thong Lor’s popular foodcourt, The Commons, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation between a 30 something American (or, Canadian) guy and an American (or, Canadian) women sitting in the booth in front of me. It wasn’t really a conversation they were having, though.

It was more like the guy was giving his sermon or lecturing her. I have no idea what their relationship was. But regardless of if they were a couple or just good friends, I was astonished at how much he seemed to enjoy talking about himself, his accomplishments and what he must of thought was an infallible approach to life.

As I was eating my way through the day’s only meal while listening to the guy’s endless oration, I contemplated why we men have such a constant need to assert ourselves, share our many anecdotes and assume that the world has actually been starving for our universal wisdom. Knowledge we men are so generously giving away to practically anyone willing to listen.

Maybe she was thoroughly enjoying his rant. Maybe she just wanted to get him into bed and listening to his lecture was just a (boring) means to an end. Or, perhaps, to her, he represented a father figure. Someone to help her find »enlightenment«. Who knows, right?

In any case, I felt sad that we men – not all, but enough to go around – really are so self-centered and full of ourselves. As I walked down the sidewalk, eventually to the stretch of sidewalk where I met the tailor above, I wondered if I was just like that unapologetically talkative dude at the restaurant. Constantly giving unsolicited advice and unasked for guidance. Probably. But what about the tailor? When he gets home after a full day of sewing, measuring and threading, does he just sit in a sofa quietly with his family? Probably not.

During this trip to Asia, a working hiatus, if you will, I’ve tried to uncover the layers that form the composition of Joakim. I like to consider myself a reflective indivisual. So this is certainly not the first time I’ve been on a introspective journey. As could be expected, it’s been an analytical, self-concious process where I’ve taken inventory of everything from habitual behavior and things that triggers emotional instability (and vice-versa) to my insatiable need for creative input/output and perceptions of what’s really important in life.

The endgame of this five week long expedition is to figure out a way to reduce non-essentials and keep laser focus on the stuff that I can influence and which will incontrovertibly add tangible physical, emotional, spiritual and creative value. I’ve still got a couple of weeks to go, but I already feel interesting discoveries and important insights have been made. I’m betting heavily on that after this trip, I can achieve a more holistic perspective and approach to life – if I try hard enough and keep to the straight and narrow path – which I’ve discovered already resides within me.


Thong Lor

I’ve moved on now. I took a Grab (Über equivalent) to Thong Lor where I’ve rented a really sweet apartment for a week. In addition to all the usual amenaties you’d expect from a reptuable hotell, I now finally also get to sleep in a really comfortable. It’s nowhere near the quality of what we have at home, but certainly better than what I’ve slept on up until just 24 hours ago.

Thong Lor is one of the most schizophrenic streets in the world. On par with Lincoln Boulevard in L.A., I think. And it perfectly epitomizes what I find so inspiringly captivating about Bangkok; the extreme culture clashes between contemporary and traditional, ridiculouslly costly and dirt cheap, futuristic and historic, decrepit and torn, shiny new and futuristic.

To me, Thong Lor is like an amalgamate of classic Bangkok, Abbot-Kinney, Harajuku and Rodeo Drive.

It’s an urban catwalk for young and affluent locals as well as the many well-heeled expat crowd living around here. They’re  perfectly styled, meticulously manicured and ever-so self-concious as they stroll in pairs or small groups along Thong Lor’s sidewalks. They omit an almost tangible aura of unflinching purpose while heading towards a boutique coffee bar, a teeth-whitening dentistry, maybe a shave at one of several chic barber shops, a bowl of organic Udon soup at a noodle restaurant or, some serious shopping along the string of ultra trendy fashion shops lining stretches of Thong Lor.

Perhaps the clearest indicator that you’re about to set foot on what is arguably the Thai capital’s most exclusive and expensive street is the mango store on the corner of Thong Lor and Sukhumvit Road where a large (non-organic) ripe mango will set you back as much as THB200 $6.

Up towards the Thong Lor Skytrain station, as you near the usual traffic chaos of Sukhumvit, it gets considerably less fancy-pancy. Here’s where you’ll see fewer influences from Tokyo and much more of classic Bangkok dominating the street scene. This is home to several cheap Chinese and Thai eateries, foot massage shops and, as customary in downtown Bangkok, soi corners occupied by a half dozen or so gritty-looking moto-cy taxi drivers.

Perhaps as part of a misguided rebellion, the woman above sat in front of jewelry shop in Thong Lor selling her wares. I saw her during yesterday’s 10k walk which led me to my favorite park, Benjasiri where I walked a few laps in a pleasant afternoon breeze before returning.

The woman was evidently oblivious to the urban gentrification so clearly visible just a bit further down the road. She laughed hard and long when I showed her the photo. There was a look about her that seemed to say she didn’t give a hoot about all the shenanigans going on in her neighborhood.


FILM ABOUT T/S HELENE

I’ve sailed with T/S Helene a couple of times and when I was younger, with a few other old sail ships of her generation.

On the first occasion, two years ago, I met the skipper and chairman of Ystad’s Sailing Club, Pelle T Olsson and his friendly crew of enthused sailors. It was then that the idea of making a short film about T/S Helene began to simmer.

Though the ship was originally built as a schooner in 1916 at the Ystad Shipyard, after a storm in 1943, which tore her rigg completely off, she was refitted as galliot (a single-masted cargo boat or fishing vessel).

T/S Helene is officially recognized by the Swedish National Maritime Museums – a public agency under the Ministry of Culture – as a historic and culturally significant vessel. In Swedish,she’s »K-Märkt«.

Shooting a film on a ship like T/S Helene had its challenges. I can imagine how hard must of been for Steven Spielberg during the film, Jaws. I used a stabilized Sony A7III with a Zeiss 18mm prime lens, a GoPro Hero 6 and Canon’s 70D equipped with a 50mm f1,4 lens for the earthbound footage. The DJI Mavic Air stood for the aerial shots. Except for the scene on top of the mast, which was so eloquently captured by the young sailor, Atle Runstål.


The Flutist

From yesterday’s 10k walk between Pratunam and Surasak on Sathorn Road. The flutist was standing under one of Bangkok’s many skywalks, playing so beautifully. I just couldn’t resist get a few clips of him.


Monsoon in Bangkok

When it rains in Bangkok, it pours. Literally. If you’re lucky, there might be a hint that a cloudburst is imminent. A few droplets here and there, or, maybe a slight drizzle, just to let you know that it could be a good idea to seek shelter before the monsoon thunderstorm above your head opens the floodgates really wide.

This slo-mo video is from yesterday afternoon at about 3:00pm. Peder, Ronald, Lotta and I were walking along Charoen Krung Road, a street that runs parallel to the Chao Phraya river all the way to Chinatown and beyond. I wanted to share my enthusiasm for this particular part of Bangkok (Bang Rak) with the highlight being the diesel fumed and oily Worachok neighborhood.

I’ve experienced two catastrophic monsoon storms while in Thailand. The first in 1991 and then again in 2005 and both while I was on Koh Samui where hundreds of locals saw their homes and belongings washed away together will bridges, roads and beaches. Our family was nearly electrocuted during the latest storm when the house we had rented was flooded with water above the electrical wall sockets. I think that’s why I’m so sensitive to sudden drops in air pressure. It depresses my breathing, somehow.

The storm eventually subsided and we caught a glimpse of the tall piles of engine blocks, carburators, transmissions and rear axels before moving on first to Chinatown and then Bangkok’s train station, where we ate dinner at a couple of different places. The excursion’s pleasentries ended at Thong Lor’s Soul Food restaurant where I ate a classic, albeit delicious plate of steamed crab with rice.


Memories from Khao San Road

Gained a few new friends yesterday during a culinary safari led by buddy and colleague Thomas Engström. We ended up in the Banglamphu area where we ate at a small vegetarian restaurant tucked away in an alley a few hundred meters from Khao San Road.

In the 1980s, Khao San was a meeting place for backpackers  from all over the world. I’m sure it still is. You’d meet there, stay a few nights, enjoy some good, cheap meals and then move on to Bali, Samui, Goa, Chiang Rai or the mysterious Myanmar. It was a carefree, free-wheeling period of my life, signified by casual socializing, superficial friendships and laconic romances.

I’ve spent many hours along Khao San Road. And I’ve slept at a half dozen sketchy places on that short stub of a street. You could pay as little as 50 baht per night for a small room on one of the guest houses’ dimly lit floors. A guest house staffer would unethusiasticaly show you to a room with a small bed, a ceiling fan, wafer thin walls and a generic padlock to lock your door. Showers and bathrooms were shared and everthhing was wet, dirty, noisy and uncomfortable, but I loved it. Each guest house had a restaurant on the ground floor with cheap, decent food and most places would be packed during the evening when a couple of popular pirated films were shown back to back at 7 pm and 9 pm. on a large TV or projector screen.

It was such a stripped down existens and one that I could afford to live for a half a year or so after working a summer unloading gazillion banana boxes from rusty old ships in Gothenburg’s harbor.

Along both sides of Khao San Road were several shops specializing in cassette tapes with pirated music. Except for the usual comical misspellings, tape labels looked like the real deal and sounded pretty good, too. At least for the heaadphones connected to my beat up old Sony Walkman

This was a couple of years before the compact disc went mainstream.

Side note: According Wikipeida, The first commercial compact disc was produced on 17 August 1982. It was »The Visitors« by ABBA. The first 50 titles were released in Japan on October 1, 1982, the very first of which was a rerelease of the Billy Joel album 52nd Street.

Most Khao San cassette shops had a wide selection and I usually found some of the music I liked back then (and I still listen to, at least from time to time). Taking long bus and train rides and drowning out noise from a neighbors room in a guesthouse was easier while listening to greatest hits and mixtapes with jazz favorites, which included, Dave Grusin, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour and Stan Getz. I want to recall that back then a tape cost about 100 baht, or so. I usually carried about ten in my backpack and must of spent a small fortune on batteries.

After my very first trip to South East Asia, I started staying at a guest house a few klicks north of Banglamphu at the C & C Guest House first location in a temple neighborhood that I can’t remember the name of. At some point, I’d invested in a couple of small speakers that I could connect to my Walkman’s headphone jack. The sound must of been horrific.

Fast forward to 2018 and I’m laying in a nice Bangkok hotel, listening to a playlist on my iPhone with ambient electronica (chillout grooves) from Apple Music (yup, I’m one of the few folks I know of not on Spotify). Same, same. But different.

The scenes from Khao San Road in Danny Boyle’s film »The Beach« with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton, offers a fair depiction of Khao San Road back in the day.


Sidewalk Locksmith at Key Position

Shot this busy sidewalk locksmith yesterday afternoon while walking to the neighborhood Worachok. His customers sat patiently – chatting ever-so happily – in a couple of foldable chairs on either side of the makeshift street shop. Like most neighborhoods in Bangkok, there’s never a definitive or, even a bluntly defined border between commercial and residential areas. Both are intertwined in wonderfully chaotic way.

With so many small entrepreneurs like the locksmith lining the streets of Bangkok, I could literally work full-time for years just shooting and editing videos like this one. Should be a couple of similar videos over in the Short Film section of this site.

Joining Thomas – a Swedish friend and fellow photojournalist stationed here – together with a couple of other folks from Sweden for what will likely be a culinary safari around the Thong Lor area.


Chennai Kitchen Indian Cuisine

This is what last night’s dinner at Chennai Kitchen here on Pan Road looked like. A few minutes earlier during my evening walkabout, it started to drizzle and I just barely made it inside before a torrential downpour flushed the sidewalks and streets. My place is just a minute and a half down the street, so I’d passed Chennai Kitchen on a daily basis and wanted to give it a go before moving on to my new digs.

I have mixed feelings about Indian food. On the one hand, it’s not something I often long for. But once I do eat it, very rarely am I disappointed. I’ve gotten a little sick a few times, which may explain my anxiety about choosing Indian before, say, Thai or Japanese.

I’ve been to the sub continent few times (but never Chennai/Madras) and love the chaos, colors and vibrancy of India. I was there most recently in April filming a beachfront yoga retreat in south Goa. During my stay, I enjoyed some of the best vegetarian food ever. The curry was spicy but never too hot and everything was always delightfully flavorful. Tasty food on a beautiful beach during a colorful sunset will inevitably add to most dining experiences.

Chennai Kitchen hasn’t exactly spent a lot of time on trivialities like interior design, lighting or tableware. The ceiling mounted florescent panels cast a dim, blueish glow across the small dining room which had four or five basic tables and chairs. But then again, guests don’t come there to appreciate the physical space of the family run restaurant. According to a huge flag hanging from the wall with the TripAdvisor logo on top and the word »EXCELLENCE« printed centerstage, the main attraction at Chennai Kitchen is undoubtedly the food.

As per usual, I asked my waiter (who might well have also been the owner) what dishes returning customers tend to order. He had no problems making a recommendation and ten or so minutes later, the tray you see above showed up. I know he mentioned lentils and tomato soup, and the rice was plain to see. But the rest? Who knows. But it was all very delicious.


Intermittent Fasting

I’m hooked on this intermittent fasting thing. In my current life phase, it seems to be the perfect fit. At its core, intermittent fasting isn’t a diet and therefore it’s not about what you eat – as long as it’s healthy stuff. Not at all. Instead, intermittent fasting is focused on when you eat and by association, how often you feed yourself. It puts a lot of conventional wisdom on its head. Which makes it all the more interesting to me.

I’ve been on a light version of intermittent fasting since I landed on Phuket approximately three weeks ago and have continued whilst here in Bangkok. I’ve lost roughly 4 kilograms of body mass since my arrival 20 days ago. It doesn’t show that much yet since, apparently, when your body burns fat, it starts from the inside and works it way out. Eventually the results of my new eating habits will be visible – even if you don’t own a pair of shiny x-ray glasses.

What I really love about this approach to nourishment is that I can eat more or less what I want, just not as often I used to. Since starting, I’ve been replenishing my body with plenty of water and I munch throughout the day on bite-sized pieces of fresh fruit and a handful of nuts – generally whatever’s plant-based and relatively easy for my metabolism to convert into energy. And I only eat one proper meal per 24-hour cycle. Sometimes I’ll eat lunch, but I tend to feel most content and sleep better after a wholesome dinner.

From what I’ve read, the basic philosophy of this fasting method originates from anthropological studies which have determined that since most of our ancestors (going back all the way to Lucy) lived in cirucumstances where food wasn’t so readily and abundantly available as it is today. To them, skipping a meal was not an option, it was a way of life. We, on the other hand, eat when, what and where we want to. Considering how minuscule many people need to move about physically in order to earn a living these days, and how that’s showing up as increasing levels of severe obesity and subsequent cardio-vascular and diabetes related diseases in some folks and both of which are plaguing the United States and now even folks in Asian countries, you have to be doggone ignorant not to see we need a healthier relationship to what we eat, how often and the amount of food we consume.

The food industry isn’t exactly resting on their laurels. For decades, they’ve had their eyes set on cashing in on our naiveté and gullibility. We’ve all read about how they’re doing their best to lure us all to eat more by lowering food prices, sneaking in taste enhancers, shelf-life proloning preservatives, sugars and artificial sweeteners as well as mind-fucking us with subversive marketing campaigns amined at persuading us to think that only by eating and drinking »diet” this and »light« that, will we enjoy a truly slim and trim healthy life.

Yeah, I buy into to the Intermittent fasting concept. And I am convinced that in general, we eat way too much, devouring so many calories during our awake hours, that our bodies are rarely given a chance to recover from trying to absorb the good stuff and cleanse out the bad – let alone burn off any excess fat. That is, unless we exercise strenuously several hours a week. But what happens when we for whatever reason can’t do that any longer? Say, due to an injury or age? Will we stop eating excessively? I didn’t.

Now, most people who know me or meet me for the very first time wouldn’t describe me as fat. On contraire, I often hear that I look healthy and in pretty good shape. At least for my age, whatever that means. Yet for many years, I’ve carried around a thick wad of belly fat that despite whatever I tried, I just couldn’t reduce it. I’ve boxed, jogged, played squash, lifted weights and most recently, done a ton of yoga. Nothing helped and I was on the verge of giving up. Heck, I rationed, I’m old enough now to be able to just give in and give up – accepting the way things are – as folks my age tend to do.

It doesn’t sneak in on everyone equally, but for me, once I hit 50, my metabolism went in to slo-mo. And because I didn’t adjust my calorie intake appropriately and didn’t increase or shift my exercise regimen to one that burned off more calories, I started putting on some weight.

As mentioned above, you tend to gain fat (and lose) on the inside first. So I didn’t notice the »acquisition« so much at first. But it’s been five years now and before I left Sweden for this trip, I weighed in at a hefty 78 kg. No, not obese by any stretch. But still about 5 kilograms more than I should have according to my age and BMI. And since I have a light case of rheumatism, unsurprisingly, all that extra weight added to my already aching knees, back, shoulders and neck during most daytime work related activities.

I’m feeling much better now, Dave.

And better yet, I’m getting really close to what seemed a lofty goal. By the end of this month, when I get on a scale somewhere, I should be a bit below 73kg or even less.

The shot above is from yesterday’s dinner at La Monita’s Taqueria in the Sukhumvit area. As much as I dislike that part of town, I’m not so disturbed by it that I can’t hop on a Skytrain and head down there for a basket of freshly made, crispy fish tacos topped with guacamole.

Wasabi Complexity

Returned to Tuna Ichiban yesterday evening after my 10 k walkabout. There was a breeze coming off the Chao Phraya river and it ran straight through Silom Road as I walked up towards Saladeng (from Saphan Taksin BridgeI) to my new favorite Bangkokian eatery.

I ordered a very tasty udon noodle soup – which, incidentally, reminded me of the one my buddy Michael served up a while back – with seaweed. I also got a batch of crispy shrimp tempura, crunchy soft shell crab salad and five solid slices of salmon sashimi. Yes, it was a small feast.

As I’m still on my Intermittent Fasting project, this was my only proper meal of the day. So all of my rudimentary senses (touch, taste, sound, smell and, sight) were singularly tuned in and colluded to enhance the dining experience. As you can imagine, everything tasted just fantastic. Normally, I would of had some saké and a bottle or two of beer. But in all honesty, I didn’t miss either.

As I was sitting there with my small plates, bowls and the small rectangular side dish with a teaspoon or so of wasabi in it, I started thinking of the enormous amount of wasabi Tuna Ichiban must go through in week’s time. The place has been packed during both of my visits, so we’re presumably talking about double-digit kilograms of wasabi. And that’s just in one relatively small eatery in city with possibly 250 Japanese restaurants!

The upscaling boggled my mind and by the time I’d finished thinking of how big the vats must be in what is likely a humungous wasabi factory in an smog covered, anonymous industrial city in China, the logistics that go into distributing the zesty, green paste to umpteen sushi restaurants in Bangkok – and how that all trickles down to the tiny dish I had in front of me, I actually wished I’d had a nice cold beer in front of me.

Being a modern day consumer means taking a lot of really complicated stuff for granted. We expect, presume and trust that the lightbulb will turn on when we flick the switch, that the toilet bowl will empty when we flush it and the supermarket will be stocked with our favorite foods and drinks. We blatantly anticipate that  everything that’s part of our daily lives will always continue to be just that. But we give little regard to how the heck it got there or how something works in order to meet our expectations. The story behind, I mean.

And when there’s the slightest glitch, hicup, delay or missed expectation, we whine, get annoyed or worse yet, demand an explanation! It’s as if we weren’t so friggin’ clueless as we really are. I mean, if only we had insight into what actually goes on behind the scenes when we flush the toilet, turn on the light and reach for our organic bananas, we might be a bit more humble and appreciative as to everything we take for granted.

I worked on a project for IKEA several years ago where they were doing their outmost to dig up information on the stories behind some of the company’s older products. Stuff that were still part of the current range. The idea was to spin each story from an environmental perspective. But as it turned out, in most cases, there wasn’t much to go on. Memories had faded and very little documentation existed.

As I was walking up busy Silom Road yesterday evening towards my little rectangular wasabi plate, I walked past the lady above. Since she was using an analogue phone, the sight of her talking on it caught my attention. Though I remember our very first phone number on Alfred Street in Los Angeles (213-651-4215), I can’t recall when it was we ditched our landline in Sweden. Eight years ago? Nine?

Today is a dedicated gallery day with a ton of inspiration abound.


Hot Walkabout

I really love the bustling street life here in South East Asia. Though Tokyo’s one of my favorite Asian cities, its street life pales when compared with Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Bangkok. So many contrasts and interesting things going on.

Yesterday, I went for a 10k walk up Sathorn to the lush Lumpini Park and back via a little grocery shopping at the exuberantly ruinous Villa Market in Saladeng. Like the amateur I am from time to time, I planned my walk during the hottest part of the day and became so sweaty, that my white t-shirt soon turned gray with perspiration and stuck to my body like a second skin.

As I headed out, I immediately reflected on how hot it was. Instead of waiting for the midday heat to relent, I continued, reasoning that if I only pace myself and walk slowly enough, it’ll be ok and I’ll not sweat so much. But I soon realized there were two pivotal flaws with my logic. First of all, I can’t walk slowly and secondly, however abundant escalators are here, there is still no way for a mere mortal to avoid having to climb up a few steep stairs while walking in Bangkok. And even if I treaded ever-so carefully to the top of an overpass, with the temperate at 32 C, not becoming sweaty was never an option.

How the Thais maintain their cool all the while dressed in office outfits and suits, I do not know. They must have developed natural heat resilience genes that help their sweat glands tolerate much higher temperatures when compared with most westerners. You’ll certainly often here Thais complain about the heat, complaining about the weather is a universal thing. But I’ve never seen anyone nearly as drenched in sweat as I was during yesterday’s walk.

I’m going for my first ever yoga class in Bangkok this morning and will take my 10k walk later in the afternoon. When the sweltering heat has subsided a bit. The shot above is from one of my favorite areas in Bangkok, Rattanakosin. Which is also the oldest of the capital’s neighborhoods. More images from this fascinating city can be found here.


Pan Rd & Tuna Ichiban

While Sweden voted in general, regional and local elections yesterday, I was exploring Bangkok again. I’m here to produce a couple of short editorial videos, continue with my »in progress« documentation of the endlessly beguiling area, Worachak as well as practice yoga and wait for Charlotte to arrive.

When we’re in the Thai capital, we usually set up base camp somewhere in the Sukhumvit area. Granted, it’s a convenient part of the city where a lot of restaurants, movie theatres, shopping malls and hotels are located. But staying in Sukhumvit also means having to deal with constant traffic jams, hordes of tourists and a myriad of dubious entertainment venues.

This time, I’m staying very local in the lo-fi neighborhood of Bang Rak, where I checked into a tiny hotel that I’d read good reviews about and that sits just off Pan Road – which runs between Silom Road and Sathorn Road.

What’s great about Pan Road is that it provides a unique local atmosphere without much fanfare – or, compromising. More less everything I need is right here or close by. There’s a couple of old school barbershops, two or three foot massage places, a few cafés, a dozen vegetarian restaurants and, the omnipresent 7-11 and Family Mart stores. The popular café and interior design company, Casa Pagoda, has a presence towards the Sathorn end and on the corner of Pan and Silom is the majestic, 139 year old Hindu temple, Maha Uma Devi, known also as Wat Khaek. Life here seems to be lived on the sidewalks, in the open shophouses and along the dozens of rickety snack carts double-parked just below the curb.

I’ve seen a half dozen or so hostels on both sides of Pan Road, next to residential buildings where a diverse range of business is underway in the ground floor shops. The closer to the Hindu temple you get, the more the businesses tend to offer prayer flowers, floral arrangmets and religious knick-knacks.

Pan is my new favorite road in Bangkok and yet another reason why I never tire of visiting this captivating city. But what really gets me excited when I think of Bangkok is still the enormous selection of really good restaurants. I don’t think anyone can even make an educated guesstimate of the total amount of licensed restaurans – let alone all those operating under the radar, so to speak.

As a pescatarian, I’m a little limited, but not disturbingly much. There’s plenty of vegetarian restaurants here, including the popular Broccoli Revolution. And at both of La Monita Taqueria’s two locations, they makes a fantastic veggie burrito stuffed with shrooms, freshly made guac and a bunch of greens. And let’s not forget all the sushi restaurants on the map here. Must be in the hundreds.

Last night, I finally got a chance to eat at what is reported to be Bangkok’s oldest sushi restaurant, Tuna Ichiban (ichiban is Japanese for number 1, but also means something that’s better than the rest). Not only was the food tasty and reasonably priced, the fact that they offered diner seating was an added and most welcome benefit. Especially since I wanted to take a few discreet food shots with Moment’s wide angle lens attached to my iPhone 7+ (of which the results you see above) without having to disturb any of my fellow guests.

I made my dinner selections from two dozen iPad pages after which a young woman from a small army of waitresses hurried to my booth to take my order. Within minutes after she headed off to the kitchen, a new waitress arrived with my first dish. I would easily pay a pretty penny/stang to spend just a few minutes filming in Tuna Ichiban’s kitchen. I’d like to think of it as being extraordinarily well organized, military style. The dishes above: Ichiban Sandwich (salmon), Avocado Lava (tuna) and a plate of mixed nigiri.

Tonight I think I’m going to eat at a well-regarded (on TripAdvisor, anyway) Indian restaurant near where I’m staying that specializes in vegetarian food. Or, I might just go back to Tuna Ichiban – stay tuned or stay tuna:d…


The Right to Choose

I like choice. I don’t need 55 different options, but a few is preferable. The video above from a cool cocktail bar in Malmö might seem off-topic for this post, but it was meant to help visualize choice.

And folks, if you’re in Sweden and carry a Swedish passport, today it’s time to choose. It’s election day in Sweden

I already voted on August 24 when I stood in the polling both and put three ballots in an envelope and then handed it over to a sweet older woman at  Kockum Fritid’s voting office. The lady checked my identity, registered my name on a list and then she put the envelope in a ballot box.

Regardless of what we think of the other parties, we are privileged to be able choose between several and vote for the ones we believe most in.
 Hopefully you will find one or more that represents your opinions and who gets the confidence of your vote.


Given the fact that democracy is failing in many countries today, the election in Sweden also fills a symbolic function.
By voting, you show that we believe in a free and open society, which in turn sends a very clear signal to the rest of the world that in Sweden, we safeguard our democratic right – and civil liability – to choose who we best think represents our views on how to manage Malmö, Skåne and Sweden in the future.
Tne

The Bikram Challenge

This morning I completed my Bikram Yoga challenge! I reached my goal of 10 consecutive days of 90 minute Bikram Yoga classes. To some, it might not seem that impressive. But anyone who’s ever practiced hot yoga will for sure know what I’ve been going through for the last week and a half.

Some bodies are easily bent. Like Tora in the video above that I shot earlier in the year at Altitude Meetings Black Box. But after 10 days here at Kata Hot Yoga, I’ve made surprisingly huge strides. Which in turn has translated into less aches and better overal posture.


Greek Salad

Speaking of Greek food, which I appreciate as much as I do Thai and Spanish cuisine, here’s a photo of a classic crispy Greek salad on a gorgeous blue plate that I took during an assignment trip to the breathtakingly beautiful island of Santorini.

When I was living in Göteborg/Gothenburg back in the 1980s and 90s, during the period when I was painting, I’d venture from my apartment at least one a week to “Saluhallen” – an old classic food hall and market where I’d buy Greek Kalamata olives, feta cheese and a loaf of Hungarian sourdough bread at a small shop called Alexandras – owned by a fellow that went by the nickname of Elvis. Adjacent to the food hall was a warehouse where a company sold vegetables at wholesale prices. I’d return to my kitchenette where oil paints and unfinished canvases waited, with all the ingredients I needed to make myself a nice big Greek salad and a bowl of hummus. It was a simple life.

Back to Santorini.

I believe I’ve posted something about this before, but when we we’re there in 2016, we shared much of the sights and attractions with hundreds of Chinese tourists. Curious as to what so many folks from China were doing on Santorini in October, we asked around a little.

The explanation from a waiter at one of the restaurants we ate at a few times was nothing less than extraordinary. According to him, the island had for about a year or so been enjoying a tremendous boom which had in fact extended the tourist season with three months. The boom, the waiter continued, was thanks to an extremely popular romantic movie in China that ended with a young couple getting engaged or married on Santorini.

Personally, I’d never seen so many variations of selfie sticks or, gleefully smiling Chinese tourists, for that matter, as during our four days in Greece. More images from that trip here.

A collection of my work related food and drink photos can be enjoyed once you click here.


Bikram Yoga Film

Slept well last night, despite having had a few too many Greek dishes at »Odysseus« a few blocks from here. Saran, Saam and their cute daughter Asia had never tried Greek food before, but genuinely enjoyed all of what Dimitri presented to us.

As I filmed during most of this morning’s class for an editorial video about hot yoga, I’ll be getting my 9th session done during this evening’s 7:00pm class. I’m still a little bewildered by how fast the instructions are delivered in Bikram Yoga. The total opposite of every other kind of yoga I’ve tried. In some of the standing poses – like the Eagle and the Tree – poses I am now after a week of practice able to hold with some dignity – the rapidness of instructions creates turbulence in my concentration which in turn nudges me off-balance from time to time.

However counter intuitive it may seem, I suppose it’s the combination of 26 poses, the intense heat, soaking humidity and verbal firestorm that will all work together to help me eventually summon the required laser focus I need to improve my postures.

Filming in a hot yoga studio was, as one might imagine, sweaty. I was there for about an hour using three different cameras (two stationary, two movable) and audio via a Zoom H6 recording unit. But it wasn’t the heat that presented the greatest challenge today. It was the mirrors. Trying to find angles and perspectives that didn’t reflect my image in the background somewhere, was not easy. But then again, who wants easy, anyway?


Kung Fu Pizza

When I was a kid growing up in the US, there was this tremendously popular western series called, »Kung Fu« that had a huge following among me and my friends. The show’s gauntly character, Kwai Chang Caine, was a wandering apostle of Chinese philosophy with a black belt in Kung Fu. He was portrayed by a the actor David Carradine.

The soft-spoken Caine used proverbs and aphorisms to solve conflicts that arose along his lonesome journey across the American Old West to find his half-brother. But where his fortune-cookie wisdoms didn’t persuade the antagonists, his lightning fast fists and feet certainly could – and some butt would be kicked in each episode.

Second only to reruns of “The Wild Wild West“, “Kung Fu” was a favoite I’d watch almost daily. I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks of when Caine was a young boy in rural China. Each episode would have at least one of those flashback scenes – seemingly shot with a soft lens or one that had been covered with a thin layer of vaseline – where a mentor at the Shaolin Monastery in Hunan Province where he was raised, would instruct the young Caine, referred to as »Grasshopper« in martial arts. More importantly, at least from my point of view, the mentor would emphasize that it was crucial the young apprentice be mindful of everything going on in his life; socially, emotionally, spiritually and, yes, culinarily.

For some reason, “Kung Fu” popped into my head while twisting and turning and bending my body to get to the correct configuration during one of today’s more gruelling poses.

It was my eighth consecutive Bikram Yoga class today and I suppose I momentarily lost my ability to concentrate at a 100% level. A while later, as I was regaining consciousness from Savasana (the dead body pose), I started to feel really hungry. I’d not eaten anything prior to the class and it was now almost 10:45. A wide range of food ideas started flowing over me. One of the first was pizza. I figured I could be generous and perhaps treat myself to a few slices of freshly baked pizza pie. If for no other reason, than to commentate my weeklong accomplishments on the yoga mat.

Like the next guy, I love pizza. Most people do. Pizzas smell good and if you’re lucky, they taste great, too. And a pizza is still a relatively inexpensive option when dining out.

Finding a really good pizzeria, you know, where the crust is thin, the dough chewy and the sauce zesty, can, however, be a big challenge. Quite frankly, I’ve not eaten many really good pizzas in my life and very few in Sweden. Pizzas do the job, fit the bill and fill you up…but it’s sort of the old emperor’s new clothes syndrome. Nobody seems to acknowledge (or, worse, care!) that generally speaking, pizzas are flavorless and made half-assed. Not even the most reputable pizzeria in Malmö makes a pizza worth an honorable mention – despite the wood-fired oven the owners claim makes their pizzas so fantastico. Honestly, they suck. A pizza is only as good as when there’s been some mindfulness poured into the dough, sauce, seasoning and toppings. Sadly, that’s rarely the case. People that run pizzerias, wherever in the world, seem only to be in it for the money. There is no passion. No mindfulness.

As I was slowly walking out of the yoga studio, sweaty as can be and still not sure what to eat (or, where), I came to the realization and conclusion that it would be extremely counter-productive to eat a pizza for lunch after a 90 minute workout. It would be like eating a half a loaf of bread.

On my up the stairs to my apartment and shower to cool off, I reasoned that if I’m going to be seriously mindful about what I eat, I need to look at the face value of my choices. And when it comes down to it, what is pizza if not baked bread covered with tomato paste, fermented milk (cheese) and whatever toppings. And as fulfilling as that may be, there’s actually very little nourishment in a pizza. It’s comfort food. Plain and simple. Sure, a pizza is usually easily accessible, you stuff your mouth with it, feel full and content (at times, painfully so) – and then a few hours later, whatever’s left of the pizza leaves your body without having done much for it.

Long story short (too late, I know), I ended up going back to the same place I’ve been eating at for the past week. A corner restaurant where I am served by the same sweet waiter (an older guy with a super-high pitched, Mickey Mouse voice), order the same exact dish (stir fried vegetables with tofu and steamed rice) and leave the same tip (10 baht).

Tonight, together with an old friend and his family, I’ll splurge a little and celebrate my culinary mindfulness – at Dimitris organic Greek restaurant.

The pizza above comes from a shoot I had for Smarta Kök earlier this year.


Fruitful conversation

Today at 11:35 by the corner fruit stand. Not verbatim. But close.

– Hello there, my friend!

– Hello! How are you today?

– Good, good. And yourself?

– Feeling very perky after my yoga class. How’s business?

– Oh, it’s slow. Low season, you know. The monsun doesn’t help much, either. Time again for some fruit?

– Absolutely. How are them mangos lookin’ today?

– You’ll not get a sweeter or juicer batch than what we have in stock right now. I kid you not. Would you like for me to slice you up a couple of really nice plump ones?

– Yes, m’am!

– What else are you looking for today, my friend?

– Well, I’m a little tired of peeling mangosteen and angel fruit doesn’t really grab me anymore. So, let’s go with a half kilo rambutan today.

– Ok. No watermelon?

– Oh, yeah, a watermelon, too.

– Anything else?

– I think I’ve run out of bananas, so add a batch, please.

– Ok, come back in 10 minutes and I’ll have sliced up your mangos and watermelon.

– Thank you.

11:36

– Everything’s ready to go, my friend.

– Thanks! How much do I owe you?

– That’ll be 165 baht, please.

– Ok, here you are. Oh, and by the way, can I take a few photos of you and the family here by your wonderful fruit shop?

– Sure, my pleasure!

Click, click, click.

– Thanks!

– See you tomorrow, my friend!

– See you tomorrow and good luck!


Clearing the Clouds

From yesterday afternoon’s long beach walk. Remarkable skies right now as we’re edging into monsun season here. I’ll never cease to be amazed by the spectacular formations created by cumulus clouds. Infinite variations of fleeting beauty. A healthy reminder of how ephemeral everything really is and how important it is to take the time to experience life in real-time – not just screen time.

Checked off Bikram Yoga session number six this morning. Might of been the best class yet for me. Woke up a little earlier today to offset some lower back pain (which I’ve had for about 24 hours) with 20 minutes of Qigong, before class began. Not sure what or where the pain stems from. Could be my slightly rigid bed – or, that I’ve pinched a nerve during one of the spine postures or  snapping situps. Could also come from jumping prematurely off a surfboard the other day. Regardless, I think doing Qigong before Yoga is the way to go until the pain subsides.

Each class has about 10-12 participants and the demographic is a really mixed bag. About half are Thai and the rest are westerners from all over Europe. Most are in the 30s or 40s with 1 or 2 being closer to my age. There’s one lanky Italian guy (his name is Lorenzo and his shorts are minimal, so I’m only assuming he’s from Italy) and a couple of pasty Russians or Ukrainians in their mid 20s.

Sometime during pose number 15 or 16 (of a total of 26) I started speculating about what motivated the others in the studio to train Bikram Yoga. What was the driving force? Weight loss? Increased stamina? Improve elasticity? Prolong life?

Like many kinds of self-generating exercises, but especially when originating from the Far East, there are usually several self-proclaimed, yet widely contested and feverishly debated benefits that are given top billing by the protagonists. But reliability is often undermined when these advantages get too much exposure. They tend to reach an almost mythological status and that’s when my alarm clock goes off.

As per usual, I’m an optimistic sceptic who prefers to take a holistic approach in favor of bombastic and unsubstantiated statements. After all, I’ve worked most of my adult life within the dubious advertising industry. So I know a thing or two about creative writing and crafting powerful, bullshit reeking headlines.

What I can tell you with half a dozen Bikram Yoga classes under my belt, is that the training has definitely increased my body’s flexibility, my ability to decrease my heart rate through breathing, and, of course, my heat tolerability. For sure I’m feeling stronger, more physically balanced and mentally focused than when I started my hot yoga challenge, about one week ago. But like I mentioned above, with a wide-angle lens on, those benefits can just as well be ascribed to my current vegan diet and extremely puritanical lifestyle.


Spiced up Pistachios

To some, looking at pistachios up close like the tidy batch above, might not be so appetizing. But believe me, they were absolutely scrumptiously divine and worth documenting (with Moment’s new wide-angle iPhone lens).

Whoever came up with the idea of spicing up pistachios with chili and black peppar needs to be recognized and commemorated as a formidable culinary genius. By the way, did you know that pistachios are technically a fruit? I sure didn’t. Live and learn.

As I’m more or less on a vegan diet right now – disallowing myself from much of the usual indulgences – eating a batch of nuts a day not only allows me to quench my life-long snacking addiction, today’s spicy pistachios will also provide me with some extra protein and antioxidants. And you know what? Shelled pistachios are kinda fun to eat! You have to work a little before you get gratification.

There’s a common misconception, mostly among meat-eaters (duh), that living off a plant-based diet will inherently cause protein deficiency. Those same folks don’t know that protein is found in just about every living organism on the planet. Especially in plants!

Proteins are in essence a combination of amino acids. Each of these amino acids have a designated role or purpose in our bodies. While some are configured to help our metabolism, others assist in the repair and development our muscles. Nine of the different amino acids are absolutely essential to our basic functions. And since we can’t create them in our bodies, they’re kinda of indispensable and thus need to be part of our diet. The good news is that vegetarians (even vegans!) can easily get enough of these crucial amino acids by eating a balanced plant-based diet. Anybody trying to tell you differently is just ignorant (or, is a lobbyist for the meat/poultry industry).

Here’s a resource for how to stop worrying about vegetarianism/veganism and protein deficiency (with great recipes, too).

As a former meat-eater,I totally get why the vast majority of the world’s population (but not most folks in India) would enjoy sinking their teeth into a juicy, barbecued beef or pork steak, chewing off a mouthful of double-dipped, deep fried chicken or chomping on a perfectly grilled hotdog with mustard, ketchup and relish.

Up until a bit more than three years ago, I did all those things regularly with great vigor and noticeable intensity. And to be totally honest, there are times when I miss those orgastic, multiple sensory kicks I’d get when eating at places like, Baby Blues BBQ in Los Angeles or at Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. Heck, I even miss our own back patio and countryside »barbies« we hosted in the summertime.

But the more mindful about how beneficial it is to stay clear of poultry, meat and all processed foods I become – and if you don’t think most meat is processed, please click here – the easier it is to shrug at times gone by and keep chomping on carrots, gnawing fresh mango and munching on spicy pistachios.

Fifth hot yoga class today. Different teacher, same drill and metaphors. Tough stuff. But, man, do I feel invigorated afterwards! Five more days to go. Gonna try to get in some surfing, too. Maybe even a long jog.


Switching Off

Met this guy last night as I was heading out for dinner. I was curious to know if he’d ever heard of Über or Lyft, but the language barrier was just too wide for us to communicate about such matters. Still I wondered if the dude, who couldn’t have been much more than 10 years my senior, was familiar with the concept of ride sharing. For all I could tell, he could very well have been a heavy Twitter user or, even made sure to update his Facebook status on an hourly basis. But I doubt it.

Aside from my posts here on the blog side of the moon, I’ve disengaged myself from all social media channels and platforms. I joined Instagram earlier this year and I’ve enjoyed posting my photos and videos there on an almost daily basis. But now, after almost a week without any uploads or checking my Like-status, I can’t say I miss it. I certainly don’t miss the incessant flow of notifications. And since I don’t even log on or check in – which I know might lure me into a mindset where the fear of missing out (FOMO), of not participating in the »conversation«, would likely have had a negative effect on my ability to focus on stuff that’s really important. Which is what I want to do more of. Much more.

Right now I don’t even think about what’s going on in the abstract, online universe where the hypnotic gravity pull of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have gazillions of people – myself included, at least periodically – orbiting their worlds as if no other realities exist. Honestly, I’ve always been socially awkward. So why wouldn’t I feel torn about socializing online?

For the first time in a long while, I feel tuned out, and it’s liberating, to say the least – and part of a long-term, multi-faceted strategy that will hopefully lead to a myriad of new, creative adventures.

Today was my fourth day of Bikram yoga and though progress is incremental, I’m definitely pushing forward. Above all, my body’s ability to recuperate between poses is improving dramatically. Due to a nagging-old knee wound, there are three leg-focused, stretching poses that I’ll probably never be able to fully pull off. Still, 23 out of 26 isn’t bad for a guy my age. Rigid as I may be, thankfully, a few of the other (younger) participants aren’t nearly as relatively nimble or elastic as I am. I know, that’s a totally reprehensible way to think in the yoga world. But I have to admit to feeling some genuine solace when I see them struggle, shake and ultimately fall to the mat. Yeah, I’m shameless.


The Perfect Combo

Third day of my Bikram yoga challenge. Starting to get the hang of it now – insofar that I can actually manage to bend my body and shift my limbs correctly according how the postures are supposed to be executed. Today was harder than yesterday – possibly because I didn’t get a full night of undisturbed sleep. Woke up a few times after two really strange, vivid dreams. Must be the detoxification process. The effects just from caffeine withdrawal ought to be at least a little bewildering to my body.

One thing that really takes time getting used to with Bikram yoga is how fast and intense instructions, corrections and affirmations are delivered. It’s like being at an auction where the auctioneer is never quiet and a steady stream of utterances fly through the ever-so hot and humid studio air. Which is pretty much the diametrical opposite of the mostly soft-spoken, mild-mannered instructors that have previously guided me through yoga classes. But just like the class’ tropical climate, I’m slowly getting used to the verbal intensity as well. Still flabbergasted by how much I’m sweating, though. That alone must be fantastic for the pores and skin.

As opposed to yoga, surfing is a lonesome, relatively quiet sport – which I think makes it the perfect complimentary activity. Went surfing yesterday afternoon for about an hour. The low tide brought some small although rideable waves with it and I had a blast catching them with a wobbly 8.2ft board I’d rented from Swiss Mike.


Food for thought

I’m on a quest. A mission of sort. A gnarly adventure, even.

See, one of several objectives with this trip is to take a breather from a few habits that have been an integral part of my life for eons. Nothing life-threatening, at least not short term. Rid myself of those habits a long time ago.

Like most folks, I live a fairly habitual life when it comes to what I eat and drink. And though I try to be picky and choosy, at the end of the day, I suspect my total calorie intake is far greater than it need be. Which means my digestive system is constantly working overtime to manage all of the more or less healthy stuff I devour in a day.

Admittedly, most of my meals as well as drink choices are predominately made – more or less consciously – on a whim. I suspect it’s my memories of tastes, textures and smells that steer my decisions on what to make for dinner or what to order when eating out. Not to intellectualize too much, but I feel so ready to eat less with my tastebuds and be more mindful of what my body actually needs to function. This isn’t revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination. But if it was more of a commonplace way to shape our eating habits, I am sure the planet would benefit greatly.

It’s near the tail end of day three here and food-wise, I’ve been doing pretty good so far. In addition to attending morning yoga classes in a sauna temperatured room and subsequently drinking several liters of water per day, I’m restricting my diet to fresh mangosteen, mango, rambutan, bananas and various types of nuts.

For lunch, as pictured above, I’ve been enjoying a bowl of steamed rice with fried vegetables and a tall glass of sparkling water. I’m sure the calorie count is still a bit high, but I’ve eliminated so much other stuff – including bread, coffee, pasta, beer – that I literally feel less bloated and, if not trimmer, than at least a little flatter around the old gut. Looking forward to seeing where this quest takes me.