For the artistically inclined among you, the opening of a new art gallery in Bangkok can only come as good news in this artistically dormant city. Don’t get me wrong, the Thais are a very artistic race, but they lack the liberalism inherent in Western culture. There are, occasionally, some impressive works of graffiti, one or two galleries, and a few urbane places to hang out. But that’s nothing compared to places like New York, where modern graffiti as we know it first started, or cities like Paris, with art galleries in abundance.
Thailand – at present – seems to be going through a period of social evolution. Considering that until 1932, Thailand was still under an absolute monarchy, the rate of change since that time has been phenomenal, and there are now some 10,000,000 inhabitants in this sprawling metropolis, compared to only 890,000 in the 30s. The new generation is becoming increasingly liberal, and they are taking elements of their unique culture, and blending it with Western influences. What I personally hope is that in doing this, they don’t lose their heritage; I can imagine nothing more boring than a uniform, homogeneous world, where culture in Thailand is the same as it is in America. Variety is the spice of life!
Many tourists and residents of Bangkok will be familiar with the striking art work found in Chatuchak Weekend Market. Now these artists have collaborated to open a unique art studio/gallery on Chaengwattana, Soi 1. V64 is housed within a disused factory building and offers 4,800 m2 of studio space, a dedicated gallery with monthly exhibitions by Thai and international artists, workshops, an art academy, café bar, and sculpture garden. More than 60 artists reside within the studio complex, some of whom can be seen at work while you walk around.
The V64 team are very welcoming and I was personally greeted by the PR & Marketing Manager, Kalisha Pim Jariyapaiboon, who gave me useful information about the artists and services provided. V64 also runs an art academy for children from 3-15 years of age, which is a great service to the community and a place to foster the next generation of Thai artists. I was very enthused by the communal vibe at V64 and see it as a potential gathering place for artistic minds who are looking for an inspiring location to rendezvous. The café bar sells both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and is open until 10:00 p.m. everyday, making it the perfect place for a get together.
If you’re looking to meet like-minded people in Bangkok, V64 is throwing a Grand Opening Party on November 11, 2011, and anyone with a passion for art, music, culture – or just making new friends – is invited. In the meantime, follow the links below to learn more about V64’s whereabouts and take a visit to their fascinating studio.
143/19 Chaengwattana Soi 1 Yaek 6, Bhangkhen Laksi, Bangkok 10210, Thailand
+66 8 9143 0986 (Mobile)
02 973 2681-2
Could this be the dawn of Asia? The coming of a new global superpower? With all the troubles happening in the West at the moment, it seems as if Asia is the place to be. As more and more Westerners flock to the East to find a sense of purpose, in our ever-purposeless lives, a new kind of story is emerging, a new pilgrimage. But this time it ought to be all the more difficult. For, unlike the discovery of America, where we were the superior power, taking by force, this time, we come on humble terms: we are simply the tolerated visitor.
And so, for the pampered Westerner, it can come as quite a shock when we have to get used to the Asian concept of lowering ourselves to our superiors. We want things “our way” and get highly annoyed by people pushing into queues, or drivers turning without indicating. But here in Thailand, they have a different kind of politeness: everyone is free to get in first if they can, but no one is free to lose their temper.
But all this is positive change, though it may not be easy to understand why at first. We have had life far too comfortable in the West, far too pampered, far too spoon-fed. When we arrive on Asian soil, we have to learn to be resourceful if we’re going to survive this mass exodus. And so, an increasing majority of pilgrims in Asia are looking for new ways to better and improve themselves. Many of them become teachers, but ultimately, they look to new pastures for a sense of achievement. For many people, writing is becoming the best way of expressing their myriad feelings about adapting to an entirely new culture.
“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” — Arnold Bennett
I can’t speak for the whole of Asia, but my experience in Bangkok has shown me that people who spend more than a few years here tend to start a blog about some aspect of Thai life. These bloggers range from the pro to amateur, but all of them have a unique story to tell, all of them offer a glimpse of life in the “Land of Smiles.” Many of these bloggers then aspire to write a book, or work for a local newspaper; it’s a tempting option, and in many instances, a basic level of English is considered as valuable as gold dust in this linguistically-challenged country. Of course, some Thais speak excellent English, but the vast majority still speak “Tinglish”, an amusing mixture of the two languages: “I go with you.” “I love you mak mak.”
And so it was, on my very own version of this story, that I came across New Asian Writing (NAW). The NAW project was begun on January 1, 2010, by a group of like-minded individuals whose aim was to bring high quality short stories to readers, and the opportunity for aspiring new writers to have their works published. Their first book, The Rage of a New Ancestor, was released at the end of 2010, and since then, word has spread, and many more writers have submitted their work for the 2011 anthology; one of them is me!
When I first discovered NAW, I thought it too good to be true. I immediately set to work on writing a short story, hoping that it would be good enough to make the anthology. After about three months of work, I felt confident that my story was ready to be sent off to the team at NAW, albeit needing a few minor edits. When they got back to me telling me that my story had been accepted and only needed a few changes, I was ecstatic! My story, Lifelines will be published in the 2011 anthology at the end of the year. It’s not the first time I have had works published, but it is the first time I’ve been featured in a book; my last work was written for the iPhone, Bangkok in the 1930s, a walking tour that harnesses the power of archival imagery, storytelling, and GPS technology. The tour can be downloaded through Rama, the augmented reality app that brings history to life in a way never before imagined. I’m eagerly looking forward to the release of the book. In the meantime, you can read the story on NAW’s website, here.
For the last few months I have been lucky enough to be part of something big in the world of iPhone apps. In early January of this year, I discovered a call for writers who “know Thailand” on craigslist and, deciding that I had nothing to lose, I sent out an email expressing my wish to take the job. I didn’t expect to get a reply and so when I got an email saying that I seemed like the ideal candidate, I was a pleasantly surprised.
Even more surprising was the assignment I was given: I had to write a “historical” tour guide. Did I have to travel through time? Not quite.
Rama – an app designed by New York-based Crimson Bamboo – is available on the iPhone and puts a unique spin on the role of tour guides. The app harnesses the power of GPS, archival photographs and storytelling to create compelling tours that not only direct you to intriguing locations, but also inform and entertain you. Rama offers guided tours in a number of cities throughout the world and is looking to add new tours in the near future. This tour is the first for Thailand.
“Bangkok in the 1930s” takes you through a decade of economic crisis, coup d’états, political intrigue and the birth of a new nation. The narrative is set against the backdrop of Bangkok’s most famous temples and palaces and the tour guides you to places such as the Annanta Sammakhom Throne Hall – where the People’s Party staged a coup d’état in 1932 and ousted King Prajadhipok (Rama VII).
If you’re planning a trip to Bangkok, this guided tour offers you the perfect opportunity to discover places that you may otherwise overlook, while learning about the country’s history in a compelling and interactive way.