Thai made-to-order

Thai order made, Tuzani at Ari, Bangkok
Hace un tiempo, os contaba la historia de mi madre junto a mi visión acerca de las personas creativas (en un sentido abstracto), esas que están llenas de curiosidad, que no temen salirse de lo establecido e innovar.

Crecí junto a mi madre cosiendo desde casa, yendo con ella a la tienda de telas tanto que me conocían por el nombre y me invitaban a coca-colas. Quizás sea por eso, que entendiera muy pronto y muy claramente las 3 claves para hacerte algo a medida (y no fracasar en el intento):
  1. Conocer la forma de tu cuerpo, saber lo que te favorece (y lo que no) e.g. si estás plana, con espalda y brazos de nadador, los tirantes spaghetti no son lo mejor.
  2. Conocer tu estilo, evitar copiar lo que no encaja contigo. Ir con una idea lo más clara posible.
  3. Contar con imaginación para visualizar el resultado. En su defecto, probarte prendas de corte/tela similar para hacerte una idea de antemano.
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Tokyo city lights

Sometimes in life we have to decide, to stay, to move. Sometimes in life we wonder, how things will end up. Sometimes in life we make the mistake to bother about others, what if they fail to understand. Should not really matter as long as we stay true to the voice deep inside, that one we can clearly hear when we are alone at night.

There is too much purposeless jealous mediocrity in the world. People who lack strength to do anything and shift focus into dragging others down, as extremely draining dark holes of energy. I have come to appreciate that such attitude shows correlation with some underlying psychological issue - light depression, insecurity... - that they don't have the guts to acknowledge, address or overcome either.  Nobody is lazy by nature, they just failed to find enough motivation for whatever reason.

This kind of people typically fill with envy, while failing to apprehend that the true value of experiences, that magic which got you there, often originates from struggles which were dealt with consistency, patience and curiosity. That the outcome of dealing with challenges, even when not fully positive will at least result on some learning. Any experience is valuable, as long as you learn the lesson it was meant to teach you.

On the other side of the spectrum, I feel deeply inspired but people who try, who dare, who do. They are the engine that moves the World.

Experiences and knowledge are not easily portrayed by the camera or shared in instagram - pillar of our society of inspirational imagery but to me, these are the most valuable assets we can reach for. Nobody can take them away from us. That's maybe while writing is valuable to me, as self-reflection but also as means to share my experiences hoping for others to leverage from them. As humans, this is all we leave behind right? Memories.

Today marks 2 years since my father left us all of the sudden, with a heart-stroke at his favourite beach.

Rest in peace, he was not an easy person, his soul partly broken by all the difficulties that he had to go through since early age. Back in the 1940s life was not exactly easy for a post-war half-orphan half-literate child from a tiny village in Galicia.

My father taught me the importance of the ability to look at ourselves from an outside-in perspective. It's key to achieve balance and success. Schools hardly train us in soft-skills or psychology, but I strongly believe it is critical to develop a way to understand and deal with our personality, as first step to manage and anticipate everyone else, of course. Both valuable in business and in life.

His life proves that anything is possible as long as you are committed to it, but that does not mean it will be easy...  Growth and comfort never coexist.
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The ultimate Tokyo Sunday

The ultimate Tokyo walk around Shibuya and Shinjuku
As there's no picture which can capture it all, I'll leave you with our main tip... WALK THE CITY!

This map shows the first phase of our favourite Sunday walk ever  (avoid weekdays if possible):
  1. Start from Ebisu West exit where the statue is
  2. Find Ebisu Ichiban aka the street lined up with steel flowers
  3. Walk all the way up - reaching near to our former home, Park Axis Daikanyama
  4. Walk downhill and explore Daikanyama log road - brunch here is amazing.
  5. Then left, till you get to Daikanyama T-site and its lovely Tsutaya Book shop branch
  6. Walk along the main street, passing by Junie Moon aka Blythe heaven
  7. Continue straight and under so you reach the street that goes parallel to the train tracks
  8. Follow all the way till Shibuya station (West exit), reaching Hachiko and the crossing
  9. Then comes teen shopping at Shibuya 109 and the craze of Shibuya's Center Gai - best manicure in esNail if you are up for a beauty souvenir
  10. Remember the Katumidori Sushi branch located on the top floor of Seibu - best sushi ever
  11. With full tummy, it's turn for the cool Harajuku Cat Street - plenty of shops and an interesting atmosphere, much more welcoming that the usual glassy Asian mall

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Nerds on fire: Comiket, Odaiba and summer fireworks

How I felt when realizing my family is visiting that weekend...

The lucky ones visiting Tokyo the weekend of August 10-12 get a chance to experience the summer highlights, all in one packed 11th of August at Odaiba , shown in this map.
  1. From Ebisu station, take Rinkai line and get off at Tokyo Big sight.
  2. Follow the masses to the entrance of Comiket, the main otaku event (10AM-4PM, August 10-12 2018) where you can both buy manga and watch some of the World's best Cosplay
  3. Once you've had enough, walk towards Odaiba, explore the area near the Rainbow Bridge where the fake Statue of Liberty is and some of the malls - Gundam may be renovated, but the wow factor remains untouched!!!
  4. Make sure to come to the seaside 1-2h before the fireworks start, grab your spot and wait.
  5. Enjoy the event and be patient trying to get home! Japanese fireworks are famous because of their complexity, beauty and length. Edomode is one of the best and most crowded!

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Old to new to cool: Asakusa, Ginza, Roppongi, Naka-meguro

Today we explore the oldest, the newest and the coolest of Tokyo. Depending how early is your start and how much energy you've got for the walk, you can start either from Ueno or from Asakusa.

This map shows the morning route:
  1. Start from Ueno station, visit Ueno koen a park that often feels like a bit of time travel.
  2. Walk towards Kappabashi Dōgugai where local artisans perfect knives and wax models of food, great spot for souvenirs
  3. Continue the way towards Senso-ji - if you visit May, do not miss the Sanja Matsuri the Yakuza-run festival, where huge drums are played while mafia tattoos are honored - the main temple in Tokyo
  4. Streets around Senso-ji are quite crowded, but also amazing for traditional souvenir shopping.
  5. If you feel hungry, engage on the tabearuki aka Japanese art of snackin' on the road.
  6. Alternatively find some lunch in the old style restaurants around or take a quick walk to the Asakusa station for a quick subway ride to Ginza.
  7. Do not miss a chance to take a picture with the Asahi building right on the bridge. You could also keep walking and go up Skytree - but it felt a bit of tourist trap....

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Kamakura - Waikiki meets the Shōgun

Kamakura, Tokeiji

Nos encanta Kamakura [map], desde aquel primer día de Noviembre hace ya 7 años que nos dio por "hacer una escapada" antes de que empaquetaran a Enrique a Korea, se convirtió en visita obligada para todos nuestros guests y recomendación para todo el que nos pregunta.

Kamakura, que fue capital de Japón durante el shogunato Kamakura (1185-1333)「鎌倉幕府」ofrece historia, naturaleza, templos y playa, todo a la vez, condensado en un formato reducido que encaja perfectamente en un día muy agradable a pie - como podéis ver en las fotos, es posible hacer todas estas rutas con una sandalia plana cómoda, pero si vais bien con zapatillas en verano también es una opción aunque sea más plasta en la playa.

La ruta perfecta para explorar Kamakura en un día:
  1. Tren hasta Kita-Kamakura (e.g. 49' desde Ebisu, línea JR Shonan-Shinjuku trenes cada 30')
  2. Engakuji「円覚寺」templo a la izquierda de la estación nada más bajar del tren
  3. Tōkei-ji「東慶寺」templo-cementerio algo elevado con escaleras que en Junio están plagadas de hortensias
  4. Continuar caminando hasta el cruce de caminos que muestra la imagen
  5. Entrar en el sendero del bosque, justo donde está el pozo Kanronoi「甘露ノ井」
  6. Caminar entre raíces y bosqueshasta llegar al punto más alto.
  7. Explorar el templo dedicado al amor  Kuzuharaoka「葛原岡」y retomar fuerzas cual tortuguita
  8. Caminar montaña abajo hasta llegar a la misteriosa entrada de Zeniarai Benzaiten「銭洗弁財天」
  9. Tras lavar dinero, seguir caminando hacia abajo hasta llegar a Hase
  10. Seguir las indicaciones hasta el Gran Buddha de Kamakura 「鎌倉大仏」
  11. Explorar la calle de tiendecitas y restaurantes hasta llegar a la playa de surf - ojo con los halcones!
  12. Volver caminando al pueblo y seguir hasta Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu「鶴岡八幡宮

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Bangkok - My top three fashion shopping spots

Bangkok shopping in EmQuartier and Terminal 21
Completely unrelated pic - I don't eat sugar and this is mostly about fashion, but still SO CUTE ^_^

Malls are something which we are not exactly short of in Bangkok. Sukhumvit road is lined up with super fancy super huge super glassy complexes which would take days to visit thoroughly. With so much variety, it's confusing to know where to go, but for us seasoned locals... It´s another story!

Disclaimer: I am not fond of street markets. I don't do counterfeit. I hate bargaining, not getting a chance to try on clothes and overall, I can't stand that feeling of being tricked - which I more often than not get on the street stalls where us whitetrash seem to appear like walking cash registers to some vendors. I give you one example, the Cult Gaia copycat original retails at 150USD, similar versions are sold at 25EUR in Chatuchak - very similar price to what you can find in Europe a friend told me... Similar experience I had with the Lanna style embroidered bag, which I ended up buying in Fuengirola (Málaga) for half the price one of the street vendors was asking #truestory.

Here come my favourite spots and brands in Bangkok (so far!) - this is for you, visiting this summer!

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SIMming around the World

local SIM
A small sample of the remainder of my SIM card collection

As someone without international data roaming in my work subscription, this is a post I've been thinking about for  some time, just waiting to have a sufficiently large collection of used SIM cards to make the point, but somehow with the relocation to Thailand combined with the TOC habits of our cleaning lady, half of it got lost.

Considering 2017-2018 combined (so far), I've been to Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Sweden and Germany (before EU roaming). In all these places, I bought a local pre-paid SIM card and you, as seasoned traveller should do too.

For us Europeans roaming within EU is pretty much a seamless event - just turn it on and don't go overboard on live video. What about those Asian friends coming to visit? Guys have hope - in general 10EUR will get you 1.5GB - much less than what you get back home, but at least something.

Jumping to the East side becomes another story, so I want drop some numbers here and make a strong point to buy a local SIM as soon as you land (in fact there are plenty of counters as soon as you exit the airport) to avoid nasty surprises. Advice inspired by a conversation to a fellow Aussie, who was paying 10AUD a day for less than 500MB roaming in India.

2018 pricebook follows below, decreasing price per GB:
  • Japan: Find all details here, I hope it gets easier and cheaper for the Olympics, bit sad they are only sold at BIC Camera - in contrast with ASEAN countries and even Australia, where you can get it at the airport.
  • South Korea: Local tourist SIM at KT shop, 38500KRW roughly 30EUR for a SIM valid during 15 days. In the web it says data free, but last summer I was paying nearly 10EUR per 1GB data, cash and in-store top up.
  • Australia: 10AUD for 5GB valid during a week, various packs available here, comes with a cute little "yes" thing to open the SIM card place in your iPhone that I am keeping with me at all times, best branding ever.
  • Thailand: DTAC tourist SIM bought right in the airport (cash only), 15EUR for 6GB during 7 days - several combinations available.
  • Indonesia: Telkomsel tourist SIM from mall, they call it internet vaganza and comes in various options e.g. 5.6EUR for 14GB during 30 days.
  • Malaysia: Digi tourist SIM card bought in the airport incredibly cheap, 4EUR for 9GB during 7days, 8EUR for 25GB during 15 days.
  • Bangladesh: Grameenphone tourist SIM card bought in the airport (in fact the only reason to bring local cash, as VISA on arrival can be paid in USD), 4EUR for 3GB valid 28 days
  • India: Airtel Bharti SIM card, 18EUR fo 1GB per day

Why is having a local SIM so important in Asia and particularly in South East Asia? 
  1. Grab App is the ASEAN Uber - they shut down operations - so you need data connectivity and preferably a local number to be able to order taxis and pay with card, without being busted with the tariff.
  2. Traffic jams are our daily bread and butter, trust me, 2h locked in a vehicle go much faster if you have mobile data (you can work or bitch in social media or a combination of both)
  3. Taxi drivers may get lost and you would be shocked how many of them cannot use Google Maps - yes this is based on personal experience - so it's great to be able to guide them
  4. On-the-fly check in, hotel rearrangements or a tripadvisor investigation, as hotel WiFi is not as stable as you would expect.
  5. How else would you learn about the environment while generating a bit of social green eyes?
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Bangkok - Yodipman aka Pak Khlong Thalat, a 24x7 flower market

bangkok flower market
Bangkok's streets can be a bit overwhelming - noise, cars, smells, rats, people, heat... You name it! But hey this is our lifestyle, take it or leave it. Here's a video where my favourite Thai brand so far, Hamburger Studio, illustrates our daily struggles in the concrete jungle - the taxi driver and the water under moving tiles on the street, boy they are just SO ACCURATE.

After a day of sightseeing the main temples - or the Golden Buddha in Chinatown - visiting another noisy-smelly market, may not be the most appealing thing to do. Which is where Yodipman (also known as Pak Khlong Thalat) comes in. Located just south of Wat Pho (the temple of reclining buddha), Bangkok's flower market is open 24x7 and ready to deliver a quick yet memorable experience of color, perfume and beauty.

Pending a visit to the Museum of Floral Culture I can just say that I have never seen a country where flowers are so ingrained, ubiquitous and central to daily life. Everywhere you go, there are stalls and people buying. I am not 100% what they do with them - just bring home? or to temples? large or mini-sized ones - like those you'll see in your hotel, mall and respectable office building.

I am a sucker for beauty and perfume, so of course a visit to this market was one of the highlights of my Thai life. I will continue to bring home flowers, think of a bunch of roses and a beautiful arrangement of delicately packed jasmine for less than 5EUR and to bring all my visitors to this magical place.

Las calles de Bangkok pueden saturar un poco - ruido, ratas, olores, gente, calor, basura, motillos... No falta de na! Así es la vida en esta jungla de asfalto, como podéis ver retratada magistralmente en este video de mi marca favorita, Hamburger Studio.

Después de una mañana explorando templos, quizás meterte en un mercadillo no sea lo más apetecible y por eso os propongo la alternativa zen que representa el mercado central de flores de Bangkok que tiene dos nombres, Yodipman flower market o Pak Khlong Thalat. Situado muy cerca de los otros templos - nosotros llegamos caminando desde Chinatown, pero realmente está más cerca de Wat Pho - abre 24x7 y ofrece una experiencia memorable, sin desviarte mucho del plan inicial.

Nunca he visto nada comparable a lo que tienen los Thais con las flores y por lo tanto, visitar este mercado es una forma de experimentar la cultura local, un poco más de cerca. No es un sitio demasiado turístico, carece de Chinos y de explicaciones, que tendremos que encontrar en el Museum of Floral Culture que anda todavía en mi bucketlist.

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Miss Amy vs me

Pronto se cumplen mis primeros seis meses en Tailandia y en general, estoy bastante contenta porque he conseguido reconstruir mi vida bastante rápido y adoptar nuevos hábitos como ir al gym por las mañanas antes del trabajo, darme algún masaje de vez en cuando y bailar en Domingo, que me ayudan a mantenerme sana tanto física como mentalmente. Me pena no estar estudiando Thai, ni viajando tanto como cuando Enrique y yo estábamos en Japón, pero mi realidad es muy diferente - tengo más responsabilidad, viajo bastante, trabajo overtime por defecto y algunas noches o findes si la situación es lo suficientemente crítica, con lo que hay que priorizar. La salud, es siempre lo primero.

Hace casi 6 meses, conocí a la señora Amy. De hecho, el mismo día que visité mi condo por primera vez. Imaginad a Isabel Preysler Thai, manos cubiertas de diamantes, Vuitton colgando del brazo, piel nívea, peinada y maquillada, de una apariencia tan impecable como sus refinadas maneras y su acento Británico. En aquella ocasión, la señora Amy se presentó y trató de llevarme a ver uno de los muchos apartamentos que posee y alquila en mi barrio, Ari. Pero tenía a unas amigas y al final no fue posible.

Me volví a encontrar con ella, de nuevo en la recepción de mi condo, el día que me mudé aquí. Muy amable, se alegró de que hubiera encontrado casa y me ayudó a contratar el servicio de limpieza, haciendo de traductor espontáneo con los que trabajan en recepción.

Entre tantos viajes, no la volví a ver hasta el Sábado pasado, cuando salí de casa a dar un masaje mientras estrenaba pantalón de finde chillax, en amarillo me encontré con ella de nuevo, como no, en la recepción de mi condo. Andaba sorprendida "porque hacia mucho que no me veían los de recepción, a los que pregunta por mi" y le expliqué que había estado de viaje, enganchando inesperadamente las 2 semanas en España con otra en Singapore. Como siempre, me dijo que me veía muy guapa y me halagó, por llevar "un color tan acertado" para este mes.

Al notar mi sorpresa, que crecía mientras procesaba su blusa (también amarilla) con microplisado a la Pleats Please by Issey Miyake - marca que por cierto, tiene una notable popularidad en Tailandia - procedió a clarificar la situación:
En Julio, nos vestimos de amarillo para honrar el cumpleaños de nuestro rey.
Sonreí y seguí mi camino.
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Siem reap - Il Forno

Siemp reap italian restaurant
When you see the bright lights of temple street, turn around and dig deep so you can find the fountain of  reasonably priced food with excellent quality.

Il Forno [WEB] is hidden in a small inner alley, where several good looking restaurants are tucked away from the noise in a relatively small yet welcoming space. We picked it because of its good rating and high probability to deliver on my veggie expectations.

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Angkor VIP tour - Angkor Wat「អង្គរវត្ត」

Angkor VIP tour, Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat「អង្គរវត្ត」
  • Date: Early 12th century
  • Style: Angkor Wat
  • Highlights:  Angkor Wat literally means 'the city which became a pagoda'. It is the World's largest religious monument, apogee of classical Khmer architecture built by king Suryavarman II as capital and state temple dedicated to Vishnu, complete representation of the Hindu universe featuring a broad moat, towers in temple-mountain formation and carvings extremely rich in detail. Dedicated to Vishnu, symbol of Cambodia featured on the National flag. Save for the last of the first day, its W orientation provides gorgeous lightning during the golden hour.
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