Miami - Wynwood streets

Colorful murals around Wynwood streets, Miami
LOVE is the answer

Once you are done with the walled "official" gallery, make sure to book some time and explore the area randomly - which is the best and only approach that works. A lovely middle-aged gay couple rom New York stopped us to inquire where to go for more walls, to which we answered to be checking out with no plan :) this is part of the beauty of travel, getting lost is a great way to find yourself. Well not too lost... That's panic mode, yes I trust you get the point.
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Miami - Walt Grace Vintage

Walt Grace, vintage cars and guitars, Wynwood, Miami

Artsy neighborhoods often hide pearls like Walt Grace Vintage. Store concepts that you have never seen and probably will never see again. This is why I love them so much...

Walt Grace Vintage is a unique gallery focuses exclusively on the finest investment grade automobiles and vintage guitars. Over 25 years buying, selling and collecting, they procure the finest examples of both for their collection. Lovely place where both discerning buyers and casual observers can experience the beauty and artistry, common to vintage cars and vintage guitars.

The store is located right after you exit Wynwood Walls, make sure to drop by.

This post goes to our friend Mario, huge fan of cars and guitars, as well as the one who introduced me to Enrique more than 10 years ago. Mario, we hope you can visit this place one day, we could only think of you while exploring it - but make sure to come after you reach some kind of C-Level position somewhere, to actually be able to afford something... Otherwise it will be extremely painful, so we rather encourage you to avoid it.
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Miami - Wynwood Walls

Wynwood Walls, Miami

If you've been with us long enough, you probably know I am a sucker for modern art.

Turns out the phenomena of great art arising amid rusted warehouses is a Global Phenomena, simply because artists have a tendency to be broke but love to gather with their-likes in areas where it's somewhat affordable to live and rent a working space. We have visited some of these spaces, remember:
- 798 in Beijing
- Meatpacking in New York
- Södermalm in Stockholm
- Maboneng in Johannesburg
- Kloof & Long Street in Cape Town
- Kampong Glam in Singapore
- Daikanyama & Cat Street in Tokyo - as well as other areas further out, like Koenji
- Margareten in Vienna, Malasaña in Madrid...

Wynwood is a district in Miami where street art beats Berlin. Sorry Banksy, but seriously the size and condition of these murals are something new to me. We started exploring the area with the main hub, where a collection of selected walls is showcased together with a small museum where one can see the work of the same artists in alternative media. Very cool experience to go from mural into wall painting or sculpture.

Wynwood Walls [WEB] opens 12-20, Wed-Sat - for more Miami goodness, checkout our Miami Guide!!! We went there by rental car, but Uber is also a good choice if you won't move much further.

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Miami - Bass museum of art

Bass museum of art Miami

Bass Museum of Art was unfortunately under renovation when we visited in December 2016, but guy's don't miss the big opening in Spring 2017, when it will re-open after renovation, as the largest art museum education facility in Miami-Dade. What we managed to visit is the temporary exhibition at the Miami Beach Regional Library space, in conjunction with the outdoor exhibits laid gracefully in the park by the entrance. Out of them all, the colossal colorful stack by Ugo Rondinone stole my heart.

Ugo Rondinone (born 1964) is a Swiss-born mixed-media artist living in New York. His work frequently employs the experiential qualities of the everyday, often reflecting on the boundaries between fiction and reality. The cairn in Miami is small sample of his work, with the masterpiece Seven Magic Mountains, currently on display along Interstate 15 just south of Las Vegas (May 2016, May 2018). This installation of seven neon stone cairns painted in artificially bright yellows, purples and other colors is constructed from car-size stone cut from a Nevada quarry and stacked 10m high.

A cairn is a man-made pile or stack of stones. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: Càrn (plural cairn) which translates to "heap, pile up, accumulate" or more literally "heap of stones". Cairns historically have been used for a broad variety of purposes, from prehistoric times through present day. Dating back to prehistory, examples of cairns can be found having been used for many functions including those built as burial monuments, defense and hunting structures; ceremonial assemblies; astronomical formations and location markers (specifically for buried items such as caches of food or objects) as well as trail markers, among others. In modern times, cairns are most frequently used as trail markers throughout many parts of the world, in diverse climates and terrains. They vary in size and complexity, from loose conical rock piles to delicately balanced sculptures and elaborate feats of megalithic engineering. Occasionally, cairns are also decorated, either for increased visibility or religious reasons.

In addition to Rondinone's work, the park is full of interesting pieces - being the lady of Avocado our second favourite! 

For other cool spots, recommendations & maps - check out our Miami guide post!

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Miami - Art Deco

Art deco walk around Miami

Affectionately known as the "Art Deco" District, the Miami Beach Archirectural District embodies the design continuum of the city from its early development period in the 1910s to the construction boom following World War II.

South Beach was reborn as an ArtDeco haven after a hurricane in 1926 destroyed much of the city.  A decade of intense building later, Miami became home of the world's largest collection of Art deco architecture - 960 spectacular buildings in total.

The district was listed on the National register of Historic Places in 1979 largely through the efforts of Barbara Baer Capitman, founder of the Miami Design Preservation League. At the time, it was the youngest district on the National register as many of the buildings had not yet reached 50 years of age.

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Miami - South Beach

Colorful baywatch towers in South Beach Miami

Always a fan of long walks along the beach, but never imagined it could look so cool! There are many stories about Waikiki and Bondi, but South beach wins by far.
Which one is your favourite?

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Welcome to Miami

South beach, Miami
My schedule was rather busy since we came back from New Year holiday. I hosted one week-long event at work, Enrique left to Stockholm, I attended another week-long event in Bangkok, while preparing for MWC and another trip which popped up in February out of the blue. Still, I wanted to drop this post, as I am super excited to tell you all about our pick for 2016's long vacation!

Miami is a magic city covered in pastel hues. From the sunsets through the baywatch huts down to art-decó buildings, up to the skyscrapers and along the Wynwood walls. It is a colorful, fun, artsy, blessed with great weather and latino-caribbean influences. Given the amount of long-haul flights landing here, it is a perfect base to start a holiday in the Caribbean, if you are like me and love the balance between cities and islands - Singapore and Boracay, Bangkok and Koh Samui, Seoul and Hawaii, are some examples of this blend I consider the perfect vacation.

Anytime. Avoid April - October as it gets humid in May and then, it comes the hurricane season.

The first five nights, we stayed at a private apartment managed by Miami Beach International Hostel [WEB]. Extremely good location in South Beach - we had great breakfasts at DULCE Café and sushi stravaganza at the nearby Iron Sushi for dinner. Really ample apartment, new and clean.

The last night, we stayed at Nautilus, a SIXTY hotel [WEB], also in South Beach. The concept offered by SIXTY is really interesting, a collective of five boutique luxury hotels in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. Artful experiences within sophisticated backdrops that seasoned travelers will find home.

We spent a total of 5 days in Miami, 4 days on the way into the Caribbean and 1 day on the way back to Europe. I think that's more than enough to get a taste of the city. Renting a car is a good idea, at least for a couple of days, as the distances are long so Uber becomes more expensive than rental. Parking is not so straightforward though and rental cars are scarce, plan in advance. You can explore South Beach by foot and take an occasional Uber to a party in the city - see larger map here.

1. South Beach
We walked all the way North through the Art-Decó architecture jungle that makes South Beach a unique show, make sure you cross through the Bass Museum of Art, which is really worth it. Once we hit the Fontainebleau, featured in Brian de Palma's classic Scarface, we walked back along South beach and ended the day with some shopping around Collins Ave (street 6-8) - check Victoria's Secret and DASH, the multi-brand store owned by the Kardashian Klan.

2. Wynwood, Downtown, Little Havana (Calle Ocho), Coral Gables, Coconut Grove (Cocowalk)
After picking up the rental car - there's a fun story behind how we ended up on a BMW 640i - we admired the colorful murals, cool stores and kistch galleries around Wynwood, the artsy heart of Miami. Drive a bit North and park close to the Bayside marketplace - plenty of parking, to explore some of the most iconic buildings in town. Time for Cuban heritage in Calle Ocho, the heart of Little Havana, where the Cuban community of Miami gravitates around. After, we dropped by Coral Gables, my cousin's hood - blend between Desperate Housewives with The Fresh Prince - and finished with some dinner at Coconut Grove, a shopping district nearby - park at Cocowalk, the heart of it.

3. Vizcaya Mansion, Key Biscayne, Design District 
Besides shooting 1000 videos while driving the convertable over the bridge, we explored Vizcaya, a mansion that could have well inspired the photography on The Great Gastby - see its post to understand why. Come early as we arrived at 11 and waited 45min to get in. Then it was Biscayne time, the island where people like you and me actually spend their weekends, between sports and barbecue. We took a detour, to check out the fancy stores around the Design District - several blocks North of Wynwood - just to spend some time before returning the car.

4. E11EVEN [WEB]
The third night, we discovered Miami Vice. As a huge Nicki Minaj fan, I knew she was performing on NYE in this club in Miami. But we already had booked flights to spend NYE in San Juan, and the 340$ entrance fee was a bit too much - even for a talifan like me. We agreed that, if Nicki is going, then it must be good right? And it was, but not as I expected - turns out E11even is open 24x7, yes it is a club, more precisely a strip-club where I have seen some of the best pole performers EVER climbing a 5m high bar, doing all kinds of acrobatic tricks and ending up with some dance while customers rain notes on them. Once these 2 girls are finished, a guy in suit collects the notes into some metal bucket, a new pair comes and it keeps rolling. Not what I expected, but hey definitely an interesting part of the local culture - if you ever tried pole dancing as a sport, you will certainly appreciate the difficulty of the show much more.

5. Venetian Pool [WEB], Lincoln Road mall
The Venetian Pool is the only pool listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It opened in 1924 as "Venetian Casino" which was created from an old coral rock quarry abandoned in 1921 on 4 acres (16,000 m2). The pool was founded by George Merrick as part of the development of Coral Gables, which was created in Mediterranean Revival style and utilized a large amount of coral for ornamental features of the community. We were truly unlucky to arrive after a 25$ Uber, just to discover it is temporarily closed during winter season (Dec-Feb) for renovation. So we walked all the way to Coconut Grove, had some lunch and head back to South Beach, for movies at Lincoln Road mall followed by dinner at our usual, Iron sushi. After all these years abroad, we can't really watch dubbed anything anymore - just feels silly. Going to the cinema is something special, particularly because since back in Spain, we are apart from each other 6-9 months per year.

6. The Everglades
After the shooting at Fort Lauderdale, it took much longer than expected to make it through the airport on the way back from Puerto Rico, so our last night became a lovely dinner at Nautilus Hotel - super cool if you can afford it, and if you cannot it's OK to book that last night there. We had the morning before heading for our afternoon flight, so we registered for a tour in the Everglades - we recommend to do some research online, as depending on how many intermediaries are involved you may pay anything between 30$ to 70$ for a bus ride, a boat ride and some alligator. Bit of tourist trap, but cool ride around the mangrove.
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Bangkok - The real Fashionista Alert is Terminal 21

bangkok fashion shopping at terminal 21, dothbkk
Oh boy. Those who know me well, have already heard me talking a million times about Seoul having the best fashion (and cosmetic) shopping in the World - been saying this since 2010 and been consistently shopping in all my trips there, amazing stuff like my coat and my mum's scarf here, this dress, this dress, all these cosmetics - korean brands, this dress, my 2 last pairs of glasses, this suit and shoes for Enrique, the tiny decoration I wear on my coat... You get the point.

But during this trip to Bangkok, I have seen the light. In 2015, my colleague took me to Terminal 21, a mall located at Asok BTS station as well as rather close from our lovely hotel Aloft - super recommended if you come, which is built around the concept of airport terminal. The first floor is Rome, the second is Tokyo, the third is London, etc. Thing is. The Tokyo floor is actually the closest I have ever seen to Seoul in the whole Asia (well where I've been to, which is a lot) - maybe there's something similar somewhere else, but I haven't found it yet - in terms of quality, design, good price.

I landed at 15. I was in the hotel by 17. I left by 18 and spent nearly 3h exploring the area and buying some goodies, no great quality pics here as I forgot my camera. But LISTEN. I paid 130€ for what you see below - 3 tops + 2 skirts of lovely design AND quality, that I can use to work in these hot countries of SE Asia. Enough said. They are all from the same brand, it is called DOTH [WEB] and made in Thailand - I found their instagram which is full of ladylike inspiration cause the web is pretty empty atm.

bangkok fashion shopping at terminal 21, dothbkk
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Bali - Sanur Reklamasi

Sanur beach, Bali

En la serenidad de la playa de Sanur todo el mundo se siente bienvenido. Turistas que quieren probar el viento alternan con familias locales que pasan el día y pescadores que recogen marisco al atardecer. Hay algún que otro resort que convive en armonía con el entorno donde todo parece moverse a cámara lenta, incluyendo una bandera con el mismo mensaje que hemos visto en muchos carteles durante nuestras vacaciones:
Teluk Benoa Reklamasi
Básicamente, el movimiento "for Bali" rechaza un decreto impuesto por el Gobernador de Bali, justo antes de terminar su legislatura, en el que se abolía el estado de "reserva marina" en la bahía de Benoa, para convertirla en distrito de uso general i.e. permitir la edificación descontrolada de hoteles y resorts. Básicamente, con la cláusula No51 del 2014, se abolía la cláusula 55 del 2011 que la declaraba protegida.

El plan maestro consiste en reclamar 838 hectáreas de la bahía, para convertir el 75% de las mismas en terreno edificable que por lo tanto, elevará el nivel del mar 1.6m. Esto causará el desplazamiento de 7.9 millones de m3 que inundarán las zonas colindantes, destruyendo el manglar y toda la biodiversidad que conlleva.

Este tipo de tragedias paradisíacas me causan una melancolía extrema. Me deprime ver que en todas partes (industria o gobierno) hay líderes incapaces de decidir estratégicamente, para sólo mirar por su propio beneficio. Cómo pueden vivir ignorando las consecuencias a largo plazo que este tipo de decisiones tienen en la propia economía de la isla y en la ecología del planeta, en última instancia? Aún reduciéndolo a términos económicos - ignorando por completo el impacto medioambiental, que es por supuesto importantísimo - el business case no te sale positivo, si lo estudias a medio-largo plazo. Si te cargas todas las razones por las que la isla es especial, te vas a cargar tu propio negocio. De ahí mi repulsa hacia toda esta situación y continuada intriga, acerca de cómo pueden dormir algunos por las noches.

Si algo nos llamó la atención al pasear por Nusa Dua, fue lo vacíos que estaban aquellos hoteles de superlujo. Quizás una pequeña muestra de la poca falta que hace más edificiación en la isla. Os dejo unos carteles cuyo diseño gráfico me llamó la atención (por la isla había muchos más, con cangrejos destrozando excavadoras y criaturas mitológicas frenando la construcción, que no he conseguido encontrar).

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Bali - Pura Goa Lawah

Pura Goa Lawah, bat cave temple in Bali

One of nine sacred temples on the island of Bali, the cave temple known as Pura Goa Lawah is home to thousands of bats. Local legend says that it hides a river of healing waters, a titanic snake called Vasuki wearing a crown while feeding on bats and also, that the cave connects to the largest and holiest temple in Bali, Pura Besakih - that cannot be visited though as the area is controlled by the mafia, who'll either charge tourists a lot of money or beat the hell out of them.

Created sometime around 1007 by an Indonesian saint, the structure revolves around the cave entrance, being ministered to and provided with prayer on a daily basis. The temple did not really have a name when it was built but because of the thousands of bats that live in the cave, the temple was called Goa Lawah - meaning "cave" and "bat" respectively. The extent of the sacred cave has never been explored but Pura Goa Lawah is host to devout worshippers from all around, who come to pray at the mouth of this impressive bat cave.

It is possible to explore the area near the cave but also another temple which is located at the top of the mountain.

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Bali - Padangbai & Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon, Padangbai, Bali

A medida que te alejas del sur de la isla, Bali se vuelve más verde, más antiguo y más encantador. La zona de Padangbai está en la costa Este, a unas 3 horas en coche del centro. Es un camino largo que ofrece escapadas perfectas, para bucear o hacer snorkel en las que merece la pena invertir el tiempo. Aunque no nos diera tiempo a visitar Gili Trawangan, creo que es un viaje muy apetecible. Sales en ferry desde Padangbai y pasas ahí una noche. Aunque esté bastante preparado para los turistas, la manera en la que los locales se refieren a esta isla indica que tiene una magia especial.

Preparando este post, descubrí un accidente ocurrido en Septiembre de 2016, en el que uno de estos barcos explotó, hiriendo a varios pasajeros y dejando un muerto. Aunque Bali sea un paraíso, común en muchas revistas de viaje, lunas de miel y blogs como este, hay que tener en mente que Indonesia, como Filipinas, es un país en vías de desarrollo, donde las cosas son baratas pero las regulaciones son más laxas. Igual que se ha hundido más de uno de los ferries que te lleva a Boracay desde el aeropuerto más cercano, han pasado cosas así. Es una lástima, pero explorar el mundo siempre conlleva un riesgo asociado y por eso, hay que sentirse agradecido cuando una escapada transcurre sin sucesos.

Dicho esto, volvamos a Padangbai, donde pasamos un día, haciendo snorkel en Blue Lagoon y explorando un templo muy especial. Blue Lagoon es una playa que me habían recomendado mis "expertos en Bali", esos expats basados en Jakarta que se acercan por la isla siempre que pueden. Hacer snorkel en esa playa es una experiencia interesante. Hay un punto en el que el fondo pasa de ser azul claro a oscuro - una línea muy definida - y los peces empiezan a aparecer. Vimos un par de triggerfish, preciosos con su millón de colores brillantes, pero tuvimos que salir por patas, al ir sin aletas con las que protegernos de ellos (son peces que se ponen violentos si nadas sobre su nido, mejor alejarse). Lo único negativo de Blue Lagoon es la corriente. Hacía mucho tiempo que no pasaba tan mal rato para salir de una playa, pero me ví nadando y nadando sin conseguir llegar a la orilla. Así que ya sabéis, snorkel sí pero con cuidado.

La regla de oro del snorkel es comenzar la vuelta a la orilla cuando todavía vayas sobrado de fuerzas, para reducir el riesgo asociado a una corriente fuerte como a la que nos tocó enfrentar aquel día... Puedes reponer energía con un zumo natural, en el único chiringuito de la playa.

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Bali - Tari Kecak Uluwatu

Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
Excited on the way to the theatre - see the mass of people already there behind my back...

Kecak originated in the 1930s in Bali but has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance which is considered sacred and shall never be performed to tourists or for entertainment purposes. The most common piece is the Ramayana Monkey Chant, a piece performed by a circle of at least 150 performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting "cak" and moving their hands and arms. Actors in the scene depict a battle from the Ramayana, where the monkey-like Vanara led by Hanuman helped Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. Interestingly enough, this is exactly the same story we see in the walls of Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.

But if Thai are primarily Buddhists while Balinese are Hinduists, how could this be possible? The answer is that "The Ramayana" is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. Since it is very old but useful, as it depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king, the Ramayana was an important influence that spread around different countries in Asia. This is how the characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana became fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. As there are many versions of the Ramayana in Indian languages, besides Buddhist and Jain adaptations; and also Cambodian, Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, Lao, Burmese and Malaysian versions of the tale.

To participate in the Kecak dance, you should buy the tickets as soon as you arrive to the temple (at least 1h before the show) use the time to explore the area and then rush to the scene, so you can grab a good seat to experience the local art in one of its purest forms. While the public is mostly foreign, it feels like a very pure and untouched event within the local culture. A rare experience these days...

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