Imagining a new world

A few days after the dawn of the new year, I found myself on the move earlier than usual. It is not usually until the second week we hit the ground running. After all, who would fly to Singapore just for an art exhibition? But I took it on because, given the pandemic, its theme seemed timely and powerful. Despite a brief downpour, it was a rewarding experience. Made of earthy materials, some pieces evoked a refreshing sense of self-renewal. At the fifth edition of S.E.A. Focus, a showcase and h

Equality still a dream

In the lead-up to its second reading, the civil partnership draft bill marks a decade since its inception, dating back to a gay couple who were denied legal recognition in 2012 because the law limits marriage to a man and a woman. Given the conservatism of earlier decades, civil partnership was "the first brick" at a time when marriage equality was almost inconceivable. However, history is often ignored. Despite its long journey in conjunction with the new bill, the uphill push for marriage righ

Italians in Siam

When Mariannina Zuccaro arrived in Bangkok for her marriage with Mario Tamagno, an Italian architect who worked in Siam from 1900-1925, she encountered a stark contrast between her fiance's self-effacing character and monumental creations. According to Italians At The Court Of Siam, she referred to a photograph of the inauguration of a railway, on the back of which Tamagno listed everybody around King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), except himself. "Rather than appear amongst such august company, the u

From nature to your wrist

In the rural Japanese town of Shizukuishi in Iwate Prefecture, a new wooden studio for Grand Seiko blends with its natural surroundings. A swooping roof and clear glass window offer a sublime view of Mount Iwate, over 2,000m in height, where rocks unfold their true colours when snow melts. Set in lush landscape, the studio bears witness to wild creatures, including antelopes and foxes. In the midst of nature, craftspeople, known as takumi, are breathing life into mechanical watches. It is a plac

When art gets stifled

'Art is short, a case is long," read a banner. Students apparently hijacked the well-known motto "art is long, life is short" by Prof Silpa Bhirasri, the father of Thai modern art, in protest of Chiang Mai University's legal action against its own lecturers and a student who "trespassed" on the art centre to exhibit works, some of which might challenge those in power, last year. It is a case in point for stifling democracy in Thai art. On Nov 10, university instructors Thasnai Sethaseree and So

Facing uncertainty head on

What do you feel at 25? Many young adults are struggling to navigate through a muddle of insecurities, whether it be jobs, relationships or something in between. Similarly, so does the 25th edition of the Singapore Writers Festival. After two years of being digital, the annual literary event is back full scale. Despite grappling with a quarter-life crisis, she is laughing out loud, celebrating the time of her life. "Just as anyone else turning 25, we are presented with the opportunity to think

Nationalism is not the answer to land woes

Nationalism is not the answer to land woes Resistance to the controversial foreign land ownership bill is giving rise to the term khai chat -- used to denounce traitors who sell the motherland -- being used in political discourse. Whether a person is a government critic or supporter, he or she believes their ancestors fought very hard to protect our land and it should not be given away to foreigners. I do not dismiss their concern for national sovereignty, but their argument should be based on

For a better future

After the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, Hamida and Marsela are happy to be back in school in Thailand. Despite being far from home, they are not only taking interesting lessons but growing up in a safe environment with new friends and teachers. "I love it when I can choose what to study. When you have the right to choose your passion, you learn what you are interested in. It is something I always dreamt of," said Hamida in an interview before she returned to an afternoon class. After the Ta

A slice of Andaman paradise

After six months of closure for the rainy season, Koh Lanta is now reopening to the outside world. Due to mass tourism, Koh Lanta has grown from island communities to an urban sprawl of hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. In 2019, nearly 300,000 tourists poured in. But with the pandemic and suspension of international travel, tourists vanished and businesses came to a halt. However, after more than two years, Koh Lanta is coming back to life again as the country is fully open to foreign visito

Roaring back

Sir Jackie Stewart, an F1 legend, stared intently at the screen. He pointed when a driver came close to overtaking his rival. He also raised his hands to show distance between the two cars. Although he's been retired from high-octane motorsport for five decades, he still offered an insightful commentary, showing how life and racing are closely intertwined. "If you overdrive, you will make a mistake, particularly in a place like this. It is a tough race track. A lot of tight corners and concrete

In a king's footsteps

The sea breeze blew in as a group of visitors arrived at Mrigadayavan Palace, the former summer retreat of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in Cha-am district of Phetchaburi. After more than two years since the beginning of the pandemic, the heritage site remains closed for a restoration project that unveils traces of its early days. The establishment of the summer palace from 1923 to late 1924 stemmed from the king's illness. King Vajiravudh, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, rested at the seas

Remnant of the past

Embedded in Satun's stunning natural beauty are the fossilised remains of marine life that existed up to half-a-billion years ago Satun was once submerged in the southern hemisphere until the movement of tectonic plates pushed the terrain up. Covering an area of 2,600kmĀ² in four districts, its geopark is home to the region's most ancient marine fossils such as nautiloids dating back to the palaeozoic era (between 500-250 million years ago). "In 2018, Unesco designated it as the country's first

A cosmopolitan kingdom

A ferry sailed through the confluence of two rivers that form the heart of Bang Kacha, the ancient capital of Ayutthaya (1351-1767). Its gigantic fort was once the first sight of friends and foes. Remains of foreign settlements overlook the bank of the river, a reminder of how cosmopolitan the city was. "It was like Sukhumvit Road in modern-day Bangkok, bustling with foreigners who came here by ship," said Assoc Prof Santi Pakdeekham, a historian and vice-secretary of the Office of the Royal So

Thailand's Big Brother is upping the ante

In the late 18th century, British philosopher Jeremy Bentham visited his younger brother, Samuel, in Russia, who arranged unskilled factory workers in a circle so that he could supervise them. Inspired by this principle, Bentham developed "the panopticon", an inspection tower surrounded by cells. Its uniqueness was that it enabled a watchman to monitor prisoners without them knowing they were being watched. Modern philosophers revisited this discreet surveillance idea. Among them was the late F

Abode of the gods

Angkor Wat and surrounding businesses are once again upbeat as tourists return after a lengthy absence Cicadas sang a chorus as the forest opened out. I peered into the darkness and traced the distant contour of a monumental religious complex, a remarkable feat of human civilisation. Keyed up with my first visit, I crossed a floating bridge, a soon-to-be-dismantled construction, over a large moat in the midst of lush vegetation. Before dawn, I arrived at Angkor Wat. "Sour sdey [hello]," said P

Food as rebellion

In the years following the Siamese Revolution, the new government took steps to improve Thais' eating habits 'Eating food is our right. If our tongues aren't made of free will, it will be difficult to establish democracy. If we aren't allowed to eat our favourite food, how can we have desired politics?" said Asst Prof Chatichai Muksong, lecturer in history at Srinakharinwirot University, who has studied the topic of food for over two decades. He and two other experts recently joined a public f

Reviving a lost art

Sitting in the front row of an independent movie house, Piak Poster, 90, looks at a photo of his original work on screen -- the pulpy handmade bai pid or film poster of Fah Talai Jone (Tears Of The Black Tiger, 2000). However, he could not remember how he made it, let alone its tear-jerking storyline and characters. "I don't know what these scenes are about. I haven't watched the film," he said. "A movie promoter would tell me about key scenes and I would design and paint them." It was his las

Recalling Bangkok's dark side

Many places are veiled in darkness. Arguably, they were once -- or still -- a reminder of things that should be left unsaid. You may entertain the thought of them, but should not make them known. Who wants to hear of social evil and death? But these places can offer a deeper understanding of what our city is made of. Due to its royal roots, Bangkok earned the name Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which literally means the "great city of angels". However, the capital has been home to people from all walk

A hundred baht and a dream

An online lottery service has put the squeeze on the ubiquitous local vendor, leaving many with no means to make a living Before a lucky draw this week, a middle-aged woman stared intently at a stall in front of Bangkok's shopping mall. She prayed and plucked three lottery tickets, 100 baht each, out of endless possibilities. "I hope you will win the prize," Sudta Tamnudee, a vendor, told her first customer. She has sold lottery tickets for two months to supplement her income. Born in Ubon Rat

Love is pure gold

Shortly after an adorable male idol enchanted all eyes in an advertisement, fans not only made it viral but also left no stone unturned in their search for cosmetic products he endorses. "It is out of stock," tweeted one fan, with a photo of an empty shelf. "I have got the last one!," said the other, triumphantly. Fans used and reviewed the products on social media at their own expense. Some joined promotional activities while others curated products their idol endorses. "My adorable presenter,
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