Memories and Life

As summer is coming to an end in the northern hemisphere, I thought about summers past.  Then an interesting thought came to mind.  Memories that I remember most vividly from childhood usually occur in the summer or involved something new, something unexpected.

Why summer?  Why do memories from these two to three months a year are the ones that remain so vividly in my mind?  What happened with the rest of the year?  Why do new, unexpected events leave marks upon the brain?

Of course, memories from the other nine months of the year, which is not summer, also appear now and then, however, I noticed that they are usually memories of time with an “event” to remember.  For a kid, that meant traveling, new experiences, birthday parties or playing with the dog and somethng happens.   I remember seeing Chantilly in France for the first time as we rounded a bend in the road and suddenly before us appeared the magnificant castle.  I remember dropping chocolate on a white sweater while visiting the Loire Valley. Then standing in the rain, looking up at the Neuwienstein (Fairy Tale Castle) near Munich, or having fireworks magically rain down overhead on Luxembourg’s national day.

Usually,  memories imbed themselves when something new happens, something unexpected, or something you’ve never experienced before happened.  Sometimes, it involves planning something mischievous or working on a school project that I found extremely fun and challenging.  I remember one where we had to think about how to prevent an egg from breaking if it is dropped for the second story.  Each team worked hard and may theories developed.  The fun part was when all the different groups had their eggs actually dropped. You could see how different types of packaging reacted as it flew through the air and hit the ground.  Sometimes it involved thinking about the planets and their relations to one another,  or writing up a report on the hazards of smoking.

Yes, school projects do make a difference.  I still, for some reason, remember since grade school that kangaroos have extremely strong tails that could kill you if you were hit by one.  I also remember that a cigarette has over four thousand hazardous compounds.  I remember reading the words, writing about them and feeling in awe.

Why do these particular memories come to mind?  I think it’s because they involved a new experience that made your brain think.   A new activity that challenged the brain, like it has never been challenged or experienced before.  These “moments” where the brain had to really work, really think, are the ones that are imbedded most strongly in the mind.  Stimulate the mind.

Sometimes as we grow older, work, and end up living life in a routine, we lose a bit of that “awe” that a kid has.   We grow accustomed to our life, and do not want to try new experiences.  We do things the way we always do, because that’s the way we’ve been doing it.  I say, keep life inspiring, try something new each day.  If that’s too much, try each week or each month.   Discover the little child inside and explore, for this world is still full of such wonders.  Keep questioning, keep exploring, and keep feeling awed by all around you.

Live life with passion. Life is so much fun, and too short to let it go to waste. Live your life.  Don’t let routines bogg you down!

Old Vienna: The Hofburg

Imperial Vienna is a city that is rich, very rich in both history and culture.  Just visit the Hofburg or the Imperial Palace and you will understand what I mean.  The palace is a complex comprising 10 or more buildings and is reflective of the six centuries of Austrian rule.  Now, most of it has been converted into museums whilst part of it has been turned into the President’s office.  Lucky him to be working in such a beautiful building.

I don’t know where to start, there’s the Albertina Museum which houses one end of the complex and is home to one of the world’s finest collections of watercolours, prints and drawings.  There, I saw breathtaking peices by Durer, Rubens, and Michelangelo to name a few.  I was also lucky enough to be there during the Munch exhibition an got to see some of the most famous works, “The Scream.”  If you are bored of the prints or they aren’t really your taste, you can also walk around some of the newly renovated rooms.  This used to be the residence of Maria Theresa’s daughther, Maria Christina and her husband Duke Albert.  The rooms have beautifully inlayed floors and silk panel coverings.  Exquisite.

If you are a book lover, stop by the Austrian National Library (Prunksaal) and be mystified by it’s wood paneling and flamboyant gold coverings.  Walls and walls of books await whilst the painted ceiling overhead just takes your breath away.

There’s a statue of Prince Eugene in front of the Neue Burg which is a great place to take photos because of its curved architecture added in 1881-1913.  It’s beautiful and grand. It’s no wonder this is where Hitler chose to proclaim “the Anchluss” in 1938.  The Neue Burg was also the latest addition to the Hofburg as Imperial power faded.  A mere 5 years after it’s completion, the Habsburg empire ended.

To see all the glory of the Habsburg empire, do not miss the State Apartments, Silberkammer and Schatzkammer (Treasuries).  In this part of the Hofburg, you will walk through rooms and rooms of ornate interior.  This was the home of Emperor Franz Joseph, the famous Empress Sissi, and even those of Tsar Alexander I.  There is an incredible 10th century crown dating from the time of the Holy Roman Empire and the cradle of Napoleon’s son with Maria Louisa.  There are golden crowns and chairs from the order of the Golden Fleece.  There are so many treasures here you get dizzy.  Museums in other countries seem to have but a fraction.  These are things you read about in history books and see in movies.  These objects from history are behind stories of knights in armour and wars.  Stories of love and marriages and hidden childs.  All this you must not miss.  You could spend a good part of the day roaming around the quarters and delving into the treasures.

My favorite part of the complex, aside from the treasuries, has to do with horses. The Winter Riding School.   By now you probably know I love horses.  This is the Spanish Riding School (horses from Spain bred with Arab and Berber horses) believed to have been founded in 1572 to train riders in horsemanship.  Here, they have shows showing you horses dancing to music as if they were part of a ballet.  The horses leap into the air completely in control of their legs with such grace, you wonder if its really a horse.  And all this, happens amidst a hall filled with carvings, intricate plasterwork and crystal chandeliers.  If you changed the flooring to wood, it could very well be a beautiful ballroom.  That’s how beautiful the building is.  I saw the morning training session, even then it was so beautiful. 

Yes, the Hofburg is large. You could get lost roaming around the place, but its definitely a site not to be missed.  At least see all the treasures.  It is amazing.  You’ll see how rich Imperial Vienna was and still is.


Old Town Bangkok: The Bangkokian Museum

Sometimes you stumble upon unexpected things that really are very pleasant.  I guess this is what you call “Serendity.”  It reminds me of the movie by that name… Anyways,  as it happens upon our “walk” around Old Town Bangkok, we passed by an unconspicuous house with a sign above saying “Bangkokian Museum.”  We had never heard of this place and never intended to visit it, but since we were already passing by we thought, “why not?”  We weren’t in a rush to go anywhere, so lets just explore it.

And so we went in.  To our surprise, this house comprised of a fairly large compound comprising of three houses and a row of shop houses on the side.  Two of the houses and the row of shop houses had been turned into a museum by the owner (72years old) who is now residing in one of the houses.  It was like we went back in time. 

The garden was green with an old wooden gate. The houses were built of wood and in a style that reflected the western influence during the 1930’s. It somehow reminded me of the houses in Kobe, Japan that were very much influence by foreigners living there. There were large patios and open windows that allowed the air to flow through the house. As we walked around, a cool breeze flowed through. Nature’s air conditioning.

A volunteer guide greets us at the entrance.  He looks like he should be out clubbing, with his fancy hairdo, tight jeans and a fancy jacket.  He must be in his early twenties.  Looks though can be deceiving.  He is knowledgeable in history and takes us around the house, showing us this and that and telling us the story behind each item.  Its fascinating.

Old pianos, chairs, old books and personal belongings made me wonder about these houses’s former owners.  It belonged to a doctor Francis, originally from India and a Thai lady.  I see an old weigh scale like I’ve never seen one before.  The dial is written backwards and can only be read in the mirror attached to it.  This is to allow those standing on top of the scale to see their weight.  Amazing.

There is cupboard filled with surgical equipment.  Fascinating.

Old leather bound notebooks still in excellent condition remain and handwritings of his children learning english are on display.  The calligraphy back then was so beautiful, so perfect, I wonder what happened to my handwriting.  With the advent of the computer, I write less and less and my handwriting gets worse and worst. 

And so we spend a good hour wandering around the houses.  Exploring and looking at the objects.  They’re normal everyday objects, but it is reflective of the life back then.  While leaving,  I wonder what people almost a century from now will think about the things we use today….. One day, we too will be just history.  (

Car Free Freedom

Happy Chinese New Year!!! 🙂  Gosh another year has passed and gone before you know it 🙂  Today is the third day of the festivities and the Chinese say today is the day of “travel” and of having fun, so I thought I’d share with you some more of my travels and wanderings around Old Town Bangkok.  Before that though, I thought it’d be fun for us to go car free every once in awhile.  Just for fun.  Just to explore.

It’s amazing how going car-free on somedays can really open up your world.  The other day, walking around the Charoen krung road with Alex, we realized (well he did actually)  that the reason we were able to go around like we did was really due to the fact that we left our cars at home.   How so?  Leaving our cars behind gave us the opportunity to walk around anywhere we want without having to worry about parking. Most importantly, we also didn’t have to go back to get the car.  We just walked wherever we so desired.  It was freedom.   There was no obligation whatsoever to go and get the car. 

I guess its pretty much like when we go on holidays.  On holidays we always seem to enjoy walking around and exploring cities and sites.  We see new things and discover what previously was unknown.  The only difference is that it’s just a holiday in Bangkok, where I spend most of my days.  A holiday without the travel.  A new perspective on the same city.

It’s fun!  Try it for a day if you run out of ideas about what to do and where to go.  Hop over to some area you’ve never explored and spend the day walking around. 🙂  Who knows what you’ll find? 🙂

And Oh, you’re also helping the planet.  Isn’t that cool?

Anticipating Japan: The Land of the Samurais

In less than two day’s time I’ll be on my annual block leave and wondering around the land of the Samurais.  I’ve been planning this trip for years and for some reason or the other never made it.  I’ve made plans before with friends, bought the guidebook and even had an itinerary. Then something comes up and ‘phoof’ it’s off and gone. This time though the trip is set in stone with tickets issued and an itinerary prepared.  

It’ll be by first time in Japan and I’m excited.  I have always loved the Japanese maple tree, the landscape, I die for japanese food, I crave to visit the zen temples and discover some peace, I admire the japanese sense of order and am enthralled by the strangeness of Murakami novels. 

There is so much that is yet to be discovered in Japan.   I grew up with a wonderful Japanese friend, and I can’t wait to see her once again. It’s been many many years.  Much too many.

Yet despite all this happy anticipation and planning, for some reason or the other the week ahead of any major trip for me is always so busy and hectic it always makes me feel so rushed and hurried.  There are always a zillion things I have to get done “before” the trip and make sure that everything is in place.  Sometimes I feel like I’m putting everything in place for a trip like I’d be gone for years and never to come back.  Maybe one day it’d be just like that. Who knows.

I’ve read the guidebook on Japan but I’m sure there are many more things out there that are not in the guidebook.  If you have any suggestions on what to visit (I’ll be around Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo) and what to eat, please let me know! 🙂

Most importantly if there’s anything special you’d be interested in hearing about during my 9 days there, let me know…I will of course attempt to blog as much as possible (depending on where I can get undisturbed internet access)   Keep tuned!