Asian Civilizations Museum – Singapore

This museum really should be a ‘must visit,’ if you should be visiting Singapore. I’m not saying: ‘go to Singapore right, solely because of the presence of this museum.’ No, I’m just saying that if you happen to be in Singapore and you don’t stop by, you are probably a horrible human being. That’s all.

The collection is wide and varied and while not every single culture in Southeast Asian can be represented, nor every culture represented equally (in terms of space and available collection), but I can’t think of single, culture (or civilization) specific exhibit that gave its subject short shrift. As you might expect from an island nation, island and sea-going cultures were widely represented, as was the influence of ever present Buddhism.

They also had the most wonderful exhibit on a medieval, Middle Eastern trading ship. It had carried a cargo of goods from the Mediterranean to China and then loaded up on Chinese porcelain to take back, but had sunk on that return voyage.


Ceramics & Alpacas

On our way to visit an alpaca farm (long story), we stopped at the craziest ceramics factory. They had a big yard that was a Tim Burton-esque wonderland (though his Alice in Wonderland movie; that sucked; I mean good Tim Burton).

Inside the large warehouse itself, people were busy making stools, tables, pots, jars, and more, decorating them all by hand.

Later, an alpaca chased my better half around.


H Gallery

We visited a couple of small galleries in Bangkok, but the H Gallery was the one that blew me away. They had works on display by Jakkai Siributr (a Thai artist) and Sopheap Pich (a Cambodian artist) downstairs and some large paintings by a third artist (whose name I forget upstairs).

Pich’s work (which is what you’re seeing in the picture). Her wall-hanging constructions of bamboo, rattan, burlap, natural and artificial pigments, damar resin, beeswax, and metal wire struck me very powerfully. Siributr’s tapestries, incorporating the small, stone Buddha amulets that you can find for sale next to any wat were very attractive, but only intermittently affecting.

Evernew Bookstore (Singapore)

  Towards the end of our visit to Singapore, we had a little time to kill before we had to board the metro for the airport. So what to do? The National Gallery had a twenty (Singapore) dollar admission and we don’t have that much time, so it seemed a poor investment.

Me being me, I dragged us, our luggage in tow, to the possible location of a bookstore with a possible English language section.

Finally, after rounding the corner from the post office (we wanted to send off some postcards), I found Evernew Bookstore, a used bookstore in a little shopping center.

I didn’t get very far beyond a stretch of shelves (with only a very narrow space for human beings) that was filled with the orange spines of Penguin classics. And what did I find but a book that I’ve been wanting to read that is not in the DC Public Library system and which is never available at your local bookstore: Goethe’s Elective Affinities.

If you’ve ever seen the great Truffaut film, Jules et Jim, you might remember there is a reference to it. When Jim visits Jules and Catherine in their wooded Austrian retreat, he asks to borrow the book, which is a signal that he intends to do a little wife swapping (not really swapping, though; Jim isn’t married; so not so much swapping as just sleeping with his friend’s wife; it’s complicated).


First, let me say that my adoptive family (my better half’s sisters, parents, and extended family) take wonderful care of me. As a history buff (and holder of a BA in history, if you must know), they took me to Sukhothai, the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam (back in the 1200s).

When people talk about Sukhothai, they are actually (most likely) referring to three nearby medieval site: Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai, and Kamphaeng Phet. We checked the first two (Si Satchanalai is about 40 minutes drive from the actual site of Sukhothai.

While many of the important sites are in large, park-like areas, where it is traditional to rent a bicycle and pedal around the area (I did), sites are also somewhat randomly scattered about. There was a wat (temple) by the side of the road, some walls in a highway median, and a good sized wat and associated temple grounds directly behind our hotel.





‘Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death’ By James Runcie

ChambersI saw part of an episode of the PBS Mystery (presumably, originally a BBC thing) of this, which is why I decided to download it onto my Nook for my trip to Thailand. My mother loves British mysteries, but I never got beyond Sherlock Holmes and a couple of Agatha Christie stories.

Well, this is not a novel. Really, it’s a chronologically arranged short story collection. I’m guessing each episode of Grantchester Mysteries is a story from this or another Sidney Chambers story (who is an Anglican priest for the Grantchester parish).

The stories are okay. The landscape and time period (early fifties) done in broad strokes, rather than vivid ones. I’m still not sure what, if anything, makes this dude a good detective.

Also, a couple of things ate at me. In one story, I felt a little horrified by the ending. Did we establish that a doctor was probably giving patients extra large doses of morphine to euthanize them unwillingly and did we then decide that we’d probably (by means of surprisingly secular sermon) convinced him not to do that again and then walk away from it?

And did a priest give disturbingly blase answer to how he was able to deal with having shot people in WWII (before he was a priest)? While we can all agree that Nazi Germany absolutely had to be stopped, I expect my men of God to feel, at the very least, a little squeamish about any taking of human life, no matter how morally justified. Maybe that’s just me.

I probably won’t read any more. I suspect it’s a decent or perhaps even better than average genre book. But it’s not in my preferred genres, so I’m unwilling to cut it the slack I might to a science fiction novel.

I’m Back From Thailand


If Nothing Else

  If nothing else, have finished a lot of reading. Eight books to be precise with a good chance of finishing my re-read of Persuasion and of finishing the Elective Affinities. And of course, there has been much else, rather than nothing else.

The total stands at four fantasy novels (The Blade Itself, The City of Wonders, The Charnel Prince, The Throne of the Crescent Moon), one British ‘cozy’ style mystery (Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death), two philosophy (Gorgias, A Short Introduction to Art Theory), and one poetry (Lunch Poems).

Obviously not the final judge of a good vacation, but being as susceptible to the temptations of technological distraction as anyone, it is good to be in a position to be able to get some solid reading done. I’ll be on my own when I get back (my better half is staying in Thailand for a few months) and can hope to do some more reading when I return, but there is a certain feeling of accomplishment in plowing through a solid number of books.

Wat Chang Lom





    Or Wat Changlom. I’ve seen it both ways. In either case, it is behind our hotel, the Legendha, through an unlocked gate and past a few mildly informative markers. But mostly, it is just there. I got up a little early to walk across and spent some quality alone time with history.

I walked a little further and found a homemade shrine, guarded by some frightened dogs.






On our way to Sukothai – the old kingdom – we stopped here, at the glass temple.