Category Archive for Art + Design
I came to Israel to report on Tel Aviv’s modern fashion designers and nightlife. However, I was as excited to see Jerusalem, the centuries-old city of miracles and blood.
I didn’t grow up in any religion, but have always been interested in ancient cultures. Spending a day in Jerusalem turned out to be one of the highlights of this tourism board trip, and reminded me of why in-person travel is so important. Read on for magic moments that you couldn’t get from reading a book.
Our wonderful guide Uri Golani took us for a day tour of Jerusalem, about an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv. We stopped to take in this view of the Temple Mount and Old City. For centuries, this tiny piece of land has been sacred to several religious groups including the Romans, Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Many travelers come here as a spiritual pilgrimage. But even if you’re not religious, Jerusalem is an monumental place to visit, especially with a guide like Uri who can explain the city’s complicated history.
(Photography in this post by me and Melissa Rundle. Magic moment #1: how awesome are these Asian tourists?)
Everywhere I looked, I had questions. Who are these men? Why are they swaying their heads? Why do the gravestones look like this? (Uri explained these are Hasidic or ultra-Orthodox Jews, “shuckling” back and forth as they pray in a traditional funeral. Idolatry is a no-no in Judaism, hence the plain markings.)
I can’t begin to describe the layers of human history at Temple Mount. So many different rulers and religions, over the centuries. At the top, you can see the surrounding Walls of Jerusalem, built by Suleiman I during the reign of the Ottoman Empire.
The most famous (or at least shiniest) landmark is the golden Dome of the Rock. After the Persians invaded in the 1st century, they built this Islamic shrine. In the 1990s, the roof was refurbished by King Hussein of Jordan.
(Note: you aren’t allowed to enter most religious sites unless your shoulders and legs are covered. Don’t worry, I brought a scarf!)
All over Israel, we saw people offering camel rides. Many of the animals wore colorful Bedouin garb. Magic moment 2: I tried to pose with a camel, and it grabbed onto my shawl and started chewing!
We stopped by the Church of All Nations — Catholic, but with an open altar for other Christian denominations. It’s next to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus supposedly prayed before he was crucified.
Magic moment 3: My filmmakers and I laughed at a sign that said “Please, No Explanations Inside the Church”. Then we fended off vendors trying to sell us olive branches, which may or may not have come from the garden…
It’s an uncanny feeling, walking in halls where miracles supposedly took place, inspiring everything from paintings to wars. This is the Coenaculum (Uri explained: “Dining room”) on Mount Zion, where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper.
Magic moment 4: we ran into a group of Jewish girls on a field trip. They were curious and giddy as kittens, and crowded around filmmaker Melissa when they realized she could speak some Hebrew. Since she’s Canadian, they asked if she liked Justin Bieber. When she answered no in Hebrew, they cheered at her language skills… and then their faces fell because they’re devoted Beliebers!
Magic moment 5: eating Jerusalem bagels, sold from a wooden cart by the Gate of Zion. Did you know that bagels are oblong and chewy here? We tried one with a pinch of za’atar, an aromatic green mix of Middle Eastern herbs.
By now, I’m sure you get my point — travel is filled with unexpected moments that make the experience magical. We stumbled upon this group of boys goofing around. Many people live in the heart of Jerusalem – it’s not just a tourist site — and you get peeks of everyday life like clothes hanging from windows.
And we came across several bar mitzvahs (coming of age ceremonies for 13 year old boys). This ages-old ritual has become a modern affair: the group had colorful balloons, an announcer with a portable microphone, and a film crew to rival mine.
Nothing encapsulates “traditional meets modern” more than an Orthodox Jew talking on his cell phone, overlooking an ancient city. (What’s the story behind the hats? Why and how do they curl their sidelocks? So many questions… thank goodness for our patient tour guide, Uri!)
I couldn’t wait to see the famous Western Wall, aka Wailing Wall. It’s a remnant of the enclosure around the Jewish Temple courtyard.
I’ve seen quite a few photos and videos of this spot, but still, it took me by surprise. I didn’t realize the wall is divided into two gendered sections. The male area was lively: some people were dancing in a circle, others chanting aloud. The women’s section is quieter; many sat in plastic chairs and read the Torah.
Before entering, everyone has to scan their bags and walk through a metal detectors. Guards make sure you cover your shoulders and legs.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable. We spotted a tour group of extremely wealthy Russian ladies. Each wore thousands of dollars worth of designer clothing, and shoes that weren’t exactly made for walking. (Those sunglasses are Prada Baroques.)
Filmmaker Melissa touches the wall and puts a note in one of the gaps. Every year, more than a million people leave written wishes or prayers in the cracks of the wall. These are collected and buried, in accordance with Jewish law.
Yet another fun moment: we learned that these “stirrups” are for people to stand on, so that they can look into the different sections.
Quite a different feeling in the Muslim quarter. Stalls line the cobbled streets. Vendors tried to entice us with fresh pomegranate juice and religious memorabilia.
Uri showed us the Stations of the Cross on Via Dolorosa. This is the path Jesus walked, with the cross on his back, on the way to his crucifixion at Golgotha. We continued the journey inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where pilgrims can light candles.
Ready for a transition? We went from the Mount of Olives (from which Jesus ascended to heaven)… to a Mound of Olives in the Machane Yehuda Market!
This festive Jerusalem marketplace sells food and goods, like colorful kippahs or yarmulkes (caps worn by Jewish men).
We got “Shuk Bites”, or vouchers that let us taste a variety of snacks from the market. These included mint tea, stuffed grape leaves, red kubbeh soup (with dumplings) and imaruly (a pizza-like pastry stuffed with cheese and spinach).
When we stopped by a juice bar, they offered us ghat, or qat! Legal in Israel, people chew this leaf as a stimulant (the Somalian pirates used it to get high before attacking Captain Phillips and his crew).
I found the leaves too bitter and spat them out. You have to chew ghat for at least an hour before it has any effect, so I can’t tell you how it feels…
Visiting Jerusalem left my mind reeling with questions and memories. I hope this post conveys what makes travel so special. I can tell you stories and show you images, but there’s really nothing like being somewhere in the flesh, reacting to the smells, sounds and people around you.
We were lucky to have Uri as our guide — he became our friend during this week-long trip, and we shared many laughs and discussions. I hope you’ll ask him to be your guide in Israel; info is on his Uri Golani Tours site.
I enjoyed writing this post, and hope I got the facts about Jerusalem right. If there’s anything that you’d like to clarify or add, please leave a comment or chat me on my Facebook.
What makes travel important to you? Would you want to visit Jerusalem?
I loved getting to know the glam side of Bangkok, thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. There’s so much more to this city than backpackers, banana pancakes… and dare I mention ladyboys?
See for yourself, in the latest episode of my Business Insider travel video series. Watch it here — isn’t Bangkok’s pop culture fascinating?
Photos and video by me and Seby. Our Thai adventure included disco clubs, skeleton corsets, and an amusing encounter on the way to Siam mall!
We also visited two sweet designers, who are making Lolita and Japanese-style clothing (here’s a full post about ChuChu). Wonderful to see how the subculture is thriving in unexpected places.
I couldn’t have stayed in a more beautiful hotel, the Sofitel So. They even served absinthe in the lobby.
VIP members get access to the club lounge, which is stocked with food, cocktails and fashion.
Christian Lacroix designed the interior. His colorful couture is unmistakable.
The ground floor contained a Bonnet chocolate shop. I spotted Little Prince sweets, and Parisian shoes and handbags.
Sofitel So BKK is inspired by the five elements. I stayed in this funky Earth-themed suite.
The other themes are Water, Wood, Fire, and Air — represented by modern cloud art.
The entire hotel had glorious views of Lumpini Park. This is a far cry from the Khao San Road hostels…
Stark art is everywhere. I saw a child climbing on this white deer statue.
I spy Ted the Bear in the gift shop.
The lobby’s design mixes traditional and modern.
Also check out the romantic photoshoot I did inside the Sofitel So Bangkok. (My hair is now blue; these are older photos).)
Please take a minute to watch my Bangkok travel video, and leave a comment to let me know what you think!
Did this series change your impressions of Thailand? What is the loveliest hotel you’ve ever slept in?
I’m glad you enjoyed my first post about Zagreb, Croatia. Ready for more? On Day 2, I dove into the indie side of the city.
Andrea’s friend, Dražen Goreta, showed me his many projects — all of which have to do with indie music, art and culture.
PS: I’m hiding something under my top… read on to see what’s underneath…
Dražen owns several music and nightlife venues, including The Beertija (Pavla Hatza 16). It’s a patio and pub covered in rock memorabilia, serving over 120 kinds of beers from around the world.
Inside, a wall of photos includes Courtney Love, covered with the signature of Lana Del Ray.
Dražen is passionate about indie and punk rock, and wants to create a space for music-lovers in Zagreb. He plans on building an “rocker hall of fame” with sculptures of underground musicians, like Joe Strummer of The Clash.
We also visited his Tvornica Kulture or Culture Factory (Šubićeva 2), an oasis of alternative rock in Europe. Bands like Japan’s Shonen Knife, Pixies, Public Image Limited, and The Mission have played here.
Doing my best Yoko Ono impression. There are three halls (with a capacity of 300, 600 and 1600), each designed for the best possible sound quality, as the logo hints.
In addition, there’s a sushi restaurant, bar, and outdoor cafe. Like at Warhol’s Factory, you’ll often find underground types hanging around.
Music fans always stop by Rockmark (Ulica Petra Berislavića 13), a basement filled with rocker clothes, books, and memorabilia. I wanted the David Bowie Dark Side poster.
Eco-conscious hipsters also love Brokula&Z, a local clothing label by famous marketing firm Bruketa&Zinic OM.
The undergarments and T-shirts are decorated with the “idealistic broccoli and snarky bird”, two characters inspired by the firm’s partners. (Zagreb photography by Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle.)
Dražen’s ventures extend to restaurants too. We ate lunch at Ribice i Tri Točkice (Preradovićeva 7/1), a seafood bistro seafood. In Croatia, the food is lighter and more ocean-based, as opposed to the meat-and-potatoes heft that characterizes Eastern Europe.
We began with a white-fish spread with olives, eaten on bread. I ordered sea queen, a juicy local fish that was de-boned at the table by the waiter. White wine and ice cream rounded out this perfect meal.
I adored the quirky, colorful, twee art by Vojo Radoičić displayed all around the restaurant.
Down the street, Dražen also owns an Italian trattoria, Tratoria Al Pitor (Bogovićeva ulica 3).
The distinctive art is also by Vojo Radoičić. Each table is hand-painted with a different charming image.
Now, I’m ready to lift up my shirt, and show you what’s under… or rather, who. It’s Miffy! (Yes, I have a lot of this bunny’s goods, including the Miffy designer lamp.)
I have Miffy nail art too, by Glam Nail Studio. This studio, based in Vancouver BC and specializing in Japanese nails, has won multiple awards for their work. You can see more cute pictures on LaCarmina Instagram and Tumblr.
What’s your impression of the music and underground venues in Zagreb, Croatia? Did you know the city had this alternative side?
After our shopping escapades at Siam Discovery, Seby and I were glad to discover Thailand’s spiritual side.
Our personal tour guide, Sylvie from Destination Asia, brought us to the famous Buddhist temple of Wat Pho. (2 Sanamchai Road, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok.)
This is one of the oldest and largest wats (Buddhist monasteries) in Bangkok. Entry fee is a low 100 baht, or $3. The walled complex has 16 gates, guarded by menacing Chinese stone giants.
Wat Pho is a historic center of education for Thai massage and medicine; it’s considered the first public university in the country. Many of the walls showed instructive yoga diagrams.
There are over 1000 images of the Buddha here, surrounded by colorful, gold-accented roofs.
One courtyard held statues imported from China and India. Interesting to see the different ways the Buddha is depicted in art.
Mythological lions and other spirit animals peered from the gardens.
We went inside to see the Reclining Buddha statue, a golden marvel that measures 160 ft long.
Who knew, the Buddha has big feet! The soles are laden with mother of pearl, and carved with stories and figures from Siddhartha’s life journey.
Seby and I also went into this meditation room, where people prayed at the Golden Buddha’s altar.
Once again, I accidentally violated the dress code! I thought I was sufficiently covered-up. But apparently, your shoulders cannot be on display at all, and a long skirt can’t have a slit in it. The security officer glares as I put on skirts and scarves, provided by the temple.
My companion, on the other hand, was appropriately dressed. For future reference, one must wear long pants (no capris or shorts) and skirts must reach below the knee, without any slits. Shoulders and chests should be covered.
Close-up of the dynamic rooftop, with its gilded layers and fiery shapes.
The silhouette of spires against the sky.
We glimpsed many Buddhist monks in orange robes, as well as young temple boys. Sylvie reminded us to maintain distance, out of respect. We learned that laypeople can become monks for a few years, or even a few weeks, and then go back to regular life.
Walking around, we saw that Wat Pho is also populated by dogs and cats!
The story’s a sad one: these pets were abandoned. Thailand doesn’t have many resources for animals, so they are left at Buddhist temples, in the hope that the monks will take care of them. While a bit scruffy, this dog looked calm in front of the famous Row of Golden Buddhas.
This white cat came over to say hi. Some were very skinny and lacked tails… what a difference from my rotund Basil Farrow.
The compassion of the Buddhists keeps these creatures alive, but the monks have few resources themselves. If you’d like to help, look up Temple Dogs Voluntourism programs, where travelers can help care for animals in Thai monasteries.
Having Sylvie as our Destination Asia guide made this experience special. We had a memorable conversation about Buddhism, and learned about the history and architecture in a natural, relaxed way. (I found out these mounds are called chedis or stupas, and they contain relics such as the ashes of monks.)
In a packed trip, we appreciated this moment to reflect and think about what’s truly important. I hope you’ll get to experience Thailand’s gorgeous temples for yourself.
Have you visited a monastery like this, or read books about Buddhism? Do you consider yourself part of any religion?
I leave you with another spiritual statue — this one Hindu, and found in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, of all places. The “Churning of the Ocean of Milk” or “Samudra manthan” depicts a mythological tale of devas and asuras. How funny to see the Gucci sign in the background.