TEMPLES OF BANGKOK/1

Let’s continue our exploration of Bangkok from some of the most famous temples in the city. Temples in Bangkok are an endless number, the real main attractions. They characterize the skyline of the city, appearing suddenly between skyscrapers. There is always, in every corner of this metropolis, a strong connection between modernity and tradition, and this gives charm to the streets of the chaotic city center. Im my opinion, visiting temples is hightly recommended noth only for the historical sides, but also ’cause it gives you such a peaceful and warm feeling inside. Here a short presentation of some of the temples we visited:

 MARBLE TEMPLE (Wat Benchamabophit)

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Located in the Dusit District, the construction of the temple began in 1899: literally the name means “Temple of the fifth King located nearby Dusit Palace”. Designed by Prince Naris, half-brother of the king, is built of Italian marble. It’s unusual for a temple to show elements made by Carrara marble, such as pillars, a marble courtyard and two big singhas (lions) guarding the entrance to the bòht (ordination hall), but it’s not all that surprising when you consider how enamoured Rama V was with Europe. The windows outwardly are framed by gold carvings, in striking contrast to the sparkling white marble walls, like also the red-terraced roofs, with golden details on the edges.

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The interiors are decorated with crossbeams of lacquer and gold, and the walls are painted in gold&white pattern all around the royal blue wall behind the central Buddha image, which guards the ashes of King Rama V, buried beneath the statue. The silent cloister around the temple houses 53 stunning images of Buddha. All around the main building there is a nice walkway with red bridges crossing the canals filled of blooming lotus, and Buddha statues guarding the Temple. Just an heavenly place where get lost, especially early in the morning, with just few tourists around.

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WAT PHO (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

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Buddhist temple complex in the Phra Nakhon District – one of the ancient in Bangkok – is located in the Rattanakosin Island, near the famous Grand Palace. The temple is first on the list of six temples in Thailand classed as the highest grade of the first-class royal temples. It is associated with King Rama I who rebuilt the temple complex on an earlier temple site, and became his main temple where some of his ashes are enshrined. The temple was later expanded and extensively renovated by Rama III. The temple houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46 meters long reclining Buddha. The temple was also the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, and houses a school of Thai medicine. It is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage which is still taught and practiced at the temple.

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The chapel and the reclining Buddha (Phra Buddhasaiyas) were built by Rama III in 1832. The image of the reclining Buddha represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana and the end of all reincarnations. The figure is 15 mt high and 46 mt long, and it’s one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand. The right arm of the Buddha supports the head with tight curls, which rests on two box-pillows richly encrusted with glass mosaics. I was curious to know what’s inside the imposing statue, and they tell us that the figure has a brick core, which was modelled and shaped with plaster, then gilded.

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The soles of the feet of the Buddha – just as imponent as the body -, are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified, such as flowers, white elephants, tigers, etc. At the center of each foot, a circle represents a chakra or energy point. There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor representing the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha: visitors may drop coins in these bowls as it’s believed to bring good fortune – and it also helps the monks to maintain the wat -. That’s why during the visit you’ll be accompanied by a constant, jingling, characteristic sound.

to be continued..

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CITIES OF THE WORLD: BANGKOK

Bangkok, or Bangrak, capital of Thailand. My trip in South-East Asia starts here, in this bustling city that never sleeps. There are so many things to see and do in Bangkok, and it’s difficult to speak about all of it. For this reason, I decided not to make an itinerary, but instead to get carried away by the sensations, the colours, the smells of Bangkok, only describing what we sew and felt.
And the first impression we had, dazed by a long flight, was of an”organized” confusion. Sights of skyscrapers and traffic jam  filled our eyes, proceeding towards the city center.

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We stayed in Silom, the commercial quarter of Bangkok: Silom is the financial heart of the city, with banks, luxury hotels and residence: quite plain, isn’t it? Indeed, it’s a strategical point to start your exploration: even if greatly connected with skytrain and metro, we choosed to explore it walking. On both sides of Silom Road, the main street, you’ll have sights of the everyday life in Bangkok: people making and eating breakfast at the countless stalls; preparing food and beverage to sell, or jasmine and other flowers wreaths to bring as offer in the temples.

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You’ll learn fast that Thai people in Bangkok eat at every hours, both standing or sitting in the kiosks, and even while they’re riding bikes (yes, even in the traffic jam): eating don’t stop them to do other things in the meanwhile, they’re always rushing somewhere else. Soups, fried chicken, rice, shrimps or meat skewers are only few examples of what you could taste by the streets, together with smoothies and fresh fruit like mango and watermelon.

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By night, Silom quarter is pretty much animated: every day from 6.00 p.m. takes place Patpong Market: not really a typical market, they sell souvenir for tourists, however it’s well-known in Bangkok. (also for the red lights district just around the corner, probably). However, is recommended for dinner : the area is full of restaurants and bar: you could start the evening watching sunset by the terrace of one of the many hotels skybar – if you’re in Silom, from LeBua Palace – and then take dinner elsewhere after a stroll on the main road.

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Our journey in Thailand starts here: from an ants’ nest always feverish, and busy. Bangkok will surprise you in many ways: at first glance, me too I felt so far away from my usual life, from my datum points, that I had quite a shock. But slowly, I gained confidence with the surroundings, with the kindness of the people, with this metropolis.

to be continued..

SUMMER MELANCHOLIA

Hello! How are you? I never thought I would be absent from the blog for all August, but between work and finally the summer holidays, time just flew.
In these days I’m just trying to recollect emotions, images, faces, scents of the places we visit in the last two weeks in Thailand.
I’m trying to put into words all the sensations, the emotions that this trip has given to me, and I’m realizing that it’s a difficult task.
Because Asia has a special charm. It bewitches and enchants you, with its own strenghts and its flaws. Asia has so much to teach every time you meet it: always new knowledges, new flavours to absorb. Asia is the land for discoverers “par excellence”, the country where to get lost and then find yourself.

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Even now, with enchanted eyes, I’ll tell you about “my” amazing Thailand, so stay tuned and get ready to leave with me! Cris

LONDON: A STROLL IN KENSINGTON & NOTTING HILL

Hello! In recent days we heard a lot about UK and its particular situation, after deciding to abandon UE. For me it’s still hard to imagine Great Britain no more part of Europe, but i can only assume that we’ll “absorb” what happened. Today more than ever I feel close to Londoners and I feel nostalgic about the beautiful City of London.

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This post is about the trip of my last time in London, in January 2015, and today I’ll bring you in two well-known areas not to miss if it’s your first time in the City. Today we start our stroll from Brompton Road, to take a quick look at Harrods, Mecca of the shopping centers. I’m not that passionate about department store, so I didn’t head out on the long queue at the entrance, but if you love shopping sure this is your place.

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From here you can venture into the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, immediately west of the City of Westminster, real nerve center of modern London. The Borough of Kensington and Chelsea host several museum (like the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum), universities, embassies,  and lot of exclusive residential areas of the City. Continuing towards South Kensington, you could stop by the Royal Albert Hall, one of the most famous concert hall. The busy Kensigton Gore separate the Albert Hall from the Albert Memorial, another building in honor of  Albert Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria.

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In 1851, the Great Exhibition (for which the Crystal Palace was built) was held in Hyde Park. The exhibition was a great success and led Prince Albert to propose the creation of a permanent series of facilities for the enlightenment of the public in the area, which came to be known as Albertopolis. The Hall was constructed mainly of red bricks, with terra cotta block decoration. The dome on top was made of wrought iron and finally glazed.

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Before proceeding, you should go back to the City of Westminster and pay a visit to Buckingham Palace, residence and administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch of UK. If you’re lucky enough you could be present for the daily ritual of the Changing of the Guard; take a look also at the waving flag on the rooftop: when the Union Jack is lifted, the Queen isn’t in the palace: if not, you’ll see the Royal Standard flag.
During XVI/XVII centuries, Buckingham Palace was only a rural area of the city of Westminster: purchased as hunting lodge, successively it was used for the silkworm farming with King James I’s patronage. In 1700, it becomes property of Duke of  Buckingham, from which it derives the name. He builded a first abode – Buckingham House – where nowadays lies the residence. The first king to come into possession of the House was George III in 1762. The arch of Triumph, (today Marble Arch) was the entrance of the Palace: at first it was where now there is the exterior facade, but it has been removed under Queen Victoria to make some room for the enlargement of the Palace. Queen Victoria was the first to live there together with her husband, Prince Albert, and the 9 sons starting from 1837. She added new rooms, among which the Ballroom, and a brand new wing. At the death of the husband, when the court entered  a perpetual mourning, the works stopped and haven’t been completed.

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Returning in Kensington Borough, you sure will notice many residential sections – with beautiful pastel coloured houses -, of which Notting Hill is maybe the most famous; it “starts” from Notting Hill Gate, (also name of its Tube station) until Portobello Road, where takes place the characteristic market. The street took slowly its shape during XIX century, settled between the two big areas of Notting Hill and Paddington. Thanks to the rich middle class of the City, its shops and marketplaces rapidly flourished.

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Portobello Road especially owes its fame to the daily market which encourages a lot of tourists, in particular on Saturday, when also many antique dealers are taking part in it. The scenery is really cozy and familiar, thanks to the abundance of tiny shops and the Victorian architecture of the buildings.

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to be continued..

THE FRIDAY NIGHT RECIPE: PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS

Hello! Finally a bit of time to write about yummy recipes!Rarely I can cook and post the recipe right away, so this is the dish of last Friday : I remake it twice just to participate to Fiesta Friday!This is the first time for me trying this combination of ingredients, and i totally love it, I saved the recipe for other times.

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INGREDIENTS (4 persons):

– 350/400 gr pasta (any kind)
– 18-20 zucchini blossoms
– 1 zucchini
– 1 carrot
– Tropea onion (some slices)
– 6-8 thin slices pancetta (or bacon)
– extra-virgin olive oil
– salt&pepper
– sweet paprika (optional)

PREPARATION:

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Start the preparation washing and cutting the vegetables: once you have washed the zucchini blossom, let them dry on paper towel; in the meanwhile, cut into small pieces the carrot and the zucchini.
At the same time, in a large frypan put some extra virgin-olive oil and the slices of Tropea onion, and let it warm up a bit (without overburning the onions); then put the carrot and the zucchini already chopped into the frypan; add salt, pepper and a sprinkle of sweet paprika if you like it, and let them cook for a while on low heat. In another small frypan, put the slices of pancetta and let them go till they become crunchy: then remove them from the stove and put the roasted slices on paper towel.

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In the meanwhile, you can start cooking the pasta putting it in a capacious pot till boiling; now cut the zucchini blossom, previously drained, in slices and add them to the other vegetables.
When pasta is ready, transfer it in the frypan together with the vegetables, melting very well for a few minutes. As final touch, add the crispy pancetta/bacon (I crumbled it to distribute it better).

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Buon Appetito!Cris

POSTCARDS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD: ROME

I love Rome. I really never heard someone bringing back a negative memory about this beautiful city.

I’m always astonished by the magnificence of its monuments. So many centuries of history enclosed into few kilometres walk.

I’m always overwhelmed by the warmth of the people. Romans are open, cheerful, even a bit “caciaroni” (that means noisy), yes, and i love it.

Rome is romanticisme: walk on sunset following the Tevere River, take dinner in one of the tiny restaurants in Trastevere: is just the perfect way to end the day.

I love Rome from above: go up to the panoramic viewpoints on the Roman hills and enjoy beautiful views.

Rome is perfect just in the way “she” is, with its chaos, its imperfections, its contradictions.

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 ”How is it possible to say an unkind or irreverential word of Rome? The city of all time, and of all the world!”
  Nathaniel Hawthorne (American novelist, 1804-1864)

SALONE DEL MOBILE 2016

Hello!I’m so sorry for the absence during this last month, i couldn’t even read properly the other blogs I follow… phew! I was really busy with work, and had no time to report anything. During April, as usual, took place in Milan the “Salone del Mobile”, one of the biggest display of interior design, as you sure know. It’s always a funny experience, I love to have the chance to see on preview what will be “trendy” for the home one year later.

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This year the leading role was for the kitchens, with EuroCucina, that take place every two years. The real innovation for kitchens will be the games of simmetry/asimmetry between the elements, as well as the modularity: every company is moving in the direction of giving to the customers the possibility to “invent” their own kitchen, mixing two/three kitchen types where before was inconceivable. Another original idea is the chance of personalize cabinet doors with your own drawing/photography: doors are literaly “printed” just like a wall being covered by fancy wallpaper.

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Something new is evolving also for the bedroom: before there was a clear division between wooden and upholstered beds: nowadays, these two typologies are melted together, with wooden panels supporting the cloth-covered ones, creating really uncommon effects.

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Seeing these beds I can’t help quoting Le Corbusier: “L’arte del decoratore consiste nel fare nelle case altrui quello che non si sognerebbe mai di fare nella propria.” (that is – The decorator’s art consists in doing in other people’s homes what he would never dream of doing in his own. -) Hilarious way to see an interior designer, isn’t it? See you at the next furniture exhibition!

Cris

CALIFORNIA OR … DENMARK?

United States are so big and variegated, you sure already know. Few years ago someone told us about Solvang, a small town in California, Santa Barbara County, really particular. Why? Because in this tiny pretty town you seem to be teleported in a Denmark village.

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Solvang means “sunny field” in danish. The city infact was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the midwestern winters. The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the façades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. There is also a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenaghen.

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History tells us that, between 1850 and 1930, a considerable number of Danes left Denmark, which was suffering from poor economic prospects. According to some estimates, as many as one in ten Danes emigrated during this period, mostly to the United States. The most popular destinations for Danish settlers were States like Utah, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

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And now, let me tell you why you should visit it, maybe in a couple of hours, like we did. It’s true that it’s not a main attraction, but it’s funny to suddenly feel the sensation of not being in California anymore.
The architectures will surprise you: there are several windmills that have been converted into small businesses on many street corners. If you look carefully, there are storks perched above several buildings. Horse drawn carriages are a common sight in its streets. Businesses are linked close together and have wood trim on the facades, that are often in the form of a pattern, usually crisscrossed. This gives the city more character.

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If you want to taste something different, pastry shops and bakeries will be your main attraction: you’ll be pleased to find lots of Danish cookies and pastries to taste. If you love chocolate, you’ll find as well great shops: maybe a little pricey, but it’s normal for a touristic place, after all.