From History

People, places and memories from times gone by

Demystifying Wabi-sabi

Photo by Phil Shirley

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of thing unconventional.

While sitting beneath the cherry blossoms at a typical Hanami (“flower viewing”) party in Japan it’s easy to forget that behind the alcohol-fueled revelry you’re actually taking place in a very particular form of appreciation centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

Aesthetic ideals are central to Japan’s cultural identity and the Japanese language has all sorts of fancy words for describing our feelings towards how we perceive the world but underlying them all is the notion of wabi-sabi (侘寂). Read more

Waibaidu Bridge

Smoggy Shanghai

Back in February I spent Chinese New Year in Shanghai and, having eaten more than my fair share, decided that brisk walk was in order. Heading to The Bund we took a leisurely stroll along North Suzhou Road. Read more

Sankeien Garden

Sankeien Garden

Sankei-en (三溪園) is a traditional Japanese garden in Yokohama (1 hour from Tokyo) which was built by a silk trader called Sankei Hara in 1906. It contains many historically significant buildings bought by Hara himself from locations all over Japan, among them Tokyo, Kyoto, and Kamakura. Read more

Rediscovering Koh Ker

Koh Ker

On day two of our trip into northern Cambodia we set off early from the hotel. Owned by the family of a military commander it was situated in the middle of nowhere but, despite looking brand new, nobody else seemed to be staying there. Read more

Overlooking Cambodia from Preah Vihear

Preah Vihear Temple Monk

By far the best thing we did during our trip to Cambodia was to hire a driver for two days to visit some of the remote temples in the northwest of the country. The circular route we took was as follows:

Siem Reap → Preah Vihear (overnight stay) → Koh KerBeng MealeaSiem Reap

Our driver, a friendly guy named Sophea, picked us up from our guest house early in the morning and we drove around 5 hours north over dusty roads to the border between Cambodia and Thailand. Read more

Monks About Town

Wat Bo Monks

Travelling is rarely as glamorous as it’s made out to be and after a nasty encounter with an aggressive Tuk Tuk driver, upon our arrival into Siem Reap, my impression of the city was immediately soured. Read more