Cafe Hopper @ 老舍 [茶馆]

The stage craft of this play was simply excellent. When the curtain was drawn, the buzzing and hustle of the teahouse was felt and we could even smell the breathe in the smell of old teahouse in Beijing. Simply loving the stage. Ok, back to what I feel about the play or my reflection after watching it. I always think that if at the core of art is not human, then art is not art at all. To me all forms of art have to be about people. We cannot move away from this anthropological mission. To me, 老舍 Teahouse is all about people, common people to be specific.

The theme that I keep seeing from the play is that of time. The theme move from the late Qing dynasty when people were concern about the coming of the westerners asked the reformation and modernization that were taking place. Then in Act 2, the play move from the late Qing period to the warlords period or 军阀混战的时代 . The post Japanese occupation period sets Act 3. In all of these three acts, we see the movements and sentiments of common people, people like you and,me. We struggle, we fight to meet ends needs, we change and constantly make changes to fit ourselves to this society. More still, we constantly hope for a better world to come.

The same characters, the same teahouse, from one period in history to another, they hope for a better future, a world with less poverty, less turmoil, less suffering. Sadly, it didn’t happen to the main three characters in this play write. In Act 1, there was the hope of a better future when the westerners came in and everyone was talking about reforms and changes. The reforms did not take place, churches were burnt down and huge sum of money meant for reforms ended up in somebody’s pockets. In Act 2, no more Qing emperor, no more corrupted officials but came the warlords. They hurled bombs and bullets all over just to have a greater share of whatever that was left. The people continued to hope, hope to be better. However, the better things didn’t happen and the poor remained poor. In Act 3, the same people and the same teahouse, the people continued to hope. However, this period of China was only left with the internal strife between the KMT and CCP. At the last scene, we saw the three main casts philosophizing about the society they were living in. 

I was struck by one statement that 老掌柜 said in Act 3, “这茶馆是我的。活也在这里,死也在这里.” This is the sentiment of many in today’s society I believe. This coffeeshop, this town center, this public housing, this community… we live and we die here. It’s these places that connect lives together…It’s these places that chain and bind us together. In the show, it’s the teahouse that connects all the characters together…They talked here, they sell their daughter here, they do their dirty things here, they see changes here and etc. 小小的茶馆带出了人的喜怒哀乐,爱恨情仇。它也带初了人生百态,社会的起落!Another statement that struck me was this, “我们这么爱国家,国家有爱我们吗?” This was said by 常四爷 who used to be a rich man but was imprisoned by the Qing government for spreading messages on the fall of the dynasty which eventually did happened.

The story ended with all three main characters, namely, 秦二爷, 老掌柜 and 常四爷, lamenting over the despair and failures of the country’s development all these years. Eventually 老掌柜 decided to end his life and this coincide with the entrance of the Red Liberation Army led by the Chinese Communist Party.

The Gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper @ Rice (稲禾)by 云门舞集 (Cloud Gate)

I was contemplating whether to use Mandarin for this post or English. Eventually I decided to use English for the post. I set out this year to watch at least one art performance per month for the year 2015. Why? I needed to find inspiration for my poetry writing and hopefully I will be able to publish a poetry collection by the end of the year. Ok, yes, I am working very slowly but I hope I will be able to accomplish this by this year. Let’s keep my finger cross. Rice is my third show for the year and contrary to the general impression of abstractness of this dance group, I find it easier to comprehend than the previous show I watched. The dance piece began with a beautifully crafted and coordinated earth colours from the dancers’ attire. I personally have a soft spot for earth colours. Unlike most dance pieces which has to dance alongside with music, this one began in the absence of musical piece. It began with the rhythm of earth or 大地的心跳. Each thump on the dancers’ feet awakens the heart of our soul…it awakens our senses and invoke our spirit to listen and to feel the life of this earth or 大地的生命. I quietly listened…I silently pondered.

I love the section on Pollen 1 and 2 the most. In these two sections, the dancers wished to express the pollination of crops, birthing forth life in the rice field. The dance portray a couple, from the surface, they seem like they are making love in the paid field…but I seriously think that’s what the choreographer wishes to portray. Making love or having sex is our human way of pollination. Similarly, crops pollinate and birth forth life…birth forth new hope and dreams in the process. However, this life is not complete without the nurturing of the sunlight and the nutrients from the ground or from nature. 生命是要用大自然的灌溉才能萌芽的! So very often, we are caught up with the modern and post-modern crisis of human existence that we forgot that at the most basic, we are mere sons and daughters of nature or 大自然之子女。I love this portrayal of pollination and the birthing of life.

After the great harvest, the land needs renewal. However, often, renewal comes only after a baptism of fire. The farmers would burn down the harvested land and the land will go through a period of purging and cleansing by fire. Thus, don’t despise the fire and don’t shun away from the burning. It is often necessary and essential for the land of our heart or 心田 to be renewed and revived. The dance piece ended with the return of water to the land and once more the cycle of life wheeling and re-wheeling.

I am not a dancer and thus I will not be able to say too much about the technicality of the dance piece but I do feel that the dancers have successfully brought out the essence of what the choreographer wishes to convey to the audience and its easy to know where the dance piece is leading us to.

Oh…just in case you thought that the blog has evolved into an art blog…no…no…no…its still a cafe blog…Art and Coffee are another pair of perfect partners…..

The Gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Fast Food for Thought @ Queen Street and Maison Kayser @ Wheelock Place

Made an appointment one week ago to catch up with an old friend in advertising and media. Our friendship has come a long way and thought of meeting up with her cos I met her up before I went to Bhutan and Thailand. We wanted to just go to any of the restaurants in the mall for lunch, but she decided to change the venue and recommended another place at Queen Street. Queen Street is a place full of arts and creativity. I guess it’s because many arts schools and the Singapore Arts Museum are nearby the area. I personally like this stretch because it is usually not crowded and there is this little Catholic bookshop that sells all kinds of interesting religious gadgets….to better communicate with the divine I guess…something that probably all the iPhone models never really look into…yeah …. All the e-books and e-devotions and e-Bibles….but nothing beats the real stuff. Anyway, we went to this stand alone cafe Fast Food for Thought. There are very few stand alone cafes in Singapore and this is one of the good ones. The interior decor is simple and it has this big board that allows customers to drop in their ping pong balls to vote for a poll. Quite an interesting concept. The cafe has a lot of personality and of course I like the fact that it is not crowded.

I ordered the Thai-fusion fried chicken burger…something like that. Well…the burger looks good and the portion is just nice for me. The only thing I have to say about it is that it is not exactly Thai or fusion. Was rather disappointed by the taste. But if you forget about the Thai fusion element, it is a pretty nice set of burger to have for lunch. I guess its all about naming and expectation. I didn’t try their coffee really and I don’t see many people trying their coffee. I certainly will visit the place again to have a taste of it. Well, the important thing is I had a good catch up with my old friend as well. A great chat over expectations of life and the future ahead. As usual, I have been telling everyone that actually we don’t need a lot of things in life. We can live simple and simply live.

I hop to my next appointment with a colleague. So I was excited about this little cafe hop actually. Have not really visited more than one cafe in a day for a long time. I hop to Maison Kayser a Japanese cafe in Wheelock Place. Nothing much about the decor as it sits right smack in a mall. However, the tarts are really delicious. I ordered some raspberries tarts and I must say that it tastes pretty refreshing. I don’t normally order cappuccino but this time round I did. It was pretty well done and the coffee is smooth and it has a mild after taste of the roast. So in general, not a bad resting place after your shopping in the mall. It really sits right between Wheelock Place and Ion. My colleague ordered a quarter roasted chicken…didn’t taste of it but it smelled good certainly. Worth a try certainly especially if you are laze to go to a cafe in a hidden corner of Singapore.

Cafe is a good place to catch up with people. That is why sometimes I hate it when I see people so stressing up, studying in cafes. It’s not the proper use of a cafe. Cafe is never for work….it was never meant for work or study. You come to a cafe to chill and get connected with people.

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Select Books @ Armenian Street

I was rather tired by the time I bum into this very interesting place. From the outside you wouldn’t think too much of it as a cafe. As a matter of fact, the place is more of a bookshop than a cafe. Once you entered the place, you are brought to a world of literary works. They sell mainly asian collection of books. Thus, if you are into any kind of Asian studies or what…this is a good place to get your resources. It has a good collection of all kinds of books on Asia and Singapore, both Mandarin and English books.

When we arrived at the shop, there was a group of people just sitting down there and exchanging ideas and sharing. I am not too sure what exactly they were talking about…well it’s not nice to eavesdrop right…but they were certainly very relax and chill in a hot Tuesday afternoon. I conclude that this is really a cool place for you to rest your legs and slow down your fast pace life and be surrounded by books.

If you walk all the way in, it has a simple counter selling drinks and some cakes and snacks. I seriously think that the main thing about this place is not the drinks or coffee or snacks…it is really first a bookshop follow by a cafe. I decided to out this down in my blog because I think this is a cool place to just chill out after work or if you need a quiet place just to do your work. The cafe section is pretty retro and it does bring you back to the 60s or even 50s…with the comfort of air-conditioning of course. Just remember that you can’t expect too much from them as a cafe….

The gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: @Cake, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

I was scheduled to have a meeting at 9am, so I decided to wake up early to buy my breakfast before the meeting. I planned to do a take away (Sai Tong Gab Ban) and come back to the centre to prepare for the meeting. After I bought my breakie, I decided to just walk further down the street and to see if there is anything else that I can buy back for the meeting. As I walked and walked, I came across a cafe that I have been wanting to visit since after a few days I got here. Since I still had some time, I decided to walk in and experience this little cafe that looks really rustic from the outside. I went in and I think I found a little piece of heaven in Soi Sarmsibkanya. I love the simple and rustic decor of the cafe and the staffs were very friendly. I tried to disguise as local and of course I did very badly at it. Once I opened my mouth they will know I come from some distant country. I ordered a piece of chocolate cake and my usual latte. Oh guess what, they do latte art here. I was so taken by surprise that I could get latte art here. It was a simple leafy design but I think its pretty cool! I sat down at this cosy corner and the more I spent a minute there, I wanted to order something else to experience the cafe a little more. I decided to order a pasta. Then a staff came and approached me asking about something which I obviously couldn’t quite understand. Later then I knew that she wanted to offer Chinese tea to me.

I must say that the latte is one of the better ones I have tasted here. It has a mild after taste of the roast. The cake is interestingly nice as well. It is soft and it is not as sweet as I thought it to be. The chocolate can be richer though but it is a pretty reasonable piece of cake for just 30 baht. I must say that the pasta was good and very beautifully decorated. The sauce is not too sweet or too sour and just nice to cover the pasta.

My overall experience  there is that the whole place makes me feel very comfortable and at ease. I feel that I can be relaxed there. I am sure that if I am with a group of friends, we would have a lot to chat over a cup of coffee there. Well, if you happen to be found in Nakhon Ratchasima, do look out for this cafe at Sarmsibkanya.

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the gatekeeper

 

Cafe Hopper Review: Weewa Cafe@Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat)

First time in Korat I visted a cafe. This is Weewa Cafe. Thanks to the staffs at Alpha Students’ Centre. They decided to bring me to this cafe. The cafe has a very rustic courtyard. You will be greeted by a stretch of koi fish and some sitting area as well. However, honestly you would’t want to be sitting outside because it can be pretty hot in the noon time at Korat. Given the hot weather we rather be sitting indoor with air-conditioning. When I went in, the thing that really caught my eyes was the stained glass window at the sides. They are very simple stained glass window but it gave the cafe interior a very retro feel.

Because this is a totally new environment to me, I wanted to try something different too. I ordered the iced caramel boom coffee. I also ordered a lemon pastry. I must say I am still not satisfied with the coffee here. I am not sure if it is the way the barrista did it, but the coffee doesn’t bring out the after taste and you really do feel like you are just drinking soft drinks. But I must say this as well, the pastry is quite impressive. The lemon pastry I ordered tasted very rich and every mouth of it really tasted lemon and giving a very refreshing touch to our taste buds. I was also impressed by the banana chocolate cake. There is really like real banana in the cake and the sponge tastes rich with banana.

We didn’t sit there for very long but it was quite a good chill out. The atmosphere is a plus for this cafe and needless to say, the pastries. I guess the coffee thing is really a nation-wide thing. Generally, its not easy to get good coffee in Thailand. They still have a long way to go before gourmet coffee can take off.

the gatekeeper

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Cafe Hopper Review: Settler’s Cafe@North Canal Road

There are some places that you shouldn’t go there alone. Trust me, Settler’s Cafe is one place you should not venture alone. This is a niche cafe! This is a cafe, although simple but with a lot of personality and character. It is a board game paradise for board game lovers. Once you step into the cafe, you will be greeted by these whole shelves of board games. I am serious….it’s really a whole series of shelves so fully packed with games after games. While most cafes will put their emphasis on the food and beverages, this one has its focus on games. That is personality. That is not to say that they have compromised on the quality of food.

I ordered their purple dinosaurs drink and the drink looks good and tastes good as well. It’s basically soda mixed with blueberry juice. I really love the colour of it. For food, I ordered one of their signature dishes, tumeric chicken. To my pleasant surprise, it tastes very well and the tumeric is not too strong for me. Well, the best thing is it is boneless. I love the fries because it is hot and crisp.

Well, yes, I felt a little out of place because while the rest came here to play game with two or more companies, I went there alone. I couldn’t be playing game on my own! Hahaha! If you are a serious board game lover, this is one cafe not to be missed. You’ll get good food and at the same time great entertainment from the so many selection of board games. Oh yah, do your reservation with them to avoid disappointment.

The gatekeeper

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