Letters for my kids to read in the future, from around the world now

Archive for the month “March, 2015”

798 Art District, Beijing

Dear G & B

Just returned from a two week trip to China, Thailand and Malaysia. My first stop was in Shanghai (which I love) and stayed in an old 1920’s hotel near the Bund which was wonderful. Ate well, walked around, met nice people. I was introduced to some clothes manufacturers and taken out to dinner by them and then they give you both sets of clothes as gifts. The old lady who owned the company was very taken with the photos of you I showed her (“ke ai!” which means cute!).

When I arrived in Beijing the taxi driver took me to the address of the hotel I showed him but seemed to stop in the middle of an industrial estate and proceeded to tell me that I was at the right address. I told him I wasn’t, that I needed a hotel and I wasn’t getting out of the cab. I called the hotel and soon enough a little porter emerged from the darkness and helped me with my bags. The hotel was in the 798 Art District and was so cool that it decided not to have a sign or any sort of frontage. Once inside it was really nice, full of contemporary art, great rooms and a really different feel.

I had some spare time the following day, so strolled around the massive art district which is made up of old factories now converted into galleries, shops and cafes. It is almost European/American in the way it has been developed and feels very different to the rest of Beijing. I tried to find Ai Wei Wei’s workshop but couldn’t so instead I took a look around the UCCA gallery and some smaller ones, full of interesting work. Had a little stop off at a cafe and watched the cool kids of Beijing walk by, models on fashion shoots and other foreigners following maps. Photos are some of the things I saw.

2015-03-16 14.35.17 2015-03-16 14.35.01 2015-03-16 14.12.50 2015-03-16 14.10.29 2015-03-16 14.10.12 2015-03-14 16.24.41 2015-03-16 14.40.35 2015-03-16 14.51.42 2015-03-16 14.38.47 2015-03-16 14.25.34 2015-03-17 13.45.14

I went on to the warm of Thailand and Malaysia, which was nice and then home to you two. You have chickenpox so are going a bit stir crazy being confined to the house, but are both hilarious. We’ve been playing Star Wars Lego “miggie-figures” and lots of living room acrobatics. Check out how crazy you both are:

2015-03-29 11.11.25-1 2015-03-28 13.46.08


Dad x


The People I meet

Dear G & B
I spend a lot of time being driven in cars on the way to airports, or in hotels surrounded by hundreds of strangers, or in fleeting meetings on foreign shores with people I may never see again. We chat, we make small talk and share observations, trying to pass time or make small bonds. But sometimes we share intimate secrets, because there is a safety in our obscurity. It is a lesson in humanity to ask strangers about themselves. Nobody is what you expect them to be because you are always using yourself as a marker of normality, but to the majority of the planet you are a weirdo. Your beliefs, your tastes, your habits, your superstitions, your family – all of them are nowhere near everybody else. The further you travel the more you realise this, but you also realise that these differences are small and in fact we are mostly the same. We are driven by the same instincts. We all put our trousers on one leg at a time.
In the past few months I have been driven by:
– An ex policeman who spends at least 4 months a year on cruises to the Caribbean
– A father of a professional ice hockey player who works on steam railways in his spare time
– A man falling asleep at the wheel because he has to drive 18hr shifts in Kuala Lumpur
– A Chinese girl who spoke flawless English but had never been to an English speaking country
All of these lives, so many events, tangent timelines and everyone of them different. But actually all driven by the same needs and wanting similar things out of life.
And basically that is the problem with the world: we are more connected than we have ever been to each other. Through technology and travel we can communicate better than at any other time, but instead of finding out how similar we are and just getting along, we focus on the differences. The rise of nationalism and fundamentalism are worrying as we really should have got over all that by now.
So when you meet people, find out about them. You might think they are weird to begin with, but actually they are just like you.

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