I walked past this building a few times before I chanced to venture in one day, mainly because I wanted to take shelter from the regular afternoon monsoonal downpour. From the outside it’s just another crumbling apartment complex built during the French occupation.
Inside you find the usual collection of parked motos, faded advertising, puddles and tangled electrical cables that cover the walls like vines in the jungle.
From the central courtyard rises a zig zag staircase, you can choose between several stairways to continue your exploration. Many buildings and additions have been randomly constructed over the years and plants, moss and mould have covered every available surface.
It’s not long before you discover the first signs that this is not just another typical rundown residential building, artists are living here.
It’s strange to be reminded that you are right in the heart of the CBD when you look out of a broken window and see the Saigon Skydeck towering above you.
Amongst the residential apartments are many small boutique shops and cafes. It’s quite odd to pass a ragged hole in the brick wall and look inside only to see an elegant young lady reading the newspaper and sipping her chai latte.
This is also a popular place for trendy young Vietnamese people to do cool instagram shoots with a ready made hipster backdrop.
Once upon a time this would have been quite a grand building, there was even an elevator. Sadly it will probably demolished to make way for yet another bland homogenous office tower.
A fashionable young woman checks to see if her favourite boutique fashion store is open.
We are currently filming a documentary on Architectural Design here in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam and had the opportunity to visit the recently opened Cafe Giàn Giáo. In fact it had only been open for four days!
Designed by A21 one of Vietnam’s most innovative Architecture studios, the building incorporates salvaged street utilities such as a concrete electricity pole and an old public address system.
The name Cafe Giàn Giáo means something like Cafe Scaffolding and at first you could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the building is still under construction but a closer examination reveals that the scaffolding is actually supporting a number of traditional wooden fishing canoes all loaded with lush tropical vegetation. The building itself is entirely clad in clear plastic so that patrons can enjoy looking at the plants and the slightly diffused and flickering passing traffic.
The staff are friendly and attentive and the owners are really lovely people. We sampled a delicious beef casserole served with freshly baked Vietnamese rolls.
We were even allowed out onto the roof to film, the gardens were being visited by small birds and the first butterfly we’ve seen in Vietnam.
The Cafe is open 24/7 and at night you can see it all lit up from outside and the people moving about inside.
The Snowman café is an old Kathmandu institution located just off Freak st not far from Durbar Square. The owner Ram Prasad Manandhar started out bringing tobacco from local villages into Kathmandu, eventually he saved up enough to buy the building and open his own tobacco shop which in the mid 60s evolved into a coffee and cake shop. In those days hippies were travelling the overland trail from Europe to India and many wound up in Nepal where they could enjoy legal hashish and live on next to nothing. Ram says that at that time there were so many hippies wandering about barefoot, (and sometimes even naked) that cars could not get down the street.
Hungry for the taste of western baked goods Snowman became one of the most popular hangouts for Westerners. Mathura Devi, the wife of Ram Prasad is a truly great baker, every morning before sunrise she is up making cakes in her kitchen on the third floor.
In the late 70s the overland trail came to an end as Islamic fundamentalists subverted and took control of the Iranian revolution, closing off the land route to Europe. The second blow fell when the USA’s corrupt president Richard Nixon paid the Nepalese millions of dollars on condition that they criminalise marijuana use. The hippies were rounded up by the police and forcibly deported, mostly into India. Soon the heroin trade was booming
(apparently run by Nepal’s own royal family with assistance from the Nepali army and the CIA!) and today you can meet Nepalese junkies hanging out just down the road near Durbar Square. Hashish is 30 times more expensive than in 1970 and a very cheap and low grade of heroin is now readily available. Thanks America!
Snowman’s survived though, adapting to the changing clientele by catering to young Nepali college students, Hendrix and the Beatles have been replaced by Nepali music on the cafe soundtrack. Nowadays most travellers stay in the tourist ghetto of Thamel but a few nostalgic older travellers still make their way to Snowmans for coffee and cake.
Sydney’s Kurdish Community celebrated Newroz, (the Kurdish New Year) last weekend.
MerJa Media was engaged to record the event on video, we are just editing that footage now but in the meantime you can enjoy a few photos we took of the event. For the full set of high res images please visit Flickr
The event was a huge success with hundreds of people attending, there were dance performances, bands and singers and rousing speeches all of which were loudly cheered by the audience. There was also a hard working crew in the kitchen delivering tea and snacks to the hungry crowd and of course a great deal of traditional Kurdish dancing in which everyone participated.
Despite recent painful events for the Kurdish people including the illegal invasion of Afrin by Turkey, the mood last weekend was happy and positive, The Kurdish spirit is strong and this community never allows any setback however difficult to suppress their courage and hope. These hard working, joyful and compassionate people have become a valuable part of Australia’s multicultural community.
Sydney Fox and Dingo Rescue will soon have a new home thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Over $50,000 has been raised to provide a new home for these precious creatures.
After 6 years of providing shelter to hundreds of animals Sydney Fox and Dingo Rescue were suddenly given just 90 days to find a new home.
MerJa Media offered to help create a fund-raising video free of charge and a crowd funding campaign was quickly set up and launched. People generously responded and soon Sydney Fox and Dingo Rescue will have a permanent home of their own that they can never be evicted from. Sometimes good things do happen to good people (and animals!)
Today MerJa Media filmed an extra romantic style music video for Sydney singer John Khalko. The beautiful girl in the song was played by the lovely Sandra who has recently moved here from Barcelona, Spain.
John hasn’t achieved International stardom just yet so we were happy to assist him with our special discounted rate for a two camera shoot and a day of editing. For us at MerJa Media the most important reward is working on fun, creative projects and making friends with lovely people.
Sandra and John pose with our makeup artist and a passer by who got roped into our production crew at the last moment.
Although the sky looked a little threatening the rain held off till we were safely back in the edit booth. You should be able to watch the finished video in just a few days.