Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Photo by Devon Wong
Photo by Devon Wong

Seeing Past Appearances: Lessons Learned in a Chinese Spa

Posted on May 9, 2016

“Bryan, you’re more Chinese than me.”

We locked eyes; his blue, mine brown. The moment concluded in an instant as we burst out laughing.

“Yes. I am.”

Here we were, two waìguórén (foreigners) sitting in an opulent dining hall wearing our respective blue and pink bath robes, exchanging stories about life abroad while we munched on pickled cucumbers, tofu noodles, and slices of watermelon. I looked more the part, with my jet black hair and almond eyes, pitted next to Bryan. But after one week in China, I could still barely mutter a xièxie without feeling like an impostor. Bryan had three years on me.  He’d mentioned some of Guilin’s local attractions during one of our lunch breaks at the Chinese Language Institute, and I’d been itching since to investigate this fabled “Chinese Spa”. 

For journalistic reasons, of course.

To date, I’ve lived in Southeast Asia for 4 years.  Dodging traffic and eating questionable street food rarely warrants novelty anymore, let alone an upset stomach.  It has become a way of life.   But walking off the cobblestone streets of Guilin and into one of the town’s most luxurious hotels for a night at the spa was almost…otherworldly.  I had spent a week sightseeing around this “small town” (a small city by Canadian standards).  But it hadn’t yet struck me that this was really it: The ‘REAL’ China, I’d set out to look for.

Photo by Devon Wong

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Art Gallery

State of the Art

Posted on April 3, 2016

Great news for enthusiasts, purveyors, and collectors that love art. There is an increase in online art auctions and platforms around the world making the medium more accessible for everyone via technology.

Online art sales had reached US$3.6 billion in 2014, about 6% of all worldwide sales, according to The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF). This figure represents an increase from US$2.8 billion in the previous year (5% of global sales). These figures match TEFAF growth estimates of online sales at a minimum rate of 25% per annum.

In the global art market report released by TEFAF in 2013, the report states that “the price level at which people are comfortable to purchase online is slowly moving up, as new generations of collectors become involved.” Founders of online art platforms from Asia agree.

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The Everyday Revolution

Posted on February 7, 2016

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Sophia Tan, SINGAPORE

Founder, Managing Director of The Everyday Revolution

A framed canvas sits in the middle of a room.

Swirls of red, blue, green form a kaleidoscopic flurry; their streaks and splatters made in watercolour beg to tell a story. At first glance, the story is whimsical and jovial, as bright colours often seem to have that effect. Yet, as it goes in the world of art, one must plunge beyond the colourful surface and swim with the undertow to reach the depths of its true meaning.

Is this all too esoteric? We stand in the middle of a museum or a gallery; across a piece of artwork on display waiting to be dissected, judged, loved, understood. Whether it is a portrait made with oil or water, or a figure sculpted by hand, it simply sits there, like a puzzle to be decoded, the worth of its maker’s story waiting to be measured. Yet somehow, we manage—to grasp, to resonate, to connect. And its maker—the artist—succeeds. Beyond the price pegged for its value—or the fame and adulation that may follow—nothing could be more gratifying than the connection made with another being amidst all the layers of our expression.


Imagine the world of a person with autism, a condition defined as a developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people, as well as how they make sense of the world around them. Fortunately, more progressive and passionate advocates are emerging and enabling opportunities for people with special needs to be heard, understood, and provided a chance to participate in society.

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Crossing the Chasm

Posted on December 2, 2015

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Marco Sparmberg, SINGAPORE

Acting Lead for Social Media, Digital Group at MediaCorp

Marco Sparmberg grew up in East Germany during a period when Berlin was divided by a wall until it fell in 1989 paving way for a reunified Germany. Marco now lives and work in Singapore for the national broadcaster, MediaCorp, and is determined to transform the five decade old organisation inside out by embracing digital technologies.

Growing up, Marco has live in countries like South Africa, Israel and China. Before working in Singapore, Marco has worked in Hong Kong for about 4 years. Marco’s love for Hong Kong films by directors John Woo and Johnnie To, led him to do his graduate studies in film at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Marco Sparmberg working on the set of Squattertown (www.squattertown.com), a web series shot in Hong Kong.

Marco Sparmberg working on the set of Squattertown (www.squattertown.com), a web series shot in Hong Kong.

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LIDIA MAY – “Substance and value is true luxury”

Posted on August 13, 2015

May Yang, BANGLADESH

Founder of LIDIA MAY

Dhaka is the capital city of Bangladesh and home to more than 14 million inhabitants. Among them is May Yang, also one of the few Chinese Americans who call this city their home.

Born in Chongqing, China, Yang immigrated to the United States with her parents at the age of 10 and was raised in Los Angeles. Since then, she has lived in cities like Hong Kong and worked in a corporate law firm in New York prior to taking on a development role for a non-profit organisation in Bangladesh.

“My heart has always been with doing development work in areas of poverty alleviation and disaster management. Doing that gave me a lot of meaning and purpose,” said Yang during the interview at her office and workshop for her accessories label, Lidia May.

While working for the NGO, she yearned to create more impact in the lives of the locals. That opportunity came when she learned about the Lidia Hope Centre, a small slum school serving families that reside in the slum areas.

“I came to Bangladesh seeing two extremes. On one end, a lot of poverty and poorly made systems and things. On the other end, a very vibrant art scene and very rich tradition of hand-made goods. Including, a growing community of people who are well travelled and appreciate the finer things in life.”

LIDIA MAY was set up as a socially conscious label that would market and sell quality accessories made by women from the slums who are trained and counselled by the the Lidia Hope Centre.

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