ultramarinus – beyond the sea

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DAY 4 (3/5): ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27

Over to the left below the archway, we paid the admission and stepped into the other haveli that was open to public.  Known as Kothari’s Patwa Haveli, this beautiful mansion was restored and converted into a museum by the government.  Despite all five havelis look similar, distinctive arches, gateways, mirror works, wall paintings, and architectural carvings differentiate each haveli from one another.  To our surprise and slight disappointment, the restored interiors of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli actually looked quite new and polished.  Much of the haveli had became a museum with artefact and antique furniture displays.

DSC_1368Kothari’s Patwa Haveli is located at the beginning of the lane where the building bridges across to form an archway.

DSC_1365Admission tickets were sold by a staff sitting across the lane from the entrance of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli.

DSC_1370After a flight of stair, we reached the level right above the lane archway.  From there, we came close to see the ornate carvings of the balcony.

DSC_1373From the window above the archway, we gained a unique view of all five mansions of the Patwon Ki Haveli.

DSC_1377No matter how many times we had seen the splendid craftsmanship of sandstone carvings in Rajasthan, we were still overwhelmed by the sandstone carvings of Kothari’s Patwa Haveli.

IMG_9823The multi-level Kothari’s Patwa Haveli centers around a internal courtyard.

DSC_1380Today, the internal courtyard is occupied by a textile and embroidery shop.

DSC_1391The staff carefully laid out the blankets and textiles for their customers.

DSC_1403The museum displays occupy the upper levels of the haveli.  We basically circled around the internal courtyard through a series of interconnected rooms.

DSC_1395One of the first room that we encountered was set up as a dining room.

DSC_1404The living room was one of the best restored spaces at Kothari’s Patwa Haveli, with colourful murals and fine pieces of furniture.

IMG_9841Antique furniture, music instruments, and clocks were on displayed in the living room.

IMG_9831Each important room in the haveli has a unique ceiling design.

DSC_1405The colourful and gold murals of Jivan Vilas was one of the highlights of the haveli.  Again the restorations looked fresh and vivid that the sense of history was completely gone.

IMG_9845An antique Chaupar/ Chopat game was on display on a vintage rug.  This game had been played in India since the 4th century.

DSC_1408From the roof terrace, we had some good views of the surrounding neighborhood.

IMG_9847As well as the lane that lined in front of the mansions of Patwon Ki Haveli.

DSC_1412After touring Patwon Ki Haveli, we exited the lane through the archway and found our way to the Saffron Restaurant for lunch.

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DAY 4 (2/5): ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27

Below the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer, the town flourished in the Medieval times as merchants and desert caravans brought considerable amount of activities and wealth into this remote city at the heart of the Thar Desert.  Nowhere else is more convincing than Patwon Ki Haveli to see the legacy of these wealthy merchants.  Built in the first half of the 19th century, Patwon Ki Haveli was the oldest and largest haveli (grand mansion) in Jaisalmer.  Guman Chand Patwa, a renowned trader of his time, commissioned the construction of five multi-storey townhouses for his five sons.  Splendid wall paintings, mirror mosaic, and most ostentatious of all, the amazing sandstone carving on the building facade, have made the haveli an icon for the city comparable to the Golden Fort.  One operated by the government and the other privately owned, two out of five havelis are open for the public today.  The first haveli we visited was the privately owned mansion located at the right side of the row.

DSC_1235The Patwon Ki Haveli occupies a narrow lane which can be entered at either end.  We entered the lane through a beautiful archway.

IMG_9686Upon entering the archway, we were in awe of the intriguing stone carving on the haveli facade over our heads.

DSC_1246Above the archway, the Patwon Ki Haveli extends over to the opposite side of the pedestrian lane.

IMG_2039Along the lane, there were two open spaces across from the Patwon Ki Haveli for us to stand back and admire the beautiful sandstone facade.

IMG_9671Moving closer to the haveli, the balconies and facade details looked stunning.

IMG_9703If we looked closer, we could see the slight differences between each house.

DSC_1275We walked by a house with its doors opened for visitors.  It turned out that this was the privately owned haveli opened to the public.

DSC_1354Once stepped into the entrance vestibule, we were immediately overwhelmed by the richly decorated interiors.

DSC_1284At the core, we could look up the lightwell to appreciate the height of the building.

DSC_1281Walking up the haveli, one of the first rooms we encountered was the fascinating private Hindu temple.  Though small, the intriguing details of the temple interiors revealed the beautiful craftsmanship of the old Rajasthan.

DSC_1285Across from the small temple facing the street, another small chamber was ornately decorated with paintings and carvings.

IMG_9718Singing from a child musician mingled with laughter from tourists could be heard through the balcony windows.

DSC_1301Another level up were a series of vacant rooms.  Small windows for communication and tiny wall niches for candles allowed us to imagine what the space would be like a century ago.  Despite there were no furniture and paint restoration, we highly appreciated the vintage and authentic feel of the interiors.

IMG_9729Occasional wall paintings gave a touch of vivid colours to the generally yellowish sandstone building.

DSC_1331At the top level we reached what looked like to be the master bedroom with large windows facing the Jaisalmer Fort on one side.

DSC_1328And balconies looking down to the lightwell on the other side.

IMG_9771A door from the master bedroom led us to a small chamber with an attic and another small room.

IMG_9748We reached the roof terrace near the end of the visit.  The view of Jaisalmer Fort was quite amazing.

DSC_1363After a fruitful tour of the old mansion, we walked downstairs and returned to the entrance vestibule, where a beautiful peacock feature guarded the house for decades, welcoming and bidding farewell to visitors.

 


DAY 3 (4/4): FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.26

While surveying the area near Trikuta Hill, outcast prince of the Bhati kingdom Rawal Jaisal met a sage named Eesul, who mentioned a prophesy of Jaisal’s Yaduvanshi clan would one day establish a kingdom here.  Inspired by the encounter, Rawal Jaisal established his kingdom and capital city at the Trikuta Hill and called it Jaisalmer based on his own name.  Built by Rawal Jaisal in 1156, the 7-storey Fort Palace was the former royal residence of the rulers.  We got an official audio guide for our visit.  Though there were a number of rooms under renovations when we were there.  Perhaps the time was a little late, not too many tourists were around in the palace.  Not as monumental as its counterpart in Jodhpur, the Palace was nonetheless a unique element of Jaisalmer Fort that no tourist coming this far into the Thar Desert should miss.

DSC_0937The sati handprints mark the entrance of Jaisalmer Fort Palace.  Sati handprints were made by widows of the king who committed self-immolation when their husband passed away in ancient times.

DSC_0941The ornate balcony was the focus of the first courtyard we entered in the palace complex.

DSC_0957From a window on the upper level, we could have a close look at the exquisite detail of the balcony and palace facade.

DSC_0972The Rajasthani heritage of elaborated carvings can be seen all over the palace.

DSC_0985Some of these amazing stone carvings were gifts to the maharaja.  This one is placed in the king’s bedroom as an interior decoration.

DSC_0989Stained glass is commonly used in Rajasthani palaces.

DSC_0992From a roof terrace, we enjoyed a “maharaja”‘s view of the fort’s bastions and the yellow sandstone city of Jaisalmer below Trikuta Hill.

DSC_1001The yellow tone of the city presents the perfect scenery of what a picturesque desert oasis.

DSC_1009Not all rooms were completely restored, but even without the original furniture, the wall tiles and wooden carvings were delights for the eye.

IMG_9318Some original furniture were on display behind protective glass.

IMG_9329The king’s bedroom opens to a beautiful courtyard where musicians and dancers would provide pleasant entertainment.

IMG_9338The king’s entertainment courtyard was intimate in scale and finished in beautiful floor and wall tiles.

DSC_1012Some palace balconies offer magnificent views of the city below.

DSC_1014Towards the end of our tour, we passed by a physical model of Jaisalmer Fort, offering us a good opportunity to have a better understanding of the fort layout and places that we had visited throughout the day.

DSC_1017It was late in the afternoon and there were hardly any tourists left in the fort.

DSC_1020Without audio guide and map handout, touring the Jaisalmer Fort Palace would be like walking in a maze.

DSC_1023Near the end of the walk, we passed by quite a few empty chambers.

IMG_9347The detailed ornaments of the palace offered us a glimpse of the beautiful sandstone carving of Jaisalmer.  In the following day, we would continue to explore the ancient city for other amazing works of local stone craftsmen.


CRAFT MARKET UNDER THE VIADUCT, 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan, Tokyo, Japan

When most people hear Akihabara (秋葉原) they would immediately think of electronic shops.  One railway stop to its north, Okachimachi (御徒町) is known for its wholesale stores selling jewelry and ornaments.  Since 2010, between the two stations emerged a new hotspot dedicated to everything that is made by the artisan hands.  Situated under the railway viaduct, this hidden gem offers an alternative shopping scene for anyone who admires the skillful hands of devoted Japanese craftsmen.  Merchandises range from umbrellas, shoes, housewares, jewelry, leather products, naturally dyed clothing, artworks, souvenirs, etc.  The name “2k540” is a reference in railway’s terms, which refers to the 2.54km distance from Tokyo Station.  “Aki-Oka” refers to Akihabara and Okachimachi, indicating the craft market is situated between the two stations.

9At the underside of a railway viaduct, the entrance to the “market street” 2k540 expresses a community friendly and low-key atmosphere.

1The logo of “2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan” is painted like a road mark on the asphalt floor.

2The pre-existing structure and the shop buildings on the market street of 2k540 are painted in white, revealing a coherent environment.

6One of the shops at 2k540 manufactures clothing with dyes from the natural world, such as sakura flowers.

3Natural light spills in from the gap above the stores and the artificial uplights at the column bases create a poetic atmosphere as if walking in the nave of a cathedral.

4While some shops are housed in minimal white boxes, some are actually set up in the main space in the colonnade.

5We stayed longer than what expected strolling around 2k540.

8At the end of the market street stands a larger store called Japan Department Store, a shop that sells household items and souvenirs from different areas across Japan.

10Like many big cities around the world, creative industries have given different urban spaces, such as old factory buildings and underside of railway viaducts, a second life to thrive.

 


DAY 4 (5/6): NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

In October 2014, we stumbled upon a small shop in the shopping centre Tokyo Midtown.  Utensils, furniture, cloths, and other miscellaneous household items were on display on wooden shelves and stands.  Merchandises were displayed in clusters according to brands from different parts of Japan.  The design of that attractive small shop in the middle of a high-end shopping arcade, according designer Yusuke Seki, was inspired by shotengai (traditional shopping street).  We stayed at the shop for quite some time, and ended up picking up a blue umbrella with a nice wooden handle.  At its underside, there was a small label with an illustration of two deer and a traditional logo saying Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten (中川政七商店).  Later on, we did some online research and realized that Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten originates in Nara, and has been around for three centuries.

Opened in 1716, Nara’s Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten just celebrated its 300th anniversary.  Originally, the small Nara shop produced hand woven textiles for samurai and monk ceremonial robes.  The textile was known as Narazashi, or sarashi bleached hemp textile.  During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the society went through a dramatic change.  Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten was forced to diversify its focus on other products such as table cloths and handkerchief.  Entering the modern age, the shop defied all odds of modernization, persistently remained faithful to its traditional techniques and craftsmanship.  Nakagawa, the 13th president who joined the family business in the last 15 years or so, tested the potentials of his traditional shop to a new level.  Not only did he opened new shops outside of Nara like Tokyo and Osaka, Nakagawa also re-branded the company, and gave new life to old products such as using the old technique of mosquito net making for the new best selling fukin (Japanese style table cloth).  Furthermore, Nakagawa proactively engaged in fruitful collaborations with other craft companies across the country to come up with new brands and merchandises suitable for the contemporary era.

This time around, we were in Nara after a long day of temple hoping.  We promised ourselves that we couldn’t leave the city without visiting the Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店), the flagship store of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten located at a tranquil alleyway near Sanjo Dori.  At one corner of the shop, several merchandises commemorating the 300th anniversary of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten were on display.  A beige cloth with beautiful embroidery was a reproduction of their 1925 product exhibited at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, the design world fair that gave birth to Art Deco.   90 years on, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten is still standing at the crossroad between the old and new, advocating a good mix of traditional crafts and contemporary aesthetics.  At their 300th anniversary, their locally made fabrics and household merchandises are as cool and modern as ever.

15The subtle wooden machiya (町屋) facade of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop provides a perfect fit for the shop that advocates high quality local crafts and products.

14The design of Yu Nakagawa is a comfortable blend of traditional and contemporary elements.

dsc_3595The signage of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店) with the iconic deer symbolizing the city of Nara.

dsc_3602Rows of colourful textiles behind the cashier counter attracted our attention right from the beginning.

16Cloths, bags, paper products, socks, scarfs, utensils, etc were on display in the pleasant interior.

dsc_3599Most items on display came from their own brands, such as 2&9, their line of well made socks.

dsc_3605It was already dark by the time we left Yu Nakagawa Main Shop.

17Before we left Nara, we also stopped by Nipponichi (日本市) at Sanjo Dori.  Nipponichi is also a brand from Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten focused on selling Japanese made souvenirs.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


UROS FLOATING ISLANDS, Titicaca, Peru

At roughly 3,800m above sea level, Lake Titicaca is widely considered the world’s highest navigable lake by commercial sailing.  Deep blue water, bitterly cold winds, golden marsh reeds, remote island communities and legendary floating villages: the story of Titicaca contributes a unique component to every visitor’s experience traveling in Peru or Bolivia.  For us, our Titicaca experience was centered at our visit and home stay on the peaceful Taquile Island.  Before reaching Taquile, we made a brief stopover at one of the floating Uros Islands.

In the morning, we headed out to the main pier at Plaza del Faro.  A row of boat ticket cabins stood at the entrance of the pier.  We approached the ticket booth which sold tickets for local boat to Taquile. We then boarded on a small boat among a boat cluster.  Our plan was to sail to Taquile, stay the night there at a local home, and return to Puno the next day.  We thought of getting some fruits as gifts for our potential host at Taquile, but we missed the chance to do so the night before.  While waiting for the boat to depart, our friend returned to the pier and to our surprise came back with a bag of oranges.

Sailing northeast from Puno through a labyrinth of water networks in an enormous marsh filled with totora reeds, our boat soon reached an area where the floating islands concentrated.  The boat ticket includes a brief tour to one of the floating islands which are the home of the Uros tribe. Our boat captain navigated slowly among the floating islands and docked by the island that is available to take in visitors. There were about a dozen of passengers on our boat, including both tourists and the locals.

The Uros villagers use bundle of a native reed to make boats for transportation and to build floating island on which they reside.  Layers of dense roots interweave to form a one-to-two-meter thick base for the island. Villagers have to constantly add layers of reeds on top of the island as the reeds at the bottom rot away.  To us, the floating island is soft and stable to walk on. We were told not to run around as there might be hidden weak spots.  We enjoyed the time spent on the island, wandering in front of houses and checking out souvenirs from vendors.  Although it was a short visit, we appreciated the little introduction given by the villagers about the floating islands.

1We boarded a community boat that took us to Taquile Island. Our boat was smaller and slower but quieter than the other tourist boats. With our limited Spanish and the help of other travelers, we expressed our interest on spending the night at Taquile to the captain who then made arrangement for us.

2The boat moved slowly away from Puno.  All boats entering or exiting Puno in Lake Titicaca has to pass through a narrow watercourse through the dense reeds.

3
When the engine of the boat was turned down, we were embraced by an indescribable tranquility. The weather was nice and the lake was calm.

4We were on a community boat with the locals. They seemed accustomed to the presence of tourists. We tried to keep our voice down when we talked. Since we couldn’t speak much Spanish, we could only show our friendliness by sharing our snacks with them.

5The boat ride to Taquile included a brief stop on one of the floating islands. The captain steered the boat slowing into the area where the Uros community is concentrated.

6Reed made canoes were parked along one of the Uros Islands.

5BAfter minutes of searching and asking, the captain finally found a village community which was available to give us a little introduction about the unique floating islands.

7We landed on the floating island with great excitement. The sun was warm and the ground was soft to walk on.

8There were about 10 small houses on the island. The villagers showed us around the island. We were told not to walk too far away from the main open plaza as we might accidentally stepped onto the weak spots.

9Every island has a welcome arch made out of reeds.

10A boat with a big roof was approaching us. Its big low roof was designed to keep the interior from getting wet.

11Looking at the small boat from the side, we saw it carried all different kinds of snacks, food and drink. The boat moved from one island to another.

12A villager on the island was preparing the presentation materials to give an introduction about the floating islands to the visitors.

13These are the handmade crafts that villagers used to tell visitors story about the floating islands. We played with the little reed boat with our hands. It felt very light but strong. We decided to get one of these little reed boat as a souvenir.

14Each floating island has its unique design. The welcome arch is visible from afar.