cait +tiff


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T / antique x industrial chic in yangon

HeaderV3Deep in the Yangon community of Yankin, down an assuming alley and a sweaty climb up to the sixth floor in an apartment block only filled with Myanmar script, you will find the home that Jojo and Jerome built.  And I couldn’t have been more lucky to have done that climb one night when friends invited me to a small get together that Jojo and Jerome were hosting.  I knew I had to come and hear the story behind their beautiful home filled with equal parts elbow grease, a keen eye for beautiful old things and the good sense that walls should get knocked down.

Looking for a change, and a place that wouldn’t make too much trouble about the paperwork involving a bi-national relationship, Jojo, an American, and Jerome, who is from France, were attracted to Myanmar by friends who described the place as a “blank canvas.”  Both left their lucrative finance and consulting gigs in London and made their way over to Yangon in 2014 and have since built careers and reputations as serial entrepreneurs.  And what a little empire they are building with Jojo opening Yangon Yoga House and designing the interior of downtown bespoke bar, Hummingbird and Jerome providing key business development and marketing services local firms.  But this wasn’t necessarily a huge leap from what they were doing before. Before moving to Yangon, Jojo helped to develop, design and build wine crate shelving solutions at Le Petit Monster, and the pair grew a huge collection of collectibles and pretty things throughout all of their homes around the world. Art history, economics and some knowhow around a toolbox goes a long way.

When they first arrived in Yangon, Jojo and Jerome knew they didn’t want to blow all of their money on an expensive condominium or indulge in the upswing of real estate values since Myanmar has slowly opened up to the world. Instead, they chose to invest in a place they could call home, a respite from the chaos of emerging Yangon.  To do that, they had to knock down a literally legally binding wall, strip off the unfortunate lime green laquer adorning their doorways, rearrange some electrical outlets, and endure the pains of DIY in a place where tools of the trade are still scarce and local tastes may conflict.  Nearly one year after moving into their Yankin sixth floor walk-up, the hard work has paid off.  Jojo and Jerome wanted a vintage meets industrial Brooklyn chic apartment in the heart of Yangon and that is exactly what they got.

12---Hallway-TableWith Jojo’s hustling skills (as Jerome describes), the pair also quickly made fast friends with Htet, the owner of Rangoon Tea House.  Through Htet, they met the man who is now their most trusted antiques dealer in Yangon.  That hustle has resulted in one of the most gorgeous homes cum showrooms in the least likely of places.  And as a result, Jojo and Jerome have a constantly evolving home.  Every few months, they acquire a trove of new treasures their new friend keeps an eye out for, immediately contacting them when a new piece arrives that he knows they will like. And after some of their own refurbishment and a short stay with them, the collection of benches, chests, side tables and other coterie originating from Myanmar’s colonial era, make it onto the web for the fastest bid.  Though they do experience some seller’s remorse after the money is handed over.

End-Table--Jojo-and-JeromeHowever, there is one piece the pair will absolutely not handover.  Unless you’re willing to finance their acquisition of several new Chesterfields.  Knowing the difficulty of finding high quality pieces in southeast Asia, Jojo and Jerome searched high and low in the UK for the perfect vintage Chesterfield sofa with the perfect spread of patina from a history of warmed bums. This precious item was subsequently driven 400km around the UK before being stowed away in a shipping container bound for Myanmar.

Bedroom

Top: An original Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Bed. Bottom: That pre-loved chest of drawers comes with its own original lock. Sadly no key, though, so that adornment is there to stay.

Living-Room-Case

Left: The Chagall frame that came all the way from New York when Bernie Madoff’s estate was auctioned off and Jojo bore the winning bid. It sits on one of their most recent local antique acquisitions (right), painted light blue to let the wood shine through.

Dining-Room-Grid

Upper Right: The impromptu sketch of Jojo by director Michel Gondry. Lower left: Jerome shows off a recently acquired lock box.

Jojo and Jerome’s home is filled with similar prizes collected from sheer will to serendipity. Like the 25kg antique sewing machine they found in Bordeaux, which was hauled by bicycle (and Jerome), plane and train to London and now sits as the legs for their dining room table.  There’s a sketch of Jojo by auteur Michel Gondry which sits proudly framed on a bookshelf.  Another piece for conversation fodder is the antique and genuine Chagall that Jojo acquired when Bernie Madoff’s estate was auctioned away.

Likewise, there are the gems they have collected here. Jerome proudly shared an antique lock box they recently found. And then there’s their equally pre-loved bed, which was fashioned by the historic colonial era Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation and bear’s the company’s well known fan-shaped logo.

Dining-Room-Table

The 25kg antique sewing machine base that traveled by bicycle, plane, train, taxi and shipping container from Bordeaux to Yangon via London. With a teak table top, it now carries all the dishes during Jojo and Jerome’s fabulous dinner parties.

Living-Room--Mask

Right: One of two Myanmar masks the pair found at Augustine’s Antiques in Yangon during their first visit to Yangon in 2013. They were toted around Asia, lived in a box in London for a year, and are back home in Myanmar adorning the couple’s lovely living room.

So having given this home some skin that’s been burned by paint solvents, the anxious heart palpitations of hauling antique pieces up twelve flights of stairs and the joys of sourcing DIY tools, and all that jazz, Jojo and Jerome have built themselves a most beautiful home that is so perfect for being shown off during dinner parties, game nights, or tiny little design blogs.  I hope you find their home as inspiring as I did.


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

 


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T / just below my feet in yangon

02a---headerI love a good secret bar.  I first fell in love with them while living in Manila.  Every must go spot to spend the evening was behind an exit door of a wine shop or your run of the mill office building.

Secrets are hidden all over south east Asia, and especially in emerging Myanmar.  Being stuck in an office, and even worse, a cubicle, I was having having trouble getting inspired by this enormous secret of a city.  Friends had wondered why I hadn’t posted more about the place.  I was having trouble finding the time to explore. But little did I know that today’s post was right beneath my feet.

01---DoorWhen my Airbnb host mentioned the speakeasy tucked away in our building, I knew I had to make a stop.  So after sitting in traffic for what seemed like eons, while a steady drizzle came down, I finally made it home, grabbed my camera and headed straight down to the Blind Tiger.  In the unassumingly trendy Yaw Min Gyi neighbourhood in downtown Yangon, there’s a little apartment building at the corner of Nawaday Street and Alan Pya Pagoda Street.  Head down the little corridor of a seemingly Myanmar residential building and you’ll see the glowing cartoon of a tiger beckoning you in.

And inside is exactly what you would find a speakeasy in Yangon to look like.  Its design sits halfway between a place Al Capone or a brilliant Myanmar democratic mind would sit, cradling his or her beverage, thinking thoughts of plans and stealth; and a place where a bunch of Shoreditch cultivated hip young things would bring vintage tufted leather sofas and ambient lighting.

05---Leather-SeatsThe-Blind-Tiger---Bar-SceneThe drinks are locally inspired.  The food, both in tapas that are affectionate to groups and hungry friendly large plates, are delicious.  The fact that there is a Happy Hour makes it even better.  And the tiny global community that is southeast Asia only means that while I was wandering around taking photos, my pal (and local fixer!) Laura would be shouting out my name from the loft above.  I couldn’t think of a better place to free myself from the cubicle on a rainy and gray monsoony Yangon Wednesday.

The-Blind-Tiger---PairThe Blind Tiger is located in United Condo, unit 1-11, at No. 2 Nawaday Street, at the corner of Alan Pya Pagoda Street.  Open 7 days a week, noon till late. 


 

Photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.


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T / home and away

HOMELYAs you may have noticed, Cait and I are on the move these days.  In the past couple of years, I’ve found myself spending sometimes two weeks, sometimes three months, and in this case, one month in somewhat familiar, yet starkly different places.  It’s generally away from loved ones, family, friends.  I’m lucky in this case as the forces that are the global economy have somehow transplanted a section of the Phnom Penh community into Yangon.  Oh right, and the Internet.

We’ve been hanging out with people who are equally movement oriented, if not more. And one thing I’ve noticed among the permanently peripatetic is the things that they bring with them.  Like Katieher yoga mat and her spices.  Unfortunately, my fore thinking only goes as far as gadgets.  Instead, I wind up looking for spaces, foods and things that I know will make me feel a little more grounded despite the impermanence.  So I thought I’d share some of those things I have found so far in Yangon.

SPACEI think I’m happiest when I have my own little nook.  I have an office in our home in Phnom Penh. But where the heck am I supposed to spend hours pinning, editing photos…and that pile of work I’m supposed to be here doing?  Thankfully this little Airbnb comes with its own impressively simplistically designed workspace complete with printer and high speed internet (in a land where only 1% have access).  I am more than lucky to be able to designate a little at-home workspace and find refuge from the persistent downpour that is Yangon right now.

NOODLESI think I’ve mentioned before that I have a thing for dumplings.  That goes even further for noodles.  My heritage just lingers.  So when Jen mentioned downtown Shan noodles, my ears lit up.  Of course I would want to sample the noodly culture of an indigenous group with Chinese origins.  And naturally, slurping up this saucy bowl of delicious would warm my heart on a rainy day.

COFFEEWell duh. I quickly learned on this trip that there is nothing worse than a bad cup of coffee at seven o’ clock in the morning. I’ve clearly been spoiled from having this place around the corner from my home in Phnom Penh.  So when my Airbnb host mentioned that he had a grinder and that I would be able to find coffee beans in the fridge, I knew I had picked the right one.  Then the coffee yoda told me to where to buy beans. So hook, line and sinker.  I am on my way to feeling homely (as in the UK definition of the word).


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.


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T / happy monday / big little yangon

Photo Credit: Tomas Munita

Photo Credit: Tomas Munita

My first weekend has been a whirlwind, and I find myself still trying to make sense of the place I will be calling home over the next four weeks.  My senses have been stimulated beyond reckoning.  It has been raining non stop.  And that’s just the tip of what this city has to offer.  On one hand, I got to partake in gluttonous pleasures from the high and the low.  On the other hand, I got to see design and democracy come together in a space that cultivates that kind of disruption. This place is like no other.  I am unendingly appreciative of the small group of friends, those of whom who pass through on regular intervals and others that currently call this symphonic chaos home.  And incredibly thankful for this not-so-little studio apartment that will serve as respite from work and the exhaustion that comes from trying to see and eat as much as possible over the next 23-ish days.

I’m elated that I finally made it over here.  And I found myself searching hard to find a video to do it justice.  I hope this little collection of moving pictures from the dudes at Spoon Film using tilt-shift photography does it just fine.  Happy Monday!

Bonsai Burma from Joerg Daiber on Vimeo.

 


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T / perpetual hyphenate

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Just a tiny glimpse of the chaos that’s being thrown into my bag. Travel tip: charcoal pills in tummy-risky countries are a must.

When I announced to friends this week that I’d be flying off to Myanmar for the rest of July and most of August, the general reaction was “I thought you had kissed public health goodbye?”  My response to that question has been, well if someone is going to pay me to go somewhere really cool, then why not?  So when an old boss asked me if I could be in Yangon, stat, my response was an unwavering YES!

Seven (slightly stressful) days after that fateful email, I’ve got an Airbnb waiting for me, a smattering of pals who moved there from Phnom Penh that I can’t wait to see, so many tips from Cait, and this wonderful lady (in the most beautiful of coinky dinkies) is holding a Disappearing Brew Bar at Port Autonomy in Yangon this weekend!

Plus, I hear that Burmese creatives are the coolest.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”

On one hand, it’s like that quote from The Godfather.  Paid work from a very large international body has its benefits.  And if it’s going to satisfy a part of me that spent seven years invested in a topic, and take me to cool places that I can share with you here, I’ll say yes to that.  I don’t mind staying hyphenated because it somehow opens up so many more opportunities.  But there are some key rules that I’m following: only if it feels right.

And I can’t wait to pop my Myanmar cherry.


Photo by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.