A Staycation with Shangri-La Bangkok

As a photographer and a social media content creator, one of the things I look forward to and enjoy the most is when I get the chance to share experiences and moments from my home country. There is something not only personally fulfilling about promoting and celebrating one's culture and background, but also patriotic when it comes to sharing the intimate experiences and traditions that you have been privileged with while you were growing up. To kick off this summer, I had the opportunity to once again live out this philosophy, through a staycation with Shangri-La Bangkok. 

The Hotel

Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok like all Shangri-La Hotels, the luxury accommodation brand known around the world and one of the top names when it comes to 5-star experiences, delivers on their promise: "Hospitality from the heart." From the very moment you enter the spacious lobby to the moment you leave, you are greeted with the friendly and warm smiles and cared for by the impeccable team of staff — from concierge to housekeeping, bartender to lifeguard, the personal attention and gracious Thai hospitality ensures your comfort and every need is always looked after.

Situated in the heart of the city, along the Chao Phraya river, the hotel offers guests a quick escape from the busy metropolitan into a tranquil, tropical paradise, nonetheless, guests can quickly reach the Bangkok's shopping district, chinatown, central business district, the Grand Palace and other cultural landmarks.  

The hotel itself is composed of two different wings: the Shangri-La Wing, a modern, youthful take on Thai design infused with rich silk and traditional Thai decorations, and the Krungthep Wing, a classic, timeless wing for guests who prefer something slightly more mature, and sophisticated yet still embody luxurious Thai hospitality. 

In my time, staying at Shangri-La, I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the hotels facilities. From serene early morning laps in one of the hotel's two swimming pools, to evening workout sessions in the state-of-the-art gym. There is something very peaceful about an early morning swim just as the city arises, and to do so in such a space right next to the river, truly added a sense of relaxation and refreshment. 

Breakfast at NEXT2 Café

I must confess, one of my favorite parts about staying in hotels are the breakfast offerings, and Shangri-La does not disappoint. Whether you prefer the classic continental selections, the international delicacies, or would like to try out something more local, NEXT2 offers a wide variety for you to choose from. From Sushi to Dim Sum, Indian Curries to an Omelette Station, everything you might crave for can be found here. You can also choose to enjoy your breakfast in the outdoor patio seatings overlooking the charms of the river, as water-taxis and riverboats pass by. 

Dinner at Salathip

The city of Bangkok is always full of life and as the sun begins to set and the city lights begin to glow, it is nice to sometime take a small pause to enjoy the moment.  It is easy for your senses to get overwhelmed in this city, and after a full day exploring, guests can enjoy authentic Thai flavors in an unique and exquisite dining experience by the river at Salathip with classical Thai dance performances. 

A Summary of Sundance

Yes, it has been quite some time but this blog post has drafted over and over, countless times to get to this point, where I am happy to post it up. Before I describe the experience I had at the Sundance Film Festival with Google's #TeamPixel let me establish a couple of  disclaimers. First, I have never, nor will I ever, claim to know what the secret is in getting to where I am today. I am still trying to figure out myself what actions led to the series of consequences that led me to this opportunity with Google. I strongly believe in fate, and I personally believe that everything that I am now is a result of all the experiences and interactions I have made in my entire life. So to be truthful, I owe all this to all of you and everything and everyone... and I know that when you ask me "how?", that an answer like this isn't probably what you wanted to hear. So for that, I apologize in advance. I try to be as truthful as I can, especially when it relates to helping other creatives and individuals develop their craft, but as I look out to a sea of creatives who inspire me, each originated from a different background and lived through a different experience of getting to their successes. The secret sauce that ties them all together, and perhaps if I dare include myself, is the passion behind the craft. All of my favorite creators out there, whether they be photographers, filmmakers, or musicians, shares a unique trait of creating, not for fame or glory, not because they were told to, but because not doing just simply wasn't an option they could live with. 

Second, as I devote myself to this blog, I want to make sure you understand that I will use this platform not only to communicate with you things that I couldn't possible do in short Instagram captions, tweets, or other social platforms, but also to work through my own thoughts and reflect on the experiences I am making. Hopefully it will all make sense, but feel free to let me know along the way if you are completely lost in what I am saying or would like me to make any clarifications. At times, I may start to get political, and as I have mentioned before on other social platforms, I am always happy to discuss and debate with those who may not share views similar to my own. This may not pertain much to this particular post, but I wanted to make clear that while I summarize the events that took place during that weekend, I may occasionally take thought-tangents and talk more about my feelings and opinions regarding said events. Thus making this a truly personal blog.  

So Sundance... I can honestly say that this trip was perhaps one of the most exciting trips of my life, and yet looking back I still wonder if it was all a dream. Back on January 18th, I embarked on a trip down to Park City, Utah to join Google's #teampixel in representing the Pixel 2 phone and other Google hardware products for a weekend in the duration of the film festival. Most of the time we spent down there was spent doing activities as a group, which included group lunches and dinners, parties at the YouTube House, a visit to the Utah Olympic Park, and a trip to Canyons Ski Resort for a choice of Skiing, Snowboarding or Snowshoeing - I snowshoed because going downhill at a relatively faster than walking speed is not my cup of tea.

Not only was this my first trip with #teampixel, it was my first sponsored trip for a brand collaboration and to be honest, I was very nervous for weeks leading up to the trip. I was only newly recruited into the team and immediately I had recognized some of the members who I had been admiring for some time. I had, however, never met anyone on the team prior to this in real life before. So, to say the least, I was very grateful for all the group-oriented items on the itinerary as this allowed me to really network and connect with the rest of the team. Over the weekend, getting to learn about each member's craft, their work, left me feeling extremely inspired. In fact, it is through most of the conversations over the group dinner that I decided to start up blogging and pursuing some projects outside Instagram again. 

Whether or not you are a fan of watching movies, if you ever get the chance to attend a film festival, I would highly recommend it solely for the atmosphere you would surround yourself in. Park City was magical throughout the weekend, and the snow showers didn't hurt but truly added to the wonder of it all. The small town located east of Salt Lake City, exceeded all my expectations, with incredible restaurants and bars (even for a vegetarian), amazing views, and perhaps most importantly warm and welcoming hospitality. 

It would be incomplete to discuss my experience at the film festival without mentioning the films I saw, thus I would also like to take some time to talk about the two films I had the chance to see the world premiere screenings of: Gus Van Sant's Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot, and Christina Choe's NANCY. Both films, I must say, were truly fascinating to watch for someone who has had and is somewhat pursuing experiences in filmmaking and video editing. Both were truly unique and odd and something that I had never seen on cinema screens before. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot, tells the story of John Callahan, an Oregon based cartoonist on the path to sobriety after nearly dying in a car accident. The film is packed with emotions, and is both funny and grim but what truly stood out to me was the cinematography. While the story and the writing were remarkable and powerful, what truly tied everything in a nice bow was the filmmakers' choice of close-up shots, which continued to emphasize the characters, filling their stories, their grief and pain, their sense of humor, and their personal identities fully in powerfully in the frame, and the camera movements throughout the film which gave the film the raw authenticity it deserves. Not polished, not posed, not perfection, but truly perfect as is.

NANCY, a story of a 35-year-old who becomes convinced she was kidnapped as a child when she learns of a couple whose daughter went missing three decades ago. The psychodrama, whilst touching on important topics of discussion especially in the "fake news" era we have become so used to hearing of today, introduced a technique or style of filmmaking I had never seen before. As a visual storyteller, I thought I understood how my choice of a canvas could portray a different emotion, or invoke a different reaction and thus approaching any film, I think it has become almost second nature to simply acknowledge the dimensions of the aspect ratio the storyteller or the filmmaker has chosen and move on instantly. NANCY, however, is different. This may be a spoiler, but halfway through the film when the title character begins her journey to find out if she really is the missing daughter, the aspect ratio widens out from the 4:3 which the films starts on. Hearing the filmmakers talk about this decision after the screening truly opened up my mind about how one can use these techniques and tools as creators to narrate other than through dialogue and acting. Through this visual narration, the filmmakers explored the world of Nancy when she was boxed in her grey and dim life, and then shifted gears when her world expanded and she journeyed out into the vibrant wilderness of the uncertain. 

While I had also mean to watch a third film whilst at the festival, I simply couldn't make it in time to the screening. I do, however, intend to watch most of the films that screened that week, once they become accessible. Overall, my time at Sundance was magical. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity that I have been given and I cannot wait for the next adventure with all of #teampixel, a team I consider to now be family.