Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Places’

Getting to know Hong Kong all over again and meeting the Empress of Tea

June 01, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Drink, Places, Traveling No Comments →

View from the Hotel Stage, 1 Chi Wo, Jordan

I will always have a special fondness for Hong Kong because it’s the first foreign city I ever visited on my own. (There’s an extremely detailed account of that trip in the first Twisted book.) Since then I’ve been to Hong Kong a few times, but it doesn’t get old. Hong Kong is not just about the spectacular sights and food: there’s something in the air, something thrilling and vaguely chaotic. It’s a sense of possibility that you get in a world city. You know that things are happening that were not stage-managed for promotional purposes.

We spent several days in Hong Kong at the end of May to shoot two episodes for Trippies. We had wonderful meals that we burned off by walking, walking, and walking from markets in Kowloon to hiking trails in the New Territories to Old Town Central where we looked for the locations of Wong Kar Wai movies, to the Film Archive to Sai Ying’s haunted houses to the dojo of one of Ip Man’s students, to new food and drink haunts like May Chow’s Happy Paradise and Victoria Chow’s Kwoon cocktails.

At the end of a long, packed but strangely not exhausting shoot, we met Vivian Mak, whom I hereby dub the Empress of Tea. Vivian is the proprietor and soul of MingCha Tea House, one of the finest tea shops on the planet. She gave us a quick workshop, during which we sampled a variety of teas, each with a distinct flavor and aroma, which is more than I can say for some overpriced tea shops. It’s not cheap, but you get more than what you pay for and leave feeling clean and almost virtuous.

Even the setting is dramatic: MingCha is hidden inside an old factory building.

Now I’m going to re-watch Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, and if anyone borrowed my DVDs and didn’t return them, prepare for pain.

You can watch the previous episodes of Trippies (China, Turkey, Thailand, Korea) here.

Tell us why you want to visit Prague and we’ll give you a copy of this book.

May 29, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places 13 Comments →

Layag is available at National Bookstores, Php250.

Layag: European Classics in Filipino contains fourteen short stories by writers from eleven European countries. Included are works by the Italian Luigi Pirandello, Polish Henryk Sienkiewicz, Austrian Stefan Zweig, French Guy de Maupassant, Czech Karel Capek, and German Erich Kästner. This anthology is published by Anvil in cooperation with EUNIC, a European network comprised of cultural institutes and embassies.

The project is the brainchild of Jaroslav Olša, Jr., the Czech Ambassador to the Philippines. A former translator, editor and publisher himself, Olša sees literature as a very effective tool of cultural promotion. “There are many tools for public diplomacy, such as films, music and the arts. But I believe literature is something that has a really long-lasting impact,” he said. His plan is to establish and maintain two-way literary traffic between the Czech Republic/Europe and the Philippines. Recently Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis was published in Filipino and Bikolano, and Karel Capek’s play R.U.R. was staged by Tanghalang Ateneo. Upcoming projects include an anthology of stories by contemporary Filipino writers, translated into Czech.

Would you like a copy of Layag? Tell us why you want to go to Prague. Post your answer in Comments by Friday, 2 June 2017. Five winners will each receive a copy of Layag in the mail.

* * * * *

Our winners are popong, alphaeus7,kotsengkuba, galleyproof, and Bingka. Congratulations! Please email your full names and mailing addresses to so we can send you your copies of Layag.

Stay tuned for the next contest. I’m giving away the new Haruki Murakami.

Back from the land of K-Pop

February 22, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

Drogon is not amused at his human’s constant absence.

Just returned from a week in Korea, the land of K-Pop, Koreanovelas, kimchi and general kookiness, where the toilets have settings that never occurred to me and everything is good for you (They’re not just stairs, they’re the Stairs of Longevity leading to the Gift Shop of Good Fortune).

The travel show Trippies premieres on CNN Philippines next month.

The stray cats of Istanbul star in their own movie

February 10, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Movies, Places No Comments →

Still from the documentary Kedi

I was just talking about the street cats and dogs of Istanbul. We were interviewing the director of Hagia Sophia for the travel show when a very self-possessed cat walked over and sat between my co-host and myself, to remind us who the real boss was. Now there’s a documentary about the Turkish felines.

Update: It turns out that the interrupting cat was the same one who had greeted Barack Obama on his visit to Hagia Sophia. His name is Gli and he has a very memorable face.

Photos from LoveMeow

If you love something, you let it go. Cat people understand this intuitively. You never quite possess a cat, and the sooner you acknowledge that, the better. Cats will chase the tinfoil ball, if they are in the mood, but they will almost certainly not bring it back. We forgive them for this because there is no other option.

I have no trouble linking cats to the divine. Chris Marker’s transcendent short film of a sleeping cat is nothing if not an image of Nirvana, pure being, whatever you want to call it. The look in a cat’s eye guides us toward an idea of freedom, as Claude Lévi-Strauss suggested. Having spent a lifetime studying the structures of ancient societies, the French anthropologist understood well the prison cell into which technological man had locked himself. Only at rare moments, Lévi-Strauss posits near the end of Tristes Tropiques, do we see beyond this cell. One of those is “in the brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness, that, through some involuntary understanding, one can sometimes exchange with a cat.”

Read it in the Paris Review.

Watch the trailer.

In Istanbul, living in the present moment is a form of defiance.

January 19, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

Marzipans. All photos of Istanbul vitrines and shop displays by JZ.


Candied fruit

A sparrow was sipping water from a half-filled glass in an Istanbul café Wednesday morning. Customers had their lunch outside, thanks to the warm weather, and chatted about the latest episode of Sherlock, screened hours after the terror attack on the city’s Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve, which killed 39 people. Two cats were fed leftovers; a stray dog watched the scene from a safe distance. The terror threat level had been raised as high as it would go, not only because of the Reina attack, but also a simultaneous attack in the capital Ankara that had been foiled at the last minute, not to mention many more that had been thwarted in the past month. But this did not at all seem like a city under threat.

How do Istanbulites do it? It is a hard trick to pull, this immediate return to normality. Some consider it an expression of powerlessness, but I find wisdom in the ability to counter shock with calm. After the suicide attack at the Ataturk Airport in June, the scene was cleaned of signs of chaos in a matter of hours. The shattered glass was swept away, airport personnel reopened their desks, baristas served overpriced Caramelattes to travelers—it didn’t really feel as if 45 people had died hours earlier. And yet those people were not trying to erase history. Living in the present moment, for them, was a form of defiance, not amnesia.

Read Kaya Genc’s dispatch from Istanbul.


More teas

Dried fruit


From Lying to Leering: Rebecca Solnit on Trump’s Fear of Women

January 16, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Places 1 Comment →

I can’t bring myself to post a photograph, so here is an orange singing the Habanera from Carmen.

Trump is patriarchy unbuttoned, paunchy, in a baggy suit, with his hair oozing and his lips flapping and his face squinching into clownish expressions of mockery and rage and self-congratulation. He picked as a running mate buttoned-up patriarchy, the lean, crop-haired, perpetually tense Mike Pence, who actually has experience in government, signing eight anti-abortion bills in his four years as governor of Indiana, and going after Planned Parenthood the way Trump went after hapless beauty queens. The Republican platform was, as usual, keen to gut reproductive rights and pretty much any rights that appertained to people who weren’t straight, or male, or white.

Misogyny was everywhere. It came from the right and the left, and Clinton was its bull’s-eye, but it spilled over to women across the political spectrum. Early on some of Trump’s fury focused on the Fox presenter Megyn Kelly, who had questioned him about his derogatory comments about other women’s appearance. He made the bizarre statement on CNN that ‘you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.’ He also denigrated his opponents’ wives and the businesswoman Carly Fiorina’s face; he obligingly attacked Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe, in a flurry of middle-of-the-night tweets after Clinton baited him about his treatment of her; he attacked the women who accused him of assaulting them after the grab-them-by-the-pussy tape was released.

Read it in the LRB.