Author: Melanie Rüdiger

Since I swapped the urban jungle for a real one in 2014, I have been living in two worlds. As a graduate engineer in architecture in Germany, I deal with large-scale projects built of concrete and steel. I am passionate about Scandinavian architecture and timeless design. On our goat farm in Thailand there is nothing more exciting than the birth of a new kid. Besides that, I always find something to redesign and to learn new craft techniques. I am learning new languages with enthusiasm, with Thai being the biggest challenge so far.

Shanghai Mansion Bangkok: Love Letter To A Hotel

“When the taxi drops us off at the entrance of the Shanghai Mansion hotel, we are a little surprised to find ourselves in front of an open bar, whose two-story side wall is completely painted with colorful, expressionistic street scenes”, says Melanie Rüdiger. “The first guests are already enjoying their cool afternoon beer to soft lounge music. However, there is no sign of a reception desk.” A huge modern chandelier hangs from the center of the room. We enter the bar of the Shanghai Mansion and discover a narrow bridge with red painted railings on the side. It leads deeper into the building over a pond with several fat koi swimming in it and countless red paper lanterns above it. At the end of a mysteriously gloomy corridor, we are greeted by an oversized painting of a Chinese woman dressed in red, which, despite her innocent expression, evokes associations with an opium den. Behind it we finally find the lobby. Here, too, it is rather dark, the room dominated by a large wall clock à la Big Ben, illuminated from behind. Despite the noble, all-black furnishings and the opulent fabrics, I’m a bit disappointed by the entrance, as I’ve seen completely different pictures on the internet… In the heart of Chinatown Since I fell in love with the pictures of the Shanghai Mansion’s interior when I booked the room, I didn’t think twice about the hotel’s location in Bangkok. The city is so huge that I rarely end up in the same area twice anyway. Coincidentally, Shanghai Mansion is located in the heart of Chinatown, on Yaowarat Road, recently named one of the “10 coolest streets in the world” by Time Out magazine. The newly opened “Potong”, tucked away in Chinatown, is considered one of the best recommendations in town. Founded more than 200 years ago, Bangkok’s Chinatown is considered the world’s oldest community of Chinese outside of China. The area is experiencing a new boom since the Metro was extended to the old town around the Royal Palace in 2019. Chinese temples and shrines are ubiquitous – the 1658 Leng Buai La Shrine is not only the oldest Chinese temple in Bangkok, but possibly the oldest in all of Thailand – with huge dragon motifs, shops full of traditional Chinese remedies and dried plants whose uses are not readily apparent. Street art and street food There are street art galleries, but also dark, motor-oil-smelling corners where car dismantlers hang out.… weiterlesen

The Journey Home Goes Through The „Sandbox“

Since July 1, 2021, Thailand has been the first Asian country to allow vaccinated persons to enter Phuket with a mandatory stay of 14 nights, the so-called “Phuket Sandbox” model. This is where our Thailand-based author Melanie Rüdiger had to go after a necessary stay in Germany. A journey back with quite a few obstacles. Originally, I wanted to fly to Germany in 2020 as every year in June. Due to Covid-19, my flight was postponed and finally cancelled, and I decided to wait out the pandemic in Thailand. Besides, I didn’t want to leave the country for fear of not being allowed to return to my husband. Then in the middle of the Covid-19 peak in February 2021 my only uncle died. I had to go to Munich to fulfill his last will. Not quite that easy! After a very quiet year the Covid-19 cases in Thailand had eventually risen. All airports, even Bangkok, were closed. Any arrivals or departures were only possible through Phuket airport, about 160 km away, but to enter the peninsula was not allowed to unvaccinated people like myself. I was supposed to get my two shots in Munich, as vaccines in Thailand are still not accessible to the masses. I booked a Business Class special fare with Qatar Airways, in order to minimize contact to people as far as possible, and I hoped that me and my likewise unvaccinated driver would somehow be able to pass through to the airport with producing the mandatory PCR test. Much excitement, endless discussions about the validity of my papers followed. At midnight, I fell into my plane seat all exhausted. Endless paperwork for the return trip As soon as I had my second shot in Munich, I applied for the „Certificate of Entry“ (COE), the entry permit for Thailand. First, I had to upload the usual papers to a dedicated Thai government website: Visa, Re-entry Permit, a copy of my Thai husband’s passport, our marriage certificate and of course the vaccination certificates. Within two days I received the pre-approval of the Thai Consulate General in Munich by e-mail. Step 2 was much more complex: Only certified hotels must be booked for the stay in the Sandbox and everything including transfers and three PCR tests for 8,000 baht (ca.200 euros) had to be paid in advance. I had decided for the model “Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension” which means that one must stay the first seven nights exclusively in Phuket, even boat excursions are not allowed.… weiterlesen

Batik – Far More Than Just Hippie Clothes

Hardly anyone today knows that batik is an ancient textile dyeing technique and its patterns originally looked anything but wild and colourful. Moreover, batik fabrics were reserved exclusively for the clothing of the aristocracy. The techniques are just as different as the appearance of batik textiles. C&C author Melanie Rüdiger, who lives in Thailand where batik is widely used, has tried one of them. Admittedly, Batik was not on top of the list of things I have always wanted to try, despite its temporary hip factor. When I think of batik I think of rainbow-coloured, psychedelic patterns, and clothes of backpackers and old hippies. In fact, batik textiles became known in the Western world mainly through the Woodstock icons’ colourful clothing. Batik experiences a revival in fashion at regular intervals, and in recent years (even) the German Vogue occasionally dedicates an article to it. Wearing batik is a duty for Thai officials Batik clothing is immensely popular in Thailand and many of its neighbouring countries. Young Asian designers are currently rediscovering the old technique and bringing it to the catwalk in unusual cuts. The women’s sarongs, worn like skirts, usually show traditional floral or geometric patterns, of which you cannot tell that they were made in a batik process. One day a week, public servants and schoolchildren wear batik uniforms. In Southern Thailand these are mostly shirts in bright colours with a somewhat naive painted hem of underwater worlds or tropical landscapes. In Malaysia, wearing batik clothing on pre-determined days is even prescribed by law for officials to promote the batik industry and awareness of the cultural heritage. At many airlines in Southeast Asia you can see the flight attendants wear uniforms made from batik textiles. Noble past Batik supposedly comes from Indonesia, more precisely from the island of Java, where until 1940 wearing clothes from batik fabrics was exclusively reserved to the aristocracy. Batiks are also known from other continents, such as Peru and many African countries. Batik has been used on Java for more than 1400 years. “mbatik” means “to write with wax”. In Japan, there is a similar technique called “shibori,” whose colours and patterns are usually more muted and geometric. Indonesian batik has been on UNESCO’s “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” since 2009. Via the Strait of Malacca, the technique probably came to Southern Thailand. Batik is said to have a healing, relaxing effect, like the painting of mandalas.… weiterlesen

The Hidden Face of Thailand

In part 2 of her story Melanie Rüdiger, a German architect who is married to a Thai, reports on her life in a Muslim village community with sometimes challenging differences in culture and mentality. What infrastructure is there on „your“ island? Koh Siboya is almost exclusively inhabited by Muslims, and apart from a few shops for their daily needs, no kind of culture is offered here. For any major purchases, cash withdrawal, mail services or a doctor’s visit, even in acute cases, we must always go to the mainland, regardless of weather conditions and waves. Since we do not own a car, we do all this by motorcycle. A life without a car in Munich would be unthinkable for me. Here, however, I try to avoid all purchases that require immense care in order to function in the tropical climate on the long run. What I miss less are visits to museums and cinemas. Rather the coffee or the drink afterwards. All of this I just block out mentally and make up for it on home visits. You had to convert to the Muslim faith… The biggest step into my other life was becoming a member of the Islamic community. I avoid the term “converted” because, in my opinion, this includes more than a brief ceremony and how I actually live. Islam is on the one hand formative for living together in the village communities, on the other hand it combines with the tolerant attitude of the Thais, for whom a peaceful coexistence of all religions in the whole country is a matter of course. Nevertheless, it is assumed to move in together under one roof only as a married couple and to convert to Islam as a spouse. Apart from covering my hair in public and not showing too much bare skin, nothing else is expected of me. It is probably obvious to everyone that I did not become a Muslim overnight. However, I never leave the house without a hijab, the head veil, which in Thailand is mostly colourful and comes with a lot of bling-bling. Bare shoulders and bare knees in light fluttering dresses are a no-go. This is sometimes a challenge in the tropical climate, but in return I am unconditionally accepted in the community. Of course, this is a huge difference to the free life as a tourist. How do you cope with the differences in mentality?… weiterlesen

My new Life on a Thai Island

One immediately thinks of white beaches, turquoise sea and cocktails under coconut trees. Melanie Rüdiger, a German architect who has drawn to an island in the Indian Ocean for love, reports on the reality in paradise. Why did you emigrate from Germany to Thailand six years ago? That sounds like a cliché, of course, because I met my future husband while on vacation. After my first Thailand trip many years ago, the longing for this country never really left me since. When I learned of an acquaintance who had settled on a small unknown island in the Andaman Sea, I took this as the starting point for a planned island hopping. However, I didn’t get far, because Koh Siboya turned out to be a little paradise, where you just could live for the day and quickly forget all other plans. Low, now my husband, worked at the only resort on the island and immediately caught my eye with his beaming smile and attentive way. We got closer. And how did it continue with the both of you? After the holiday, there were daily video calls and countless WhatsApp messages. On another visit to Thailand he proposed to me and asked if I could imagine living with him on his inherited piece of land. Professionally at that time, I had climbed one of the highest career steps as an architect and project manager. Handling another major project would have been exciting, but it no longer meant a passion. Personally, I had a long, difficult relationship behind me. In short, all of this made the decision easy for me. What does your everyday life in Thailand look like today? One of the biggest challenges for me is that there is no daily routine and I do not have any regular work. Just hanging out in the hammock wouldn’t be my thing. Usually the weather determines which activities take place – if it’s too hot, you can only work outdoors in the early morning, if it’s pouring down, you better not set foot outside the door. Unlike in the Gulf of Thailand you can only swim in the Andaman Sea in the high season, corresponding to the European winter, and on our island only at high tide. So much for the myth of a year-round beach life. Where do you live on the island? The inherited piece of land in the village of Low’s family turned out to be a rubber plantation, which we gradually cleared and cultivated. There… weiterlesen

Traveling and Beauty are my passion.
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