Vintage Asian is an art, design and culture blog. An online gallery of vintage Asian design, oriental antiques and art, and retro Asian culture - music, fashion, film. Curated by hand. Memories of memories - each item in the collection has a story. Browse to start the remembering process.

Geisha Bones

Geisha Bones

Since 1615. In 1997 a fairly wretched novel called Memoirs of a Geisha was published, recounting a stylized version of geisha life in Kyoto. The film adaptation screened in 2005, setting the world aflutter with geisha mania – a fascination with the geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha), who dwell in...
Heavenly Union

Heavenly Union

Beautiful dualities. Over the centuries a struggle for supremacy has taken place on the spiritual battlefield. Hinduism, which today is usually perceived as a single religion, is in reality a gargantuan amalgamation of religious traditions, philosophies, rituals, deity cults, official theologies, folk traditions. The notion of these diverse – and...
Siam Sterling

Siam Sterling

Looks Can Be Deceiving. The inside of this bracelet is stamped SIAM STERLING. Two words that evoke an era when Thailand was thought of as the ‘exotic Orient’. I think we’ve moved beyond that, but perhaps I’m a bit biased having spent most of my adult life in these theoretically...
Hand-coloured Indian Photograph

Hand-coloured Indian Photograph

The shimmer of gold. Swathes of emerald, turquoise and the bright orange shade of kanakambaram blossoms radiate from the sarees. I love the way that so many hand-coloured Indian photograph focus on adorning the adornments. Jewellery shines. Jasmine flowers, ever-present in a South Indian woman’s hair, gleam bright white. Forehead...
Goddess of Lightning

Goddess of Lightning

Vintage Thai Plates. These graphics pop. And what an eye-blaring colour combination! No wonder the red and yellow political factions of today’s Thailand have trouble getting along. These colours were born for contrast. The flying woman is Mekkala, the Goddess of Lightning. She’s ancient but was an extremely popular motif...
Latest entries
Letter from a Rented Wife

Letter from a Rented Wife

Deep cuts. During the Vietnam War, thousands of American soldiers found themselves transported to a temporary home in Udon Thani, in the heart of the country’s North East region close to the Laos border. They cut their mark on this provincial outpost and Udon cut a mark upon them. Many men, of course, were very...
Floating Market

Floating Market

Bangkok is a city of slowly fading ghosts. Every city is graced with its own urban decay. To some people, derelict buildings and their rusty, crumbling structures are eyesores. To others, they’re spatial poetry. Bangkok, for a stretch of years following the Asian economic crash of 1997, had a generous share of architectural ghosts. Skeletal...
Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre

Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre

There’s something beautiful about bones. I know that sounds twelve kinds of macabre. But skulls and skeletons have been enduring symbols in art and design for centuries. And yes, I love a good skull. Japanese art is no stranger to the grotesque, and skeletons dance through the history of Japanese prints like  the squirming of...
Once-Upon-a-Time Songkran

Once-Upon-a-Time Songkran

Turn back time for a look at Thailand’s famous Songkran Festival in years past. Today, Songkran – the Thai New Year – is a water war. Wild and crazy Thai teenagers, grown-up “teenagers”, excited tourists, children and people of all ages roam the street with water canons, giant buckets full of ice, icy-hot paste and...
Thai Graphic Design with a Retro Twist

Thai Graphic Design with a Retro Twist

Delicious design. I snapped this sign at the back of a rural Northern Thai market. It’s a restaurant hawking Southern Thai food. I didn’t have a chance to try the culinary artistry but I fell in love with the bold colours and the kaleidoscope of fonts, including some retro styled lettering. The pot-bellied fellow in...
Old Indian Photographs

Old Indian Photographs

Forgotten photographs of Hindu pilgrims. When I was twenty years old, I visited the holy city of Rameshwaram. The southeastern most point of India, it stretches out into the sea, just a stone’s throw from Sri Lanka. Though at that time the civil war in Sri Lanka was raging and the only people who regularly...
Thai Vintage Modern

Thai Vintage Modern

Haunting Time Warp. Palmy, Thailand’s spiral-locked Pop goddess, twirls through Bangkok’s beautifully antiquated Nightingale-Olympic Department Store in this 2011 music video. I’ve been meaning for a long time to drop by the store to do an impromptu photo shoot of its dusty glory. The 1960s Thai Chinatown grandeur frozen in time… well, not frozen so...
Vintage Japanese Commercial  - Star Wars Meets Sea Chicken

Vintage Japanese Commercial
– Star Wars Meets Sea Chicken

Star Wars characters cavort, inexplicably, in this 1978 tuna fish ad from Japan. The somewhat English-sounding phrase sung over and over is in fact English… “Sea Chicken, Sea Chicken.” I love the inscrutability of foreign advertising to outsiders. It’s like trying to translate a joke between languages and cultures. Somehow the joke often gets lost...
Getting Hammered - Another Antique Thai Drinking Bowl

Getting Hammered – Another Antique Thai Drinking Bowl

Another beautiful hammered brass bowl, or ‘kan nam’. Of course, their primary use was for good ole plain pure water, but who’s to say there was never some ‘lao kao’ (rice whiskey) or ‘ya dong’ (herb-infused liquor masquerading as medicine) swirling around its intricate designs? While the outside of this antique drinking bowl is quite...
Funny Retro Thai Commercial

Funny Retro Thai Commercial

Thai advertising gem. Comedians impersonate Western pop stars to promote an apartment building, Flat Pla Tong (Goldfish Flats), on Rangsit Road at the northern outskirts of Bangkok. Watch as Thai Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Madonna and others croon about public bus access and the low down payment. Thailand’s well-developed advertising industry rakes in a disproportionate...
Vintage Indian Commercial - Limca

Vintage Indian Commercial – Limca

Local flavour. My last post dipped into India’s soda wars. Read about it in this entry with a vintage Indian ad for Gold Spot. Another favourite ‘cool drink’ and for many years the domestic market leader was Limca. It’s a lemon-lime drink. Bottled like a soda but much less carbonated than your typical fizzy. Watch...
Vintage Indian Soda Commercial - Gold Spot

Vintage Indian Soda Commercial – Gold Spot

Cool drinks. A friend in India once asked me, ‘Why do foreigners drink so many cool drinks?’ (‘Cool drinks’ being Indian English for what goes by the name ‘soda’ or ‘pop’ in much of the rest of the English-speaking world). I had never really thought about the question, but I guessed that it was a...