#2092 | #JemmaRecommends live in Changi Airport Times Bookstores

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Hey guys,

So this is something that’s been in the works for ages now, and something that’s very close to my heart. A year ago, after I was named as the Changi Airport social media ambassador, I pitched a passion project to Changi Airport Group that revolved around my two big loves – reading and travelling. I’m someone who travels a lot, both for work and leisure, and it is both a blessing and a privilege. Much of who I am today has been influenced both by the places I’ve been to (hence: the cultures I’ve been exposed to, the conversations with people halfway across the world that help shape my understanding that there is no one way to see a subject) and by the books I’ve read (for who’s first trip wasn’t through the mesmerising turn of the page?).

The one big thing both books and travel have in common is the ability to afford us perspective and subsequently, empathy, for the world that extends beyond the confines of our individual being. This empathy is ever more crucial in today’s world – a world that is quick to condemn and point fingers, a world that is quick to dismiss another person as wrong and thus, erase everything they are trying to say as irrelevant. No. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt, growing up, it’s that the black and white of our childhood rarely remains so clearly demarcated. There is a heck load of grey, and there are two sides to any given issue – often, more than two. In a world that has become so far extreme, it is a good thing to learn that two opposing ideals can co-exist and each be valid and justified without completely erasing the other. It helps us see people who are different from us as an individual, not a statistic. This thing? It is called balance. And it is a balance that springs up from empathy.

And so with this in mind, the project pitched to Changi Airport and their tenant, Times Bookstores, had one clear goal – to recommend books to readers, browsers, and travellers that would bring them places, not just physically, but in terms of perspective and ideas. Thus the #jemmarecommends shelf was born (a play on Changi’s existing Changi Recommends service).

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With my Jemma Recommends shelf in one of the Times Travel stores in Changi Airport

The airport made perfect sense for this collaboration – airports have always been a place of transit, a place where we long to go somewhere new, find out new things about ourselves and the world, and I wanted my little shelf to reflect that same sentiment as well. Changi Airport, in particular, has always been one to push boundaries and outdo itself – I mean, what other airport in the world has drawn such love from their local community that entire families go to the airport as a family outing for dinner or to play? I myself grew up at the airport, long before I started to travel, spending hours each weekend studying in their cafes or public areas – in fact, one of my earliest childhood memories involve my parents taking me there as a treat to watch planes take off and have Swensens ice cream. The point is, Singaporeans love Changi Airport, and it is not a love that is taken for granted – the Changi of my childhood and the Changi of my now is so vastly different, it is often hard to imagine how it can improve further from here on. But it does, and continually impresses us.

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The point of bringing that up wasnt to debate the varied joys of Changi’s many innovations (sunflower garden?? Raindrop installation?? Butterfly garden??) but to illustrate the kind of spirit Changi has always espoused – one that is always changing, innovating, and cementing its place as a leader in the travel industry. It is equal parts my project pitch and that spirit that allowed for the birth of this collaboration. I will tell you first hand that it is incredibly difficult to pitch new ideas that have not been tried and tested by other markets to any big brand, especially multi billion dollar corporations like so. People like to err on the safe side, and as a freelancer, I am perpetually trying to convince my clients to try new things. If you don’t try new things, I argue, you’re always going to be following behind other brands. It is an argument that has had moderate success. But Changi’s ethos of perpetual innovation has allowed for this collaboration to happen, because they could understand the benefits of trying something that had no quantifiable precedence, and it is a hopeful sign to me that this will pave the way for more meaningful collaborations in time to come 🙂

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My shelf in one of the Relay stores, part of the TIMES family

As you all know, books have been my life since I was sentient, and I really hope to bring the joy of reading to all of you – not just joy, but new ideas, world views, and a better understanding of privilege and empathy. After multiple rounds of curation and discussion with Changi and Times Bookstores, we soft-launched our travel shelf at the end of last year, with ten books segregated by long and short haul flight recommendations. The ten books were books that not only inspired me, but that I deem culturally significant, and at a very basic level, are ten damned good books purely in terms of writing, style, and storytelling. Times Bookstores has been an invaluable part of this process, not just in the obvious way of being the bookstore involved in the collaboration, but also in helping me understand so much about how the publishing industry works, and being available for me to bounce ideas off for curation. Which brings me to the next part..

Earlier this year, Times proposed a new element to phase two of our collaboration – stickering the books with our #JemmaRecommends label. This not only allows us to recommend more books than one shelf can hold, it’s also a really nice way for people to immediately identify the recommended titles around the stores in Changi.

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The stickers are designed by my talented friend Warren Tey, who is kind of like a superstar in the graphic design world ◡̈

Now, obviously logistics dictate that we can’t sticker every book that I recommend because then firstly we will not have enough stickers and secondly what if people want to buy books that dont have stickers on them? So what we did was sticker selected titles from within my recommended list (trust me, that list goes on and on and on…) in each Times Travel/Relay bookstore, and so the recommended books vary from bookstore to bookstore but they’re all still good reads. So the next time you’re in Changi airport, try to spot the stickered titles in each store! 🙂 And the shelves are still live in one bookstore per terminal, which you can visit if you’d like to see a bigger selection of recommendations.

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As you can tell, I’m very proud of my shelf..

I have also been extremely heartened by the response to the shelf so far. Besides the news coverage we’ve received, I’m perpetually getting little dings on my phone notifying me that a new person has visited the shelf and uploaded a picture of it on instagram stories or snapchat, and people have been emailing me about the book recommendations, taking it upon themselves to either recommend me more books or giving me their reviews of the books i’ve recommended. It’s been amazing.

So thank you, guys.

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And thank you, Changi Airport and Times.

To the rest of you – we will be continually updating the recommended list of books (honestly, i dont think I’ve gone through so many books so quickly in my life… so, so many) and as always, I welcome your suggestions. And one more thing – if you enjoy the books, if you like the idea of these collaborations – please buy the books. Collaborations like these are difficult to implement and even more difficult to justify because they are not traditional campaigns which are sales driven or meant to highlight a particular marketing imperative. I think it is obvious that this is a passion project on all ends – but we have come to a point, I believe, where collaborations with social media personalities need to go beyond just telling you what the best lipstick to buy is (though girl, we all know we love our lipsticks). And many people are happy to stay with the existing mode of collaborations, which makes it very difficult to push the boundaries towards collaborations which may not be the most sales-driven, but weigh in heavily on being more meaningful. So when you purchase a book from the collaboration, what youre signalling to everyone is that you support the messaging and idea behind the entire collaborations. I think it is as good a time as any to clarify that I dont earn a cent from this collaboration – that all the time and effort put in curating, reading, curating, promoting the books collaboration is purely of my own volition. But if you would like to see more collaborations of this kind, not just from me but throughout the industry, you enable the industry taking a small step in this direction by buying the books. You enable it by creating chatter around the collaboration, by always showing me and people around you that you are interested in seeing content like this. And you force everyone – brands, influencers, the industry – to step it up.

Thanks again guys, for reading, generally, and then specifically here. I’ll see you at the turn of the page. x

x
Jem

#2091 | Tales from Tokyo – All the weird things I consumed in Tokyo Convenience Stores

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To be precise, Tokyo Convenience stores AND vending machines. But the title was getting too long.

Tokyo is so well known for its convenience stores, which are amazing, but it’s my fourth trip to Japan this time round and I still haven’t tried most of the offerings instore because I don’t understand them. So I thought I would start a log of my trip eats from the stores…

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Refreshing and zero calories. Tastes just like what it says – jasmine tea, with a slightly flowery aftertaste thats not unpleasant.
Would recommend if you want to try something new but you don’t want to take in additional sugars. I felt very healthy drinking this HAHA.

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Really good. Sour and refreshing. Made in Hong Kong tho, dunno if it counts as a Japan eat?

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Good stuff because I love eggs. The egg was actually still runny, which was incredible to me! The rice was pretty flavourful too. Would recommend this.

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My number one favourite thing to get from convenience stores in Japan. Buy to eat alone or pop in your instant ramen. You can get onsen eggs, japanese ramen eggs, etcetera etcetera.

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Just tastes like lemon tea. The best thing about this was the packaging.

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STAY AWAY FROM THIS. WORST DRINK IN THE WORLD. I TEARED UP.

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Ippudo Instant Ramen! Probably the best instant noodles you will eat in your life. This is a Japan 7-11 exclusive, so you cant get it at Family Mart or Lawsons. Would definitely recommend. They have this in box form which is easier to bring home in your luggage, but TBH this individually packed one is significantly better.

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Very underwhelming. Just tastes like sliced cheese. Would recommend buying to pop in your noodle pot when cooking, so the cheese melts over your noodles and you get cheesy ramen. Mmmmmmm…

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I really like this milk tea. It’s not too sweet, you can taste the brewed leaves, and it has a weirdly floral aftertaste which isn’t bad.

Alright, that’s it.

I told y’all it be a straightforward post. More to come!
x
Jem

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#2087 | Mel’s Bali Engagement :)

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Hey guys,

So I was in Bali in end-April for Mel’s engagement party, which I keep accidentally saying is her wedding. The thing about Singaporean weddings, I think, is that they’re such a huge affair that it becomes pretty hard to have quality time with the bride and groom, and it is based on this rationale that Mel decided to throw a much smaller scale engagement party for family and close friends. 🙂

My first time attending a destination wedding – sorry, engagement party/ wedding related activity – and so I was visibly excited at everything going down!! The party was held on this cliffside villa, and it felt like everything was coming together just for this one night – the most perfect sunset of our entire trip we witnessed there, and not gonna lie, it felt like it happened specifically for her engagement. It also rained half the nights we were in Bali, but the weather was perfect that night. 🙂 🙂 🙂 All the smiley faces because what the hell it was amazing!

Here’s my date for the night:

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Amanda wong everybody. Don’t know why she pretends she’s so normal on her instagram when actually she’s the craziest of the lot.

Anyway we kind of hung around upstairs waiting for the party to officially start. We were kinda early cos we expected the Bali jam to be insane but traffic was surprisingly smooth sailing (see above re: perfect conditions). So we arrived when the bridal party and co were still getting ready. When everything was done we headed down to the grassy area where the outdoor party was and basically screamed when she came out because LOOK AT THIS!

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I’ve known Mel for about four years now and I’ve legit never seen her so radiant – she was literally beaming. There was this once I did a bridal themed shoot for a local designer, about two years ago, and when I sent the photo to a friend of mine he replied and said that he nearly cried when he saw it.

You crazy ah cry for what it’s just a shoot I’m not really getting married.
DON’T KNOW LAH its very touching okay??
What???
Very touching to see a friend in a wedding gown what NO MEH
You’re mad. Next time dont show you already.

BUT NOW I TOTALLY GET IT. I nearly teared up when I saw Mel walk out! But of course I didn’t because then everyone would laugh at me. I cried later on, when they were doing the speech, and when the sun had set so no one could see me weeping like a lame person. HAHA.

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With Tara who flew in from Aussie for the wedding!

How much u wanna bet flower crowns are going to be the new bridal trend from here on? Hahaha! Anyway. So we were taking a picture together and hugs were being exchanged and in between photos I found myself alone with James, the man of the hour, who I quite like but don’t know as well as Mel because I kind of know him through her. But he is mega sweet and also possibly the happiest guy on earth and the new hero of all nice guys in the world because he has definitively proved that yes, nice guys finish last, as in, the last one because there will be no more guys after him since he’s marrying the girl!! This is something I joke about a lot with him, but it was not really the occasion to be joking around I suppose so when I found us two standing there I couldnt help but blurt out how happy I was for him.


You know
, I said, I dont think I’ve told you this but when I congratulated Mel after you proposed to her, she said she was so happy and it was all she’s ever wanted ..

And he looked like he was about to tear up right there and then. Don’t make me cry! he said, and I was like, damn. Nearly. So close.

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I wanna freak out a bit over the table setting also because I felt like I was legit living in a pinterest board just for one night. These outdoor weddings have never been very possible in Singapore (or perhaps Ive just never been invited to one?!) because of how humid it is, but in the dry crispness of other countries these fairytale like weddings seem totally achievable. Bali isn’t exactly cooling, but they held the party on a cliff so the constant sea breeze was something of a plus. All of us were soaked through by the end of the night regardless, but that was more because of all the wedding dancing than anything else. This was also one of the first times I’ve seen a real benefit in getting a wedding planner because it takes the burden off worrying about the big day and you can just sit back and actually enjoy the day, and let someone else worry about what could go wrong! HAHA. Mel’s wedding planner was from The Bride Story, judging from how well everything went, I think they did a pretty swell job.

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I’m like mega blonde here cos I went swimming in the sea and it washed all my color out. Haha! Oh yeah and wearing a hat cos they gave out His and Hers straw hats as party favors as we walked in. A pretty cute touch!

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First dance at sundown.

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Here you can see how the night got progressively more ratchet. HAHAHAHA. Because she kept the party small – about fifty people – everyone was jumping around and dancing after dinner, and eventually half of us ended up in the pool. It was mega fun!!!! But I think no one had as much fun as the couple themselves – Mel was practically delirious from happiness at the end, she was hugging everyone and making declarations of love. Aint those the best nights. x

So happy for you Mel. Many blessed years to come. x

x
Jem

#2085 | Five Strangely Geeky Things to Freak out over in Tokyo

It’s very hard to quantify why and how I love Tokyo, but I do. Actually, I adore all of Japan, at least the bits that I’ve seen, but Tokyo was my first foray into the country and so holds a very special place in my heart. Tokyo to me is a little like New York on drugs, wacky, weird, happening, and with more neon lights. Every time I go I accumulate strange encounters, and so I thought it was time to pen down the five weirdest things you can do in Tokyo to satisfy your inner freaky geeky self.

1. Check out the roving exhibitions at the National Art Center Tokyo.

I was fortunate enough to catch Yayoi Kusama’s My Eternal Soul exhibition when I was in Tokyo. Click here to watch my #jemmainajiffy vlog of my experience..

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I was legit freaking out. It was one of the best exhibitions I’d ever seen! The balance of art and explanation was ace. You’d think that it’d be an obvious requirement for museums, but a lot of museums have really bad art descriptions, which really ruins the whole thing. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the exhibition in Tokyo National Art Center got their copy down pat, especially since they’re definitely translated over from Japanese. You go, Japan!

And even if you’re not able to catch Yayoi, from experience – the National Art Center brings in really good exhibitions, so I definitely recommend checking it out anyway.

Last year, I was in Tokyo during Art Week, and so we got to see many literally roving exhibitions. Here’s one of some people pretending to be sushi.

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The art galleries were pretty good too. And if you’re not into that, at least go to admire the architecture – the building itself is amazing!

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Protip: Queue for tickets is mad, so buy your tickets online first. Or if you end up buying on the day itself, BRING YOUR STUDENT PASS. You’ll save like 400YEN on the admission fee. The museum is closed on Tuesdays, so don’t just rock up to the doors like we did without checking first. We had to come back twice because we didn’t realise it was closed on tuesdays the first time!

Additional tip: this museum is located in Roppongi, where the chichi neighbourhood is. You can go cafe hopping, have a drink at the famous Lost in Translation bar atop the Park Hyatt Tokyo, or head to a hedgehog cafe in the area!

2. Go to the Robot Restaurant

This idea was floated to me last year during my previous trip, but I never got around to doing it till this one. The robot restaurant has gotten such mixed reviews from everyone I know who’s been there – it really is either a love or hate kind of situation. But everyone agrees on one thing: only in japan.

I booked the robot restaurant for my sister and I on the Klook app, which is the same app I used for my airport transfer, my disneyland/sea tickets, so on and so forth. When I got to the restaurant I just showed them my phone to enter, which was incredibly convenient since I hate printing and carrying tickets around! Super super fuss free. We got the show-only option because we heard that the food they serve isn’t great. I’d recommend this for sure, because Shinjuku has a lot of great dining options you can go to after the show, like Ichiran ramen’s 24 hour chain and so on.

So we settled down and waited for the show to start. To be honest, when it began I thought it was totally not worth the money because it was just costumed girls running around on floats looking high on life. BUT. Turns out that was just the pre-show! The actual show… it blew me away. I think I must have been slightly delirious from the flight and the rain because I couldnt stop laughing for an hour straight. It truly is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.

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Waiting for the show to start… full house!

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Pre-show

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DANCING ROBOT!!!I screamed when he came out. I’m a sucker for these things.

Essentially, there are three shows in the robot restaurant, each with their own relatively simple storyline. The magic happens when the freakin ROBOTS come out and fight it out. What the damn hell! I screamed and laughed and cried so much I thought i was going to die. And after reading online reviews, I realised that they must have already tampered this down because apparently it was a lot LESS PG before it got so touristy. The show I watched was so crazy already, I cant imagine how it could have been crazier before!

The show was a freakin full house, and they do three shows a day. Even years after they’ve opened doors it’s still a full house every show, so I would suggest booking this early. The entire thing cost 10 million yen to build, and now I understand why. Do it if you’re the type who grew up watching anime and reading manga because to be honest, this is the closest you will get to living in a freaking manga comic. HAHA.

Protip: skip buying the overpriced dinner at the robot restaurant and go for dinner / drinks elsewhere after the show. Golden Gai is nearby for drinks, and the charmingly named Piss alley is also in the area if you want cheap eats.

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PS. Was super amused by the poor dudes who were obviously hired just to control the robots. All the excited dancing robots and costumed girls around them and they’re just like… another day in the life…

3. Get your life movie trailer made at the LINE FRIENDS HARAJUKU store

I must admit that I’m not a huge LINE user myself: I favour Whatsapp (because everyone is on it) and Telegram (because of the stickers!!) more. But I do use the LINE stickers of that weird moon headed man and the bunny on Telegram, and they’re some of my favourites!

You already knew that taking neoprints, or purikura (プリクラ), is a must when headed to Harajuku. But why not amp it up and take the LINE specific purikura pictures? It’s 600YEN for two sets of four pictures, and here’s the kicker – when you download the Purikura app, you can get the photos in full res for free instead of having to try take a picture of your print out. AND, the app automatically creates this short music video of your pictures, which kind of plays like a really cheesy life trailer. But crazy corniness aside, when else are you going to have a trailer of your own life made? This is like the opening to my future reality TV show, y’all. Crazy bear transitions and all.

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Besides, how can you resist a picture with this larger than life LINE bear?

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Protip: The LINE purikura machine is at B1 level. Down the road from the Harajuku LINE shop is Red Rock – where you can get one of the best beef bowls in your life. Yum! Go late to avoid a queue.

4. Play old school video games in the 8bit cafe

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This cafe has an entry fee of 500YEN and a minimum order of 1 drink each. But for good reason! The cafe is a themed one, full of old school games that are fully functional. You can stay for an hour and a half, and the games are a really good mix of familiar (marioKart) and never seen before (Pico Park?). Drinks are named after the owner’s favourite video game characters, which is a cute touch.

It’s not a big cafe, and fills up quickly. I would suggest going about late afternoon (it opens at 6) to avoid the crowds. We were the only ones there save for another couple, but by 630pm people started streaming in!

One last thing: the place is really near the Shinjuku subway exit, but it’s not easy to find. Look for a dodgy little staircase is my best advice, and a sign that says 8bit.

8bit Cafe
Q Building 5F, 3-8-3 Shinjuku,

160-0022 Shinjuku-ku , 13

Protip: It’s in between the Shinjuku Gyoen and the Metropolitan Gov building. So go to the Gyoen before that, then the cafe, then head to the Gov building to check out the free observation deck for a bird’s eye view of Tokyo! Wrote about the Metropolitan Gov Building (amongst other things) in my Broke Student’s Guide to Tokyo here.

5. Ride Mario GoKart down the streets

This is something I regretfully did not get to do myself, because I chickened out. I’m a relatively new driver, and I definitely do not feel confident speeding down the roads of shibuya in a gokart! But I saw a ton of other people doing it, and it looked ridiculous and amazing. You get to dress up as your favourite Mario Kart character and zoom zoom your way down the streets of Tokyo. Again, its something that mostly tourists do. But let’s face it – if you’re reading this, you’re a tourist. And so embrace the life, and get weird with them. Im sure it’ll be an awesome memory, and it’s something I’m mentally preparing myself to try the next time I head to Tokyo!

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Check out this insane looking experience. Image from: thebarrybullockhour.podbean.com

I also really liked the Tokyo Weekender review of the activity. Perhaps I’ll be brave enough to try it on my own next time! Ha.

You can also book this activity off Klook, where they occasionally have discounts for their hosted activities. And the more activities you book on them and reviews you leave, the more points you get towards a discount on your next activity!

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This post might be done but I am definitely not. A slew of Tokyo-related posts (aka. gushing about the city) to come, and till then – hope you guys enjoyed this post! Please send me your recommendations for the city as well, because I know I’m definitely going to be back before long 🙂

x
Jem

This was part of a Tokyo work trip with Klook – a travel activities booking site. Tickets to the Robot Restaurant were also booked on Klook!

#2083 | #LADiaries Airbnb Walks – The Last Bookstore

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Los Angeles, America

Dusky evenings in downtown LA. I try to make it a point to visit a bookstore in every city I go to – part because of my love for reading, part because I truly believe that bookstores form such core part of our culture’s heart. My favourite bookstores, thus, are scattered around the globe: Three Lives and Company in New York, Liberia in London, Topping & Company Booksellers in Bath… and now added to the list, The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA, stop number three on the Old Bank District: The Historic Core Airbnb Audio Guide.

How do you not immediately want to run into this bookstore the minute you see it? What a name – compelling, challenging. And yet, not easy to stumble upon – perhaps because it being my first time in LA, I didn’t know my way around and thus wouldnt have walked past this street without being specifically guided there. Last week, a reader wrote to me and detailed the number of places she had been, following my travel guides on this blog. When I plan for my travels, there are also some travel forums, blogs and video channels I go to as an automatic resource. The point is – travel guides and online repositories of content still play a big part in the process of discovery and trip planning, and the newest entry into the fray is Airbnb with their launch of local guides and audio walks. When it was announced at Airbnb Open, I wondered how something that made so much sense was launching only now. But that’s part of the beauty of Airbnb, I think, and all industry innovators and disruptors – always changing things up and coming up with new ways of experiencing that you never knew you needed till now.

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The Airbnb Audio Walks are part of a collaboration with Detour, and you can find them under the Places tab in your Airbnb app. It’s still being rolled out in different countries, but for now its mainly in the USA. Essentially, it’s a free bonus you get with the Airbnb app which is GPS tagged so it brings you through “walks” in different neighbourhoods and cities. Sounds perfect for solo travellers – but it’s actually geared towards groups too, because you can sync your tours with your friends and all do the walk together. This is so great because it’s like a free walking tour but pegged to your own convenience – and made better only by the fact that the tours themselves are freaking ace. This particular one that features The Last Bookstore actually has different locals bring you through the walk in the audio guide – and one of the is the owner of the freakin bookstore, Josh Spencer. So yes – not a bad way to spend an afternoon, especially if there’s an Airbnb audio guide available in the city you’re visiting.

And so, into the bookstore we go..

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I have to say, being on a press trip, I didn;t have huge blocks of free time to wind around the city. My free time was mostly spontaneous, and in short bursts, and it was in that way that Los Angeles and I got acquainted. It wasn’t half bad – in fact, I’d like to think that I made quite good use of my time there, thoroughly filling my days with things and experiences and also leaving just enough to know that I’d be back. I thought to myself that I’d just pop in and spend an hour in the bookstore (after all, I wasn’t about to sit and read a book – just take a look, perhaps buy a book, and ask for recommendations) and then head out and check out other things within the city. But of course this was wishful thinking. Once I stepped in, the next time I saw the sky again it was dark, and dinnertime, and I was forced out by the alert on my phone that my next scheduled itinerary event was happening. And so that is a roundabout way of saying that yes, I loved it, and yes, you should definitely check it out if you’re in LA!

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The bookstore is a secondhand and new bookstore, and consists two floors and a ton of themed rooms. It’s won a lot of praise for its stunning design, and a true bibliophile could honestly spend hours and hours in here!

Some of the themed rooms they have include rooms gravitating around art, rare book rooms, $1 book areas, children books, so on and so forth. I’m pretty proud to say that I saw our homegrown Singaporean graphic novel, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, on the shelves in the Graphic novels and Photobooks room. It’s a little overwhelming when you first go in because it’s impossible to know where to start, but what I did was go straight to the second floor where the book labyrinth was, and then work my way down from there

The walk up:

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The flying books are my favourite, they remind me of Harry Potter!

These book themed installations are done in collaboration with various artists in LA, and David Lovejoy is featured very prominently. I deadass got the scare of my life when I turned the corner in the stairwell and bumped into that android human book thing. Jeez. America.

There are corridors which imitate art galleries along the second floor, and I spent a happy twenty minutes or so perusing them. I believe the art gallery Spring Arts is located there, where occasionally artists will come and take residence and interact with customers there – but I didn’t get to see them when I was there. And there’s also this jail cell looking room with the sign EMPLOYEES ONLY which I presume is where the booksellers can go take their break, but I didn’t get a photo of that unfortunately.

The Labyrinth:

I ran to the Labyrinth when I saw it, not even kidding. This is what my dreams are made of!

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Everything on the second floor goes at a dollar each, but the real draw for most people is the way the second floor looks like a portal into a whole different dimension. Again, it’s segregated by genre – the science fiction room is a legitimate VAULT – but the devil is in the details. Everything – from the way the light falls dramatically on certain titles – to the magnifying glass hanging over some books – is planned with the very deliberate care of someone who loves the place. And check out that book loop!

All of them, again, were done either by volunteers within the LA book community, or by local artists. The collaborative effort of this place was touching, but also sobering – in the window, a sign: What are you waiting for? We wont be here forever.

Back down to the first floor:

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The art on the wall is made fully of paperback books!

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There’s a one hour time limit for couches – presumably so you dont fall asleep there. No computer terminals to help you find books either, you just approach the “section care experts”, and they mentally log where you can find what you’re looking for. I ended up buying my first ever copy of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay which at that time was impossible to find in Singapore (now I have three copies cos I keep giving them away) and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness which was in the same year made into a movie. Would have gotten more (dollar books!!) but.. luggage space. Anyway. They pack your purchases into a brown paper bag, very old school, and then off you go.

When I stepped out of the store, it was dark. I had overstayed my initial plan – as expected – but I left happier, with two books, and no regrets.

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What a recommendation. I cannot imagine any book lover coming to LA and not visiting the last bookstore. And if you do live in LA – what are you waiting for? They wont be there forever.

The Last Bookstore
453 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA

You can access Airbnb Audio Walks now via the Airbnb app.
Airbnb.com/jemma for $50 off your first stay x

x
Jem