Notes from Puzzle Palace

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guangzhou toys fair

Once again, I've been a lucky lady.  I had another 20 hours in Guangzhou last week with some great friends.

As usual Michael gave me very late notice but he did send me a message asking if I wanted to go to Guangzhou on 9 April.   He told me that Da Yan and Leslie and couple others would be there. I was very lucky because we've just effectively finished the semester and I didn't have classes on Tuesday or Wednesday so I left Tuesday morning and went to GZ by train.  on Wednesday morning I had a meeting so for me it was just one night GZ as usual lately.  but hopefully this summer we will be able to get together again a few more times and I can spend more time up there. I'm hoping as long as I get more notice Michael.

When I got to GZ mean my my dear friend picked me up at train station and we stopped and ate some breakfast and then we headed off towards the torture appetizer we met at the angel and one of the owners of cube twist.
Now I've been to the toy fair in Hong Kong many times. I think about 15 years 16 years now I've been going and in Hong Kong it's very active and it's very busy. There are thousands and thousands of vendors. The walkway is very thin you're constantly bumping into people so when I got to GZ I was very very surprised.  There are less booths. It only covered two floors of the building but it was a very large building. The walkways were very wide. As I was walking I didn't bump into anyone. There was a lot of activity; a lot of people walking around a lot of talking.

We were very lucky because Happy Angel had been to the toys fair before and he acted as to a guide for us. We went around not looking at toys but looking at puzzles and puzzle companies. Very interesting in GZ the companies that we on Tuesday puzzles consider copy companies were all their selling or showing their puzzles. 

We went to was SS and we met the owner and the designer of the puzzles.  Neither men spoke English but the owners son was there and we spent a great deal of time sitting down and talking. As is usually in China the first thing they did was give us tea and of course we drank 10 cups of tea. The designer gave me two puzzles that he had designed the first is a 3 x 3 that glows in the dark and it's a little bit different.  It is blue instead of the usual green glow-in-the-dark. He also gave me a mini version of the 7 x 7 that they have made it's probably a half an inch smaller than the other 7 x 7 that they have developed previously.

They've also come out with a new 4 x 4 puzzle and I asked them to look at the inside of it very interesting thing to me it still looks the same as the v-cubes, but they've added an additional piece inside it.   I kind of thing so it's slightly different but it still reminds me of the same.   

From here we went on and looked at a giant helicopter and the company was selling remote control helicopter toys but this one is a toy for kids but you can sit two people in it and fly around.  It look pretty cool but not for my house.  It's it's the size of my house, literally!  From there we went to YJ and I saw quite a few puzzles that are relatively new, but I've picked them all up at the Hong Kong toys fair in January. They had the the golden Chinese tael, they had the silver potato (the one they are calling an egg) and many others that are pretty standard that they've had for for many many years.  They did have a burr type puzzle which was very interesting.  I have never seen it before and very nicely they gave me a copy of it.  The designer at this company recognized me from Twisty Puzzles from my blog and from many trips to China and posts on Mf8 so he was very nice. I did want to leave the before the owner of the company recognize me because I had met him previously when I was working the toys fair with v-cubes and so we left there and headed out to see a couple more puzzles.

 Next we went to see was Ghosthand but that was just normal 3 x 3 cubes.  We also saw the Chinese company that the toys company that made the Chinese knot puzzle at the Chinese new year last year. They had some three by threes they have some 4 x 4 expect basically nothing new. From there we went to see LAN LAN.  This is the first time that I've met the people from LL. They were very nice as well.   They had two new diamond geared type puzzles, not the same as the one that Calvin has produced, but unfortunately they wouldn't give me a copy of it so I'm I'm still trying to find that somewhere.  I'll probably buy it online somewhere and again more tea more more photographs but nothing new at this booth either.

QJ is another company that we saw and QJ had a number of puzzles out but we didn't stay very long the fair was closing soon and we wanted to get over to Dian Sheng.  QJ also had nothing new that I hadn't seen already.

The final stop of the day was Dian Sheng and I was very surprised as we walked up I saw it some posters on the wall.  The posters had a couple of cubes that I had never seen before so I was hoping they would have these puzzles in their booth.   The booth was very very large and as we went and they did have these  new puzzles however they look very much like a Meffert's ball cube.  But he's just produced two of them.  The texture on the outside of the balls is slightly different but otherwise they're effectively the same.  He also has made a new 4 x 4 puzzle with a textured surface on it so it isn't for use in competitions.   but it does look nice Dian Sheng also produced a number of 3 x 3 and 4 x 4 puzzles that are made of colored plastic so no more painting on colors and no more tiles on their puzzles.  Their third different colored plastics put together much like Mf8  and Da Yan have been doing over the last year.

at 5 o'clock it was very interesting because there were security guards standing around with megaphones telling us to leave the fair.  The fair is closing leave leave leave!  In Hong Kong they don't do that to make an announcement but that's it. People take their good sweet time to get out here they turn off the lights on us and there was a mad rush to leave the building.

I think at the end of the day we saw something like 10 different manufactures. It was as always very interesting for me to go to the fair from the standpoint of non-buyer and to look at it from that perspective.  It's not very often that I get to do that usually I've been working the fair for different companies. They had nothing new but I did meet the guy from Dian Sheng and he's going to send me some but I've been asking for him to send me.

Santa Da Yan
When the fair was over we went over to the MF8 warehouse and we met with Mr. Faulk and Diane says they work with you then and Leslie and his wife so everybody except Tom had come back to for the couple of days. Da Yan pulled out his new puzzles that he made lots of photographs have been running around the Internet of these things and they're a lot of fun to a lot of fun to twist and to play with he passed out blue to buy two to all of the puzzlers.  That I didn't get that I got a remake of a Gem puzzle that he had made before he's retooling all of the puzzles to make them better so very nice he signed them for us after this we went to dinner and and of course the dinner it was puzzles the Plenti we had Diane's puzzles on the table no one else brought out puzzles no no new puzzles coming out I should say or none that I can talk about I brought along a number of IPP puzzles that I had received that I thought that the guys would be interested in.   A number of other people joined us in the evening later in the evening and I think it dinner we had about 15 people in total. Teacher  didn't come but I give about five puzzles for him to use in his classes in the coming weeks.  He teaches middle school middle, school mathematics and he enjoys the packing puzzles for using with his students.

One puzzle that was a big hit was again Stephen Chin's mouse house and I played with it with a lot of people I took it out at the toys there and showed it to couple of the designers or owners that I know just goofing around and let them photograph it or anything.  At dinner everyone  had to try and solve the puzzle. That one was  a big hit! Leslie brought his wife alone and she managed to solve the puzzle.  Very interestingly, Eric Fuller's topless box is still unsolved. We didn't get that one done and dinner as usual lasted about three hours.  After dinner we went back to Mr. Fox warehouse to pick up our bags and from there we headed out to karaoke.  Karaoke lasted a long long long time and yes I sang this time.

Afterwards it was breakfast as usual in the same little shop just across from the hotel and we headed back to the hotel around 4:30 5 o'clock.   Because I had a 10 o'clock meeting I had to leave GZ very early and Ming stayed with me.  We left for the train station at around seven and I managed to make it back in time for my meeting. I'm really glad that I made notes for myself the day before on the train on the way up or I would never would have managed to survive the two hours that I had to survive.  GZ is great fun I love the guys I love going up and spending time with them.  I love playing with the puzzles and I just have an amazing good time when I when I go up there. I'm hoping that this summer I'll have a chance to go couple more times.  My schedule is a bit  more flexible than it was during term time and I look forward to spending more than just 18 hours over 20 hours in GZ. I guess I need three or four days in a nice long session would be good again. I hope you enjoyed the photographs of the toys. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013


In March I went to Thailand for a conference before I went to Singapore.  The week before I went I posted on twisty puzzles asking for puzzle shops in Thailand. I didn't get any replies so I went on my conference thinking I would find no shops or meet with no people. When I was in Thailand my colleagues and I tried some Thai whiskey and I posted a photograph of that on Facebook. I later received a message from Traiphum on Facebook asking if I would like to meet him.  

By the time I receive this I was already in Singapore but I I lucked out and he was staying in Bangkok for a couple of extra days when I returned the following week I met him on Monday at the hotel. 

For me this was quite funny because when I was when I was in the tuk-tuk the tuk-tuk driver kept telling us that we had four people and there were only three.  When I got to the hotel they told me my friend was waiting for me I had no idea what they were talking about I was confused because I thought they were saying I had to pay for another person in the room.  (the Tuk-tuk driver was in my head and I thought I had an imaginary friend that everyone but me could see)  Anyway I met with Traiphum. He brought many of his custom-made puzzles to show me and I also met his girlfriend I think her name was NeeNee but if I got it wrong I'm very sorry.  

His work is absolutely amazing!   I have one of his puzzles, but only one because they are quite expensive they run around US$150 and can go upwards of US$400 for one puzzle I enjoyed playing with them and I really liked meeting him.  A very very nice man. We sat and talked for about an hour before he had to catch a bus to go back to his hometown.  I was very happy because we were late the plane left a little bit later than it should have and I was over one hour late but he waited for me.  It was very kind of him to do so.  

The puzzles of his that I saw were some new ones that he was building and the number of old ones that he had just completed. He brought along and all almost 10 x 10 x 6 that he'd completed a 7 x 7 pyramid type puzzle, a 6 x 6 x 4 OLz'd puzzle and and the helicopter not the helicopter the Megamix cube that he had been working on. He also pulled out a 6 x 6 x 6 cube with bigger bits on the outside and smaller bits in the inside I don't know the name of that one but I'll post a photo of it anyway here and he showed me another one that he had been working on and it's a 9 x 9 x 3 with hidden layers he's just an absolutely amazing builder identified by 5 x 3 that I saw of his.  

He let Katherine muck up some cubes.  It was very nice of him to show me how he makes the puzzles so he brought out one that he was still working on and he said he does all the cutting and his girlfriend does all the fine work.   There's a photo here is one of the puzzles in a partial state very nice of him but he told me I could post it here for everyone to see.  All in all it was a really fun hour or two that we have spent together just looking at his puzzles I felt very bad because we were on holiday and I didn't bring any puzzles with me because I know in Thailand it's very very easy to get wooden puzzles and I didn't want the extra weight because I wanted to bring toys back with me.

After he left we checked into the hotel room and we took off for Road We Were Staying near That Area and Having Stayed There You Know 20 Years Ago When We Were Young I Knew I Would Be Able to Find Puzzles over in That Area.

I found lots of burr puzzles a couple of packing puzzles mostly mostly burst some of that the pyramids with the balls that you put together a couple of twisting barrel type puzzles a number of pegged jumping puzzles.  These are very typical of what you'll find in Thailand unfortunately for me I had all of these from many visits that I had taken previously.  Altogether I spent about a week and a half in Thailand and  I came home with absolutely nothing new.

Bug wanted to buy a T-shirt so I took her out to some of the night markets to look for T-shirts and of course we found puzzles there as well again with the wooden puzzles there was nothing new I found nothing I didn't already half but we didn't find a number of cyclone puzzles that were being used as lights they were in packages with varying in size from maybe 1 inch 2 foot and a half across. These range from one US dollar to about US$20 very cheap puzzles but because I have some already I didn't buy any of these either.

 I didn't see one puzzle that I have not had before and it was called a rocket ship I think there were about 13 pieces in it. I didn't buy this one. It wasn't expensive it was about HK$100 but it's a very large puzzle I am in total it was about a foot and a half tall for 13 pieces and this is just a bit too big for what I was looking for and my suitcase was already fairly full so... 

 I just decided that next trip I'll look again and maybe buy that rocket ship.   I'm going again next summer for another conference and I'll buy it then.  Thailand overall is a nice place to visit but as far as puzzles for me it was empty. It was dead. Bad. But I did get some nice jewelry so it wasn't a busted trip after all.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

meeting puzzlers

The one thing I love and hate about my job is the research and the travel to foreign lands that goes with it.  This past month has seen me almost disappear from the puzzle world.  I've been so busy doing my day job that I simply haven't had time for more than a cursory glance at forums, or to read blogs let alone post on my own.

This last bout of work has seen me in Singapore and Thailand.  And you should know by now that one of my criteria is that I meet with puzzlers when I travel.  (The other criteria is of course the conference must be interesting)

The first place we went was Bangkok.  Sadly, I forgot to ask about meeting up with puzzlers, but as it turned out, a puzzler contacted me.  I posted a photo of some really nasty Thai whiskey that one of the boys and I were sharing (Don't try it.  That stuff is like drinking gasoline!) and Traipumi saw it on Facebook and arranged a meeting for the following week when I went back for a short vacation.

In the mean time I headed off for Singapore and a meet up with fellow blogger Jerry.  He very nicely picked me up at my hotel and we headed off for dinner.  Mexican if I remember right.  But before the meal came we had to play a bit with some toys.  Jerry brought along a bunch for me to look at and I brought along one or two as well.

Before we met, we had conversed via email for a while and I requested to see his Einstein puzzle.  He also brought along a Marcel butter churn and a few more.  He asked me to see a Berrocal and I very gladly obliged.  I showed him how to disassemble David, and let him take Maria apart.  As happened to me when I saw Maria at Hendrik's house, Jerry instantly said he would now purchase one if given the opportunity.  They are beautiful pieces of work and just call out to you once you see one.  I also brought along Arrow Blocks and a couple of wire puzzles and a Hanayama I had in my bag.

We spent around 3 hours together puzzling and chatting about fellow puzzlers, bloggers, and sellers too.    Jerry was quite the gentleman.  As always, I was happy to meet a fellow blogger and instantly felt comfortable with him.  I was there for work, and my colleagues called to ask where I was.  Jerry the gent, dropped me at the bar they were at and we all enjoyed a nice cool walk back to the hotel.  Singapore was a beautiful, albeit sterile, city.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to go, but even more glad that I got to spend time with a new friend.

A rather pleasant surprise for me was that I will have the oportunity to see Jerry again in the not too distant future.  It seems he and I will be in the same city for a weekend near summers end. I left him with my Arrow Blocks, and he left me with Einstein and the butter churn.  We'll return them when we next meet.

As we were parting company, Jerry and I exchanged puzzles.  He gave me a new one he was working on and I gave him "Oli's travelling puzzle" (my name, not his).  This puzzle has now gone from the UK and an MPP to HK to Singapore.  I wonder where it will end up next???

It was a real joy to meet him.  Thank you for a lovely evening my friend!