Travel Diary: Shanghai’s Shifting Skyline

IMG_3106We travel to China four times a year, and it’s always fun to watch the changing skyline. It has changed dramatically from our first visit in 2006, and I was curious to see what it looked like 20+ years ago. A friend recently sent me a photo, and I was blown away…s_s03_aTX1292LHere’s a shot of Shanghai in 1987. Wow! The skyline today is really beginning to rival Hong Kong. And from what I hear, that’s exactly what the government intends to achieve.IMG_3094

Shanghai is the world’s fastest growing city – growing at a rate of 10% a year. The current population is 23.5 – nearly double what it was in 1987.

IMG_3080This is the newest tower going up – Shanghai Tower. It will be China’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest skyscraper, at 2,073 ft high. It is scheduled to finish by the end of 2014.IMG_3083It goes up into the clouds…
IMG_3121One of our favorite Shanghainese restaurants overlooks the Bund – Shanghai Min (in Mandarin it’s Xiao Nan Guo). After indulging in amazing hong shao rou (red-cooked pork) our tradition is to take an evening stroll and check out the ever-changing river skyline.
IMG_3132The ghosts/buildings of Shanghai’s past, still line the Puxi side of the Huangpu River. These stately historical Bund buildings once housed numerous banks and trading houses from the around the world.IMG_3123Today they are home to high end restaurants, nightclubs, boutiques and museums. IMG_3119It’s fun to see the old and new in close juxtaposition. Shanghai continues to be one of the most dynamic, interesting cities in the world.

Travel Diary: Gotta Goa Beach Vacation

Goa Path BeachOn a buying trip to India in March, we finally got to Goa. (Sorry – the puns are hard to resist.) Long a stopover on the hippie trail of the ’70s, Goa continues to be a hot spot for jet set travelers, Bollywood stars and honeymooning couples.

IMG_2045I’ve long been under the misconception that Goa was a city. It is actually India’s smallest state, but with over 75 miles of coastline, there’s a lot to see and do.

IMG_2047The toughest part is picking your beach…

IMG_2202We flew into Dabolim Airport and drove an hour and half to Ashvem Beach in North Goa. Ashvem and Morjim beaches are both relatively quiet and draw a hip, artistic crowd.

IMG_2027We decided to go “glamping” – opting for tented luxury over a large resort environment. Amarya Shamiyana has four beach tents which are air-conditioned, complete with sitting room, two sinks and a shower.

IMG_2032IMG_2075Breakfast is served upon request, and you’re a mere 100 feet away from the Arabian Sea. I definitely was living out my Arabian Nights fantasies at this lovely hotel.IMG_2105We spent the third night at Paros, Amarya’s property down the beach.

IMG_2174IMG_2170The tents weren’t as large or glam, but the eating area has gorgeous ocean views. IMG_2183The food is delicious and we had access to a totally deserted beach. If I had to pick, it would be difficult to choose a favorite.


I also spent one of the days browsing the funky boho-chic boutiques on Ashvem Beach. Full of eclectic Goa-wear, there are a lot fun things to shop. IMG_2052Jade Jagger has a hot pink shop here and I couldn’t resist picking up a dress and ruby ring. IMG_2061 IMG_2059I also got a sneak peak of her super cool compound (located nearby) when the credit card machine didn’t work. She has it decorated with Tibetan god/goddess pictures, rattan and a lot of hot pink. Very chic.IMG_2057

Another good stop down the beach is the chic French beach cafe – La Plage. It’s the heart of the Ashvem beach scene and serves up some yummy French and international cuisine. IMG_2043IMG_2072We had a lovely time in our brief Goa sojourn and are plotting a way back to sink our toes into the beach sand. If you get a chance, you must Goa too!


Amarya Shamiyana – Ashvem Beach, (Next to La Plage Restaurant), Mandrem, Goa-403527, INDIA

Paros by Amarya – Turtle Beach, Temba Vaddo, Morjim, Goa – 403527, INDIA

The Society Inc – Sibella Court’s Sydney Shop

IMG_6368In honor of Sibella Court’s new book “Gypsy: A World of Colors and Interiors” which came out on the 15th, I’m finally posting the pictures from my visit to The Society, Inc. - stylist and designer, Sibella Court’s adorable shop in the Paddington neighborhood of Sydney. IMG_6362Sibella is well known for her series of design books and her work with clothing retailer Anthropologie. She has an eclectic, global design aesthetic that’s followed closely by avid devotees such as myself.

IMG_6363 Sibella re-designs her shop about four times a year, with different themes, colors and collections. IMG_6371 An eclectic mix of accessories, home goods, hardwares and whimsical art pieces, Sibella’s magic is how she arranges objects in interesting and unusual ways. IMG_6375While in Sydney, I was super excited to get an autographed copy of “The Life of a Bowerbird: Creating Beautiful Interiors with the Things You Collect”. I was hoping to meet the author, but unfortunately she wasn’t in the shop that day.

IMG_6376 Sibella also designs a line of paints for Murobond, which she often features in the store’s themes.IMG_6379In her latest book “Gypsy” she travels to the Galápagos, Ecuador, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Turkey, Scotland, and Romania—featuring local trends, architecture, color schemes and crafts.  IMG_6384If you happen to be in Sydney, enjoy a leisurely afternoon browsing the curiosities and collections Sibella’s collected from home and abroad. You won’t be able to resist buying a piece or two…

The Society Inc. 18 Stewart St Paddington 2021
Open Wed-Sat 11am-5pm
Telephone 02 9331 1592

Photo Diary: All The Beaches I’ve Loved Before…

Sunset Beach – North Shore, Oahu

It’s that time of year when it seems like the winter will never end. I’m dreaming of sticking my toes into warm sand and baking in the sun as the sea laps against the seashore… Ah one can dream!

Join me for a trip to some beautiful sunny beaches of trips past…

Beach in Hoi An, Vietnam
Lone palm on the beach. Hoi An, Vietnam
Hayman Island - Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Hayman Island – Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Old dock - Koh Samui, Thailand
Old dock – Koh Samui, Thailand
Doris Duke’s Shangri La – Oahu
Double infinity pool at The Hanging Gardens outside Ubud.
Not a beach, but this water was gorgeous! Hanging Gardens – Ubud, Bali
Zazen Resort - Koh Samui, Thailand.
Zazen Resort – Koh Samui, Thailand
Rosario Islands – Colombia
Crooked palm – Koh Samui, Thailand
IMG_9019 (2)
Cove view – Uluwatu, Bali
IMG_6573Whitsunday Islands – Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Copacabana Beach – Rio, Brazil
Bondi Beach – Sydney, Australia
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Uluwatu – Bali
Whitsunday Islands – Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Sunset Beach – Oahu

Are you ready to buy a plane ticket? Me too.

A Fairy Tale Hindu Wedding in Jaipur

IMG_0276Indian weddings are always intriguing to the Western imagination – they supposedly last for days, include elephants, loads of jewelry and music and a riot of colors. An exaggeration, right? I am happy to report that the wedding my husband and I attended in November lived up to our imagination and then some…

The handsome groom Lalit with his young nephew.
The handsome groom Lalit with his young nephew.

We’ve known the groom Lalit for 5 years or more. We buy furniture from his family in Jodhpur. When he informed us it was his turn to get married, we jumped at the chance to celebrate it.

The beautiful bride Shipra.
The beautiful bride Shipra whose family is from Udaipur.

His bride Shipra was introduced to him about 3 months before the wedding. She hails from the lovely city of Udaipur. 90% of all weddings in India are arranged. These arrangements are based on the couples religion, caste, profession and appearance.

IMG_0109 The day we arrived in Jaipur we joined the family at their home and participated in traditional henna painting. Usually the women of the family get their hands painted, as well as the bride and groom.IMG_0112 Traditionally the initials of the bride are painted into the groom’s hands and the bride must find them (or risk bad luck). IMG_0132Local village women chanted outside the groom’s room as he was treated with a face masque. They chanted all night long.IMG_0201The painting itself took about half an hour, and about 5 hours to dry. By the end of the evening we were impatient and started picking the dried henna off rather than wait until the morning. Fortunately the henna dye took.

IMG_0474 (2)The next evening we joined the family for a huge song and dance performance. There were about a 1000 (yes!) guests. Professional singers alternated with family Bollywood performances.  And the family was good! They had been practicing for weeks. It was fun to see how much they got into it.IMG_0333Less fun was when we were asked to get up on the stage and dance (I quickly demurred – not being up on the latest Bollywood dance moves). Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire.IMG_0515Pyrotechnics lit up the stage (this guys was wiring together the electricity below the stage). We didn’t stand too close…IMG_0366Long rows of tables were loaded with local vegetarian delicacies and we eagerly filled up our plates with these delicious dishes.IMG_0398Fresh baked rotis and chapati were baked in clay ovens and over coals, while warm spiced Masala chai was served in clay cups. IMG_0420 (2)We were introduced to a new drink – Kashmiri tea – which is flavored with slivered almonds and spices – a real treat on a cool fall evening.

IMG_0231And finally… the actual wedding night! We were running late because my sari top (called a “choli”) wasn’t finished on time and we had to fight Jaipur traffic back to our hotel. We quickly located the wedding planner who expertly wrapped and pinned me into my sari – no small task!IMG_0253We arrived at the wedding venue at 7:30 only to find we were among the first to arrive. Indian time tends to be a little on the delayed side, so we assumed we were early. Fine, except for the fact we didn’t recognize anyone. Concerned we had been dropped at the wrong wedding, we asked around and confirmed the venue was indeed correct. But where was the groom’s family? IMG_0255Suddenly out of the unfamiliar crowd a man appeared with a cell phone. We were told by the groom’s brother we needed to join the groom’s entourage – quick! We got into the stranger’s car and were driven a few blocks to a huge wedding procession…

IMG_0307We saw Lalit riding on a decorated white horse (with pony tails!) wearing $2 million dollars in nugget sized green emeralds and dressed in a glittering white wedding suit. Now this is how to enter a wedding!IMG_0319Accompanying Lalit were hundreds of women in colorful saris loaded with serious jewelry, men wearing saffron turbans pushing beaded white lamps on wheels, men dancing on stilts, and a live band with professional dancers. What a scene!IMG_0314 IMG_0336IMG_0317

We followed this colorful, joyous crowd back into the wedding venue, passing a painted elephant along the way….IMG_0342When we arrived at the wedding venue, we were serenaded by a red turbaned Punjabi bagpipe band whose set included throwing drums into the air and clicking their heels. IMG_0246And soon the bride arrived on a palanquin carried by eight men, proceeded by dancing women…IMG_0420Her family procession followed behind. Shipra wore a beautiful red sari embroidered with $50,000 in diamonds and a quarter of a million dollars in wedding jewelry – mostly necklaces. (!!!)

IMG_0424The wedding venue was huge – over two football fields long – and held approximately 3500 guests. I’d never seen so many colorful, bejeweled saris.IMG_0386And then there was the food… There were about twice as many tables as the night before. All sorts of amazing Indian delights.

IMG_0263 IMG_0384 (2) There were spicy curries, rich dals, warm rotis dripping with ghee, barbecued vegetables and tandoori cheese, Italian pizza, kulfi, ice cream, traditional Indian desserts including gulab jamun, and wedding cakes covered with candied silver and pomegranates. Divine…

IMG_0422 IMG_0456 The bride and groom participated in several choreographed performances (more dancing!) and then spent a good portion of the evening patiently posing for pictures with wedding guests. Their stamina was admirable!IMG_0476We finally left at 1am but party hearty guests, family and the wedding couple stayed until 7am the next morning performing Saptapadi (Hindu fire rituals) which sanctified the marriage union.

IMG_0383We left  the wedding with full stomachs, warm hearts and memories for a lifetime.

Fashion Diary: Wearing a Sari for an Indian Wedding

IMG_0482In November I attended an Indian wedding in Jaipur, India. And of course I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to wear a sari! A friend in Jaipur recommended the store Zari, so I headed over there to check out their selection. IMG_0142IMG_0098I’m always out of my element in India because black isn’t a color choice. Bright pinks, fluorescent greens and yellows – all fight for attention – and none look so fabulous on a blond with pale skin. I had to dig deep to find some colors that would work for me.IMG_0101IMG_0100When I made my selections, the salesmen unfurled the saris so I could get a better look. My first choice was a deep red sari with beautiful gold beading.IMG_0088It was lovely but I also spotted a beautiful green sari I tried next. I asked one of the salesman to demonstrate how a sari is folded.

I can guarantee this takes some expertise! I thought it was interesting that the sales people were men rather than women. In such a conservative society it was a surprise to be dressed by a man.

At the end of the sari there is extra beaded fabric that is used to make the cropped top you see below. The top was tailored to fit.IMG_0221The lady shown in the picture was called in last minute to help me get dressed before the wedding. She expertly pinned and draped the sari – saving me from certain sari disaster!IMG_0224

Earlier in the day I shopped for some lac bangle bling to go with my sari.IMG_0167 IMG_0166 On the recommendation of my “Love Jaipur” guidebook I went to the old Tripolia Bazaar, and visited a lac bangle shop called Naaz Bangles. It’s been in the same family for many years. IMG_0184 The sizes were a bit small for my hands, but they stretched them on the spot. There were so many gorgeous bracelets to choose from! Prices start at about $1 per bangle. The more you buy, the better the deal! IMG_0201On my way out of the bazaar, I ran into a cow and a holy man. Just another day shopping in Jaipur…IMG_0191 IMG_0155 So here’s the final look – I have to say I felt like an Indian princess. It’s not often you get to wear something so lovely…IMG_0486 IMG_0492To buy your own sari go to:

ZARI 10/11, Narayan Singh Cicle, Opposite City Pulse Mall, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302004, India
PH: +91 141 511 2276

Travel Diary: Uluwatu, Bali – Surfer Paradise

IMG_8931 (2)Do you ever wish you were an athletic 20 year old traveling in Asia with an open itinerary? Uluwatu, Bali evokes this kind of yearning. I’ve been learning to surf on Seminyak Beach and I was asking my teachers where they go to catch the big breaks. One word: Uluwatu.IMG_8959 (2)A friend of mine surfed Uluwatu in the 60s (when he was an athletic 20 year old with an open itinerary). He said they had to hand their surf boards to each other down the side of a cliff to reach the water. And while Uluwatu still requires a fit physique to reach, there are now a warren of trails and stairs that reach the beach. Surfing is a whole other story.
IMG_8936 (2)IMG_9040Located on the Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu is home to some of the biggest and most prestigious surfing competitions in the world. We happened to visit during low tide, which requires surfers to walk across the reef to catch the breaks. At times like this, the waves are for experts only.IMG_9019 (2) IMG_8997 (2)

There is an entire village built up on the side of the hill overlooking the breaks at Uluwatu. Warungs (cafes) will store your personal goods while you surf, in hopes you’ll buy a Bintang (beer) and some food after you’re done. There are also a ton of internet cafes where surfers are uploading pix of their latest surfing exploits to their jealous friends all over the world.IMG_9027 (2) IMG_9047Did I mention the buff bods? Oh yeah, there’s that too. Lots of eye candy…


And after a day of surfing, there aren’t much more beautiful places in the world to grab a beer and watch the waves break against the sunset…IMG_9048 IMG_9044Are you an expert surfer? For more info on surfing Uluwatu, go here.

The Bukit Peninsula is connected to Kuta through Jimbaran by the busy Jalan Bypass Nusa Dua and this is the only route in. Traffic is pretty crazy so expect at least a 40 minute drive from Kuta.

Food Diary: Seafood Sunset Dinner on Jimbaran Beach, Bali

IMG_9073One of the classic Bali experiences is eating fresh barbecued seafood on Jimbaran Beach. We hired a driver for the day and took a day trip to Uluwatu to see the surf breaks. We ended the day at Jimbaran Beach for some amazing seafood and views.IMG_9087IMG_9059 IMG_9058There are a number of restaurants on the beach, and I’ve read different advice on where to eat. Some guide books say to eat near the resort hotels because former employees have opened up their restaurants in front. IMG_9079 IMG_9078We winged it and picked this place because it was named “Matahari”. Who doesn’t love a cool female spy? Actually, in Javanese (Indonesian), “Mata Hari” means “Eye of Dawn,” or early sunrise. Mata Hari is also one of the many names of Parvati, the Hindu goddess.IMG_9064 IMG_9103 We selected our seafood before sitting down – there’s a wide array of fish, shellfish, lobster, calamari and even live chickens to choose from. There were some lovely sambals and chili sauces to dip them in.IMG_9106IMG_9125The food was delicious, the sunset was spectacular.IMG_9093 IMG_9119I wandered up the beach where this guy was barbecuing corn with coconut oil. Not a bad place to work…IMG_9126And if you’re lucky, this cute little fellow might come begging for some food.
Visiting Jimbaran Beach: Check out this Wiki link on Jimbaran Beach:

Travel Diary: Doris Duke’s Islamic Art Inspired Shangri La Home

Doris Duke's pool at Shangri La.
Doris Duke’s pool at Shangri La.

It’s been a crazy couple months and I’ve been remiss in posting. So let’s do some catching up! At the end of August my husband and I spent a week in Oahu. I finally got a chance to visit Doris Duke’s mythical Shangri La home. A regular feature on design blogs like Style Court Doris Duke’s house seamlessly blends architectural traditions from India, Iran, Morocco and Syria as wells as 1930’s modernist architecture. And oh what a beauty it is!

When Duke died she left almost a billion dollars. Her will stipulated the funding of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art which owns and manages the site. Our tour guide was super informative and taught us a great deal about Turkish and Persian tile work, and pointed out recurring motifs in Islamic artwork.


The setting is stunning – right on the beach near Diamond Head overlooking Oahu’s rocky coastline on the Pacific Ocean. For over 60 years, Duke commissioned new pieces and continued to add to her artwork collection. A total of 3,500 art pieces are on display.

The only child of a tobacco magnet, Doris Duke inherited a great deal of wealth upon her father’s death when she was only 12 years old. Duke’s love of Islamic art began on her honeymoon in 1935 when she traveled to Egypt, India, Indonesia, China and Japan. The trip ended in Honolulu. The marriage didn’t last, but her passion for Islamic art was ignited.

Doris Duke and then-husband James Cromwell at Shangri La, 1935 (photograph by Martin Munkacsi)
Doris Duke and then-husband James Cromwell at Shangri La, 1935          (photograph by Martin Munkacsi)

Duke’s collection includes a wide variety of pieces including Persian and Turkish (from Iznik) luster pottery and tiles, Spanish lusterware, Syrian inlaid wood furniture, Syrian pierced brass lamps, and colored glass bottles from Iran. Interestingly enough, she left very little in the form of memoir regarding her collection choices but her commitment to Islamic art is evident in the mission statement of her foundation: “promote the study and understanding of Middle Eastern art and culture”.

The master bathroom at Shangri La. David Franzen 1999. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2012.) Damascus Room East wall of the Damascus Room. On display in the historic wall vitrine are examples of Syrian, European, Iranian and Turkish works of art from the DDFIA collection. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2012.) General view of the ceiling. The four hanging lamps were purchased with the room from Asfar & Sarkis. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2012.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's ceiling. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's ceiling. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.) Detail of the Damascus Room's 'ajami surfaces. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann, 2005.)   Historical Images of This Area The Damascus Room was originally built as a guest room, July 31, 1937. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Because of its Moorish-European—especially Spanish—furnishings, the guest room was sometimes referred to as the Spanish Room. July–August 1946. Doris Duke Photograph Collection, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Photograph taken in Damascus in c. August 1954 of Georges Asfar seated in the retrofitted interior purchased by Doris Duke in 1952-53. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Photograph taken in Damascus in c. August 1954 of the retrofitted interior. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. The east (Koko Head) wall of the Damascus Room during Duke’s lifetime, no earlier than 1962. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Damascus Room, 1999. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 1999.)    Damascus Room, 1999. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 1999.)
Damascus Room – Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.     (Photo: David Franzen, 2012.)

During the tour we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so I’ve included some images I found online. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed into Duke’s Mughal Suite which was inspired by the Taj Mahal. Duke commissioned inlaid marble works from Agra, using the finest pure white Makrana marble. Her outdoor Mughal Garden is also an homage to the garden and water works in front of the Taj Mahal.

Mughal Garden at Shangri La.
Mughal Garden at Shangri La.

When you walk through Duke’s home and gardens you can’t help but appreciate her love of beauty and art. I highly recommend this book: “Doris Duke’s Shangri La A House in Paradise”. The tour has inspired my own further study into Islamic art motifs which I’ve seen on our trips to India and want to delve into further.

DorisDukeShangriLa_cover_FINALTours must be book in advance with the Honolulu Art Museum. For more info check out the website here. If you’re coming for vacation, book before your leave because the tours sell out quickly.