Travel Diary: Indian Wedding in Jodhpur

In June we had the opportunity to attend the Indian wedding of Piyush and Shweta in Jodhpur. It was 5 days long with 3000 guests, amazing food, music and performances. The Maharajah of Jodhpur was in attendance. It was an experience we’ll never forget. Here is the story in pictures.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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

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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

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Rosario Islands – Colombia

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Crooked palm – Koh Samui, Thailand

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Cove view – Uluwatu, Bali

IMG_6573Whitsunday Islands – Great Barrier Reef, Australia
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Copacabana Beach – Rio, Brazil

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Bondi Beach – Sydney, Australia

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Uluwatu – Bali

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Whitsunday Islands – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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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