Travel Diary: Maldives Beach Paradise

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I’ve been lax in blogging – there’s been so much going on! We’ve got some exciting news to announce, but I’ll save it for next post. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some pix from our May trip to the Maldives. We stopped over on our way back from India. It was a much needed respite after attending the High Point Furniture Market, a 3-day wedding in Jaipur, as well as a full on sourcing tour in India…

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If you’re looking for down time, the Maldives is the place to go. We stayed at Velingandu Resort, which is in the North Ari Atolls. The Maldives is a series of islands in the Indian Ocean about 600 km off Sri Lanka. Literally, the islands are the peaks of old volcanoes in the middle of the ocean.

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It is the lowest lying country in the world (the highest point is 7+ feet) and so is ultimately vulnerable to the rising seas. Known mostly for it’s resorts, the capital is Male – which is kind of like Hong Kong – super dense and vertical (but much smaller).

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Most resorts are accessed by seaplane taxis. (Those closest to Male are reached by speedboat).

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It’s a “slap me, is it real?” kind of place. The water is incredibly clear, the sand pure white, and fish everywhere…

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In fact, there’s really nothing to do other than eat, drink, swim, and relax. What else is there to do when the island is only 150 x 600 meters?
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I could ramble on about this unique, Muslim country, but I’m sure you’d rather just look at the pretty pictures. For more info on this island, I highly recommend the book “Gate Crashing Paradise – Misadventure in the Real Maldives“. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always skeptical of places that look too perfect…

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But who’s to argue when every sunset takes your breath away.

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For More Info:

Veligandu Island Resort & Spa
North Ari Atoll
Maldives
Telephone: +960 666 0519
Fax: +960 666 0648
Email: ­reservations@veligandu.com

 

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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.

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.

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…

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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.

Travel Diary: SIFR Aromatics – Kampong Glam, Singapore

Perfume Oils - Sifr Aromatics
Perfume Oils – SIFR Aromatics

One of my latest obsessions is perfume oils. Last year I discovered a wonderful old shop in Delhi’s Chandini Chowk district, called Gulab Singh Johri Mal. This Mughal era parfumery specializes in attars – scented oils derived from botanical sources. I was hooked. So when I landed in Singapore, one of my first stops was SIFR Aromatics, a niche perfumery passed from father to son.

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Parfumier Johari Kazura

SIFR Aromatics is on Arab Street in Kampong Glam – Singapore’s oldest Muslim district. Owned by parfumier Johari Kazura, SIFR has a range of small batch scents handcrafted by Kazura, as well as a beautiful perfume bottle collection mounted on beautiful dark wood cabinetry built by Indonesian craftsmen. What intrigued me most, was the possibility of creating my own bespoke fragrance.

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Luckily for me, Kazura was in the shop and available. (An appointment is recommended.) I gave him a list of my favorite fragrances and scents – Tom Ford’s “Jasmin Rouge” (Sambac jasmine and spices) , Kilian’s “Back to Black” (cherry, leather, tobacco and honey) as well as Comme des Garçon’s “Ouarzazate” (pepper, spice, incense).

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Since I’m new to this arena and had limited time, I started by smelling Kazura’s line of fragrances and found a smoky perfume oil to use as a platform to build on. He continued to add ingredients – jasmine, oud and other oils – until we arrived at balance I liked. He then encouraged me to leave for an hour or so to let the oil settle on my skin. So we took a nose break to check out the historic Raffles Hotel and grab a Singapore Sling (crossed off the Bucket List).

Nearby Abdul Gafoor Mosque.
Nearby Abdul Gafoor Mosque.

It’s important to let a fragrance settle because the notes change as they are exposed to air and the oils in your skin. And after an hour or so of smelling a bunch of different fragrances, it’s easy to have sensory overload. Taking time out to sniff coffee beans is a great way to wipe the olfactory slate clean.

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After checking out Singapore’s colonial past, we cabbed it back to SIFR and I collected my new fragrance – “Jasmine Smoke”. Johari wrote down the ingredients in his notebook, along with my contact information so I can order more when the oil is gone.

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The wonderful thing about oils, is the fragrance lasts a lot longer than an eau de parfum. Perfumes are mixed with alcohol and the fragrance dissipates much quicker than oils. And there’s something really cool about wearing a fragrance no one else has.

Customized perfumes range from $75-$200.

SIFR is at 42 Arab Street, Singapore
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-8.30pm
Sat 11am-9pm
SIFR Aromatics Website

Wanderloot’s Winter Sale – 35% Off All Purses & Handbags

Black Beaded Croc Print Leather Clutch in Midnight Blue
Thai Black Beaded Croc Print Leather Clutch in Midnight Blue

Wanderloot’s Winter Sale – 35% Off All Purses & Handbags! Isn’t it time you treated yourself? Beat the winter winter blahs with your choice of one-of-a-kind handbags and purses collections from Vietnam, Bali and Thailand!

Hand Embroidered Hill Tribe Carryall
Hand Embroidered Hill Tribe Carryall
Embroidered Hmong Hill Tribe Satchel
Embroidered Hmong Hill Tribe Satchel

Includes our one-of-a-kind Hmong Hill Tribe Handbag Collection made from vintage Hmong fabric sourced from Vietnam. Each purse features handcrafted cross stitch embroidery designs that are unique to each Hill Tribe village.

Carnelian Beaded Thai Silk Evening Clutch
Carnelian Beaded Thai Silk Evening Clutch

Check out our cool silk and leather designer beaded Thai Handbag Collection – total one-of-a-kind luxe.

The Bali Bag
The Bali Bag

The sale also includes our intricately woven Balinese Ate Grass Handbag Collection which combine old world Indonesian craftsmanship and modern styling.

Balinese Ate Grass Handbag - Jimbaran Style
Balinese Ate Grass Handbag – Jimbaran Style

Go to Hand Embroided Hill Tribe Handbag Collection Sale.
Go to Balinese Ate Bag Collection Sale.
Go to Leather & Silk Thai Handbag Collection Sale.

All of our Wanderloot items are one-of-kind. Sale ends January 10th.

Rock & Roll Pillows from Bangkok

Root Pillow - Granite

I was recently in Bangkok and found these cool pillows at the Chatuchak Market. Chatuchak Market is a sprawling indoor/outdoor market that sells everything from antique Buddhas to puppies.

Puppies for Sale
Wood Rings Pillow - Cream

There are a lot of really talented young Thai designers, and the Chatuchak Market is great place to find new styles.

Pebble Pillow - Rudy

Made from super soft recycled cotton (like from a well-worn sweatshirt), these pillows are great looking and feeling!  The pillows are filled with down inserts, and easily unzip.  Throw these pillows on chair or sofa to add a bit of rock and roll to your room.

To see all the pillow styles go here or Wanderloot.com.

Greg Girard – Capturing Asia’s Breathtaking Growth

Last week I visited the Monte Clark Gallery in Vancouver, Canada – home to photographer Greg Girard. Greg has been photographing Asia since 1987 and has published a series of wonderful books documenting the shifting landscapes of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Hanoi.

His first book “City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City” (with Ian Lambot) documented the last years of Hong Kong’s Walled City which was knocked down in 1992. A world of it’s own, the city connected 300 separate high rise buildings built piecemeal (without architects) and home to more than 33,000 people. A highrise “shantytown” governed by the Triads, and with high rates of prostitution, gambling and drug use, the government began an eviction process which started in 1987 and culminated in its demolition in 5 years later.

In 2007, “Phantom Shanghai” was published, documenting Shanghai’s transformation from a city of languishing European architecture to a city of over 4000 towering metal and glass skyscrapers. In it’s relentless pursuit of modernity, Shanghai has been ridding itself of the past. Girard’s color saturated photos capture this dying world and evoke the deep melancholy of a history lost.

Most recently Girard has published “Hanoi Calling – One Thousand Years Now”. He documents the day to day life of the city on the eve of it’s thousand year anniversary. It’s a private and intimate view into an ancient yet modern city.

For more information on Greg Girard, go to his website here.