Travelling Burma – Inle Lake

inle-lake-6 inle-lake-1 inle-lake-4inle-lake-18inle-lake-2inle-lake-16inle-lake-15inle-lake-21inle-lake-22inle-lake-19inle-lake-23inle-lake-10 inle-lake-11With flocks of friends currently flitting around the world on holidays, it was inevitable that I’d return to take a look at our time spent exploring Burma. After Bagan, Inle Lake was most definitely another favourite destination of ours. It wasn’t just the endlessly serene and entirely unique waterscape that enthralled us, but also the chance to see the people, known as the Intha (literally, “sons of the lake”) living in and around the enormous body of water itself. Living in bamboo houses propped up high out of the water on stilts, the Intha have historically depended on the lake for everything. And this lifestyle is still evident this present day – you’ll see fishermen in tiny boats, some still employing the unmistakable leg rowing style found nowhere else in the world (some are legit, some just do it when tourists are whisked by), you’ll see rows of tomatoes and vegetables being cultivated atop beds of floating reeds as if on land, and people living life so naturally entwined with that of the lake, hopping blithely in and out of boats, going shopping, brushing their teeth, washing their clothes, and I dare not think what else.

Where to stay and how to get around:

Long story short, don’t stay on Inle Lake itself unless you’ve got stacks of cash to burn. We stayed in Nyaung Shwe, the township to which Inle Lake technically belongs, which is a mere 30 to 40 minute motorboat ride away from where the main action is on the lake.The majority of the hotels in Nyaung Shwe are strategically placed along waterways which makes hiring a boat and driver exceedingly easy, in fact the hotelier will generally organise this for you.

To get around the town and to nearby places it’s simple! Get on ya bike! Again, the hotel staff can sort you out with hiring one, and it’s super cheap.

What to do and see:

Spend as much time in and around the lake as possible, obviously! It’s pretty impossible for Inle to look bad, but the incredible light and reflections off the still water you get at sunset are unbeatable, don’t miss that. During the day, you must check out the local market. This was not the Thai-esque floating market I initially thought it would be and I’ll admit I’m not proud of the minor hissy fit I threw at first. Little did I know that this market was also frequented by all the locals buying their vegetables, spices, rice, pots and pans, and betel nut of course. Persevere and wade through the touristy dross that gets presented to you right front and centre to where the people gather around rickety wooden tables to buy and eat their lunch. Best tohu-thoke I have ever eaten in my life (Sorry, even better than yours Mum!). My advice regarding the food? Follow your nose. Follow the locals. Eat stuff that’s freshly cooked and hot if possible. Or just be like me and chance catching gastro it because it’s that good. (FYI I did not catch gastro!)

The other place I loved exploring whilst out on the water were the workshops that still practise the art of handloom weaving and the highly labour intensive craft of spinning lotus root fibres into threads. These exceedingly fine threads are used to make a fabric a little like coarse silk but much rarer and quite a bit more expensive, but for good reason!. It reportedly takes 32 000 lotus stems to make just one metre of this soft and unique fabric.

If you’ve got a tiny bit of time to spare and/or feel like doing something on land, hire a bike and cycle to the nearby Shwe Yan Pyay monastery, a beautiful 19th century structure built completely from teak. Walk around quietly and respectfully as this is still a fully functioning monastery. Go very early in the morning as the young monks are just stirring and congregating to have breakfast and beat the usual tourist rush.

How to get here:

There are a number of ways to get to Nyaung Shwe and Inle to meet any budget. I would recommend flying into Heho airport first (as the roads are pretty crappy and extremely tortuous due to the area being on an elevation) then making your way to the town of your choice by road. What I’d love to do next time is head to a nearby town named Kalaw first then trek to Nyaung Shwe, which typically takes two to three days, staying overnight in local villages along the way. Yet another reason to head back to this incredibly lush countryside.motif-2

The hands that make

weaving-1 weaving-2 weaving-3 weaving-4It’s no secret – I love clothes. So much so that at one stage of my life it wasn’t uncommon to be asked point blank, “So how much time do you spend shopping?” (Honestly, not that much, I’m a targeted shopper, I know what I wants and I gots to have it!). But certainly over the last two years, my views towards the all-hallowed, all-hated, and much-debated word fashion (or fashuuuurn if you must) has changed, back-tracked and evolved.

What things have changed the most? I’ve come to realise that more and more a few key principles are informing my choices, almost subconsciously, emerging from life experiences, travels and integral encounters with amazingly selfless and foresighted people. Travelling through Burma and wandering through a number of textile stores and factories got me asking questions and cemented my views even more.

In essence, less is more. And simplicity is king.

And why? Well, not only does this reflect a maturing sense of style which flits around less and less with the tides of trend and seasonality, but more importantly a desire to live more responsibly and knowledgeably, being aware of where my clothes come from to where they will end up.

This isn’t always easy. I mean, there are so many righteous pillars to uphold. Buying local vs abroad. Supporting the artisan over the multimillion dollar megacompany. Is the cotton organically farmed? Is the way in which the natural fibres of my favourite chambray shirt sustainably farmed? Is the clothing made by children or underpaid individuals? And while we’re at it, let’s talk about ethics and fair trade?

There is much smoke and many mirrors that confuse and hardly help us make our decisions. Companies and labels can easily masquerade as seemingly smaller ones and portray an image of “organic-ness” and wholesomeness, but may not always display transparency in the sourcing of materials or making of their products. And, let’s just be honest, sometimes you just need something and you need it quick, like it’s a lot easier to buy a flat-packed coffee table from Ikea than bang one out of upcycled wood in your own backyard, isn’t it?

So, one of my personal endeavours this year is to scout out local companies that think beyond their money-making capabilities and actively make the principles of fair trade a core part of their business ethic, partly because it’s sometimes really hard to ask all those questions yourself when searching for that new shirt for work, but mostly because their example should lead the way for all businesses out there. Fair trade should be a requirement and the norm, so let’s get behind and support the companies that uphold it.

These photos capture traditional handloom weavers at work in a small workshop on Inle Lake, Burma. They use cotton, silk and even lotus root fibres, which is itself a waning craft as it is highly labour intensive.

Travelling Burma – Old Bagan

bagan-33 bagan-20 bagan-25 bagan-4bagan-42bagan-35bagan-41bagan-29bagan-34bagan-17bagan-30bagan-26 bagan-19bagan-11bagan-22bagan-31bagan-21 bagan-16bagan-5bagan-10bagan-27bagan-6bagan-23bagan-8Once home to over 10 000 temples, the otherworldly historical city of Bagan is not to be missed and definitely the favourite destination of our recent travels to Burma. More than 2000 of these ancient and unmistakable pagodas still stand, and walking amongst them truly transports you back to the 11th century when Bagan was the thriving capital of the Pagan Empire. The temples, mostly dedicated to Buddha although dotted with the odd Hindu shrine, range vastly in size from imperious monuments several storeys high to tiny stupas that can only allow one or two people inside at a time. The smoky atmosphere (attributable to the numerous household cooking fires in the area) and entirely unique landscape make every single sunrise and sunset a breathtakingly different experience. It goes without saying, our cameras got an insanely good workout during the few days we had here.

Where to stay and how to get around:
Present day Bagan is separated into three distinct regions – Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung Oo. Old Bagan is the heart of the old city where you’ll find most of temples. There are a number of hotels and resorts but they tend to be pretty pricey. New Bagan was essentially created by the government to prevent locals for living in and among the temples and is honestly fairly bland and characterless. We chose to stay in Nyaung Oo. There are many very affordable places to stay and the town is a fun 20 minute bike ride from Old Bagan. It is also home to F.I.T. Street where you will find a number of great restaurants to eat.

You can get to and around Old Bagan by foot, bicycle, electrical bicycle (E-bike), car and even horse cart if that so tickles your fancy. We hugely enjoyed cycling around although that can get pretty hot and gross during the middle of the day. We ended up generally doing most things around sunrise and sunset to get around this (and of course to experience that magical light), but we did hire a car on one day and smashed out a huge number of pagodas.

What to do:
Did I mention there are over 2000 temples to explore? Okay, so it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to be able to see them all, but here are our highlights. Number one experience if you can spare the time and the moolah is a hot air balloon ride that takes you on a once-in-a-lifetime, peaceful sunrise glide over the heart of Old Bagan, just high enough that you feel like you could graze the very top of the Dhammayangi temple. There are three ballooning companies, all of whom cost roughly the same, setting you back a hefty but totally worth it $350 USD per person. We went with Oriental Ballooning and would most definitely recommend them to anyone planning a trip to Bagan.

For another magical sunrise experience (but completely free!), cycle to Bulethi pagoda at the break of dawn to catch the balloons wafting by. This is still a relatively unknown sight, and definitely worth becoming a morning person for.

Go to as many as you can but some must-see pagodas include sunset from Shwesandaw (expect crowds and tour buses but a sunset that will make you forget about them all), Dhammayangi, Ananda, Htilominlo, Sulamani, and Manuha Paya (for its giant reclining Buddha). The best thing to do is just generally get lost in and amongst these ancient structures and just go wherever your exploring feet take you.

If you have extra time and you can’t resist a good market (like me!) then the Nyaung Oo market is worth a gander. I love discovering local produce and cuisine that I’ve never seen, smelt or tasted before. If you’re game to try the food, generally go for stuff that’s piping hot to avoid a nice case of gastro (poor Jinn didn’t escape!). Beyond the food market, there are many beautiful fabric stores and I bought more than ten metres of gorgeous linen for just forty dollars!

The region is also known for their exceptional lacquerware, an ancient craft that originated from China. It involves a labour intensive process that consists of building up over 20 layers of various naturally occurring substances to create beautiful and very hardy pieces, that can range from very functional bowls and plates to purely ornamental art pieces. There are, as always, cheap knock-offs but I would recommend searching out a place called Lotus Collection in New Bagan to find a more artisanal studio versus a number of the larger factories that give off a “mass produced” feel.

How to get here:
Bagan is accessible by air, road, rail and boat, depending on where you’re coming from. Coaches are available and are a good way to see the countryside but can take a long time (around 10 hours from Rangoon/Yangon), so we opted to fly.

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Be sure to bring along your camera, a pair of energetic legs for cycling and pagoda-climbing, a bit of extra cash for an unforgettable balloon ride, and your best “Mingalaba” to soak in and explore Bagan, a truly historical and spiritual centre of this country.

Mingalaba is a Burmese greeting and literally translated means “May your day be filled with auspiciousness!”

Sunrises, pagodas and mohinga noodles

burma1-1 burma1-2 burma1-1-8 burma1-1-7 burma1-1-6 burma1-1-2 burma1-1-3 burma1-5 burma1-7 burma1-8 burma1-9 burma1-10 burma1-1-11 burma1-1-4burma1-1-9 burma1-1-10 burma1-11 burma1-13 burma1-15burma1-12What started as a dream then a whisper that became a tentative plan that hung on the chance of everyone’s holidays aligning (less likely than all the stars and moons and planets pausing in their extraterrestrial paths to spell out OMG) finally became a reality as we travelled to Burma with my family last December, the country that my parents grew up in but left in 1971, barely in their twenties. As I’ve gotten older, for some reason seeing the place that my parents spent their early years in has seemed more and more important. Perhaps I felt that it would help me, for want of a less cliched phrase, figure out who I am or where I fit in.

Burma (also known as Myanmar) is a country that is deeply rich in history and culture. It has gone through many significant events over the last thousand years, including periods of prosperity and dominance, through British occupancy, and unfortunately many wars. It is also home to an incredible number of indigenous ethnic groups, that add to the colour, clamour and, of course, cuisine of Burma. With many places to explore and get lost in, both fast-paced and slow, Burma is a country that truly needs to be experienced, felt and tasted to really understand.

Over the next few posts, we’ll share with you the favourite parts of our three week long journey. We took along no less than five different cameras (granted one was a Fuji Instax), watched five sunrises from a variety of vantage points including a hot air balloon, the top of an ancient temple, and astride a bicycle, pedalling through golden mist. It’s no wonder we took around 6500 photos and whittling them down to just our favourite few has not been an easy job (thanks Jinn!).

Enjoy! If you’ve been to Burma before, we would love to hear about your experiences – for the next time we go, of course! If you’re planning or even dreaming about going and need some travel tips, please do drop us a line!

Darlings Supper Club

darlingssc-1 darlingssc-2 darlingssc-1-3 darlingssc-4 darlingssc-5 darlingssc-6darlingssc-1-2 darlingssc-7 darlingssc-8 darlingssc-9Now it’s no secret that Darlings Supper Club received some rather scathing reviews when they first opened earlier this year, particularly regarding the food. But rather than run and cry in the corner, they took this feedback as constructive criticism, hired some brand new muscle in the kitchen, and have recently jumped back up with a revamped menu. The theme is still Asian fusion and the 6pm to 3am opening times mean you can get your dumplings and sake cocktails way into the night.

The fit-out is undeniably dark and sexy, and has quite a cosy but cool small bar feel. It looks so good that I can’t even remember what used to be here on this Lake Street stretch before, and I kinda don’t even care! There are lists upon lists of sakes, spirits, wines, beers and cocktails and they even do a mean teh tarik for those looking for a non-alcoholic beverage.

So let’s be honest here. It’s very difficult to please an Asian person with fusion Asian food. Aaaaand…I think they do it pretty well. There is certainly immense attention to detail paid to every dish that we saw come out and, rather than trying to copy well-known Asian dishes, new flavours are explored and fresh, local ingredients are utilised, helping the dishes taste fresh and interesting to the palate. Personal favourites? The Rottnest scallops with coriander pistou and most definitely the beef cheek with red cabbage marmalade, braised to sticky, fall-aparty perfection.

I didn’t manage to try any dumplings at this visit, and I major in dumplings, just ask my mum. That, my dears, will be a punishingly difficult test to pass. But with completely untraditional fillings offered such as triple peppered kangaroo or sticky pork with tamarind, I think I just might be returning to this cool and rejuvenated corner of Northbridge for a midnight snack and tipple.

Darlings Supper Club / 47 Lake St Northbridge / Wednesday to Saturday 6pm-3am / Sunday 12pm-10pm / Facebook / info@darlingssupperclub.com

Longing

madewell-herdsman-5madewell-herdsman-12madewell-herdsman-2 madewell-herdsman-1 madewell-herdsman-7 madewell-herdsman-11madewell-herdsman-9

Wearing – Nishe top, Ryder shorts, Vans shoes (similar), Naomi Murrell white and rose gold ring, Alister Yiap hexagon ring

I don’t know if it’s because I’m on a run of night shifts this week or because I’ve been at the end of some unduly hurtful words that have been going round my mind, like a broken record of negativity, but lately my heart has been longing for release and relief. Time has continued to pass since the time I lost a dear loved one, and it’s true when they say you go through hills and valleys on the road to healing.

Right now, I’m longing for sunshine, unconditional love, and hope.

Hyde Park 2.0

madewell-hydepark9 madewell-hydepark13madewell-hydepark12madewell-hydepark10madewell-hydepark3 madewell-hydepark5Wearing – Madewell dress (similar), Bul shoes

Flashback to that time we played with light, shadows and hair in Hyde Park.

Plus I’d just rewarded myself with these new sandals after receiving some unexpected good news.

It was a pretty cool afternoon.

Meet Kelsie – K Gets Organised

kgetsorganised-1 kgetsorganised-2 kgetsorganised-15 kgetsorganised-3 kgetsorganised-4 kgetsorganised-5 kgetsorganised-6 kgetsorganised-7 kgetsorganised-8 kgetsorganised-9 kgetsorganised-10I have quite a number of character flaws, but one of my major ones (and my mum would totally agree) is my messiness. I’ve completely lost count on how many New Year’s resolutions I’ve made and that proverbial new leaf has been turned over time and time again – but to no avail. I love articles such as this one that legitimise my cluttered desktop as a sign of prolific creativity, and I assure you that there is a method to my madness. But it would be nice to be able to front up calm and composedly to my accountant come tax return time with one or two neat folders of paperwork rather than the usual balls of crumpled paper that were most definitely not pulled out from the bottom of a handbag that I haven’t used in months.

Kelsie from K gets organised must be an angel sent from on high. She maintains absolute order in a world populated not by dull filing cabinets but with dreamy pastels, washi tape, and handlettered motivational phrases. And she gets. shit. done. (Pardon mon Francais!)

This little lady sure is busy. She runs a blog where you can read her interviews with other equally inspiring and highly organised people (mythical beings in my eyes), she’s designed and launched her own stationery label, and you’ll be able to see her pop up at pretty much every single market around Perth this summer!

Last weekend we popped by Kelsie’s petite, light-filled studio with our aeropress in hand and had a yarn over mugs of freshly brewed coffee.

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What have been some highlights of your stationery career so far? 

I have to say attending Paperfest 2014 in London earlier this year was just amazing. It was a forum for young and new paper and print businesses to meet and learn from successful companies and those that are leading in the business. I got to meet Anna Bond (of Rifle Paper Co. fame!) in person – that was an absolute buzz! In terms of business role model, she is queen! She jumps into everything headfirst and works hard to make it happen, an attitude I admire so much.

It has been both humbling and amazing to see my business grow, in size and in reach. Lately, I’ve been posting orders to the United States and Europe, and I’m soon to be stocked at NoteMaker! I love that site! To see my products up there will be such an incredible accomplishment.

What inspires you to create your lovely, fun-filled designs?

I’m inspired by things I love (uh hello, macarons!) and things that I see around me. I’m working on a new range featuring sketches from my recent travels overseas. At the moment, I’m also obsessed with mid-century fonts and designs and you’ll find images that I like dotted around my studio.

I want my stationery to look so good that getting organised and writing to-do lists are fun and a pleasure to do!

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Give us three hot tips to becoming a stylishly organised gal like yourself…

1. Write it down AND schedule it!
Write your to-do list and ensure you know how long a task will be actioned instead of sitting pretty on a list you might not return to (sometimes life gets in the way!). I like to schedule mine into my iCal so that I get reminders via my iPhone and on my laptop.
2. Find your own style and embrace it!
I’m definitely more of a night person so I know to write out my lists, plan my day and complete my big tasks after I’ve had dinner. If you’re an early riser – play to your strengths and schedule your tasks and do your planning in the morning! Too many people fight themselves and end up causing themselves a lot of unnecessary stress trying to be something they aren’t.
3. Give yourself a time limit.
Work can expand for hours and hours. When I’m writing out my to-do list I make sure that I write down how long I think the task will take me. If anything on my list says it will take me 5 minutes, I get it done straight away. Anything longer, I like to put in my calendar so I make sure I block out time for it. For really big tasks like commission work or designing a whole line I like to give myself a final deadline (usually a launch party for example – something fun to look forward to) and plan backwards from there.motif-2
Thanks for the pointers, Kelsie! I hope to put them to good use – heaven knows I need to!
Find Kelsie at the Something Different Etsy pop up market from 7th to 9th November in Leederville! Otherwise mosey on over to her webstore to check out her sweet wares.
Kelsie White / K Gets Organised / Blog / Webstore

Shadow play

shadowplay-6 shadowplay-7 shadowplay-1 shadowplay-4 shadowplay-3 shadowplay-5motif-2Lately, Jinn and I have been trying to push our creative boundaries, and the dappled sunlight through the maple trees in Hyde Park made for some fun and games and some pretty cool pics. The deep black shadows and spring’s new sun made for some beautiful contrasting light and shade. After what seemed to be the most dragged out winter ever, the warmth on the top of my head and the tips of my bare shoulders was more than welcome.

Kinfolk gathering – Wabi-sabi

kinfolk-wabi-sabi-7kinfolk-wabi-sabi-1 kinfolk-wabi-sabi-2 kinfolk-wabi-sabi-4kinfolk-wabi-sabi-1-2kinfolk-wabi-sabi-1-3kinfolk-wabi-sabi-3kinfolk-wabi-sabi-8 kinfolk-wabi-sabi-9kinfolk-wabi-sabi-11kinfolk-wabi-sabi-12kinfolk-wabi-sabi-13kinfolk-wabi-sabi-16kinfolk-wabi-sabi-15kinfolk-wabi-sabi-18kinfolk-wabi-sabi-10Wabi-sabi. Finding beauty in imperfection, asymmetry and simplicity.

The year’s second Kinfolk gathering centred around this concept and invited us to leave our phones and pretentions at the door to enjoy “a messy meal” in each other’s company. Some gathered round the table and others on the floor, the finest food was savoured and the conversation naturally ebbed and flowed, most notably “ebbing” when those divinely succulent lamb cutlets arrived. They demanded our full attentions.

Other notable mentions. The revelrous texture of our ceramic bowls, deliciously rough to the touch. The winsome greenery strung from the rafters to transport us someplace magical. Candles burnt down to their stumps, a night well spent.motif-2

Host & stylist – Stacey Clark

Floral art – Fox and Rabbit

Tableware – Eucalypt Homewares

Hand lettering – The Articulate

Food – Kent Street Deli

Drink – Eagle Bay Brewing Co

Photography – Still Love

Film – Oriss Films

Gifts – Aesop Skincare

Venue – Hush Espresso

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