Posted on February 13, 2015
It’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.
Posted on February 3, 2015
Once 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.
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!”
Posted on January 13, 2015
What 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!
Posted on December 8, 2014
It’s been a while since we did one of these wishlists but I’ve been hoarding my leave for almost a whole year in order to take a massive family trip around Myanmar, the place my mum and dad hail from! We leave tomorrow so don’t mind me if I’m just a tad excited!
This wishlist has been cultivated for maximal comfort, mobility, breathability and of course, photographability. (Me? Vain? Never…)
Please leave some travel tips below! Has anyone been to Myanmar before?
Posted on July 24, 2014
Ah Broome. The warm and sunny town reminds me of a time when life was simple. I was sent here last year for work, initially apprehensive and somewhat discomposed, then six months down the track found myself embraced by the community and way of life, and truly sad to leave. The unhurried pace was curative and a real tonic for a soul that previously searched for meaning and gratification in busyness and seemingly important jobs with very long to-do lists.
Things are different up here. Yes, there is work, but there is always time to catch up for a drink on Friday afternoon, time to take that bike ride around the port, time to go to that gym class on Tuesday evening, time to have a dip at the beach, time to watch yet another breathtaking sunset (or moonrise!), time to cast a fishing rod off the rocks. And that time isn’t the never-arriving tomorrow, it is today. Yes, we have our jobs and we do them well, but time is made and set aside to tend to ourselves. We make time to chat, consolidating old friends, connecting with new ones. There is a term frequently used up here – to have a yarn – which from my observations means to have a relaxed but meaningful exchange, with no fixed time limit or agenda, finding out more about each other, going wherever the conversation may spontaneously flow. The focus is on the person and where they are in life, often not necessarily asking them the questions that seem to be so commonly asked to define and categorise a person (like my personal unfavourite, “What do you do?”).
I spent six days in Broome just a couple of weeks ago, with the only purpose being to do just that. Have a yarn with some very dear friends and acquaint myself with some new ones too.
Let me not forget nor lose sight of the truly important things in life.
Posted on April 30, 2014
I’m a sucker for magazines.
The Collective Quarterly is something original and covers new ground compared to the current crop of creative-focussed magazines (such as Kinfolk and Cereal, which are also awesome by the way). Run by a tight knit group of creatives, and centred around travel, exploration and lifestyle, this new publication showcases amazing locations and and the people who live there.
What I really like about this magazine and sets it apart from the others is the way in which it focusses on a single location with each issue, and documents the creative possibilities within. For Issue 0, the team travelled to Marfa, Texas and not only showcased the creators and makers within the town but also how others can be inspired in their own creative process by collaborating in such a place. The result is an insight into the creative process, and how exploration and travel can spark new creativity.
The other interesting thing about this publication is that it is very much of the here and now. The members of the creative team all met over social media, and heavily use Instagram to showcase their collective and individual work. The publication itself also features an augmented reality app that can be used to identify items within the magazine that you may wish to purchase.
I love this magazine, and am happy that I’ve been able to get on board from the beginning, starting with Issue 0. I have a feeling this magazine is going to grow into something great.
Posted on March 17, 2014
It’s amazing how much you notice the weather change during the drive down south. We embarked from Perth on a 39 degree Celsius day and I’d packed four sundresses, a pair of shorts and a bikini. Thank goodness I threw in a cardie at the last minute! Searingly bright blue skies were replaced by muted grey clouds, and unforgiving rays of sun made way for a nippy breeze that surely raised goosebumps!
Breakfast at The White Elephant was tasty and unfussy. A lovely view of the waves constantly lapping against Gnarabup beach was the perfect accompaniment to my bacon and eggs on toast. The coffee too was just right. As their sign recommends, if you look out onto the ocean and look left you will notice a formation of rocks that resembles an elephant’s head side on with just a tiny stretch of the imagination!
Alas, the water was way too icy to take a dip. But fret not, we’ll definitely return to this spot on a future road trip.
White Elephant beach cafe / Gnarabup Rd, Gnarabup WA / Mon-Sat 7:30am – late / Sun 7:30am-10pm
Posted on March 10, 2014
Located just south of Margaret River township, take a detour off Caves Road onto Boranup Drive to find yourself amongst these mighty karri trees. It is the perfect place to breathe in the fresh, crisp, eucalypt-scented air unique to our gorgeous and blessed country. Interestingly, rather than being peacefully quiet the place is bustling with the sounds and calls of birds and insects accompanied by the constant swishing of slender branches high up above.
If you’ve been lucky enough to take a trip even further south to Pemberton or Walpole to experience the gigantic and awe-inspiring karri forests down that way you may wonder why this community of trees is almost dwarfed in comparison! Boranup Forest was completely logged around 100 years ago and these trees are the regrowth! Another fact that makes this lively reserve unique is its proximity to the coast. This is the farthest west that karri trees grow and hence our closest location to admire and soak in this atmosphere.
Lucky us 🙂
Posted on March 3, 2014
A trip to Margaret River was just what the doctor ordered. Pure sunshine on my face and a healthy breeze whipping through my hair. Sometimes we just need times of solace, to introspect, to heal and tend to our own hearts. This is a simple outfit, a few of my favourite things, fuss-free and comfortable.
Posted on February 10, 2014
Chinese New Year 2014 was an entirely new experience for me! Being born and raised in Perth, Western Australia, Chinese New Year never quite features on the list of publicly celebrated holidays! Oh, we do celebrate it with much eating of steamboat and handing out of ang pao (red money packets) but it’s all very much a family affair.
Walking around Singapore during the week before Chinese New Year, there is no denying the excitement and festive feeling in the air – literally! Everywhere you go your senses are bombarded. Rows upon rows of bright red decorations promise prosperity and good luck for the year to come. Shopping centre stereos blare “Dong dong dong chiang! Gong xi ni! Gong xi fa cai!” (Congratulations, happy new year!). People rush around making sure that their houses are filled to overflowing with food and special symbolic items such as oranges and mandarins for abundance and good fortune, and gourds for good health and prosperity. Preparations must all be made ready in time for the first day of New Year as it is believed that the state of your household at the start of the year reflects your fortunes to be in the upcoming year. And Chinese people wholeheartedly believe that more is more!
Singapore goes into a heady and happy furore in the lead up to Chinese New Year Eve and celebrates the big night with a citywide party! Then, the city that never slows down becomes peculiarly quiet as people spend the following days visiting their family and neighbours, a time where there is no greater priority than connecting with each other. If only there were more days like these.