Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Postcard from Koh Samui and what to wear

The biggest challenge when planning a travel wardrobe is usually the weather. If you expect mixed weather with temperatures varying from mild and sunny to rainy and cold, you wouldn't want to carry double wardrobe sets of everything and then only use half. Instead you'd be focusing on layering, and on how to make travelling less bulky and heavy. 

Going to Thailand was one of the few occasions where the weather presented no challenge... we knew it was going to be very warm at all times, so no provisions for cooler temperatures were needed. The challenge lay elsewhere... since we'd booked an island vacation and a city break, the wardrobe pieces I would bring along would have to work in both environments. As this was our first trip to Thailand, I couldn't rely on previous experiences for what to wear. So it was even more important that all wardrobe pieces could be dressed up or down, and adapt to the atmosphere of the destination. 

Some of my favorite sundresses that I'd had for many years were sure to come along, but I'd also taken advantage of the sales a couple of months before our trip and bought a couple of pretty dresses and tunics, all of which will be fabulous for the coming summer. Planning the accessories was great fun, and with wonderful timing the summer jewelry pieces I'd selected at a show in Paris the month before arrived just in time (now also available in the shop, click here)

I hope you enjoy the pictures of our island vacation on Koh Samui. Most were taken in the beautiful Belmond Napasai resort where we stayed.. it is a picture book paradise you never want to leave!

To get the maximum out of a travel wardrobe, the individual items should work together as much as possible. A skirt or pair of trousers for example should be compatible with many different tops. The same goes for accessories and shoes; there is not much point bringing a pair of shoes that would only go with one particular wardrobe item, or a necklace that goes with just one top. A mix of well-matched, simple and dressier clothes, shoes and accessories will be perfect ingredients to create numerous different looks which can be dressed up or down, and also go from day to night: A simple, bohemian style necklace, straw bag and flat thong sandals can turn a more elaborate robe into a sweet daytime sundress, whereas strappy sandals, sparkling earrings and a clutch transform it in a second into something more glamorous for the evening.

A beautifully presented, fragrant cup of ginger and honey tea at the Napasai's spa

This floral dress below is one of those I've had forever, and it was fun to style it with the pretty new items I found for the collection: The Duo necklace set and teardrop earrings (available here) make it look fresh and current again. 

I took quite a few bags on this trip, but since they were light weight and stackable straw bags (George and the new Mini George) and small evening bags (a Kelly Pochette and a Zara clutch) the weight  and bulk wasn't so different from taking a leather bag.

The Belmond Napasai's accommodation consists of individual villas dotted about in the lush tropical grounds, or on the ocean front, making your stay completely private and very relaxing.

The skirt below was a very lucky find, it was only 25 Euros! I spotted it at the weekend market next to the gym where DS goes on Saturdays. It was a perfect travel companion for Thailand. You could wear it strolling over to the pool or lounging on the terrace, or dress it up for the evenings. Here teaming it with a cream Zara tank top and the new multistrand necklace in silver (part of the silver necklace duo, available here). The pale mauve beach cover-up will be available in the shop soon too; I found it in Bangkok and it features a brightly colored, hand-embroidered dream catcher on the back. Bag: Mini Cabas in noir/natural


Lobby area

 New life for a dress I've had for a decade... silver tear drop earrings (available here) and tassel necklace (here). Basket: George here)

room with a view

The dress below (by Peter Pilotto) was another sale find. It was love at first sight, and it seems that it was designed with the Gulf of Thailand's colors in mind

Accessories: George summer basket (available here) and the new ornament and single strand necklace set (available here)


This silk chiffon kaftan is another wonderful item I found in Bangkok, and since I had an empty suitcase with me, I brought a few more back which will become available in the shop soon. Here accessorized with the new silver tassel and multistrand necklace set (available here), three strand earrings in silver (here) and a Quadriges Hermes printed enamel bracelet.

The peaceful pool setting of our villa

If you read my previous post on Bangkok you probably know how important decoration is in Thailand, and how skillfully even the humblest things are turned into something beautiful and extraordinary. It must have taken more than an hour to turn the shallow, water-filled bowl into this magnificent bougainvillia petal arrangement.

I was so happy to see how well the new teardrop earrings (available here) go with the Double Anneau necklace in noir/or (here) Also wearing: narrow Hermes Caleche enamel bracelet in black with GHW, kaftan by Roberto Cavalli and clutch by Zara.

The new Mini George bag (here) decorated with a Frangipani flower

The picture-perfect infinity pool of the Napasai, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand

The dress below is another favorite addition, also by Peter Pilotto. I love how easily you can accessorize it for a casual lunch on the beach, or a summer night in a city restaurant. Here wearing it with the teardrop earrings and necklace duo as before, and a Mini George summer bag

On our first night we strolled into the restaurant at around 8h30 pm, only to find it completely empty. We quickly learned that pre-dinner drinks were best taken at around 6h30, the most magical part of the day. From then on we had early dinners with everyone else, followed by a wonderful breakfast the next day and perhaps some fruit, if anything, for lunch. 

Starry, starry night. Combining the new tassel necklace and teardrop earings from above with a chiffon tunic top (Cavallo) and white jeans

The resort was too relaxing to leave and the food wonderful, but if you want to venture out, head for the 'Relax @ Samui' beach club.. I spotted these colorful lanterns hanging above their outside dining tables when we were driving past, and it was definitely worthwhile coming back for a simple and lovely dinner in a romantic setting.

Here teaming my 25 Euro skirt with a black tank top and the new waterfall necklace and multistrand bracelet in gold (also available in silver, click here and here). Also wearing a narrow Hermes Caleche enamel bracelet in black and a Mini Caba bag (available here)

Variation - same accessories as above but in combination with a long floral dress (Lewie dress by Theory)

Dragon fruit

Dress as before, this time accessorized with an Hermes Lena horn necklace, Lift earrings and Clic H enamel bracelet in black for a dinner on the beach. Bag: Mini George (available here)

If only one could make time stand still.

Kaftan as before, accessorized for a beach dinner with a Double Anneau necklace in noir/argent (available here) Hermes Clic H bracelet in black and a Mini George bag. Earrings by Chanel.

Travel wardrobe for Koh Samui and Bangkok

Coming next: Adapting the travel wardrobe to a city break in Bangkok!

Belmond Napasai: 65/10 Baan Tai, Maenam, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, 84330  Phone: +66 77 429 200

Nearby 'Relax @ Samui' beachclub: 90/9 Moo 6 Bang Por, Mae Nam, Koh Samui. Phone:
+66 (0)81 893 0881

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Postcard from Bangkok

This year we decided to do something different for our March holiday, so instead of our usual skiing trip to the Alps, we went to Thailand.

We've never been to Thailand before so I planned our trip in two sections, allowing us to explore the beautiful island of Koh Samui as well as Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok. Today's travelogue is about our time in Bangkok, an incredible city where ultramodern urban life is intertwined with tradition, resulting in startling contrasts that take you by surprise at every turn. We are fortunate to have wonderful friends in Bangkok, and their advice on hotels, where to go and what to see permitted us to make the most of our time, and enjoy things we would otherwise not have found. Mille merci, again dearest R and T.

I took so many pictures and there was so much to see that this postcard will be followed by two more... the next one is about our time in Koh Samui and how to accessorize a summer travel wardrobe for a resort vacation, and the third post will be about how to style the same wardrobe pieces for our Bangkok city break.

Now for the first part, and what to do, what to see and where to stay in Bangkok!

Room with a view... the way the city's sky scrapers frame the vast Lumphini Park reminded me instantly of New York. The park is liveliest in the mornings and evenings when the air is cooler. Joggers criss-cross the paths while others practice Tai-Chi on the lawns or meditate. On the weekend, the lake is dotted with swan-shaped boats, rented by couples or families with children.

Bangkok never stands still and the roads are always busy, even outside the rush hour. If you want to get across town quickly, the subway system, or even better the above ground sky train (with air conditioned carriages) is a better option than to risk being stuck in traffic for hours in a cab.

Religion plays an important role in Thailand, and it is considered a major pillar of society. There is total religious freedom, but the country is essentially Buddhist. Temples, shrines and spirit houses are a lively part of Bangkok's busy streets, and chances are high that you'll come across saffron-robed monks at least once during your stay.

When I took the picture below I thought how poignently it illustrates the symbioses of old traditions and modern life: The shrine for the God of Love (Trimurti) is located right in front of one of the world's largest shopping malls  (Central World), overlooked by huge billboards advertising the latest iPhone and surrounded by modern glass and concrete buildings. The shrine seemed like an oasis of peace and tranquility, shielding the people in prayer from their buzzing surroundings and letting time stand still for just a moment.

Temple offerings: fresh marigold and calotropis flowers strung into fragrant garlands (Phuang malais)

The Erawan Shrine is one of the most popular shrines. From early morning until late at night a steady stream of worshippers comes to pay respect to Than Tao Mahaprom (a Brahma god full of kindness, mercy, sympathy and impartiality) The picture below could have been taken before the age of mobile phones.. instead of living the moment through a lens, everyone's arms and hands are raised to pray, pay respect, or to hold offerings in the hope their wishes will be fulfilled.

Bangkok is a shopper's paradise and has immense, airconditioned shopping malls that carry every brand on Earth from Zara to Hermes. But I preferred to stroll through the markets, which seem endless! I walked through them for hours on end, and yet I barely scratched the surface... there is so much to see, and everything seems fascinating, enticing and tantalizing.

Street food is a wonderful way to get a sense of the Thai's culture and way of living. What struck me most was how beautifully everything is made and decorated. The deserts below resemble sumptous flowers and small fruit basket arrangements, making them a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Decoration plays a big role in Thailand. Even the smallest and simplest items are worked on, often elaborately, to make them look beautiful and special. I was touched to see how much care and patience is taken to arrange flower petals into stunning patterns on the surfaces of shallow bowls of water. Fruits are carved into exotic shapes, flowers strung into garlands, and napkins  artfully folded... these are just a few examples of a way of life which has been part of Thailand's culture for hundreds of years. Maybe it is part of the reason that Thai people are so very friendly, warm, and helpful. How can making your world beautiful and special not make you happy.

One of the markets not to be missed is the food hall on the ground floor of the Old Siam Plaza, on the edge of Chinatown. The Old Siam Plaza is the oldest shopping mall in Bangkok and the food section is full of locals buying their lunch or dinner. It's the perfect place for something to eat after exploring Chinatown in the morning. We bought a variety of small packages from different stalls and settled down on one of the wooden benches dotted either end of the hall,  eating our delicacies with no other tourist in sight.

It has been inspiring and fun to browse the aisles and watch the food being prepared. Everything is made fresh and from scratch. The stall in the picture below specialises in making egg yolk based delicacies, such as sweet golden threads and drops.  The drops are poured into miniature ceramic dishes, and while the mix is setting, each little blob is transformed into an exotic flower by an expert hand using a small wooden stick.

A terracotta steam pot covered with mousseline serves as a hotplate to make transparent wraps which are then filled with spices and vegetable, and folded into delicate, bite-sized parcels.

and those who like to cook at home can pick up perfectly portioned parcels of fresh herbs and spices

Beat the traffic by taking a boat

Or take a Tuk-Tuk taxi as a fun alternative for short journeys, but make sure to negotiate the fee in advance (Tuk-tuks don't have a meter)

What appears to be a biker's reunion is in fact simply what happens when the traffic lights turn green..  bikes and scooters squeeze themselves between cars waiting at the lights, giving themselves a pole position. How cars ever manage to cross the road is a mystery!

I have no idea what the plants below might be, or even whether they're destined for kitchen or garden. In the Western globalized world it's so rare to see things one has never seen before, and it's been a wonderful part of our trip to take in so many new things, colors, shapes and scents.

The very best market is the famous Chatuchak market, also known as JJ Market. It is said to be the largest weekend market in the world, with more than 15 thousand stalls covering an area of 35 acres. It is best to arrive early, as it gets more and more crowded during the day and very hot in the afternoons.

Fresh coconut water is a quick and delicious way to replenish liquids and energy!

As you can imagine, this market has everything under the sun on offer. From antiques to mass produced plastic goods, artisanal jewelry and decorative wonders, plants, food, flowers, clothes and accessories of every kind, many cheap and cheerful, some pricey and exquisite. It takes time and patience to find the gems amidst the vast offerings and thousands of stalls... a small cosmetic business selling their organic range of coconut skin and haircare, skilled jewelry makers, the three sisters who make fabulous, hand-embellished tunics and kaftans during the week and sell them in their little booth on the weekends,  or the creative whizz who combines imagination with expert craftsmanship, creating fabulous and extraordinary fantasies from materials most would overlook. I only wish I had more time to explore, hopefully there will be another time one day.

fresh mango ice cream, my favorite

Shopping makes hungry, and lunch is a welcome break after a lot of walking and browsing. Head for Section 1, by the Kamphaengpecth metro station entrance. Tucked into the far right corner you'll find a small, light and airy restaurant with ceiling fans, where traditional home-cooked dishes are served on banana leaves and simple terracotta plates. It provides a calm respite from the bustle of the market, and it is a perfect place to replenish your energy (it's slightly hidden, you can see the exact position in the map further down).

Chatuchak market map. Circled in blue: my favorite shopping areas. Circled in orange: the section of lunch place above, the exact position is indicated by the orange arrow. The colored sections help you find the areas you are interested in. You can see a bigger version here and find info on the sections here

Where to stay 

Our friends recommended the SO Sofitel, and it could not have been a better choice. The hotel is fabulous and chic, the breakfast buffet amazing and the location fantastic. The infinity pool and roof top bar overlook the Lumphini park, the rooms are beautiful and stylish and the metro and skyline stations are easily accessible by foot.

Design is a key feature of the hotel. The opulent and imaginative staff uniforms, as well as the luxurious Signature Clublounge and bold lobby were designed by Christian Lacroix (more pictures in the next post). His creations are reminiscent of the old Siam and yet everything is fabulously modern.  The room themes were created by five Thai designers, each one asked to tell their version of one of the five elements: fire, earth, wood, metal and water. We stayed in the Water Element, and I loved the calm and elegant muted colors.

Everyone in our family loves cooking, including DS, and for the last night in Bangkok we booked the Chef's table at the SO Sofitel's Park Society restaurant. Watching the kitchen in action made for a fun and memorable evening, and the food was, of course, wonderful too.

The Hi-SO roof top bar is located right next door. Perfect for a night cup while enjoying Bangkok's sparkling skyline for one last time

Coming next:

Postcard from Koh Samui and summer vacation travel wardrobe

Old Siam Plaza Food Hall: Wang Burapha Phirom, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200. Open from 10 am to 8 pm www.theoldsiam.co.th

Trimurti shrine: in front of the Central World shopping mall: 999/9 Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan (the neighboring Food in the Garden street food hall is also worth exploring)

Erawan shrine: in front of Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, corner of Ploenchit and Ratchadamri Road

SO Sofitel Bangkok, 2 North Sathorn Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500. Tel +66 2624 0000

Park Society Restaurant and Hi-SO bar on the 29th floor of the SO Sofitel, 29th floor.
Tel: +66 2 624 0000

Chatuchak weekend market: for detailed infos and how to get there, please visit: www.chatuchakmarket.org