Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bags, Bags...

I'm just diggin' both of these bags-- have mentioned before the Feed Project bag which you can order on-line from Tom's, a cool store to boot (no pun intended). Buying one on-line this weekend. The other, hand-embroidered bag comes from Mexico and you can find it at good ol' Viva Terra.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bali - John Hardy Does it Again

Ah, to live in Bali. Rice paddies. Mystical offerings. Fresh food. Teak wood. Breathtaking views of greenery. Okay, that's enough. But here I go again dreaming about being in Ubud, thanks to John Hardy. The jewelry designer extraordinaire has now turned his eye to eco-living, or rather eco-tourism by constructing a compound or rather hotel, Bambu Indah, comprised of houses made out of old teak homes. According to Travel and Leisure, "Guests can swim in the natural pool, walk in the surrounding rice paddies, and dine by candlelight at the Ayung River’s edge. Need I say more????

And he's also designed a fabu looking silver bamboo bracelet. He uses the proceeds to plant bamboo somewhere on the island, contributing even further to long-term sustainability. Think I may need to put my name on an order list.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

One More Thing...About Bangkok

It's been a whirlwind since I arrived back from Bangkok just 10 days ago. I suddenly realized that 3 days after arriving home, we flew up to Vermont, had a late dinner, house hunted for a winter place (more about that adventure later) and did a million other things. Is it any wonder my body collapsed on Saturday?

But I digress...and just had to share some of these photos of Thai transportation. One can't help but notice the cornucopia of transporation choices on the streets and above the streets of Bangkok, not to mention the river and waterways. Tuk tuks. Green taxis. Pink taxis. Racing motorcycles. Long boats. Water taxis. And yes, I once saw an elephant on the streets of downtown Bangkok. Probably not being used for transportation but then again, who knows? My favorite remains the water taxi which costs about 50 cents to take you up and down the river to the wats and various tourist locations.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Vermont Valentine

I had a full blown Vermont Valentine's Day. Started with dinner at the romantic Pitcher Inn in Warren, Vermont. Sophisticated food. Extensive wine list. Perfect place to drop big bucks on a leisurely dinner. The next day I was treated to a 3-hour spa treatment at the Alta Spa next door. As snow fell outside, I was treated to a conditioning back facial, salt sea scrub and completely relaxing massage. We then headed to the Warren Store for a perfect lunch -- turkey chili in a big bread bowl. As we headed home towards Burlington, a blue sky emerged through the clouds.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Half of a Yellow Sun

If you haven't yet discovered this novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose first book Purple Hibiscus was short-listed for the Orange Prize, link on her website right away. Run out and buy Half of a Yellow Sun. I consumed it on the plane from Bangkok to D.C. -- and am devourly it nightly as I fight to go to sleep. She is a beautiful women who writes in a beautiful, tragic voice about the forgotten war of Nigeria and Biafra.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

In Search of the Bangkok I Knew

Maybe it is true that you can never go back. It seems like such an overused statement about travel. But as I found during this last trip to Bangkok, it may be overused but it rings true none the less.

First, let me state that the Thais are a magical people. Kind, welcoming and sincerely happy to meet you. That impression has never failed me during my travels in Thailand. The Four Seasons hotel also never disappoints. The rooms are handsomely decorated in silks and dark woods – and the wake up calls are prompt, with the coffee arriving precisely at the minute requested. And I mean precisely. The concierge staff is friendly, curious and aims to please. The courtyard breakfast is a delight. The doormen anticipate your every move.

The Peninsula Hotel also did not disappoint with its ESPA spa being a wonderful sanctuary from the exhaust and haphazard weavings of the tuk-tuks. I arrived a full hour early for my appointment and spent a wonderfully relaxing hour in an upstairs relaxation room prostrate on a lounger with ginger and honey tea, a warm blanket engulfing me and the anticipation of my Thai massage and facial. Both were heavenly, my body in need of a purging of sickness and fatigue which had plagued me all week.

The water taxi (for about 50 cents or 15 baht) was also worth every single baht. Up the river we zoomed at 7:30 a.m. one morning, watching as life emerged on the banks of the river, the water spraying up the sides of the boat, packed with Thais on their way to work. I emerged at the Royal Palace, only to be overcome by mourners dressed in black who had come to pay their respects to the Princess (the King’s sister) who died in early January. As I learned from a helpful, middle-aged attendant, the royal family had mourned for the obligatory month and now the commoners were to pay their respects for a month. The city was curtained in black matching the crowds that packed themselves onto lawns, although the mood did not seem somber but somehow festive.

As I write this, I realize it is not about disappointment in returning to Bangkok but perhaps a maturation in my tastes and travels that was evident on this last trip. I tired easily of the Night Market, its stalls packed with knock off luggage and purses and cheap souvenirs. I was saddened by the growth of mega malls outside my hotel door, including the new glass and chrome Gaysorn, with its artistic but empty Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton stores. On the street, simple women spent hours putting flowers on garlands that could be placed at the always bustling Erawan shrine while western models stared down from the Coach posters and Gucci posters that loomed above. The wealth disaparity was troubling.

So I will go back but just to a different Bangkok where I will still seek out the simple, be thankful for the luxurious and be grateful that no matter what changes, the simplicity and warmth of the Thais does not.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Year of the Rat

It's an odd juxtaposition here in Bangkok of the lunar new year celebrations and this week's Super Tuesday primaries in over 20 states. Ushering in the Year of the Rat during a presidential election year somehow seems fitting. But I digress. I seem to have lost track of Day 2, 3 and 4 here in Bangkok, a blur of taxi rides, work presentations, the smell of incense, the warmth of the Thai people and too much food. After work yesterday, we popped into a car provided by the silk shop to head down towards the Oriental for my final fitting of my red silk pant suit. Nearly perfect. Just next door is the Oriental, that quintessential symbol of Thai service, where we happened upon a dragon winding its way through the lobby, blessing people with good luck and the occasional clementine which was dropped out of the large hairy head. Sitting riverside sipping a fruity cocktail and dining on seabass in spicy curry sauce rounded out the evening as boats skimmed past us on the river, including the occasional one brightly lit with a banner in honor of the King.

P.S. Here's a great site I just stumbled upon:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Day 1 Bangkok

Shaking off jet lag yesterday, I began my morning at the hotel gym. Head off to the tailor recommended by the hotel to get a suit made – and then head to Rasi Sayam on Sukhomvit 33 (a new location) to buy a few more Thai baskets and a lovely silk wall hanging. After a quick stop at the Erawan shrine to inhale the incense, I make my way to the large nearby malls – just to resist succumbing to jetlag and sleep. The Gaysorn mall is a must see – Dior, Celine, Pucci , Vuitton and Givenchy -- and many more designers abound. It’s all glass and steel and white lights. Such a contrast to the outside bumper to bumper traffic, beeping, exhaust and buzz of motorbikes.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Serenity in Tokyo

One wouldn't expect to find tranquility and serenity at an airport, but I did last night in Tokyo, arriving just after 3 a.m. on my body clock. Clean lines and fresh-faced Duty Free saleswomen made my 3 hour layover bearable, as did the United business lounge and the delight of the origami museum. Next stop Bangkok.