Category: Travel

Happy New Year!

I know, I’m a bit late to the table. But happy new years anyway! I got back to chilly, smoggy Hong Kong a few days ago from my amazing trip to South Africa. If you’ve never been then I highly recommend you do. Plus, Cape Town is World Design Capital this year, so no better time to go really. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I did spend Xmas day here…

I booked us a table for lunch at the Delaire Graff winery months ago, and I’m so glad I did. The food, wine and the service were just as amazing as that view. The winery, which is nestled in a valley and surrounded by vineyards in Stellenbosch (not quite an hour from Cape Town), is truly spectacular. And the interiors were designed by the late, great David Collins (yes, that was definitely a deciding factor).

But enough of my travel tales, I have news to share.

I have thought long and hard about how to develop this blog from what it started out as very innocently in 2006.  I may well be insane, but I have decided nonetheless to publish a magazine. I will give you more details as we get closer to the publication date (hopefully within the next few months), but I can tell you it will be unlike any other design magazine on the market at the moment.

I would love to hear from readers, especially those of you in Asia, and what you might like to see and read, and we will do our best to incorporate that into the format we are working on currently. 

I would like to thank those of you who have sent submission material to us for publication on the blog, and encourage you to continue to do so for publication in our magazine. 

So keep your fingers crossed for me, and be patient if I post even less regularly as we put together our inaugural issue.

I wish all of you the very best for 2014. I have a good feeling about this year!

Antonio Zaninovic

It might be that I’m flying off to South Africa tomorrow night, or it just might that Antonio Zaninovic Architects work is amazing….either way, I am loving the modernity and the openness…and the amazing views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic don’t hurt either.

I won’t be posting while I’m gone, but am hoping to have some pretty exciting news to share with you all once I return.

So, until then, we wish you all a very merry festive season, and all the best for 2014. I have a good feeling about next year…

Melbourne town

I had a great trip back home. Melbourne is a fantastic city, visually beautiful (except some of the fugly looking new developments) and lots going on. In lieu of a more lengthy post (I have so much work to catch up on,  you know how it goes)…I will leave you with a few recommendations for places I visited on this last trip. Mostly food this time…no time or funds for shopping unfortunately.

Firstly, Melbourne is known for its foodies and coffee afficionados. If you’re a fan of Anthony Bourdain, like I am, you will already know this, as he has referred to the fact that all Melbournians are food critics (or at least we think we are!) so the quality is good and competition fierce.

I had time in the CBD on my own for an afternoon and asked a friend to recommend a great coffee place and these were his recommendations – Patricia and Little Wish. I only made it to Patricia…and was not disappointed. In a city where Starbucks is failing miserably, good coffee is fairly abundant. There are obviously a few that stand out from the crowd and I dare say this is one of them.  With an almost hidden entrance at the back, and probably always packed with uber cool young things, Patricia certainly serves up a mighty fine coffee. And the interior isn’t too bad either 😉

I had breakfast at The St Kilda Dispensary one morning with friends and loved it. I am a bit of a sucker for nice decor and have been known to sacrifice quality of food and service for a nice interior…but you needn’t do that with this place. Set in an historical building (actually the first medical dispendary in the British empire, hence the name) with a fun but not too kitsch interior, and a menu to die for. Great coffee and a selection of interesting and not-so-usual breakfast items. I would definitely go back.

Finally, I enjoyed a wonderful meal with a large group of friends at Otsumami, a Japanese resto on the ever changing and newly hip High Street in Northcote. It must have been good…it managed to get a bunch of strict south-of-the-river Melbournites north of the river for the night! I loved their slightly fusion version of Japanese, and the fact that they managed to please a vegetarian and a pescatarian.  Pretty well priced too.

That’s it for now. Thanks to all the lovely people who made the trip a memorable one. You know who you are…

take me back to Thailand…

If after my last post about Thailand you still need some tips, these are for you!


This trip we stayed at The Eugenia. It’s charming, and a little bit quirky, and we loved it.  Only 12 rooms, all with their own unique mix of antiques and artworks, so its always fairly quiet (a good thing in this bustling city), and the pool is surrounded by palm trees and feels like your own private oasis. We ate at the hotel restaurant the first night and the food was fantastic. I highly recommend it.

One of the charming suites at The Eugenia Hotel, Bangkok

We ate at Gaggan the second night. We were recommended the tasting menu, being first timers, and were not disappointed. We had a 12 course tasting menu and loved every single course…honestly, it may well be in the top 10 of the best meals of my life. I have to say I think the fact the chef is Indian, and the fact they call their food “progressive indian”, may be slightly misleading…I think even non-curry lovers will love this place. Oh, and did I mention the building and interior? Super cute.

On the third night we ate at Issaya. Also located in a charming building, this place is much more colourful, which happens to be a great back drop to wonderful Thai food, a mix of traditional and more modern style dishes. Everything we had was amazing…especially the Passionfruit and caramel cocktails. Who knew those two flavours would work so well together!?

And I finally managed to get my husband to Agalico…a seriously cute tea house just off Sukhumvit Road. My second visit, but I think it may become a regular when we go back. Great selection of tea and cake, and the view of the garden outside is to die for.


Agalico, Bangkok

Apart from eating, we did a fair bit of shopping (I LOVE Bangkok for shopping…seriously one of the best cities in Asia…there is literally something for everyone, and it won’t break the bank), and a bit of sightseeing.

We checked out Mr Kukrit’s House, which is the home of an ex-priminister that has been maintained for visitors. Each of the pavilions serves a different purpose and all are still as Mr Kukrit left them. The gardens are alsoo quite amazing, and the feeling of standing amongst lush tropical greenery in the middle of a concrete jungle is quite surreal.  Still mostly untouched by the crowded bus tours, this is a nice way to spend a morning…and there’s a Dean & Deluca naerby for lunch afterwards…which is exactly what we did.

Mr Kukrit’s House, Bangkok
As for shopping…my favorite shopping malls in Bangkok are definitely Emporium and Siam Paragon…even though they are full of a lot of the same brands you see in every major city you still see a lot of stores with local designers.  Also, the department stores inside the malls are great, and carry a great selection of local designers which are very well priced.  I’ve somehow managed to visits twice during sale time and have picked up some ridiculous bargains.  As well as the malls there are lots of great shops scattered around the city and walking around back streets to find them is part of the fun and the experience of Bangkok.  My tips for furniture and home wares? The department stores I just mentioned, as well as Decor Mart in Siam Paragon (Barbara Barry, Ralph Lauren and many other big American brands not available in other major Asian cities), The Promenade (Christian Liaigre etc.), as well as my three favorite stores in the city: Incredible, Indelible and Unforgettable. Absolutely crammed full of amazing designs, each of them with their own slightly different mix, but owned by the same person. You will find them on Sukhumvit Soi 23. Take your credit card, and a few empty suitcases. They’re just that good.


We were in Phuket for a friend’s wedding, and while the actual ceremony was held elsewhere, most of the guests stayed at the Sala.  We shared a 2 bedroom pool villa with friends, and it was heavenly. This was our first resort holiday as we tend to be city people and my husband gets bored quickly, but I think this place has converted us.  There are lots of things to do if you want, otherwise they make it very easy for you to relax. We ate at the hotel almost every night and the food was great. I would definitely come back and stay here again.

Sunset on our first night over the pool at Sala, Phuket
Sunset on the beach, Phuket
The wedding itself was at the Sri Panwa resort, further south of the island, set on a cliff with THE most spectacular views. The ceremony was atop a building on the cliff, surrounding by an infinity pool. It was like something out of a James Bond movie, and I’m sure we weren’t the only guests half expecting the bride to arrive by helicopter. Just stunning. A bit pricier than the Sala as you can imagine, but so secluded that I think anyone looking for a romantic secluded getaway this would be the place!


Right, I’m off (again). Yes, I know it seems like I was just away, and that’s well, because I was.  This time we’re headed to Bangkok for a few days and then Phuket for the rest of the week to attend another lovely wedding. We’re staying here (as seen above) in Bangkok.  I’ll be sure to give you all a few more Thailand travel tips upon my return.
*Ta ta for now. Ciao darlings x

a working holiday

Well, I’m back. Have been for a week, but have been to busy this week to even think about my poor neglected blog. Our short, but very sweet, trip was amazing. I’ve had a few readers ask for tips and recommendations…so without boring you all senseless, I’ll try to keep it succinct.

We had only 4 days, one of which was the wedding we attended (at the Montague on the Gardens Hotel – super cute, very small rooms, but served a great afternoon tea!).  

Hyde Park on a lovely sunny day

Some of our favorite eats were:

Daylesford Organics, Notting Hill – We had breakfast here, our first meal in London. A great way to start the trip. Everything about this place is inspiring, and a concept that is sadly lacking in Hong Kong. We bought a lot of preserves here to bring back with us.

Granger & Co. Notting Hill – possibly a silly choice as Australians to patronise the establishment of another aussie whilst in London, but it was highly recommended by a few people. We met an old friend for lunch and enjoyed the food immensely.  Our friends whose wedding we attended ate there a week later and sat next to Stella McCartney and her husband. Great food, great interior, both with a very relaxed Australian vibe.

Somewhere we didn’t make it was Ottolenghi, in the same neighbourhood as these two. Also was highly recommended, and the deli style food I saw in the window when we walked past between breakfast and lunch looked amazing. I actually asked my husband at 10am if it was too early for another coffee and some cake. Needless to say it will be high on my list for next time, as will the sister establishment, Nopi in Soho.

Fortnum & Mason – the new Diamond Jubilee Tea Rooms designed by none other than David Collins are stunning. The afternoon tea set, which regrettably I did not have with the champagne that was available. Nor did I have the appetite to make the most of the endless refills of the delicious scones (best ever, which I can only say now that my Grandmother has passed away) or the cake trolley. Slightly wasted on us as we were so full from the previous 2 amazing meals we’d had that day, but amazing none the less.  I recommend you go with an empty stomach though.

Borough Markets – we wandered around for hours, on what was only our second trip here.  I would quite like the time to spend an entire day here and have 3 or more meals.  So much to taste and tempt you. We bought many varieties of saucisson, cheese and potted meats to take with us to eat on our travels, some of which actually lasted til we got home.

St.John – We had dinner here with the bride and groom to be, and I was  not disappointed. I love the space and the ambiance.  I thought the food quality, the serving sizes and quality of service was amazingly good value in a city with a reputation for being expensive.  It outclassed anything I’ve had in Hong Kong (although I have to say, most of our meals in London did). I was slightly underwhelmed by the main I ordered, but all in all I loved it and would definitely go back again.

Massimo – in the recently refurbished Corinthia Hotel, also designed by David Collins. We enjoyed  a very well priced set menu with the good friends we were staying with.  I enjoyed my meal, and the interior was captivating.  So many beautiful details, that Mr Collins is known for, that we could have sat for much longer and still picked up on something new. 

The Serpentine Pavillion by Ai Wei Wei and Herzog & De Meuron 

Other highlights: 

Tate Modern – Getting to see the Munch exhibit at the Tate was definitely a highlight, as I have admired his work greatly for many years.  I own a book of his work so was familiar with much of it (and was not disappointed at all that none of the versions of the famous “Scream” paintings were included), but was still pleasantly surprised by just how vivid his use of colour was. So inspiring.

Potterton Books– Definitely one of the best design bookshops anywhere handsdown, with outposts in New York and LA. I bought a couple of books, and could have spent a fortune on more had my credit card and weight limit as an economy passenger not restricted me…

The Orangery at Kensington Palace


We were fortunate enough to here to celebrate our 11 year anniversary whilst in Paris.  Bofinger was recommended by a few people to us, and was fortunately a short walk from our charming hotel in Le Marais. We were taken to a table upstairs, which the waitress described as ‘très jolie’, and it was. However, the photos of the downstairs dining room with the lovely Art Nouveau detailed ceiling was what sucked me in, and I kinda wished we’d been able to sit there.  Despite this, the food was lovely, very rich in a traditional French sense, but very enjoyable.

L’ oulette – this was probably the best meal of the trip, if not at least in Paris.  A charming little bistro, also a short walk from our hotel, which has a great menu of French classics.  I had Duck confit (amazing), and my husband had Cassoulet (also equally amazing). 

Our last night we dined at Chez Julien (from the stable of the Costes brothers, of Hotel Costes fame), also recommended by a friend.  The food was more of a modern French style, which I enjoyed, and the interior is also quite charming.  Luckily also walking distance from our hotel, which took us along the Seine.

Parisians enjoying a sunny Sunday in the Place des Vosges

Other highlights:

I finally made it to the Decorative Arts Museum, a place I had been dreaming about ever since I discovered its existance, shortly after my last trip to Paris six years ago.  The collection is small, but amazing.  Pieces by Royère, Arbus, Prouvé – just to name a few. The bookshop attached is also a jaw dropper if you are into rare and out of print books on French design.

A rainy Paris day, as seen from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

And of course, Maison & Objet.  My first trip, and somehow I manage to cover most of it in a day.  A pretty mean feat, anyone who has been will tell you.  Not sure where to even start, which was pretty much my feeling when I arrived there.  The vast range and quality of product on show is overwhelming. I don’t know that I will list off my faves in this post, but if I ever get around to perusing my fair catalogue I might do it in another one, another time.  Needless to say, if you’re in the industry its a must see.  Now that I’ve checked that off, I am now aiming for Milan next year.

A good day to be inside, the Louvre in Paris

Brittany / Normandy:

We stayed at Maison Violette, a lovely 300yr old cottage in a tiny but very cute town named Bazouges la Perouse. The town itself is definitely one of the prettiest in the area, and is only a 45 min drive from Rennes, the capital city of Brittany.  We took a train down from Paris (about 2 hrs), and then hired a car and drove for the rest of the time.

Maison Violette, in Bazouges la Perouse.
Making Bazouges our base, we did a lot of driving over the next few days…and without going into excessive detail, these were the highlights of that part of the trip…
The stunning Mont St Michel, only a 30 min drive from where we were staying
 Stunning seaside walled town of St. Malo, about 40 mins from Bazouges
Coastal town, Cancale, home to the best Oysters ever!, very close to St. Malo, we did both in a day
the Château de Combourg, about 20 mins drive away
and last, but not least, the crumbling ruins in Fougères, the largest medieval castle in Europe
(only 30 mins away from Bazouges)

all photos taken by moi!

If the world’s your oyster after only one night in Bangkok…

…what do you get after 7 nights??

Well, here’s the low down.

We stayed at The Asadang, a charming boutique hotel with only 9 rooms. The sister property of nearby The Buthorn (which only has 3 rooms!) Both are lovely restored buildings in the heart of old Bangkok, owned and renovated by a local couple who are both architects. Each room is different, full of antique and vintage pieces and the overall feeling is more like staying with friends than at a sterile, characterless large chain hotel. Situated in a great area for sight-seeing – the Royal Palace and many Wats and Temples are within walking distance. This was the view from the balcony off our bathroom…you can see the top of the Ratchabopit Temple which is literally next door, and neighbourhood homes line the canal or klong.

These are a few more temples that are within walking distance of both hotels.

Overall I would give the hotel the thumbs up, do keep in mind though that if you plan to do a bit of shopping this place is not particularly close to Sukumvit or Chatuchak and was sometimes difficult getting taxis to venture over to this side of town. It always worked out eventually, and I think despite this I would stay here again.

Did someone say shopping?? Obviously the Sukhumvit area is great, and there are many huge malls in this area, depending on what you’re looking for. I would say in terms of home furnishings by far the best are Siam Paragon (Barbara Barry concept store, Armani Casa, Ralph Lauren, other huge American brands not available in Hong Kong, plus an amazing variety of very high quality locally produced goods), Decor Promenade (Christian Liaigre store, Baker, Visual Comfort lighting and Promemoria, plus local designers) and the Emporium (the Emporium department store range was fantastic, and Jaspal Home which has lovely bed and bath linens – also in Siam Paragon). As for clothing, if you want something other than all the typical big luxury brands that can be bought anywhere I’d say Gaysorn Plaza would be best with lots of stores by local fashion designers at reasonable prices. BUT, if its a bargain you want, or you love the thrill of the hunt, then definitely Chatuchak market is a must see. This was my first time there this trip, and I have to say it is absolutely the best market I’ve ever been to. And apparently the largest in the world. Many markets in Asia repeat the same products and you’ve pretty much seen it all after a few rows, but Chatuchak is full of great stuff, unique things from clothing to home stuff. You’d need a full day to even think about seeing it all.

In terms of food, well Bangkok is as much an gourmet paradise as it is a shoppers paradise. I’m not sure even where to start. Perhaps chronologically…

Our first night we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Nahm, run by Aussie expat chef David Thompson. The food is modern Thai and is fresh and tasty. We then had a G&T or two at Face afterwards. There are also two restaurants on the same premises as the bar, and the setting is lovely…I’ve made a mental note that I’d like to come for dinner next time.

Other restaurants we enjoyed were Bo Lan – run by an Aussie/Thai couple (I swear we didn’t just eat at restaurants run by Aussie chefs!)…the food is also modern Thai and was fantastic. I can also highly recommend Le Vendome, which as the name suggests is French cuisine. A charmingly decorated space, good service, reasonably priced (compared to HK that is) and great food. My only gripe would be a slightly insufficient wine list considering the price and type of food. Otherwise I highly recommend it.

For lunch, my favorite has to be Cafe Claire. Recently opened (in fact the GM told me there soft open was just the day before, and I was one of their first customers), the food was fantastic, and the service impeccable. Set within the new Oriental Residences (condos for sale or serviced apartments for slightly longer stays) which has been decorated with Barbara Barry furniture in a very light and airy manner. Here are a few of the sneaky pics I took…

I have to say I also highly enjoyed eating at the new Dean & Deluca within the new MahaNakhon complex. I discovered D&D when I lived in Tokyo and have been a big fan ever since. Why oh why are there 2 in Bangkok and none in Hong Kong? Anyway, I also managed a sneaky tour of the David Collins designed show flats within the complex, which are of course drop dead beautiful. I wish I could move right in.

And you can’t really talk about food in Bangkok without mentioning Greyhound. These guys recently opened their first cafe outside of Thailand in the IFC mall right here in Hong Kong. Well designed spaces, great menus, and locations all over the city. Good for lunch or dinner, really.

That’s all folks. I should be back in BKK in a month to follow up on some meetings I had there, and then hopefully not too long after that I’ll be able to fill you in on some exciting news…so stay tuned!

Kolkata – East of India

Kolkata’s charming faded grandeur

I must admit, I have a bit of a soft spot for Kolkata…this was my second visit and the city has definitely charmed me. I think Kolkata has earned an unfair reputation amongst foreigners, or at least their perception of what its like is somewhat undeserved. Kolkata was once the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, their proudest achievement off their own shores. Sadly, it still seems to be recovering from the departure of the British, and the annexing of Bengal into Bangladesh, however there seemed to me to be a sense of hope and a pride.

After having spent at least a week in Rajasthan on this trip before heading to Kolkata, I had a much better sense of how different this city is compared to the other Indian cities we visited. The crumbling facades of the old city are leftovers of the British Empire, rather than crumbling Havelis, Forts and Palaces of Maharajas and the like.


One of many crumbling buildings I wanted to adopt

We stayed with friends while in Kolkata, but I believe that there is a Taj and an Oberoi in town if you are a devout sybarite, or a range of other options to suit most budgets. My other recommendations for a few days in Kolkata include…

Sightseeing & Shopping:

The Marble Palace – I have no photos as they are not allowed, but this is one of the most amazing 19th century Colonial buildings in all of India, let alone West Bengal. Our host in Kolkata knows the owners and arranged a private tour for us, so we were incredibly lucky to say the least. The house was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, a wealthy Bengali merchant who had a passion for collection European art. Part of the house is still used as a private residence by Mullick’s descendants, hence the no photo policy. I can’t begin to describe to you the surreal collection that is housed in this amazing mansion. Vast collections of ceramics, paintings (one by Rubens and two by Sir Joshua Reynolds amongst many others), clocks, rugs, furniture, the list goes on. The rooms are expansive, typical of the era it was built in, and its easy to imagine how opulent and luxurious they would have been in their heyday. Unfortunately as the home is still privately owned, and India seems to be a little slow to cotton on to historical preservation, the house has crumbled and faded a little, and it seems these magnificent artworks and treasure run the risk of deteriorating into oblivion. Even if you are only in Kolkata for just a day, you must visit this place. If for no other reason that you will never see photos of the inside.

The Victoria Memorial is another tribute to the British Empire. Built as a memorial to Queen Victoria, it now houses a museum with a collection of memorabilia of Queen Victoria, the British monarchy, and their presence in India. I visited the memorial on both visits to Kolkata, but did not go inside either visit. The building is impressive, and the gardens a nice location for a walk away from the hustle and bustle of Kolkata’s streets.

If you are particularly interested in the history of Britain in India, and the founding of the East India Company, or you’re a fan of colonial architecture then I would recommend a walk around the old city. Around BBD Bag you’ll find the old GPO, St Andrews Church, Job Charnock’s Tomb (he was the original British founder of what is now know as Kolkata), the Writer’s Building, and many many more.

The Mallick Ghat Flower market is a one of the largest in Asia and a great way to see a whole lot of colour in a short space of time. But then, its not like India is short on colour…The market is just under the Howrah bridge and worth a look (see photos below.

If you’re a bookworm like we are, then make the most of Kolkata’s entrenched literary history and take a walk along College street which is lined with book vendors selling all manor of titles. I had read rumours that first editions could be picked up at a very low cost, but the day we were there it was mostly text books for university students. I did pick up a copy of an early 20th century book on Indian architecture and home design, titled “Modern Ideal Homes for India”. Houses cost as little as $14,000 Rupees at the time of publishing…(equivalent to USD$310!). If you have the time, pop into the Ashutosh Museum, housed nearby within the grounds of Calcutta University, it specialises in East Indian Art. Unfortunately it was closed the day we tried to visit, along with the India Museum. I’ve heard that both are worth a visit.

As for shopaholics, you can get your fix at New Market, located directly behind the Oberoi Grand Hotel. A wide range of goods on sale, and lots of people watching to be done – its worth a wander around. And, if you’re game, there is plenty of street food on offer (very delicious, we sample two different local dishes), and if you can find a Chai Wallah a delicious Masala chai will set you back as little as 3 rupees (about USD 6 cents) and that includes the hand turned ceramic cup its served in! They’re normally discarded on the street, but we kept ours as souvenirs.


Kolkata’s flower market – one of the largest in Asia


Eating: Apart from the street food – which I wouldn’t normally recommend but we were feeling brave on our last day and had good experiences – there are a few other good local eateries.

Oh Calcutta! is hidden away in a mall but has a great range of traditional West Bengali dishes (typically more fish and less spicy than food from other regions of India). If you want something local style this is my recommendation. Otherwise, check the Taj and Oberoi in-house restaurants. I ate at “Baan Thai” the last time I was in town and the food was excellent.

Thanks for indulging me with my ongoing travelogue…back to normal programming soon!

Udaipur – the Venice of the East

The Taj Lake Palace, otherwise known as Jag Niwas
Udaipur is honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, anywhere in the world. Its a stunning location – lakes dotted with old royal palaces, surrounded by more palaces and the picturesque Araveli hills. Its not hard to see why Udaipur is known as the Venice of the East. We stayed here for 4 days which was enough to see the sights and spend some quality time by the pool (and oh what a pool), but I feel like I definitely want to go back. Here are a few of my tips:

Sleeping: We stayed at the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, the iconic palace in the middle of Lake Pichola (seen above) that was also the backdrop to the very cheesy James Bond film Octopussy. The Taj (otherwise known as Jag Niwas) was formerly the Maharana of Udaipur’s summer residence. If you are looking for a romantic getaway, this is definitely your best bet. I think I mentioned in a previous post we were travelling off peak and were luckily upgraded once again to a suite that overlooked the other palace on Lake Pichola, Jag Mandir. The view from our room was amazing, and the sun setting behind the City Palace each night was so beautiful and felt like a private show just for us. It would be very easy to spend the entire time in Udaipur in this hotel, especially seeing as its the top tourist attraction listed in quite a few guidebooks. The view from the pool alone is enough, add to that the spa facilities and two restaurants (with a performance each night, plus a heritage walk of the hotel AND a boat tour around the lakes)…I seriously did consider not stepping foot off the hotel island…

Eating: If you are staying at the Taj then look no further than the two in house restaurants. The Indian speciality restaurant has a fantastic range of local Rajasthan cuisine with some great dishes we’d never tried before. Or, if you want something more international the All Day Dining restaurant – which also happens to have an amazing view over the lake – has a pretty good menu to select from.

We dined one evening at the Sunset Terrace in the Fateh Prakesh Palace Hotel, within the City Palace. The view at night of the sun setting behind the hills behind the lake and both palaces is unparalleled. Shame the food is not much to rave about, but its reasonably priced, and the view alone may just be worth it.

Shopping: Within the City Palace complex are some cute local shops and a few more upscale boutiques. One of the later is Aashka, the brainchild of Princess Bhargavi Kumari Mewar – the elder daughter of Udaipur’s Maharana. Aashka stocks a range of clothing, furniture, homewares, jewellery and other accessories. The jewellery was what caught my eye, in particular the Amrapali and En Inde designs. Both lines are stocked elsewhere so check out their websites for other stockists. I walked away with a lovely necklace from en inde, and am very much looking forward to them adding more images to their website. Opposite the Aashka boutique was another Anokhi store. A little smaller than their boutique in Jaipur, but definitely worth a look.

If you are after more of a local shopping experience then head straight through the City Palace complex towards the Jagdish Temple and you’ll find you’re in another world. My new friend Mukesh of Marco Polo Collection can help you out if you’re looking for Pashmina or silk scarves (his shop is on the left, just past all the Auto rickshaw drivers trying to sell everyone drugs..) If you keep walking you’ll happen upon the Clock Tower, and turning right will lead to you one of the main market streets – Bara Bazaar. If you keep going down Bara Bazaar you’ll eventually find the other main market street – Bapu Bazaar. Here you’ll find a mix of fabrics, jewellery, spices, tea, more scarves and pashminas and a treasure trove of other goodies.

Sight seeing: Like I said, the Taj Hotel (otherwise known as Jag Niwas, or the Summer palace) is definitely high up on the list of places to see in Udaipur, so if you’re not staying here you definitely need to take a trip across for a meal or just for a sticky beak, because it truly is beautiful. Jag Mandir, the other palace on Lake Pichola is still currently owned by the Maharana of Udaipur but is apparently set to be handed over to the Taj group, so no doubt this will end up being another luxury hotel. Maybe I’ll have to stay there next time….

Other than the two lake palaces, the City Palace is the main attraction in town. The large complex of buildings that has been added to over time by each successive Maharana is so large it now houses the current residence of the Maharana, not one but TWO luxury hotels AND a museum. Seriously impressive.

There are other former palaces, haveli’s and other grand structures around to visit, but the only other one we made the trip to was the Monsoon Palace, otherwise known as Sajjan Garh Palace. The Monsoon palace was built on a large hilltop overlooking lake Pichola and the surrounding Araveli hills as an escape for the Maharana during the monsoon season. Sadly it was never finished and has remained in an abandoned state since 1884. I couldn’t help but hope that someone cashed up would buy it and restore it to the glory it once could have been. Luckily though, despite its abandoned state, the site is still a fantastic location for sunrise and sunset and is open to all to view from the terrace. We make the trip up for sunset and were not disappointed.

All in all I’m not sure I can say enough good things about Udaipur. Its a beautiful, quiet and laid back town with lots of culture, history and great food to be enjoyed. I am planning my next trip in my head already!

The view from the Monsoon Palace in Udaipur

Stay tuned for the final installment….Calcutta!

Agra and the Pink City

We could have chosen to take the train from Delhi to Agra, which would have been faster and hassle free, but as we were travelling with friends and had a few more trips to do, we hired a car with a driver. This way were were able to sit back, listen to some tunes and enjoy the ride! The drive from Delhi to Agra should normally take 3-4 hours, but I think a lot of that is just getting out of the city. So my recommendation is to LEAVE EARLY! The well worn paths between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ – so you can imagine its a fairly well travelled road with a constant stream of traffic…

We left Delhi around 10am and arrived in Agra just in time to settle into our hotel before heading out to watch sundown at the Taj Mahal. It was a very exciting first glimpse of what we’d been looking forward to for days. While our friends headed out again late the next morning, my husband and I decided to get up at 5am to watch the sun rise. I am not really much of a morning person and had to be seriously talked into getting up at such a crazy hour, but it was well worth it. We were the first people inside the gate and managed to get some fantastic photos. Better still, we could wander around and enjoy the ambiance without having to share it with a million other tourists (oh, and it was also much cooler at that hour too!).

The Taj Mahal, of course

But, lest you think that Agra is only about the Taj Mahal…do not be fooled so easily. Agra is also home to a very grand Fort – the Agra Fort, of course. And not too far out of town, a great stop-off on the way to Jaipur if you’re heading that way is Fatehpur Sikri.

We stayed at the Oberoi in Agra, definitely the best hotel in town and the closest to the Taj (and all the rooms have a view of the Taj!) The hotel is exquisite, staff and the service were impeccable, pool dreamy and the food in the restaurant amazing. I cannot speak more highly of it.

Next stop: Jaipur (the Pink City)

the “Hawa Mahal” or Wind Palace in Jaipur

Jaipur, being the capital of Rajasthan, is a little bit hectic, but if you are staying in a good hotel (with a pool is a must!) you will be able to balance the crazy with the calm….

Sleeping: We stayed at the Samode Haveli. The Samode group of hotels is a smaller more boutique chain, but still with great service. The Haveli (the word for a private home, generally with some sort of internal courtyard) is on the outskirts of the city, right between the old city and Amber, home to the Amber Fort. In other words, its a great position. Its a little faded around the edges, but still very chic. This place came recommended by several guidebooks, and the NY designer Muriel Brandolini via her website, so I knew it must be good. And I guess Jade Jagger thought so too as she was there lounging by the pool most days during our stay. We were lucky enough to be travelling during the off-peak season and were upgraded (twice!) to a huge suite. I was a very happy girl indeed. Aside from this, the restaurant serves fantastic local and international cuisine inside the ornately decorated restaurant, or outside in the lovely courtyard. The pool cooled us down every afternoon, and the sweet lime sodas served were sooo addictive. In fact I’m salivating now as I think about it.

The other “it” hotels in town are the Oberoi, nestled on top of a cliff on the other side of town, where it was rumoured Liz Hurley and Aussie ex-cricketer Shane Warne were bunkered down. Aside from this, and more centrally located are the three, yes three, Taj Hotels in town. All of which are still owned by the Maharaja of Jaipur and his forefather’s previous residences. I can personally vouch for the Taj Rambagh Palace as we had lunch there one day during our stay. Probably more of a dinner experience, but it certainly was nice to see the grounds during daylight, with the polo field etc.

Aside from the hotel restaurant and the restaurant at the Taj Hotel, I have a few recommendations.

On our first night we ate at Mosaics Guesthouse, a guidebook recommendation. A bit of a drive out of town, a little further out past the Amber Fort, you’ll find Mosaics Guesthouse, run by local French mosaic artist (hence the name). Some international cuisine is served, but needs to be booked in advance, otherwise its a set menu of whatever the chef has prepared. The night we were there we were alone on the rooftop terrace, and were served far too much food for us to finish. Mutton, Dahl, Rice, Naan, Salad plus more that I’ve forgotten AND dessert…it was truly amazing, very flavoursome and very very fresh. One catch is they only take cash, but then you’ll need a bit on you for the auto rickshaw ride as the road are not great for cars. The night we were there we saw two elephants amble past.

Another guidebook recommendation we tried was Cafe Kooba. The food was nothing to write home about (although clearly okay to blog about), not bad, but not as good as some of the meals we’d had. The selling point is the rooftop, where we at our dinner watching the IPL cricket match that was on TV, and just enjoyed eating outside.

In terms of lunching, you can’t really go past Anokhi. Also recommended by the guide book, its a great way to spend some time eating, and then shopping when you’re done – it’s located right next door to the Anokhi Shop (see my notes below on shopping). Anokhi has been around for a while and has a bit of a cult following. Run by an Aussie girl, using mostly organic local produce, the food is a bit more international in style so a good place to go if you’re getting tired of curry.

The Amber Fort is a must see – I won’t post photos and do it an injustice. Just know that it is one of the most spectacular monuments I’ve ever seen. Mirrored mosaic ceilings. Enough said.

The City Palace, the current residence of the Majaraja of Jaipur, is also jaw dropping and a must see. We went to the Government Central Museum, otherwise known as Albert Hall, and its worth going just to see the building alone. Housed inside is a collection of ceramics, paintings, textiles and other crafts from all over Rajasthan.

The Jal Mahal, or “Water Palace” we saw, but did not go in as it is modelled on the Lake Palace hotel we stayed at in Udaipur, but more on that in my next post.

On our last night in Jaipur we did an Elephant safari through Dera Amer, which was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Arriving just before sun down we met our elephant, painted her trunk, then promptly boarded before a walk through the Araveli hills as the sun went down. The path was torch lit and we made a brief stop for a G&T before heading back to base camp for dinner. Another fabulous meal. While we ate we watched a game of night time Elephant polo and had the chance to join in or ride a camel. An absolutely surreal experience.

Most of the sights to be seen are in Jaipur’s old city which is a dark pink (hence the name the Pink City), including the “Jawa Mahal”, or Wind Palace. Walking the markets etc are a fabulous way to understand the local culture….which brings me to….

I’ve saved the best til last. Jaipur is a shoppers paradise. Ceramics, jewellery, textiles, spices, cooking utensils, clothes, scarves, shoes, you name it, Jaipur has got it. In spades.

Apart from the fantastic markets, which are along most of the main roads in the centre of the old city (see image below), there are many, many fantastic places to shop in Jaipur. My favorites were:

Hot Pink – has two shops in town, one inside the walls of Amber Fort, and the other larger store within the Narain Niwas Palace hotel. Started by two French designers this shop stocks a range of their own designs and locally produced garments, accessories and home wares. Lots of colour, especially pink (as the name suggests), you could definitely blow some cash in this place. Check out their website for their own recommendations on all things Jaipur.

Anokhi – has been producing traditional wood-block prints for over 40 years. Anokhi has played an active role in the revival of skills involved in this local tradition. There are stores all over India, so check out their website for other locations. The store in Jaipur has a great range of clothing for adults and children, as well as cotton bedding and other homewares. Jaipur is also home to the Anokhi museum, which I might have to pay a visit to on my next trip.

Soma – also stocks a wide range of traditional block-printed cotton bedding, homeewares and clothing, lots of colours to chose from too. These guys also have several shops around India, so check out their website if you’re interested.

So, what is this guidebook I’ve mentioned over and over? Make sure you get your hands on a copy of the “Love Jaipur, Rajasthan” book if you’re heading this way, it was definitely the best range of recommendations we’ve found. We picked ours up in Delhi, but they are available all over (check their websites for retailers). The Love Travel Guides are written by another Australian, Fiona Caulfield. There are a few more in the series, only Indian cities for now, so if you’re heading here check them out. We found ours invaluable, and our friend who moved to Delhi has found the guidebook on her new home city very useful.

Coming up next: Udaipur & Kolkata…

(first image: the sunrise at the Taj Mahal, Agra)

Incredible India

What can I possibly say about India that hasn’t already been said? Probably not much I’m guessing. Home to over a billion people of diverse religions, cultures, speaking many languages and living in landscapes from lush tropical coasts to dry arid desert. India. Its sublime and its ridiculous, all in one. And I loved it.

We started our trip in New Delhi where we stayed with old friends, and made some new ones. From there we travelled by car with other friends to Agra and then to Jaipur. On our own from there, my husband and I made our way further south in the state of Rajasthan to the picturesque town of Udaipur, making another new friend on the way. Then, back to New Delhi for a night before hopping on a plane over to Kolkata (Calcutta).

I have a few travel tips and recommendations we garnered in our very short visit that I will share with you over a few installments. First, New Delhi…

We had dinner on our first night in town at Bukhara, in the Sheraton Hotel. This place is a bit of an institution amongst the upper echelons of locals and international visitors (we saw Sania Mirza there – highest ranked Indian female tennis player ever). Prices are high if you are comparing them to other local eateries, but quite reasonable if you compare them to back home. The food (North India style) is fantastic.

Our last night in town we ate at a great little place called Gunpowder. Quite the opposite of Bukhara in all ways (its from the South of India, but still fantastic). A much more chilled and local vibe with outdoor seating, and a bit less punishing on your wallet. We ate outside with new friends and sampled a lot of new to us dishes, all of which were great. Located in the charming Hauz Khas village that we had already fallen in love with the day before on a shopping expedition. Definitely worth the visit.

Sight seeing:
I got the impression there are a lot more sights to be seen in New Delhi than people give it credit for. We did a bit, but to be honest we were quite content relaxing by the pool and catching up with our friends too. What we did see we loved, including the Red Fort (below), Rashtrapati Bhavan and the India Gate, the gardens – we didn’t make it to Lodi but did enjoy a wonderful free concert in Nehru Park on our last night (Thanks Brian & Puru!). In and around Connaught Place, the centre of the British capital is quite interesting too, unfortunately we left quite a bit unexplored. I felt that there were many layers to Delhi that needed to be peeled back to reveal the true city, though it felt like we only partly peeled back the first one. Needless to say, I would love to go back.

We didn’t get as much shopping done as we could have in the total of 4 days we were in town, but from what I gathered, there is a lot that could be done. Where I did shop:

Hauz Khas Village. A really charming part of town that was a little off the usual tourist beaten track. Filled with great shops, galleries and cafes (see my notes on Gunpowder in the eating section). My recommendations are Lola’s World – french designed and locally made clothes, kids stuff and homewares. Nappa Dori – beautiful leather goods (which kinda took me by surprise considering its India), and hand made luggage. Ogaan – a great range of contemporary Indian designed clothing and homewares, a real treasure trove. Two other galleries took my eye, although I forgot to take a card, with lots of great contemporary art that I would have happily brought back with me had I the space in my suitcase (and my walls at home).

Lodi Colony Market. I didn’t make it here, but my trusty guidebooks told me there are quite a few nifty looking shops in this area, which might just have to wait til I get back next time.

Other outstanding shops to note were Viya Home, whose name might sound familiar because of their recent collaboration with US based Odegard. Famous for their outstanding metal work, the Viya Home store in Delhi is a little out of the centre of town but I felt was worth the trip. The two-level store is lovely and would be hard to leave without taking something with you.

Its hard to leave India without having done some shopping somewhere in the city, and the airport is certainly no less tempting. Kimaya has an outlet in the international departure hall and sells contemporary clothing and accessories from over 100 Indian designers. I did a little damage to my credit card here…

We stayed with friends for the first 3 nights of our trip, but then the overnight stay before Kolkata was at the Aman, which in one word is: Amazing. Created from an existing hotel and designed by Australian architect Kerry Hill, the Aman in New Delhi (below) is just a bit of a modern masterpiece. Only 31 rooms and 8 suites, all of which have their own plunge pool (!)….no, that was not a typo. The Aman in New Delhi is a great example of modern Asian style, my only criticism of the design was that it might have been a bit too generic and felt as though it could have been located in almost any of the large Asian cities. (Oh, and the shower heads were a bit too small for my liking!). Apart from that, great. Great service, beautifully designed hotel, two wonderful restaurants to choose from (although we ate at the Tapas bar twice while we were in town….best Tapas outside of Spain!), fantastic local contemporary art on display, a wide range of spa services, and lovely serene rooms. We actually didn’t leave ours for the day/night we were there. Being picked up from the train station in one of the hotels fleet of steely grey iconic Ambassadors was definitely a great first impression! The hotel is also quite conveniently located, not far from the lovely Lodi Gardens, India Gate and Humayun’s Tomb.

The only other hotel in town I would vouch for is The Imperial. We had lunch there with our friends one day and it is really lovely. The total opposite of the Aman in every way, and if you prefer to stay in a more period style accommodation then this is right up your alley. The food was great, and our friend mentioned over lunch that he stayed here quite a bit on business trips before moving over and he liked it so much it became his office away from the office (not a bad place to meet with clients I guess!).

Stay tuned, the next installment will be tips on Agra and Jaipur…

(first image: Lutyens designed iron gates at the entrance of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Indian President’s residence in New Delhi)

I’ll be back….

My passage to India begins tomorrow….I’ll be gone for 2 weeks and probably won’t be posting during that time…but I hope to update you with lots of photos and travel recommendations when I return.

A passage to India…

I’m busily planning my own passage to India, this coming April. A two week part holiday, part work trip, starting in New Delhi to visit friends, and then travelling to Agra, Jaipur and then Udaipur before heading over to Kolkata. I’m beyond excited! All this thinking of India has reminded me of this staggeringly beautiful photo shoot by Hermès a few years back….

…to die for, right? I wouldn’t mind one of those Kelly bags…

London here I come!

I booked tickets for the hubby and I for a week-long trip to London in September. I haven’t been in 6 years, so needless to say I’m quite excited! The reason for the trip is for what will most likely be the most fabulous wedding of the century, and happens to coincide with the 100% Design fair. Lucky me. There are lots of things I already have on my list of things to do and see – including the V&A and Tate Modern, but if anyone out there has any recommendations – for restaurants, bars, bookshops, or anything really, I’d love to hear from you!


I sooo want a set of these chic suitcases from Pinel & Pinel (pink would be nice, but I’d settle for any colour really) for my next holiday…