Monthly Archives: August 2014

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{Travel Diary} Hue, Vietnam

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|ABOVE| Vagamundo tunic // Hathamade necklace // Urban Outfitters rucksack // TOMS sunglasses // bracelets from H’Mong women in Sapa

The ancient city of Hue was the most magical stop on my 16 day tour through Vietnam, thanks to the rich history of the central region of country. The temples and Forbidden City of the king were both incredible reminders of the culture of the country, as well as the sad destruction from war. What still stood from what was destroyed, gave me the chills, as it was older than anything existing in our own country and it was easy to envision how they once lived here.

For me, the region won my heart over because of the large Buddhist population, which are all vegetarian, so the scenery was zen-like and the food was heavenly. The smell of sandalwood incense became part of me after visiting temple after temple, where the incense burned around the clock. I had to bring some home after stopping at a market, where they showed us how they make incense. Since being home, the smell transforms me right back.

We spent much of our time in Hue on a dragon-shaped boat, cruising down the Perfume River, which owes its name to the fragrant flowers that surround the river banks. In the evening, we were serenaded by local musicians on the boat and then sent our wishes into a candle to float down the river—a wonderful way to end our evening in this city.

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{Travel Diary} Sapa, Vietnam

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My journey through Vietnam continued in the North via a bumpy 9 hour ride on a sleeper train up a mountain to Lao Cai by way of Hanoi. Not quite the luxury vacation, but it’s really the only way to travel to this region, as it’s quite mountainous and the roads are underdeveloped. We did upgrade to first class on the train, which meant there were only 4 to a cabin instead of 6.

It’s impossible to look fashionable when you’re traveling on bunk beds and then go straight to hiking mountains with local Minorities like the beautiful Flower H’Mong Tribe—which put my style to shame (case in point below).

The colors of the few minority tribes we came across were unreal, like out of a painting. The pigments of the dyes are rich and their handiwork crafting woven pieces are impressive. When they pressured me into buying their bags, I told them I was more interested in the stacks of cuffs that all of the H’mong women were wearing. They let me buy a few of the engraved brass cuffs right off of their wrists after we walked down the mountain together and talked about their village life.

While that was a remarkable experience, it was also heartbreaking to see their poverty and hardships, now relying on tourists coming to Sapa to sell their goods to. “Why you no buy from me” was desperately asked by many of them upon purchasing from another. I regret not buying more of those bracelets!

On the weekends, the Minorities Markets are quintessential to Northern Vietnam with artisans and farmers trekking miles up a mountain to set up and sell their goods. I bought an intricately hand woven and indigo dyed blanket from the market we went to, which will be a stunning bed cover in my bedroom.

We saw similar items claiming they were handmade in Sapa all over, including the bag that I bought and later found it was made in Thailand. These markets and visiting the Sapa women directly seemed to be the only way to get the real thing. It’s a shame because these villages could really use the business, as their children have to start working at age 10 and most have to drop out of school because it’s too difficult to get to on the mountain. It makes you appreciate their skills and gorgeous handmade pieces even more.

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|ABOVE| Kimono jacket found at TJMAXX // Liefsdottir tank // Vagamundo pants // Birkenstock sandals // Zara crossbody bag // Urban Outfitters backpack // TOMS sunglasses // necklace and bracelets via Vietnam

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|ABOVE| LOFT top // Express pants (old) // Keen hiking sandals // Zara scarf

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{Travel Diary} Halong Bay, Vietnam

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|ABOVE| Vagamundo caftan (c/o) // H&M belt // TOMS sunglasses // Hathamade bracelet (c/o)

If there was one place I would recommend anyone to go to in Vietnam, it would be Halong Bay. It’s truly magical and there’s a reason why UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.

We stayed on a junk (a boat) overnight, cruising through the limestone formations throughout the bay. While we fortunately didn’t have a Titanic moment, we did bump into a couple of the many tourist boats anchored in the bay. It was startling to see our boat drift into another filled with about a dozen Japanese tourists while we were all enjoying our dinners, but no one seemed to mind, as it has to be a frequent occurrence.

To be honest, the meals were probably my least favorite in the whole country because everything was fried and not as fresh as everywhere else we ate—but for two days on a boat, I can’t complain. The fruit at least, like the dragon fruit below was incredibly fresh.

Hiking through a limestone cave, effortlessly floating in the ocean with 30% salt in the water at a secluded beach, taking a small boat through an opening of the limestone into an untouched lake, peacefully watching the sun set over the bay, and doing yoga sun salutations on the top deck of the boat at sunrise were all up there on the list of my favorite things about this place. Number one may be falling asleep to watching the sky light up with lightening outside my cabin’s window, revealing the most brilliant stars shining and a gorgeous rain storm tapping on the water.

We luckily made it there just in time because the government closed the bay down just as we were leaving, thanks to an impending typhoon—which of course we did not escape on land…stay tuned for all that…

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Just outside of the bay in Halong City, we learned how pearls are harvested by the locals and carefully created. I had no idea the many steps they took to make a perfect pearl. They have women that pry the oysters open in a vice, carefully insert a ball into the shell and they put the oysters back in the bay to make the pearl around the ball. What a process! The results are amazing and now I can tell the difference between a cheap pearl, an okay pearl, an expensive pearl and even a fake one.

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Nothing goes to waste in the Vietnamese culture and they punch out the shells of the oyster to make mother of pearl—like those buttons on your shirt! Who knew?

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[Travel Diary] Hanoi, Vietnam

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The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, while traveling from the North to the South of Vietnam. I wish I could have shared my experiences with you in real-time—aside from Instagram—but I wasn’t in any location more than a couple of days, as we toured through over a dozen villages/cities through a tour organized through VITOURS, by a family friend who’s native to Saigon.

I packed everything I needed for 16 days into a small carry-on sized suitcase and a carry-on tote, and made sure to only bring pieces that weren’t too valuable because we moved around so much, slept on a bus, boat, train, plane and of course, many hotels.

It was quite the challenge because I’m usually an over-packer and never travel without my laptop, but my nice camera and iPhone did make the cut. I was able to keep the packing to a minimum by the following ways:

-packing neutral colors that can be easily interchangeable in multiple outfits

-a small bottle of Woolite for hand-washing in the hotel

-packing pieces that can be worn multiple ways, like these fun pants (see below), which also can be worn as a romper and if you flip it around, a top. You can see how I styled it on Vagamundo’s site both ways

-packing comfortable, but versatile and not bulky shoes like these Birkenstocks that could be dressed up or down, Havaianas for the beach, Keens for hiking and TOMS for traveling

-scarves that could double as shawls, sarongs and even dresses

-minimal jewelry and accessories

The Vietnamese tend to not dress up, other than when the women where the traditional dress, an Ao Dai, but otherwise in the capitol city of Hanoi, anything seemed to go, though women were a bit more covered than the globalized city of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). It makes sense to dress down when life revolves around work, drinking coffee, eating and getting around on a motorbike everywhere (literally EVERYWHERE). We hardly saw anyone walking on a mission, the way we do in NYC, probably because it’s too hot. The motorbikes lined the sidewalks to the point where you can hardly walk without bumping into one either parked or moving, and they fill the streets from every angle.

Crossing the street was no easy task in Hanoi, thanks to the packed streets and lack of traffic lights. Somehow it all works, like a school of fish, without any aggression and what seemed to be no accidents. It’s also common to see motorbikes carrying a family of 4 or even what looks like a truck should be carrying.

We took refuge at 6am, before the motorbikes come out for rush hour, and watched the streets crowd with food vendors and elderly practicing Thai Chi around the lake in the city center. It was the zen we needed in a city that makes much of New York look sleepy.

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|ABOVE| French Connection top (old) // Vagamundo pants (c/o) // Birkenstock sandals // Hathamade bracelet (c/o) // Urban Outfitters backpack // TOMS sunglasses

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|ABOVE| Zara dress // Winter Kate kimono jacket (old, similar online) // Scala hat (similar)


Made For Me

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Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but as you can see by my Instagram, I just had the vacation adventure of a lifetime traveling throughout all of Vietnam, from the North, Central and South regions, visiting over a dozen cities/towns in two weeks. It was refreshing to “unplug” for a while (aka, leave my nice Macbook at home and only check emails when I sporadically found wi-fi), but hard to get back to reality after immersing ourselves into their culture.

Of course I didn’t pass up the opportunity to shop for unique finds, including this custom made suit. Based on my friend’s recommendation, I stopped by Yaly Couture while in Hoi An and had this beautiful suit made for me based on this look from Elizabeth & James’ spring 2014 collection.

They’re master copiers there and known for their silks, so making these silk tailored pieces based on a picture on my iPhone was a breeze for them. The tailors even managed to rush the process, so I had fittings from the afternoon into the evening—along with the hubby who got a suit and tux made—and everything was done by midnight that night before we left for the next city in the morning. It was such a cool experience and made me miss being in the design environment, though, working with tailors on my shoots came in handy when I had them alter hems, darts, and other tailoring details.

I’ll be sharing more of my finds and travel diary on Vietnam coming up, so stay tuned.

To those who recently asked your style questions, please be patient while I get to your answers as soon as I can.

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Custom-made jacket and pant based on this design // Isabel Marant x H&M tee // George Gina & Lucy scarf (c/o) on SALE! // Birkenstock sandals // Tom’s sunglasses // Alexander Wang bag [sold out in this color, all black online] (c/o) // top bracelet: from the Flower H’mong tribe in Sapa, Vietnam, middle: made by me, bottom: Stella & Dot // Gorjana necklace and rings // Maison Antonym ring (c/o)


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