Sunday, November 30, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Remembering Asia - Fashion

Funnily enough, many times during my recent Asia trip I thought about fashion. About what fashion is. About what fashion means to people. About fashion as a expression of who and what you are.

Let's take the people of Hong Kong for instance. The city left me with the impression of "money", a lot of money actually. The word "decadent" came often to my mind. I have rarely seen as many luxury cars and luxury shops and luxury restaurants, etc. as in Hong Kong. OK, well, the city is soooooo bit, I don't pretend to have seen it all. But the bit that I have seen was ... about money.
Luckily, there were the side alleys as well (were I got a least a bit of a China feeling) with their food stands etc. - a whole different story. Those places were not about money. No luxury, just "made in China" clothes.
Regardless though whether the people were dressed expensively or cheaply ... I missed the "style", the "je ne sais quoi" that you find in people with style. Sure, the ladies and gents in Armani or Gucci or Prada or Chanel were dressed expensively and looked like something out of a glossy magazine. And the ladies and gents selling their stuff in the side alleys had probably other problems than how they dressed.
But style is not about money. Style is not about being poor or rich. Style is expressing who you are with what you have (even if it's just a bag or a pair of shoes) and NOT about copying what this designer tells you to wear.
(My mum cleaned other people's houses almost all her life and I have never seen her without her red nail painting. That is style for me.)

People in Siem Reap though suprised me. Not many of them were dressed expensively (none of them actually). But I have seen touches of style all over. The lady in the picture above with her (fake) Chanel jacket, the white had and the shoes with the flower on it? I absolutely love it! I've crossed so many school girls in their black and white uniforms wearing colored bags - not one had the same bag as her friends obviously! Question of principle, I suppose :-) (and of style). Some other girls wore hand-made scarfs (to beef up the said black and white uniform) or then I saw a farmer women wearing wonderful skirts that were obviously hand-made. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of all these women (besides the one above). There were so many examples. I loved them all! Wonderfully stylish!
But then maybe I am reading more into it than there was. Most certainly I am reading more into it than there was. But it's not important finally. I loved to think that these people, having hard lifes, working in the fields or herding animals or cleaning hotels, felt a bit better in the morning while putting on a (fake) Channel jacket. And some shoes with a flower on them.
The way I do in the morning.
But maybe I am just naive.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Remembering Asia - the Food

Traveling is also discovering a place, a nation, a region through its food. Traveling with a friend this time allowed me to go out for dinner which was great. It gave me the opportunity to taste the local food.

Well, in Hong Kong the food was not terrific. At least the food we ate. I am sure that there are hundreds of wonderful restaurants (Chinese and other) that are certainly good and fantastic. But we, not knowing the good places to go, and wanting to taste "real" Chinese food only, were a bit disappointed. It was (almost) tasteless. But then, it was difficult to choose the right menu from an image only (as neither my friend nor I read Chinese!). On two evenings we picked restaurants where there were no other white people besides the two of us (!!), therefore we couldn't even ask anyone for an opinion (the third evening we picked a sushi bar!). We were lucky enough to get waitresses who spoke at least a bit English! (Understanding them is another thing though hahahaha). So, I choose a menu and didn't wanna know what exactly I had ordered. I ordered it and I ate it. I stuck to vegetarian meals though, obsiously, as I am not into dog or cat or any other kind of strange - at least to us Westerner - meat! I found the food tasteless (but, as I said, maybe it was the wrong food to order! It would have been great to have a local person with us).
It wasn't disgusting. Not slimy. Simply no taste (or at least not enough for my palate). But now I know why they have XXXS sizes at the GAP stores for the Chinese women. No salt. No carbs. No fat. hahaha
Apparently, the food in Hong Kong has less fat than in other Chinese regions - I have learned from a guide.
To cut a long story short: after three days of Hong Kong food I was ready for some real tasty Asian food.

And I got it in Cambodia! So yummy! So delicious! Every single dish / plate we ordered was wonderful.
I am not good at describing food with words. Food has to be tasted, smelt and looked at (in my opinion). And that I did the whole time I was in Siem Reap. I tasted, smelt, looked at it ... and ate it (obviously). No probs on the part of my digestion either because of all the Mango (shakes, juices, etc.) I had. My digestion was doing wonderfully well. It felt even detoxing :-)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Remembering Angkor Wat: the traffic

The traffic in Angkor Wat / Siem Reap left me somehow ... speechless. My first impression, while sitting on our Tuk Tuk from the Airport to the hotel was that of ... chaos. But that was my Western way of seeing the world, I found out. Five days later, while leaving Siem Reap, I didn't think "chaos" any longer. I thought that their motto rather was: go with the flow.
That's what they are doing.
They go with the flow.
Traffic rarely stops completely. There are traffic jams, yes, but somehow they keep moving (moderate tempo, obviously, but tempo nevertheless).
And the cars and trucks rarely honk. They do honk though to kind of say "hey, be careful, I am coming". Usually, you hear a honk and then a truck passes the Tuk Tuk.
I was amazed as well with the quantity of stuff they are loading on their motorcycles, bicycles or trucks. I have no idea how they do it ... but they do!!

PS: Having said all this I have to admit though that I never ever would have driven a bicycle or a motorcycle myself in this traffic. Never! Too exhausting. And too dangerous (for a Westerner i.e. non used to this kind of traffic rules hahahaha).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Angkor Wat ... back home

I am back home. Can't believe it yet. My mind has not yet arrived in my appartment and my body kind of wishes to be back in Cambodia (the change of temperature was kind of a shock - from 30°C to 5°C in what felt like a heartbeat - oh my!!).
Well, complaining is useless. I am back. I will have to get used to it. Like each time. Today (after a good night sleep - the journey yesterday was long and tedious!) I am doing some laundry, going through my stuff and enjoying the wonderful souvenirs I have bought in Siem Reap (you'll see the pictures). I will have to go through my hundreds of pictures I have taken ... but not today. Today is about taking it easy. Give my mind and my body time to come back :-)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Angkor Wat ... tomorrow is the last day

I can hardly believe that tomorrow is gonna be our last day. We have scheduled a last trip with our driver. We are gonna visit a group of small temples outside the city of Siem Reap which will take us only about half a day. We'll spend the afternoon packing our stuff, enjoying the swimming pool one last time and then doing some last walking around and eating some very nice Cambodian dinner (I will have to tell you about the very nice food we had here!).
Time went by so fast. It's incredible.
We'll spend Saturday practically on a plane. First we fly to Bangkok and then we continue to Europe. All in all it's gonna be around 14 hours sitting in an airplane. I don't wanna think about it.
I can't believe the trip is almost over. 
Have I mentioned that it's 30° C outside with a humidity of about 80%?????

Angkor Wat ... The Grand Tour

7 temples in 7 hours! What a day. Today we did the Grand Tour which includes all the non-major temples  And what a surprise it was! Every one of them was different and special and mystical ... especially because ... we often had the sites for ourselves. We had a hard time believing it. There seem to be so many people around and suddendly there were just the rocks and ourselves. I will need to tell you more about the hordes of tourists that we meet all day long. But that's a story for another day.
Today, was just WOW. WOW. And WOW.
PS: I seem to have lost my words in Angkor :-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Angkor Wat - floating village

Today we decided to have breakfast at what has become our favorite café and start our day a bit later than usual ... at 11 am.
Our driver took us (again with his Tuk Tuk) to the Tonlé Sap Lake (about 1,5 hour drive). Tonlé Sap is one of the biggest lakes in Asia (need to google that information though - not sure if it's correct). We wanted to visit one of the four remaining floating villages.
It was like something out of the past. I can hardly believe that people actually still live there.

That is how we started out...

Incredible but true. police station!!

first houses

Angkor Wat ... some countryside and more temples

We are spending wonderful days, filled with hundreds of impressions and many many pictures to take with me when I'll be back to everyday's life!
Yesterday, we visited the landmine museum (will tell you about it once I am back home!) and later our Tuk Tuk driver (yes! we do have our own driver SMILE) suggested two small temples on the way back to the hotel: he was right. Wonderful temples and ... a lot less public!! (you cannot imagine how many people there are here - you simply can't - and it's not even high season - I've been told that 2 milion people visit the temples every year - incredible!).

this is one of the many crazy scenes we have observed on our Tuk Tuk drives. Their motto seems to be: no rules - go with the flow. And it works!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ankgor Wat

We're back to the hotel room after having spent 7 hours walking up and down the stairs of the various temples of Angkor Wat. It's ... I am at loss of words. It rarely happens but today it's all I can say. Magic places. Magnificent places. Breathtaking architecture. Judge for yourselves:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Siem Reap - Cambodia

We've made it to Cambodia - Siem Reap. I am very tired and my day has been very long :-) It's hot. It's soooooo hot. And so humid. I am not yet complaining (SMILE) though. It'll change with our first trip to the temples tomorrow maybe. Departure time: 7.30 am. The driver and the guide will be waiting. and I can't wait to see everything.
Siem Reap is actually a touristy city, with plenty of restaurants and bars and shops. It's not high season yet and therefore bearable. I can't imagine what it would be like during high season!
You'll read more tomorrow!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hong Kong - last day

Today we took it easy. We had breakfast at the hotel. Then we went shopping. Then we had a very nice "vin blanc" at one of the European style restaurants/bars on Hollywood Road. Then some more shopping. Then some very nice afternoon tea at the Upper House Hotel (47th floor! the view was amazing! The tea as well!). Then some more shopping. Last stop was diner ... some very nice sushi. Ah, la vie est belle :-)
When I say shopping though, I have to admit that I didn't spend much money. Just a pair of sneakers for me. Shopping in Hong Kong was kind of sobering. Disappointing even.
They have hundreds (and when I say hundreds I mean hundreds) of high fashion stores. From Giorgio Armani, to Prada, to Gucci, to Miu Miu (you name them ... they have them). Not just one store, mind you. In each area they have several shops. I have never, and when I say never then I mean never, seen as many high fashion shops as here. We are used to high fashion in Europe. High fashion is basically Europe. But what they have here? It's incredible.
So, if you are not into high fashion (or don't have the budget), then you can shop in the other stores like Zara or Cos or the Gap. Well, YOU could, maybe, I can't ... because of the sizes. Let's talk about the Gap, for instance. I have never seen XXXS in the Gap Stores I have visited so far. They have XXXS here. Almost only XXXS or XXS or XS or S. One M max, One L max. NO XL. Totally sobering. And disappointing.
Well, if you leave out the high fashion stores and the main stream fashion stores ... that leaves you to the Chinese goods stores. And well, nobody wants to shop at these stores, right? Looking at them. OK. Taking some pictures of the goods on display. OK. Buying anything? No thanks :-)

That is why I spent no money or almost no money today. No big deal though. I will spend days in Como or Milano doing nothing else than shopping. Today, I enjoyed my day, walking around the streets (the sun was shining and I had my white skirt on!!!), surrounded by unfamiliar smells and stuff!
Tomorrow morning we'll fly to Siem Reap. Can't wait for what is waiting for us in Angkor Wat.

what kind of fruit are these???

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hong Kong ... seen from Kowloon at night

Night Tour by bus to Kowloon ... The view was worth the traffic jams (there seem to be endless traffic jams in this city!!! I will never ever again complain in my little city when there are traffic jams ... because they arent't real traffic jams SMILE).

Hong Kong - with a blue sky

The sun came out around noon!!! Wonderful. We knew what our plans would be ... going up to the Peak. What a view. What a view. We did the Peak Trail (around 1 hour walk all around the peak). I have arrived know. I like it more than yesterday. For me, Hong Kong was a city that was harder to get a feeling of. Too many of everythings were a bit too much for my brain. Today, it felt different already. It felt really cool.
Judge for yourselves!
Building at the Peak - a shopping center included obviously!!

Someone said today that there are twice as many skyscrapers in Hong Kong as in New York... I can hardly believe it. Need to google it

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hong Kong - first day

We woke up to gray skies. Warm temperatures but gray skies. We started walking and we continued walking and walking and walking.
What a city. Made for cars. Made for skyscrapers. Made for banks and big companies. Made for shops (they seem to be crazy about European fashion!!). Made for shopping malls.
But definitively not made for pedestrians! Totally not. And cars and buses do not stop for pedestrians. Pedestrians have to look out for themselves. We found out pretty quickly and took the tram to the pier thereâfter! We had decided to go on a 1-hour cruise around the harbor (pictures posted just before!).

Then we made a bus tour to the "other side" of Hong Kong island. Let me tell you just this one thing: Hong Kong people are crazy about skyskrapes. Well, there are many people who need appartments but couldn't they have found another way? Apparently not. Skyskrapers all over!!!

We had diner at a place ... where we were the only "white people". Oh my. I was a bit nervous but the food was good. Everything went very quickly and not 30 minutes later we were paying for our diner :-) I picked some veggie food - after seeing all the stores with their dried see food???? No thank you. I'll stick to vegetarian food :-)
Now, I am tired and longing for my bed. I need to rest in order to be able to absorb all these new impressions!

Hong Kong - first impressions

(a lot) of people living in such houses