to have Erin Kenny join us for a week of hunting. Erin is living in Luang Prabang Laos and works for textile company, Ock Pop Tok (OPT). She’s originally from the East Coast, but was in California for 10 years working in fashion (doing evrything from managing stores to wardrobe styling) prior to making her way to Asia. Erin’s a super talented and creative soul who sees beauty in the everyday and loves making, building, creating, crafting, cooking, and entertaining. Her biggest passion of all.. travelling. Here are some of her favorite spots and why:
-Essouria for fish tangine, textiles, music, Hamans.
-Kyoto for mystery, catching a glimpse of a geisha, cherry blossoms and sake.
-Thai Islands for sunsets, fresh coconuts, relaxing or partying.
While working on this piece, Erin introduced me to the term “flashpacker” – a more mature “backpacker”. Well, it’s more about the fact that there’s this subset of travellers that have a bigger budget to work with while spending time overseas. This means better meals, nicer places as well as the means to obtain special souvenirs and practical pieces – all with the continued appreciation of and for the local community.
Here’s Erin’s list of must-haves and local Luang Prabang spots, from a true flashpacker (and a very dear friend)!
Hmong Batik on Hemp. The Hmong are a group of people who originated in China around 400 AD. They are considered by many to be nomadic and are exceptional artisans in both batik and embroidery.
Batik is a wax resist dying technique that has been around for thousands of years. The pattern for batik is drawn onto the cloth with a tool made by the Hmong blacksmiths which holds small amounts of bees wax. Hmong patterns are made up of short, straight lines forming crosses, zig-zags and repeating motifs. The batik is produced in long lengths usually 4-6 meters and dyed in a cold Indigo vat. Subsequent dippings and oxidations will darken the color creating the recognizable Hmong batik fabric. These almost black blues are achieved by repeating the process twice a day, each day for a month.The wax is then boiled off. This resist patterned fabric is made into jackets, baby carriers and skirts for everyday wear among the Hmong. I love to use it for cushion covers, table runners and to frame small or large sections and create a display on feature wall.
Pictures above include: Tools of the trade. Heating up the beeswax. natural hemp batik where the beeswax creates the design and is not boiled off. Photo of cushion covers.
London Based Plumo is a standard when buying clothing for traveling and looking stylish while doing so. They work with artisans and small cooperatives from Asia to Africa. so they have a very eclectic vibe, which I love.
They also carry home goods.. sourced from all over the world. Baskets from africa, teapots from turkey and ceramics from morocco. They have a very well edited collection, so it is extremely easy to add in pieces to my wardrobe each season.
Maybe it’s my naivite about mens fashion, but I think men should be able to pack a suitcase pretty easily. Standard requirements include good shirts and pants that stand up to the elements, a pair of shoes that are comfortable and stylish, and a smart, structured suit when required. I like when there is an equal amount of thought and ease when choosing your wardrobe for work, travel, play. That goes for men and women.
I understand that where you are traveling plays a huge role in what you bring with you. But note to traveler, just because you are going to the islands, does not mean you only pack singlets, board shorts and thongs, because you will inevitably have stopovers in some cosmopolitan cities like Bangkok and Singapore. Places that you need to actually wear clothes to go to dinner. Style should not change when you travel. So guys, be confident, be yourself and don’t let where you are dictate how you wear it.
Orthdox from LA is selling a lifestyle. One that may come across as very LA.. but it is the LA I miss and love; clean but messy. Stylish without effort. Just kind of cool and exactly the way you should look when in town or on the road.
I don’t have children, but hope when the day comes, my baby shower will not be Blue for Boys or Pink for Girls. Innate sense of style begins at an early age. Little girls boycotting dresses (as I did for many years), boys who want to wear fun color. Children should be allowed creativity in all they do, from their finger paintings to their clothing. So what if your kid isn’t dressed like everyone else in first grade.. do you think the other children notice? Probably not.. probably just the other parents!
La Petite Magazine should be your go to. Not only because the content is styled like an actual fashion mag (think W) .. but the kids involved are of all ethnicities, all sizes and look like they are all having a blast! They feature parents who design, inspire and have stories to share. This is not a how to parent magazine.. this is a how to have fun while parenting. With stories like, ‘3 ways to wear a flower’ ‘me and my bestie’ and ‘I want that doll’. They highlight clothing and accessories for everyone and all prices..
In Laos cooking takes place over a fire, in clay pots, a wok or with mortar and pestle. Cooking is simple but the food is not. Lao food is fresh, sweet, spicy and always interesting..
People ask me what I miss most and it’s always the same answer..mexican food.. having lived in LA/SF for the past 10 years this is to be expected. To get my fix on all things food while I have been away I go to Cannelle et Vanille. Simple, clean food, beautiful photos and a cookbook coming in the fall of 2012.
All things Luang Prabang.
‘Colour is the first of Luang Prabang’s virtues to greet travellers. Pearly frangipanis with their heady perfume, banks of overgrown trees peppered with scarlet flowers, the burnt sienna robes of hundreds of monks and their novices, and resplendent gold and claret wats. The scent of fresh coffee, river activity, produce markets and spicy food soon follows. And then the broader aesthetics begin to unfold. Encircled by mountains, and set 700m above sea level at the confluence of the Nam Khan (Khan River) and the Mekong River, Luang Prabang is now Laos‘ foremost tourist showpiece. The brew of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture and multiethnic inhabitants captivates even the most jaded travellers, and the quiet benevolence of the city’s residents lulls them into a somnambulant bliss.
Sealed highways linking Luang Prabang with Thailand and China have turned the city into an important relay point for commerce between the three countries. City governors have wisely provided a road bypass system that gives the city centre a wide berth. Thus the sense of calm antiquity that first brought visitors to the city when Laos opened to tourism in 1989 has been well preserved. Moreover, the city is Unesco Heritage listed, which means a blessed ban on buses and trucks. Most road activity consists of bicycles or motorcycles, but an even score simply go by foot. Although the city teems with travellers, it is not a party destination, and the 11.30pm curfew silences the city by midnight and maintains its traditional disposition.’ Lonely Planet
There are many different things to do and see in this quiet (sometimes), sleepy, (not really), beautiful (yes!) place..
Here is a list of some of my favorites,
For the CreativE: OCK POP TOK
Learn, Create, Shop, Stay, Eat – Ock Pop Tok. The company’s mission is to advance the artistic, cultural and social development of Lao artisans and their textiles while adhering to fairtrade principles. OPT has a Weaving and Learning center, a cafe and 2 shops in town that help in the education and show the work of the Lao Artisans they have worked with over the past 10 years.
Coming soon: A new updated website with a webshop!
To EAT: TAMARIND
Take the cooking class with Joy, or go for lunch or dinner. They have different set tasting platters so you can feel good about trying Lao food. Recently moved into a new spot on the Nahm Khan river, which means no more problems when you turn up without booking.
L’Elephant Restaurant – homemade baguette, a cheese platters and pâtisseries. They have 4 spots in town.. plus the just opened Vegan Cafe where all of their produce comes from their own garden.
Pizza Saza has a wood fire oven and uses fresh ingredients which equals fantastic pizza made by couple from Brittany France. Not only does it feel like you are being welcomed into their home, they pour you drinks like they have known you for years. Go if you love pizza and a good drink, or to practice your french!
to drink: S BAR
Sit outside and people watch with a proper cocktail in hand at S Bar, a new spot in town. The crowd is mostly local Ex Pats and a world away from the backpackers drinking too much Lao Lao and wearing In The Tubing Tank Tops.
to sTAY: sATRI HOUSE
The Satri House.. it’s like staying at your friend’s private home.
HANG OUT: UTOPIA
On the banks of the Nahm Khan a serene place to hang out. Relax during the day, drink and play games like volleyball and Truth or Dare Jenga. At night, meet people and share stories of the Golden Triangle – this is where you will learn about the spots that haven’t made it into the guidebooks yet, from the best sources, the people who have been there.
And this just touches on all that Erin has to share.. check out her blog for more amazing pictures and stories from a true inspiration!
Photos: (top to bottom) Nell Dodge, Erin Kenny, Plumo, Orthodox, La Petite Magazine, Cannelle et Vanille, Erin Kenny, Oct Pop Tok, Nell Dodge, L’Elephant, Erin Kenny, Facebook, Satri House, Erin Kenny