I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Colour my world: the textiles of Sri Lanka

Barefoot’s design house, Sri Lanka.

I have fondled hemp throws in Morocco, lusted for
Kashmiri embroidered cushions, gone cammo with Arabic scarves, and when
my husband told me not to buy any carpets in Iran I deduced the man was
obviously delusional: I was going to Persia, home of the rug. He’d given
up by the time I announced the Sri Lanka trip.

In my defence,
textiles are surely the ideal souvenir. They usually pack down easily,
they’re not fragile, they are useful and, importantly, they are a direct
link to a country’s culture.


I showed him photographs of women working on traditional handlooms
and waxed lyrical about the colours of the country: peacock blue, russet
red and saffron yellow.

“You
have to use bright colours in Sri Lanka because of the sunshine,” says
British interior designer George Cooper, who has lived in the southern
seaside town of Galle for the past decade and stamped his mark on a
string of villas along the coastline.

“In England and France, muted colours work, but you have to up your palettes here.

Traditional batik.

“The colours are more primary. They’re simpler.”

The country’s
textiles were born in the time of legend, says Sri Lanka-born,
Melbourne-based textiles artist Cresside Collette. She’s talking way
back: as far as the Ramayana, the Indian epic from 3000BC; in Sri
Lanka’s royal chronicle, the ancient Mahavamsa, even the queen is
spinning yarn.

Cresside, who recently led a new textiles tour
through her home country, says the main industries are weaving,
lacemaking, embroidery, dyeing and batik. Don’t expect the massive
factories of Bangladesh or India: Sri Lanka’s textiles industry is
small, secretive and, in some instances, even dying out. You’ll need a
knowing local on hand to help eke them out.


Luckily, I have Cresside’s tips and my friend Andrea, a writer, guide
and friend of the arts, who has a flair for design. Happily, she’s also
an English-speaking Dutch burgher – an exotic, ethnic blur of of Dutch,
Portuguese and indigenous Sri Lankan: the woman is a strolling atlas.

In
Galle, the Portuguese element is obvious in the southern province’s
reputation for its cotton lace. Intrepid Portuguese were blown off
course from the Maldives and landed here in 1505. “There’s a strong
sense of Lisbon through the lacemaking,” Cooper says.

One morning,
as I leave my hotel, the luxurious Amangalla, a quiet man sells me a
beautiful child’s white cotton nightdress. Strips of handmade lace
decorate the chest, hem and armholes, and although a delicate white
dress is a green light to my rambunctious daughter for wildness, I have
to buy it. I’m undertaking a classic transaction that’s been taking
place for centuries: Amangalla’s own history notes recall local
Sinhalese women sitting tatting on its verandah, making lace to sell to
tourists until the 1970s.

Waxing a batik. Photo: Alamy.

Andrea translates for me the story of
Manikku Badathuruge Priyani – or Priyani, for short – an internationally
recognised lacemaker. Now 53, she first sat down to lacemaking when she
was five, the fourth generation in her family to do so. Her work is
stocked in local handcraft stores including Lanka Hands and Laksala, and
each year, in her tropical home, she tats snowflakes that are exported
to Finland as Christmas ornaments.

Priyani has a cabinet full of
awards for entrepreneurship thanks to her own one-woman campaign to
preserve the craft by visiting stay-at-home women and disabled women,
giving them knowledge and small orders. You’ll spy Galle lacemakers’
work on the silver screen in Jane Austen movies Persuasion and Mansfield
Park, yet she’s not optimistic about the future of lacemaking.

“It’s
hard to sustain and is dying out rapidly because of the lack of
resources to preserve this craft that has survived for hundreds of years
and preserves our Portuguese heritage,” she says, echoing the time-old
complaint: “Young people are not interested.”

In contrast,
handloomed fabric is enjoying a renaissance, as we Westerners fall in
love with the seeming simplicity of design and clarity of the colours
employed by Sri Lankan designers. Treadle looms weave bright tableware,
and rolls of fabric are on sale in the country’s high-chic shops.

In
KK Collection, Cooper’s interiors shop in Galle, I unfurl cotton
handloomed fabric from its roll. The cotton is woven in villages near
the capital, Colombo, hand-dyed into smart stripes using vegetable dyes,
which creates variation that is frowned upon by puritans but loved by
those of us who see humanity in its imperfection.

Loom weavers at work. Photo: Cresside Collette.

On her tour,
Cresside visits the cloth weavers of Dumbara Valley, Sri Lanka’s
indigenous weavers, who draw on the countryside for inspiration. In
little Henawela village, the traditional motifs of elephants, deer,
peacocks and snakes gallivant along agave fibre stained with plant dyes
and woven into mats. All cotton used in Sri Lankan fabrics is imported,
mostly from India. Sri Lanka is about the same size as Tasmania but with
a population of about 20 million, and while its rumpled geography is
fine for delicate tea terraces, it defers to India’s vast plains to
produce raw cotton.

The bright interiors of another indigenous
design house, Barefoot, are a celebration of all that’s wild and lovely
on the island. In 1958, Barefoot’s founder, textiles designer Barbara
Sansoni, began teaching village women weaving and needlecraft. Under
principal designer Marie Gnanaraj, they now create vivid, high-quality,
hand-woven and hand-dyed fabric while earning a living wage, and their
beautiful fabric, toys and fashion are exported all over the world,
including to Australia.

While I love a good shop, show me the
creator and I’m sold. You’re bringing that person’s skills into your
home. Cresside ventures in to the village workshops around Kandy that
specialise in mat weaving, silversmithing and wood carving, and on to
Matale Heritage Centre, between Kandy and Matale.

The centre is at
Aluwihare, the ancestral home of batik and embroidery artist Ena de
Silva, dubbed Sri Lanka’s grand dame of batik. Her signature pieces are a
wild batik ceiling in the Bentota Beach Hotel and a set of banners of
heroic proportions, hanging in front of Sri Lanka’s parliament. De Silva
is widely regarded as one of the major catalysts in Sri Lanka’s craft
revival: her women’s co-operative operates out of Aluwihare, where local
villagers balance wax and dye to create traditional batik. Their
embroidered cushions and toys are for sale and lunch is also available.

The
time is right for such tours, as Sri Lanka itself awakens to its own
riches. The Colombo National Museum has just opened a new textile
gallery, and there’s an international appreciation for the social
consciousness that guides much of Sri Lanka’s home-bound textiles
workforce.

When I finally, regretfully, leave Sri Lanka, Andrea
and I exchange gifts: flowers and wine for my friend, while she presses a
handmade paper bag into my hands. Inside is a long scarf, dyed strong
fuchsia, grassy green, blood red and a deep royal purple. It is
hand-block-printed with a black motif of stylised flowers and bordered
with strips of gold.

The scarf encapsulates all that is Sri Lanka:
its blazing palette, ebullient nature and the rich embellishment worthy
of a culture of tradition and vivacity.

The writer was a guest of Banyan Lanka Tours and Sri Lanka Tourism.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION
banyanlanka.com; srilanka.travel

GETTING THERE: Singapore
Airlines has a fare to Colombo for about $1125 low-season return from
Sydney and Melbourne including taxes. Fly to Singapore (about 8hr) and
then to Colombo (3hr 40min); see singaporeair.com. Malaysia Airlines
flies via KL from $975 return including tax; see malaysiaairlines.com.

TOURING THERE: Cresside
Collette will lead Active Travel’s next Sri Lanka Textiles & Crafts
tour July/Aug 2014. From $4842, 15 days. 1300 783 188, see activetravel.com.au.
Her next tour is a 20-day tapestry tour of Europe, from London, September 2, priced from $5950. See tapestrytour.blogspot.com.

FIVE MORE TEXTILES TOURS

Burmese Lun-taya acheik, globetrottinggourmet.com

MYANMAR: Join
textile designer and weaver Morrison Polkinghorne from Yangon to Bagan
and Mandalay, where handloomers create weaves at an inch (2.5
centimetres) a day. The tour coincides with Waterfestival. Departs April
next year, from $4500, 14 days, see globetrottinggourmet.com.

LAOS: The
20th-anniversary Laos Textile & Culture tour is escorted by the
head of textiles at the ANU, Valerie Kirk. From Hanoi into Laos’
mountainous villages, the birthplace of Lao weaving, to Luang Prabang
and Vientiane. Departs January 15, next year, from $4375, 17 days, see activetravel.com.au.

INDIA: Gujarat
Tribals + Textiles is a five-star tour through western India exploring
the clothing, jewellery and fabrics of Gujarat’s indigenous people.
Departs January 26, next year, from $US7250 ($8095), 15 days, see mariekesartofliving.com.

MOROCCO: From
Marrakesh to the imperial cities of Rabat and Fez,through museums and
palaces, experiencing Amazigh (Berber) food and hospitality. Departs
September 28, next year, from $3180, 15 days, see culturaltours morocco.com.

BHUTAN
With
textiles artist Barbara Mullan, travel from Paro to the annual Thimphu
Festival, pausing to admire striking architecture and the view from high
mountain passes. Departs each September, from $4290, nine days, see worldexpeditions.com.


This article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald & The Age newspapers (Australia)
Belinda Jackson

A material whirl: eight great shopping cities

Gorgeously photogenic babouches, leather slippers
from Marrakech, Morocco

Belinda Jackson lists eight favourite destinations at which to arrive
with empty bags. 

Busted your luggage allowance lugging home a treasure only to find it in
your local ‘hood? The best shopping is a rejection of globalisation: it’s about
going back to the source or finding something that only that city or country
can provide.

LONDON

Basking in a design
renaissance, London’s smoking-hot fashion and design is being peddled by a
James Bond (Daniel Craig), a welter of celebrated sportsmen and the new baby
Windsor.
Locals love Stylist and personal shopper Rachel Meddowes says London’s
hottest strip is Chiltern Street, in Marylebone, W1. “It’s a return to a
coterie of small, chic, beautifully designed and curated shops including
fabulous Tyler Brule’s the Monocle Cafe, Cire Trudon for the best candles,
uber-cool men’s boutique Trunk, and Atlas Gallery, for its photographs. If I
had to say one shop, it would be Mouki (mouki-london.com)
for its stylish, insider brands of women’s fashion and lifestyle.”
Must-visit Selfridges is home to the world’s largest women’s and
men’s shoe departments. Its new Denim Studio includes a free denim doctor to
help women find their perfect pair of jeans from 60 brands. The Conran Shop
(including the newly refurbished Marylebone store, conranshop.co.uk) and Liberty (liberty.co.uk) are design stalwarts.
Local hero For a catch-all day of browsing, use the cobbled Seven
Dials, north of Covent Garden, as your compass point and branch out (sevendialsco.uk). Check out Cambridge
Satchel Company (cambridgesatchel.com),
Sienna Miller’s Twenty8Twelve (twenty8twelve.com)
or, for a village vibe, Neal’s Yard.
Wild card The flagship Burberry Bespoke (burberry.com) has more than 100 screens
flashing your customised trench on the catwalk or in a movie, in-between
sporadic digital thunderstorms.
STOCKHOLM
The bellwether of
ice-cool design, you can’t visit Stockholm without admiring the masters’ design
ethic.
Locals love “To get to the heart of modern Stockholm, head over
to SoFo – South of Folkungagatan Street (sofo-stockholm.se)
– with a profusion of fashion and interior designers with antique and vintage
clothing shops, trendy bars and restaurants,” says Birgitta Palmer, of the
Stockholm Visitors Board.
Must-visit Get your head into Swedish living space at Svenskt Tenn (svenskttenn.se), your stationery fix at
Ordning&Reda (ordning-reda.com)
and gifts at DesignTorget (designtorget.se).
Local hero Cruise Acne Studios’ flagship store and V Ave Shoe Repair
for the ultimate in Swedish fashion (acnestudios.com;
vave-shoerepair.com). Every
self-respecting Swedish child wears Polarn O. Pyret, designer of unisex,
hard-wearing children’s clothes (polarnopyret.com).
And who can say no to Bjorn Borg-designed knickers (bjornborg.com)?
Wild card Uncover the next big thing or total trash at the weekend
market Street, in Sodermalm. A tip from Sean Naughton, concierge at Benny
Andersson’s Hotel Rival (www.rival.se): if
you can’t afford the heavyweight fashion names of Bibliotekstan, score
discounted fashion at Barkaby outlet centre (qualityoutlet.com/in-english).
BANGKOK
Tap into the Thai
design aesthetic – it’s cheeky and cute, and if you don’t leave Bangkok with a
bag full of silk, you’re just not trying.
Locals love “Post-Nerd [Siam Square] is a favourite for cool
T-shirts with unusual designs,” says Bangkok resident Mark Thomson, of
Anantara hotels. “Also Propaganda, which is home to Mr P, who appears in
anatomically correct cartoon lamps and other … products.” (propagandaonline.com).
Must-visit Siam Discovery, in the cluster of Siam Square malls, has
been recently made-over with an edgy open plan; several floors are given over
to Thailand’s fashion designers. It’s also the home of Madame Tussauds Bangkok.
The massive Chatuchak market is in every guidebook, allegedly the world’s
largest weekend market. Grab a map at the entrance before you dive in (chatuchak.org).
Local hero A perennial favourite is FotoFile, for fantastic new and
second-hand camera gear in the beloved, budget-easy MBK mall. Unlike the rest
of MBK, prices are fixed and labelled.
Wild card Take home the scent of a Thai spa with success story
Thann, whose lush products feature Asian ingredients: think jasmine blossom,
tamarind, rice-bran oil and nutmeg. Find them in all the major malls and a new
Thann cafe at level 3, Gaysorn Plaza.
MANILA
The Philippines has a
special flair that makes it an interior design powerhouse and, of course, shoes
are a hot item.
Locals love Bespoke menswear and womenswear designer Joey Samson loves
three homewares stores. A11 comprises three townhouses that are a furniture and
design gallery (F.B. Harrison Street, Pasay). AC+632 stocks Gallic homewares
with a Philippines twist, including excellent tassels (Greenbelt 5, Makati),
while W17 is a celebration of Asian interiors using local materials (w17home.com).
Must-visit Cram your bags with South Sea pearls in all shapes and
sizes, from just a few dollars each (Greenhills market, San Juan). For upmarket
indigenous design visit revered jeweller Arnel Papa, whose materials may
include buffalo horn and ebony wood (Greenbelt 5, Makati).
Local hero Alice Blue soy candles capture the scent of sampaguita,
the Philippines’ national flower (Glorietta 3, Makati), while the omnipresent
SM (which stands for Shoemart) fits any tastepoint, from ballet flats to
nightclub dagger heels, at great prices (sm-shoemart.com).
Wild card Score a pre-loved, genuine-label handbag from Bagaholic.
Expect Chanel and Gucci with serial numbers if you can bear to carry last
year’s hottest tote (Almeda Arcade Building, Makati, bagaholic.com.ph).
DELHI
For breathtaking
colour and exotic motifs Indian shopping is in a league of its own, from haute
couture to Hindi kitsch.
Locals love Fiona Caulfield, author of India’s definitive shopping
guides including Love Delhi, tips three hot locales: Meharchand Market, Khan
Market and ShapurJat of Hauz Khas. “Snigdha Shekhar has created one of the
best interior and lifestyle stores in Delhi at Artisan Luxe,” she says.
(Meherchand Market, Lodhi Road.)
Must-visit Shop for
contemporary homewares at Khan Market’s Good Earth then take a break in its
excellent rooftop cafe, Latitude 28 (goodearth.in).
Local hero Bring India’s eye-popping colour home with beautiful
textiles: hunt down your wallet-friendly Indian wardrobe of cotton kurtas (long
shirts) and salwars (trousers) in Fabindia (Khan Market) or Anokhi (www.anokhi.com). Stay ahead of the pack at
Alecca Carrano’s Drawing Room for shawls and wraps (aleccacarrano.com).
Wild card “Run by the Crafts Council of India, Kamala is the
new face of craft in India. This beautifully curated collection is sourced
directly from artisans,” Caulfield says. “Superb shopping!” (craftscouncilofindia.org.)

BUENOS AIRES
Though dubbed
“the Paris of the Pampas”, the city maintains its own colourful
character, and those pampas turn out some mighty fine leather to boot. Or rug.
Or bag.
Locals love “Buenos Aires’ hottest spot to shop is jewellery
atelier Celedonio [Uraguay 1223, Recoleta],” trend hunter Lucia Radeljak
says. “Celedonio Lohidoy’s signature pieces are baroque necklaces with
precious stones and pearls. He has collaborated with international fashion
houses Kenzo and Ungaro, and his store is worth visiting for its garden
alone.”
Must-visit Hunters of antiques and atmosphere head to San Telmo
antique fair to scour old vinyls and snap up such must-haves as cobblers’ lasts
and local jewellery (Sundays, Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo).
Local hero The best cowhide rugs are Argentine: try Calma Chicha (calmachicha.com). Too heavy? Beautiful
leather bags are found at tiny Humawaca (humawaca.com).
Wild card Hit Av Suipacha, aka “sweater street”, and shop
for the lightest cashmere or pick up a pair of hand-made tango shoes on Av
Esmerelda, which runs parallel.
MARRAKESH
Breathe deeply and steel
yourself for a shopping extravaganza. Don’t rush at the first shop off the main
square, Djemma el-Fna. You’ll regret it.
Locals love Akbar Delights is pricey, but the fine embroidery and
detailed clothing are well worth it, says Marrakesh-based artist Dawn
Boys-Stone. Warda la Mouche (127 Rue Kennaria) is great for women’s and
children’s clothes in traditional Moroccan style with modern fabrics.
Must-visit Shoe lovers know that Atika crafts hand-made leather shoes
in classical Occidental styles (34 Rue de la Liberte, Gueliz).
Local hero Marrakesh’s antiques scene is fantastic. Try Mustapha
Blaoui (142-4 Rue Bab Doukkala).
Wild card Love leather? Go the ornate local leather slippers,
babouches, found on most street corners, in traditional yellow or every shade
of the rainbow.
JAKARTA
So close to us,
Jakarta remains a mystery for most. Persevere: it throws up seriously desirable
oddities, and its midnight mall sales are legendary.
Locals love “Otoko is a hidden gem of a boutique amongst all the
big malls in Jakarta,” says Susanna Perini, of Biasa.
“It stocks menswear only and presents a unique experience when you visit.
The store has great synergy … a sense of ‘quiet luxury’ with a sleek and
contemporary design.”
Must-visit Locals adore Jakarta’s malls and are serious international
label devotees, though even the biggies, such as Grand Indonesia (grand-indonesia.com), have Indonesian
Fashion Avenues for local designers. Geeks on a budget make for Ambassador
Mall.
Local hero The Bali-based Biasa label (biasabali.com)
serves up soft, deconstructed men’s and women’s fashion on Jalan Kemang,
Jakarta’s boutique strip, where you’ll also find local designers.
Wild card Visit the colourful bird market (Pasar Pramuka) and the
nearby antique market (Pasar Surabaya); you totally need that old map, stuffed
animal and brass betel nut-cracker.

Shopping Seminyak: Bali beyond the basic

Eclectic treasures: Horn Emporium

Seminyak’s shopping is a treasure trove of fabulousness, as Belinda Jackson discovers.


The
girls are clad in a uniform of floaty tunics and kaftans, strappy
sandals and big sunglasses, each arm jangling with bangles and glossy
paper shopping bags.

I run into them at three boutiques in a row
and at each stop, someone’s pulling out a gorgeous gauzy shirt or new
belt to show the rest of the gang.

They’re on a serious boutique hop,
riding the pure, glistening wave of the retail high.

It’s not
Rodeo Drive, it’s not Milan: it’s Bali. Seminyak, to be precise.
Balinese shopping isn’t all Bintang singlets and dyed sarongs guaranteed
to turn your laundry cerise. The chic enclave of Seminyak is a United
Nations of designers lured by sun, sand and a culture that breathes
beautiful design.

If
you’re expecting cheap Billabong surfwear, forget about it. You don’t
go to Bali to buy the big international brands: they’re imported, so
they’ll be expensive.

Once you’ve jumped that mental hurdle, then
you can start to explore the real treasures of Balinese shopping:
handmade clothes made with a level of detail and finishing for a price
you’d never pay in Australia. Additional tailoring is also fast, cheap
and most boutiques can organise it for you overnight.

Seminyak’s
boutiques gather in clusters on Jalan Laksmana and in Jalan Raya
Seminyak, and you’ll see a number of names crop up on both, including
Magali Pascal for beautiful lacework (177X Jl Laksmana), and the
Brazilians, Lily Jean (102 X Jl Laksmana) and Lulu Yasmine, for sexy and
standout statement pieces (100 Jl Laksmana).

Haveli homewares

Australian designer
Penny Pinkster’s Mist boutique is a favourite for those after soft,
yielding kaftans in a subdued palette (42 Jl Raya Seminyak), Namu will
kit you out, from totally covetable lunching ensembles to killer
cocktail kit (234X Jl Petitenget) and pick up your saucy nix at niconico
intimo
(12 Jl Raya Seminyak).

Shop fashion with a conscience at
Puravida
, owned by two Italian sisters, which produces all its bright,
easy-wearing cotton and jersey clothes locally, and supports Eco Bali
ventures (38b Jl Raya Seminyak). It also pays its staff fair wages with
healthcare, as does Buddha Wear, which also locally manufactures
gorgeous jerseys. Hot tip: nip upstairs to riffle through Buddha Wear’s
bargain racks if you’re on a tight budget (15X Jl Laksmana). Low-key
Jamila
is a must-stop for the basics (tees, leggings) in black, white
and grey, at very reasonable prices, with alterations done in-house (49
Jl Raya Seminyak).

Bargain hunters will love the boutique
clearance shops: try Animale for end-of-season flats, sandals and
costume jewellery that won’t fall apart after the first hour (31 Jl Raya
Seminyak). Steer clear of the overpriced kaftans and tatty fashion in
Seminyak market opposite Seminyak square.

Men, all is not
forgotten: French designer Jacque Ruc’s Animale does more tailored,
pared-back men’s fashion suitable for Australia’s sober streets, while
Susanna Perini’s super-chic Biasa is a hot stop for deconstructed
layering for both men and women and also has an artspace for
contemporary Indonesian artists (36 Jl Raya Seminyak).

You can
snap up cheap, emergency sunglasses, big earrings and your shell
jewellery in the stalls at the front of Seminyak Square. Hit Aura for
handmade, customised leather goods (21X Jl Laksmana) while Tasmaniac has
a cult following for its, er, high-quality, less original handbags (501
Jl Raya Seminyak).

Another little pocket of fabulousness is Jalan
Kunti, not far from the intersection of Laksmana and Raya Seminyak.
Think of it as “the Paris end of Seminyak”.

Here, the beautiful
people cool down with cocktails at Word of Mouth‘s cafe in between
cruising its deeply gorgeous homewares and fashion (9 Jl Kunti). Then,
it’s a few short steps down to the beautiful interiors of Sydney
designer Natasha Welsh’s Allegra for floaty, girly statement frocks:
beware, they’re cut small, so strapping lasses should steer clear to
avoid changing-room angst (6 Jl Kunti).

Colourful White Peacock

Homewares hunters are in
paradise in Bali, and not just lovers of the omnipresent Buddha statues.
Jalan Kerobokan is the place to buy lighting. Rice paper, woven
branches, statement chandeliers: choose your taste point. Jump in a taxi
and kerb-crawl, then hit The White Peacock for super-colourful throws
and cushions, located obligingly opposite the Grocer & Grind for
good coffee or nearby Petitenget for a luxe lunch and cocktail option.

Carga
is chockers full of gorgeous homewares and trinkets (886 Jl
Petitenget), and an absolute must-visit is Horn Emporium, by Anita Horn,
whose unerring eye will steer you into unchartered territory (100X Jl
Petitenget). For homewares with an ethical bent, make for indi vie, in
the Made’s Warung complex, which stocks the cutest little dolls made by
Bali’s street kids, under a not-for-profit charity (Jl Raya Seminyak).
They’re also sold at Press Ban cafe, one of the few places you’ll find
nuevo-retro and vintage fashion (50 Jl Laksmana). Put Kody Ko on the
list for knockout artworks (C002 Jl Kayu Cendana).

Seminyak takes
its after-shop care seriously: it knows how to reward and rejuvenate the
jaded shopper, with a foot massage at Jari Menari (47 Raya Basangkasa)
followed by sunset cocktails at Ku De Ta (dress up), La Plancha (dress
down) or Potato Head Beach Club (dress however you want, except Bintang
T-shirts) to celebrate a job well done.

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Space Villas.

Trip notes

Staying there Seminyak
is heaving with accommodation, from budget to break-the-bank. Try Space
Villas, No. 8 Jl Drupadi, Seminyak. +62 361 731100, spaceatbali.com.
Getting there Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com), Jetstar (jetstar.com.au) and Garuda Indonesia (garuda-indonesia.com) fly Sydney to Denpasar direct.
More information indonesia.travel.


Best shopping finds of 2012: Vietnam quilts

Yes, it’s time to look back, so I’m looking at the best shopping finds in 2012, a list topped by the beautiful quilts of Mekong Quilts.

I visited their shop in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a cool, quiet space hung with handmade quilts made in the poorest villages in Cambodia and Vietnam.

The organisation is not-for-profit, and says 50 cents from every dollar spent in its shops provides books and scholarships for school children, and promote health and quality-of-life initiatives amongst what they describe as ‘the poorest of the poor’ through the NGO Mekong Plus, which started in 2001.

The group employs around 300 women in rural Vietnam and the Svay Rieng province of Cambodia to stitch the quilts, and now also to make baskets and other household products. Naturally, all are absolutely beautiful, and well worth the money.

The helpful girls in the shop wrapped my quilt in strong plastic so I could stash it as checked-in luggage, and it was almost as light as a feather.

My ABC quilt, which fits a baby’s cot, cost 1,155,000 Vietnamese dong (about A$50), a beautiful investment in every sense.

Mekong Quilts Hanoi
13 Hang Bac str, Hanoi, Vietnam
Also found in Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84-4-3926 4831

Hey, big spenders! Shopping holidays in Asia.

Plastic loaded and flats on feet? Experts tell Belinda Jackson where the bargains are in Asia.
It’s official: Hong Kong is the hottest shopping neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The food, the shopping, the views, the energy, the noise, the waterways – HK’s alive and buzzing 24/7,” says design tracker Anne-Maree Sargeant, on our panel of shopping experts who share their secret haunts and favourite hot spots in the region’s top 10 shopping cities, according to a Global Shopper survey (globeshopperindex.com).
The cities were chosen based on their visitor numbers – Sydney is the only Australian city to make the list – and each city was marked out of 100 based on its affordability, shops, convenience, hotels, transport, climate and culture.

1. Hong Kong, 69/100

The insider Art and design journalist and hunter Anne-Maree Sargeant (thesnapassembly.com).
What’s hot Best in show for its fashion, electronics, watches and jewellery. 83/100 for the shops.
What’s not Pricey hotels that are permanently booked out. 58/100 for retail affordability.
The address book Hit Cat Street Gallery for emerging and mid-career artists (thecatstreetgallery.com) and the inaugural Hong Kong art fair (May 23- 26, 2013), run by the hugely influential new owners Art Basel and Design Miami (hongkongartfair.com). Stylish superstore Lane Crawford is stacked with luxury brands and designer offerings. Check the capsule store featuring furniture and lighting from favourite Brit designer Lee Broom (lanecrawford.com). Get your fix of Harvey Nicks at The Landmark, the Asian Harvey Nichols flagship store for revered luxury and designer offerings (blog.harveynichols.com.hk). Monocle Shop is the first of a new “retail/news” concept for British style tome Monocle (shop.monocle.com).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Hong Kong direct with Qantas (qantas.com), Cathay Pacific (cathaypacific.com) or Virgin Atlantic (virgin-atlantic.com).
Staying there The 117-room Upper House hotel, designed by architect Andre Fu, sits above Pacific Place Shopping Mall, Admiralty, Hong Kong Island (upperhouse.com).

2. Kuala Lumpur 65/100

The insider Belinda Jackson, travel writer and former international shopping columnist.
What’s hot Low prices in great malls and off-the-scale seasonal sales. 76/100 for shops.
What’s not Sticky climate and few attractions. 50/100 for climate and culture.
The address book Malaysians do shoes, led by the master, Jimmy Choo, in luxe mall Suria KLCC (jimmychoo.com). The new Choo is said to be Lewre Lew, found in Parkson department stores (lewre.com). Buy batik shoes from Jimmy’s fave designer, Fion Poon, in the Central Market (fionpoon.com). Brothers Charles and Keith Wong’s Charles & Keith are unmissable for affordable, high-style shoes and accessories (charleskeith.com). For stingray clutches, head to Klutched in Mid Valley Megamall (klutched.com). High-energy Low Yat Plaza has every computer invention at one-third of the price of Singapore, with one floor dedicated just to repairs (plazalowyat.com). KL is justly famous for its malls – hit the strip of Bukit Bintang for big-dollar Starhill and Suria KLCC, chic Pavilion, street-smart Fahrenheit88, Lot 10 and perennial bargain fave Sungei Wang.
Getting there Fly direct from Sydney to Malaysia with Malaysia Airlines (malaysiaairlines.com) and Air Asia (airasia.com).
Staying there The Westin Kuala Lumpur is at the start of Bukit Bintang, making it ideal for shoppers (starwoodhotels.com).

3. Shanghai 63/100

The insiders Fashion designer Alex Zabotto-Bentley and events director Anna Patterson of AZBcreative (azbthecreative.com).
What’s hot International brands, affordable hotels and long shopping hours. 84/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Nasty sales taxes. 59/100 for affordability.
The address book Spend a weekend afternoon at the iconic Dong Tai Lu Antiques Markets. Enter from Xizang Lu into Liuhe Lu, near Xintiandi, and haggle. Spin has amazing handmade ceramics: think industrial chic meets a Chinese art gallery (360 Kangding Lu, near Shanxi Bei Lu). Casa Pagoda is the ultimate in East meets West, with exotic fabrics, old lost-and-found furniture and homewares (casapagoda.com). We love Madame Mao’s Dowry for womenswear and Chinese kitsch for the home (madamemaosdowry.com). The streets Xinle Lu and Changle Lu in the French Concession have amazing women’s fashion, cafes and art deco furniture. Try The Villa for high-end international fashion (shopthevilla.com).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Shanghai direct with China Eastern (flychinaeastern.com) or Air China (airchina.com.au).
Staying there For immaculate location and architecture, stay at the Waterhouse at South Bund (designhotels.com).
More info cnto.org.au.

4. Beijing 61/100

The insider Still-life master and photographer Dieu Tan (dieutan.com).
What’s hot Long shopping hours, top World Heritage sites and good hotels. 84/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Limited foreign languages spoken and few deals. 49/100 for shops.
The address book Hunt hard for genuine Chinese antiques among the reproductions at Panjiayuan antique market (21 Dongsanhuan Nanlu, Chaoyang District). Spend a day or two in Dashanzi Art District’s galleries looking at Modern Chinese art. Most work is for sale, so visit the UCCA gallery shop (2 Jiuxiangqiao Lu, Chaoyang District). Sanlitun Village is one of the hippest areas in town, with ultra-luxe brands with a Beijing edge (19 and 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District). The Gulou/Houhai area houses the traditional Beijing hutong style of architecture, some of which is converted into stylish shops for local art, home deco, tea, fashion and accessories (Gulou Dong Da Jie, Dongcheng District). The Sanyuanli food market is where many Western restaurants and international grocery stores buy wholesale (Shunyuan Jie, west of Sanyuan Dongqiao, Chaoyang District).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Beijing direct with Air China (airchina.com.au).
Staying there Hotel G is a 110-room hotel in the Sanlitun district. Workers’ Stadium West Road, Chaoyang District (mrandmrssmith.com).
More info cnto.org.au.

5. Singapore 60/100

The insider “House whisperer” and stylist Megan Morton (meganmorton.com).
What’s hot Safe, culturally diverse and convenient. 71/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Pricey hotels and high transport costs. 50/100 for affordability.
The address book Expect cups, trinkets and objects you didn’t know you had to have until you saw them at gallery-store Little Drom Store (thelittledromstore.com). Red Dot Design Museum’s Design Journey is an excursion to 18 of the city’s most design-oriented places (red-dot.sg/museum). Locals dress their spaces with Miles & Theodore’s modernistic offerings from Copenhagen’s Massproductions, France’s Revol and Carpet Reloaded floor coverings (milesandtheodore.com). Go for the rose-petal tea; go for the marmalade; go for the vintage selection: Carpenter & Cook is a tea room that trades vintage curios, furniture and kitchenware (carpenterandcook.com).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Singapore direct with Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com), Scoot (flyscoot.com), Qantas (qantas.com), China Eastern (www.flychinaeastern.com), British Airways (britishairways.com) and Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com).
Staying there Every room in the New Majestic Design Hotel differs, the service is great and the rooms are energising. (31-37 Bukit Pasoh, newmajestichotel.com).
More info yoursingapore.com.

6. Sydney 58/100

The insider Style queen Melissa Penfold, author of Australian Style and co-author of Melissa Penfold’s Little Black Book: Sydney’s Shopping Secrets.
What’s hot Great weather, cultural attractions. 71/100 for climate, culture.
What’s not Short trading hours, costly hotels and tricky visas. Bargain central, it’s not. 34/100 for affordability.
The address book The Country Trader has hundreds of antique-look table accessories in silver, glass, china and wood (thecountrytrader.com.au), while Spence & Lyda’s glam new showroom is the place for Missoni Home linen (spenceandlyda.com.au). Double Bay’s Transvaal Avenue is hot right now: start at My Island Home for Caribbean living style, African home lovelies at Doveton Kay Interiors, or French pretties at Maison et Jardin. Jan Logan Jewellery has great taste at sensible prices (janlogan.com) and Anny Lada Jewellery is the celebs’ source of big, affordable, shell-based South Sea pearls (shop 37, 22 Knox Street). Top Australian fashion designers reside at The Intersection in Paddington, with Acne and Bassike for brill basics. At Robert Burton, get French Cire Trudon candles, fab Bensimon sneakers and Petit Bateau womenswear (robertburtonshop.com).
Getting there By cab or bus.
Staying there Everyone’s talking about Sydney’s newest hotel, QT in the heart of the city (qtsydney.com.au).
More info seesydney.com.au.

7. Bangkok 57/100

The insider Photographer Matt Burns splits his time between Australia and Bangkok (southeastasiaimages.com).
What’s hot Fun street markets, great hotels and spectacular food. 69/100 for affordability.
What’s not Dodgy counterfeits. 50/100 for culture and climate.
The address book Monte Carlo tailors isn’t a cheap option, but the staff do provide fantastic quality and service. Expect to pay $300-$1000 for a suit, depending on the cloth (mctailor.com). I can’t recommend Fotofile in the MBK Centre highly enough for its professional camera equipment and unsurpassed knowledge and service. Try and talk to Khun Kong for the best service (fotofile.net). Pantip Plaza has every piece of computer equipment you’ll ever need, but know your prices first (604 New Petchaburi Road). For clothes, homewares and pretty much everything in the world, visit the Chatuchak weekend market. Get in early before the heat and crowds (chatuchak.org) and shop for Thai silk at Narai Phand in the Royal Thai Government Handicrafts Centre (naraiphand.com).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Bangkok direct with Thai Airways (thaiairways.com.au), Emirates (emirates.com) or Qantas (qantas.com).
Staying there The new, wallet-friendly Aloft Bangkok is a quick tuk-tuk trip to Bangkok’s shopping strips (aloftbangkoksukhumvit11.com).
More info thailand.net.au.

8. Tokyo 56/100

The insider Melbourne/NY interiors stylist Glen Proebstel (glenproebstel.com).
What’s hot A great events calendar. 92/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Few sales and super-high hotel, transport and dining costs. 20/100 for affordability.
The address book Claska Gallery and Shop is the perfect destination to sample the best of local and international design makers and crafters (claska.com). New York fashion store Opening Ceremony opened a Tokyo branch that’s a must-visit (openingceremony.us). For beautifully chosen industrial vintage, visit Journal Standard Furniture (js-furniture.jp). As the name says, I Find Everything Tokyo (ifindeverythingtokyo.com). Fog Linen Work has been a recognisable brand in many boutique homeware stores throughout Australia, but nothing compares to visiting where it all began (foglinenwork.com).

Getting there Fly Sydney to Tokyo direct with Qantas (qantas.com) or with Jetstar, via Gold Coast or Cairns (jetstar.com).

Staying there The Park Hotel Tokyo is a soothing oasis amid the neon (en.parkhoteltokyo.com).
More info jnto.org.au.

9. Seoul 55/100

The insider Australian model Jessica Gomes, a bona fide superstar in Korea (iamjessicagomes.com).
What’s hot Good mix of old markets and new boutiques. 66/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Dodgy weather and a challenging hotel scene. 43/100 for retail affordability.
The address book The Galleria Department Store, in the Apgujeong-dong retail district, is super-modern and cool for international luxury brands. Dongdaemun Shopping Market is open from midnight until early morning. I love buying from young Korean designers who provide great quality at a good price. The Hyundai Department Store has a mixture of Korean and international labels, as well as a great food market. Green Street has cool hipster cafes and boutiques. Korea has great labels such as VOV (myvov.com) and really good up-and-coming designers in the boutiques in Apgujeong-dong.
Getting there Fly Sydney to Seoul direct with Korean Air (koreanair.com) or Asiana Airlines (flyasiana.com).
Staying there The IP Boutique Hotel is a quirky hotel in the expat Itaewon district (737-32 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu,ipboutiquehotel.com).
More information visitkorea.or.kr.

10. Delhi 53/100

The insider Interior stylist, creative director and owner of The Society Inc, Sibella Court (thesocietyinc.com.au).
What’s hot Fabulous sights and haggling shopkeepers. 63/100 for affordability.
What’s not Weak for mall rats, tough visas and struggling transport. 40/100 for shopping.
The address book The Full Circle Bookstore has every book of every author who has ever spoken or been a part of Jaipur’s incredible literary festival (fullcirclebooks.in). The National Handicrafts & Handlooms Museum gives an insight into the skill and technique behind it all, and craftspeople sell their wares in the courtyard (nationalcraftsmuseum.nic.in). Anokhi is great for the travelling basics – scarves, cotton pants – all lovely and affordable (www.anokhi.com). I love the Chandni Chowk market in Old Delhi, especially the hardware section with all the vendors tinkering away. Kamayani has amazing handmade textiles from across India, selected with a superb eye (kamayani.in).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Delhi with China Southern (via Guangzhou) (csair.com/en), Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) and Virgin Australia via Singapore (virginaustralia.com).
Staying there The Manor is a stylish boutique hotel in New Friends Colony, with just 15 rooms and a lot of luxury (themanordelhi.com).
More information incredibleindia.org.com.


Twenty reasons to visit Seminyak

Surfers on shore at Legian beach.
Surfers on shore at Legian beach. Photo: Getty Images

1 Kopi luwak
“Civet coffee, where cherries are passed through the native cat”, is a very nice way to describe the natural process of creating Bali’s special kopi luwak (or civet coffee). By passing through the civet’s digestive tract, the coffee beans are mellowed out, creating what’s arguably the world’s most expensive coffee. Cruise homewares and sip kopi luwak at Becik (Jl Dhyana Pura 4, +62 361 737 816) or pull up a chair, poolside, and sip at Anantara Seminyak hotel (Jl Dhyana Pura, +62 361 733 7773, anantara.com). Expect to pay about $9 a cup. (PS: jalan, abbreviated to Jl, is Balinese for “street”.)
2 Bodyworks
In a land of cheap spas, Bodyworks has the edge. It’s cheap, efficient and the 80-plus staff will try to squeeze you in for that urgent facial/pedicure/hairdressing fix. Expect to pay about $20 or less for most services. “And you’ll always get a reliably good treatment every time,” Bali-based Australian fashion designer Penny Pinkster says. “I opened my second boutique next door so I could pop in when it’s quiet.” (Jl Kayu Jati 2, Petitenget, +62 361 733 317, bodyworksbali.com) Jari Menari (“dancing fingers”) also gets a guernsey for its yoga-influenced stretching massage, from 300,000 rupiah ($30) (Jl Raya Basangkasa 47, +62 361 736 740, jarimenari.com).

3 Rooftop dining
Seminyak is having a love affair with rooftops. And why not, when the weather is this good? SOS Supper Club, on the roof of Anantara Seminyak hotel, is the leader of the pack, with nightly DJs and unfettered views of the Indian Ocean. Book a table under the stars for a steak dinner or flop on a day bed to snack and watch the stars come out with a Bali Classic in hand (strawberry, lime, cranberry, lychee with pomegranate juice and sparkling wine) or a pitcher of SOS punch. Of course, they do bottle service, too (Jl Dhyana Pura, +62 361 737 773, sosasupperclub.com).
4 Beach sunsets
South Bali is blessed with sunsets over the water and the cheapest entertainment in town is a walk along the long stretch of Seminyak beach at 6pm. On the way, you can buy drinks, hire a surfboard, rent a sun lounger or just park on the sand to watch the golden sun dip down over the Indian Ocean. Sunday is the day off for most workers in Bali, and everyone heads to the beach. Pop down late afternoon to see a slice of local life, from kite flying to beach soccer and plenty of perambulating.
Pura Petitenget temple.
5 Pura Petitenget
In a land of temples, even Seminyak’s crazed real estate scene pauses for religion. Pura Petitenget is just beside the beach, and the quiet, well-maintained Hindu temple gives respite from the traffic below. Don your sarong, wrapped over trousers, and visit just before sunset when the light catches the mossy sculptures for a quintessentially Balinese moment.
6 Boutique fashion
The island’s best fashion is found in Seminyak, with beautiful, often handmade clothes at a price you’ll never find in Australia. Fondle a soft charcoal jersey at Buddha Wear (Jl Oberoi 15X, buddhawear.com) and see what the Brazilians are up to at chic and sexy Lulu Yasmine (Jl Oberoi 100, luluyasmine.com) and Lily Jean (Jl Oberoi 102X or Jl Mertanadi 73X, Kerobokan for the sale shop, lily-jean.com). For Parisian “Bourgeois Boheme”, visit Magali Pascal (Jl Oberoi, 177X), and Animale is a good stop for understated menswear (Jl Raya Seminyak 31, animale.com). For accessories, check the gorgeous strappy flats at Kumuru (Jl Raya Seminyak 67) and TropicSurf’s Jack Chisholm suggests you check out Drifter for classic surfboards, imported surf clobber and good Indonesian coffee (Jl Oberoi 50, driftersurf.com).
7 Petitenget
Move over, Jl Oberoi (aka Laksmana or Kayu Aya) and Jl Dhyana Pura (aka Abimanyu), Jl Petitenget is the hottest dining strip at the top of Seminyak, with Metis and Sarong firmly on the faves list. The hot new ticket is the Petitenget, next door to Pura Petitenget, which serves “modern bistro” for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At the latest venture of restaurateur Sean Cosgrove of Corner Store fame, sit on the terrace and order the poached chicken salad with pistachio and celery with a mandarin Bellini, or seek respite from the heat in its cool, chic lounges (Jl Petitenget 40X, +62 361 473 3054,petitenget.net).
8 Surfing
It doesn’t have the wild reef breaks of Uluwatu and west Bali, but the long straight beach at Seminyak is a beginner’s paradise, says Bali surfer Jack Chisholm of TropicSurf, who teaches families and beginners out the front of Anantara Seminyak. “Anantara’s beach also has fun, peaky waves out the back that will keep even advanced surfers happy.” Other reliable locations include the stretch in front of Ku De Ta, popular with intermediate Europeans looking for an easy ride to practise their skills, and at the end of Double Six Road. The surf season runs from April to November, and is best in the mornings before the trade winds kick up. The big beachfront hotels have their own lifeguards, too (tropicsurf.net).
9 Tailors
Forget the $100-and-six-week turnaround of Aussie sewing shops, Bali’s tailors are fast, cheap and obliging. Say hi to tailor Ipong at Tidy Tailors for quality fabric and experience (Jl Kayu Aya 8, +62 361 736 603), while super-fast nips, tucks and copies can be squeezed in at busy Mode Kara: bring your beloved clothes for remakes or repairs (Jl Oberoi 88, +62 361 735 788).
Biku PIC: Belinda Jackson
10 Interiors with a Balinese twist
Seminyak’s interior shops are a haven of treasures for stylist, creator of the Fashion Assassin label and 37-time Bali visitor Alex Zabotto-Bentley (azbthecreative.com). His top five interior faves comprise Horn Emporium, where owner Anita scours Jakarta for early Dutch antiques, while Namu is worth a stop for its very modern, very chic decorative arts from resin. He also lists Kody & Ko for its 2Pac timber effigies, while Carga pulls apart Balinese designs with a Western treatment (Jl Petitenget 886, +62 361 847 8173). “And Geneva is the craziest warehouse on Earth, with beautiful cut coconut-wood tapas trays to bizarre bronze owls,” he says. “Absolutely mental.” (Namu, Jl Petitenget 234X, +62 361 279 7524; Carga, Jl Petitenget 886, +62 361 847 8173; Horn Emporium, Jl Petitenget 100X, +62 361 4738 330; Geneva, Jl Raya Kerobokan No.100, +62 361 733 542; Kody & Ko, Jl Kayu Cendana C002).
11 Biku
Pull up a pew for coffee and a tarot reading at the fantastical joglo (teak house) that is Biku, a gorgeous destination cafe. Fifteen-minute tarot readings cost 80,000 rupiah. The only downside is that everyone knows it’s fantastic. Phone ahead to reserve a table and order the Asia High Tea for two (170,000 rupiah), in which tiers of samosa, Vietnamese spring rolls and ayam sisit (Balinese shredded chicken) are served with green tea, oolong or perhaps masala chai. Yes, they do scones, and the signature cocktail is the Biku coconut martini (Jl Petitenget 888, +62 361 8570 888, bikubali.com).
12 Snakeskin accessories
Vegans, look away, but for the rest of you, dyed snakeskin accessories are a hot buy from Seminyak’s fashion stores. Find gorgeous clutches, belts and ballet flats, all handmade in Bali from Indonesian python skin, and a steal from $50. Try Naputo or sister shops Prathivi (Jl Raya Seminyak 16, Jl Kayu Aya 15, naputobali.com).
13 One for the kids
Until you travel in Bali with kids, you have no idea how kid-friendly it can be. Seminyak is chock-full of beautiful villas, with separate kitchens, big bathrooms and pools, making travel with kids a no-brainer. Nannies booked through villa complexes or hotels cost about $8-$9 an hour, with even better day rates negotiable. Cute kids’ boutiques include French designer Clara Mia‘s divine little costumes (Jl Oberoi 43, +62 361 733 893).
14 Sensational seafood
Mamasan restaurant
PIC: Belinda Jackson
Pull up at smokin’ Mamasan, the cooler little sister to Seminyak dining stalwart Sarong, and order the snapper dumplings for a taste epiphany (Jl Raya Kerobokan 135, +62 361 733 072, mamasanbali.com). Those in the know earmark Sundays for a spectacular seafood buffet at the W Seminyak’s beachside Starfish Bloo, which costs 475,000 rupiah a person (Jl Petitenget, +62 361 473 8106, starwoodhotels.com). Ubudphiles stranded in the craziness of Seminyak should head to Sardine for seafood and organic produce while overlooking the rice paddies (Jl Petitenget 21, +62 361 843 6111, sardinebali.com).
15 Beach bars
A long-time Bali fave, the pouty Ku De Ta, has a rival: the hottest place in town to watch it all go down is Potato Head, a beach club-cum-restaurant on the sands of Seminyak beach. Big and busy, the potential madness is tamed by groovin’ Marvin Gaye or perhaps some Curtis Mayfly. Order from the casual menu, from its pan-Asian restaurant Lilin or Tapping Shoes‘ French fine dining after 6pm. There’s a minimum spend on the beachfront sun loungers (about $50), but get in before the 6pm pre-sunset rush. Kids are welcome, and there’s even a kids’ pool. No Bintang singlets, 11am-2am daily. If you’re into keepin’ it real, grab a beanbag and a jug of sangria at the ultimate beach bar La Plancha for sunset (Potato Head, Jl Petitenget, +62 361 473 7979, ptthead.com; Ku De Ta, Jl Oberoi, +62 36 173 6969, kudeta.net; La Plancha Double Six Beach, +62 361 890 0000, laplanchabali.com).
16 Made’s Warung
Don’t be expecting the usual dingy tiles and rickety tables at the island’s most famous warung (restaurant). Made’s is all-singing, all-dancing, with a cute little Balinese dance show each night. Noisy and fun for first-time visitors, order the Balinese plate for a taste of the warungs (or go the Japanese menu, the Italian, the Western – you get the picture). The shops within the Made’s complex make for surprisingly good, upmarket browsing (Jl Raya Seminyak, madeswarung.com).
17 Ethical shopping
Stylish indi vie is one of a handful of sleek retail outlets selling environmentally sound homewares, locally designed ceramics and jewellery and ethically produced Balinese handcrafts, with profits going to charities such as those helping the island’s street children in Made’s Warung shops (Jl Raya Seminyak, +62 361 730 927). Find similar products in retro-cool Press Ban cafe (Jl Oberoi 50, +62 361 730 486). For a totally Balinese souvenir, grab a beautifully made, locally designed Bali Towel, complete with handmade tassels. The towels are found in top resorts, Lily Jean and uber-emporium Word of Mouth (Kunti Arcade, Jl Kunti, wordofmouthbali.com). The “Nyoman” is modelled on the classic black-and-white saput poleng temple material, from $40 (balitowel.com).
18 Kangkung
If you’re iffy about eating meat abroad, Bali doesn’t disappoint. The king of vegetables, kangkung, is water spinach tossed with garlic, chilli, tomato, galangal and shallot and served with rice: a powerhouse on a plate. Hit the lunch buffet at Warung Kolega (Jl Petitenget 98A), Warung Ocha (corner Jl Raya Seminyak and Jl Dhyana Pura) or the highly rated Warung Sulawesi (Jl Petitenget).
19 Cocktail hour
Indonesia’s crippling taxes don’t encourage wine binges. If Bintang beer isn’t your bag, you’ll just have to drink cocktails stuffed with tropical fruit. Hot spots include upstairs at Mamasan for Lychee Banshees (Jl Raya Kerobokan 135), the low tables at the front of Chandi for a spiced, herbed Mojito (Jl Oberoi 72), buzzy Cubana (Jl Petitenget 12B, cubanabali.com) and old fave La Lucciola (Jl Petitenget, +62 361 730 838) or any of the beach bars mentioned above. Finish with a glass of pop at the Champagne Bar (Jl Oberoi 42C, +62 361 737 889).
20 Luxe-tastic villas
Ombak Luwung Villa
You may be in the crush of Seminyak, but those tiny gangs (Balinese for “lanes”) hide lush, sprawling villas. Those on a budget should check out Maca Villas, from $138 a person, creativeholidays.com), Serene Villas‘ one-bed villas from $212 a night with early-bird and last-minute specials (serenevilla.com), or the fully staffed three-bedroom Villa Natura, which is $US295 ($284) a night, (privatevillasandhouses.com). For a villa with the buzz of a hotel, try the Elysian, from $US385 (theelysian.com), or Royal Seminyak MGallery Hotel’s one-bedroom villas start at $620 (mgallery.com). The four-bedroom Jaja-Liluna, comprising three self-contained pavilions around the pool, costs from $925 a night (marketingvillas.com), while the oceanfront Ombak Luwung starts at $1500 a night (privatevillasandhouses.com).

SOURCE: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald 


Seoul Purpose: a local’s guide to the South Korean capital

Gyeongbokgung Palace


The heart of Seoul lies in its palaces, skyscrapers  – and its stomach.

Seoul is a city is split by the River Han – old money to the north, new money south of the
river. Northside, think palaces, president’s house and traditional hanok houses: snap up classic ceramics or
perhaps a hanbok dress in Insa-dong
and drink 100-flower tea in Bukchon. 

To the south of the river, Gangnam is all
about Euro-luxe labels. Would-be models strut the streets as they shop at the Garosu-Gil
fashion strip, Asia’s largest underground mall, COEX, or too-cool
Cheongdam-dong, with its Italian boutiques and wine bars. 

At any tick of the
24-hour clock, you’ll find some of Seoul’s 10 million inhabitants in the pubs, karaoke
bars, restaurants, internet cafes and saunas. Iif anything closes, it’s always
late. In Seoul, the neon lights are never switched off. 

Tosokchon restaurant

Three things you
have to see in Seoul

Tea oils the wheels of Korean
society. The Beautiful Tea Museum is
a gorgeously serene space in the antiques hood of Insa-dong, selling and serving
130 beautiful teas and their accoutrements. It also exhibits perfect, simple
ceramics (Jongno-gu Insa-dong 193-1, www.tmuseum.co.kr ) Otherwise, go traditional at Cha Masineun Tteul, which lives up to its
name, ‘cosy garden where people drink tea’. Take a seat on hanoks warm floor as tea ladies serve iced
strawberry summer punch or hot spiced dae
chu cha
(Asian date tea), rice cakes and toasted sunflower seeds while you
look out on that cosy garden or out over the rooftops (Jongno-gu, Samcheong-dong 35-169).  

Another
wonderful place to see Seoul’s traditional architecture is Bukchon
Hanok Village, considered the most beautiful corner of Seoul. Its neighbourhood
of 900 hanoks makes  a welcome change to the industrial-strength
apartment blocks that pierce the city skyline. The tourist information booth
opposite Gyeongbokgung Palace (Jogno-gu, 1 Sejong-ro, www.royalpalace.go.kr)  offers excellent walking maps of the area, including
a trail with eight signposted photo spots that give the
best
views down tiny, picturesque alleyways and over the rooftops to the palace. 

Of
a more transient nature are the comically named ‘tent restaurants’ that dominate the city’s streets: sun shelters
lined with clear plastic walls to keep out the fierce winter winds. Korea’s
food culture is wildly rich: walk any street and try fried silkworms, suck
down a live octopus, chomp on pig’s trotters or snack on a jeon (Korean
savoury pancake) washed down with makgeoli
(rice wine). At the massive Noryangjin
Fish Market
, buy your seafood and have it thrown in the pot in seconds. No
matter how lean your purse or how limited your Korean, you’ll never starve in
this town.

Samcheong-dong

Artisan Mecca
Samcheong-dong’s
three-kilometer-long cobbled street, between the president’s house and Gyeongbokgung Palace,
sniffs at mainstream labels. On this strip, it’s all about one-offs and their stylish
producers –  shoemakers, milliners, bespoke
designers and art galleries, with a hundred latte-pumping cafés in between. Cool,
yes, but also resolutely Korean. You’ll still find locals queuing for the
classic sujaebi, which is soup with dumplings, green onions and kimchi. You can get your fill of this dish for about $6 at Samcheong-dong
Sujabei (Samcheong-dong 102).


At the table
With hundreds of
eating-out options – from traditional Korean barbeques to fusion fare – in every
neighbourhood, Seoul cements itself as one of Asia’s prime food capitals.
JungSik

SUMMER FLAVOURS A visit to Tosokchon (Jahamun-ro 5-gil 5, Jongno-gu) means
tucking in to samgyetang, a summer broth of ginseng and chicken. Tosokchon enjoys
a cult following, with former president Roh Moo Hyun amongst its devotees.

LIKE A LOCAL Young chef Yim Jung Sik is
currently wowing New York diners with his ‘New Korean’ cooking. His Seoul
dining room JungSik (649-7
Sinsa-dong, Gangnam, jungsik.kr) is a celebration of truly beautiful plates.
The kitchen uses using quintessentially Korean ingredients to serve up fresh
delectable dishes.
CHEAP EATS Visit lpumdang (16-1 Dangju-dong, Jongno-gu, ilpumdang.co.kr) and you’ll
realise that Korea’s best chow isn’t necessarily found in the most expensive
restaurants. Order the Korean shabu shabu
– thin wafers of beef cooked in broth and served with dipping sauce.
Hidden cultural
gems
Want
to find out what the locals are really drinking? “We teach Korea’s drinking
culture – how to pour and what to drink,” says Korean-American guide Daniel Grey. His Korean Night Dining Tour steers you through the joys of
drinking soju (potent rice wine) and
snacking up a storm in the city’s alleyway barbeque cafés (ongofood.com). 

Korean Night Dining Tour

After you’ve been fed
and watered, the place to be on the last Friday of the month is Hongdae
district for Club Day, where $12
gets you entry to a dozen or more clubs in the happening Hongik University area.
Don’t expect to get home early – it kicks off around 11pm and diehards call it
a night around 5am. The second Friday of the month is the smaller Sound Day,
with fewer clubs and a focus on live music, from 8pm-5am (02 333 3910). 

Hongdae

After
a big night, recharge at a jjimjilbang (public bathhouse), which
is guaranteed to knock a dress size off you, thanks to a battalion of
scrubbers and fiery steam
rooms: expect rampant public nudity (yes, they are segregated). Most hotels
have their own sauna, or try the foreigner-friendly, seven-story Yongsan Dragon
Hill Spa (dragonhillspa.co.kr)

The Westin Chosun

Pillow talk
 FASHIONABLE
The Westin
Chosun (Jung-gu, 87
Sogong-dong, westin.com/seoul) is walking distance to Namdaemun market,
Myengdong fashion town, beautiful department stores and two palaces.

SPA BREAK On the side of Mount Nam sit the luxe San
5-5, Jang Chung-dong 2-Ga Jung-gu,

banyan tree.com).
Each of the hotel’s huge 32 suites has a steamy indoor pool and sauna and its
spectacular outdoor pool is a favoured haunt of Seoul’s elite.

Banyan Tree Seoul

BUDGET Sophias Guest House (Jongno-gu, 157-1 Sogyeok-dong, sophiagh.com), a 150-year-old hanok with ondol
rooms (mattresses on heated floors) around a pretty courtyard, a short walk from
the arty enclave of Insa-dong.


BOUTIQUE In the expat district of Itaewon you’ll find IP Boutique Hotel (737-32
Hannam-dong, Yongsangu, ipboutiquehotel.com) It has has an Alice-in-Wonderland feel, with jungle swings in
the foyer and compact, mirrored all-white rooms.



LUXURY RakKoJae (98 Gye-dong,
Jongno-gu, rkj.co.kr) is a serene luxury hanok in Bukchon, with natural jade
floors in its ondol rooms and a yellow-mud sauna.
National Folk Museum

Don’t leave Seoul
without:

Visiting
Gyeongbokgung Palace
, the first home of the Joseon dynasty.
Dating from 1395, it also houses the excellent National Folk Museum with a
great, kitch-free gift shop. Closed Tuesdays (royalpalace.go.kr) For live
entertainment, you can’t beat non-verbal theatre,
which is massive in Seoul – great if your Korean is rusty. 


Nanta is a
blood-pumping kitchen comedy set to traditional samulnori rhythm, and audience
members are regularly invited on stage to participate (nanta.co.kr). 

Finally,
spend a day at Namdaemun Market; stop for dumplings in alleys of food
stalls or buy jars of pickled ginseng or gorgeous kitchenwear from more than
1000 stalls. Nearby, you’ll find the 14th-century Sungnyemun Gate, officially Korea’s
Number 1 National Treasure.

Insa-dong

Q&A

Celebrity snapper Kim
Jung-Man
is Korea’s top commercial photographer and been named one of the
country’s Men of Culture in 2000.
What’s the quintessential
photograph of Seoul?
It lies somewhere between the historical past and
the advance of the modern structure: the juxtaposition between hanoks and palaces and its modern
architecture. It is best to find this in Gwangwhamun, near Gyeongbokgung Palace. 
What is the most beautiful street in Seoul? Personally, I think I’m
the only one in Seoul who enjoys red lights. I take photos while stopped in
traffic. 
Where’s Seoul’s
heart of art
? Hongdae and Insadong. Independent musicians play in the park
at night in Hongdae and there is a great grunge feeling to the street art
there. Hongdae has various flea markets where artists sell their wares while Insa-dong
is famous for its many art galleries and historic feeling. 
Where do you go to find nature in Seoul? Namsan, which is Nam
Mountain, the center of the city. There is nature even in the heart of Seoul,
if you know where to look. 
Your favourite art gallery in Seoul? Gallery Kong (157-78
Samcheong-dong, Jongno-go, gallerykong.com)





Getting there: To book your flight to Seoul with our codeshare partner, Singapore Airlines, visit www.virginaustralia.com or simply call 13 67 89 (in Australia).
Source: Belinda Jackson, Voyeur magazine, Virgin Australia. October 2012.

Washing instructions: Littlehorn designs

Washing instructions tag spotted on kid’s t-shirt by Littlehorn, at the other-worldly Horn Emporium, on Jl Petitenget, Bali.

Washing instructions: ask your mother,
she will know what to do.

Just in case you missed the shop,
here’s the exterior.

Even the shop’s loo is fab, thanks to
Alex Zabotto-Bentley’s impeccable styling.

Doing the Nile in style: travel deals 7 October 2012

Do the Nile in style, let Versace bags you a pool lounger on the Gold Coast or shop it up in Melbourne and Malaysia.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Yes, there are bargains to be had on the crazy Perth
hotel scene, creating a great excuse to go west and throw yourself into the
city’s delicious food scene, led by the newly crowned top eatery in town,
Fraser’s in Kings Park. Save 40 per cent on room rates at the Mantra on Murray
until March 31, 2013 when you stay on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights. Costs
from $169 a night in a queen studio. 131 517, mantra.com.au
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Mount Lofty House lives up to its name, with panoramic
views over Adelaide and out to sea, yet it’s only 15 minutes from town. Stay at
the boutique country hotel and save up to 50 per cent with its ‘Discover the
Adelaide Hills’ package which includes overnight accommodation, breakfast for
two and one of three activities in the Hills: lunch for two at The Locavore in
Stirling, wine tasting at Shaw & Smith cellar door and winery, or a round
of golf for two at Mt Lofty golf club. Costs from $249 a room.  (08) 8339 6777, mtloftyhouse.com.au
The Novotel Melbourne on Collins
VICTORIA
One of Melbourne’s best shopping hotels, the Novotel
Melbourne on Collins, is 20 years old in October, and marks the occasion with a
$7 million make-over. Stay two nights until November 11 and get 20 per cent off
the best available rate, pay only $20 for breakfast (normally $29), $20 for
valet parking (normally $35) and $20 for internet (normally $27.95 a day).
There’s also a $20 deal on antipasto tasting platters and 20th birthday
cocktails. Costs from $412 a room, two nights. (03) 9667 5800, novotelmelbourne.com.au.

NEW SOUTH WALES 
The
recently renovated Sebel Resort & Spa Hawkesbury Valley’s new midweek
‘Polynesian Stay & Spa’ package with a Polynesian inspired spa treatment at
its Villa Thalgo day spa. An hour from the CBD in Windsor, the 4.5-star hotel
spa’s deal includes overnight accommodation for two in a deluxe spa room,
breakfast, $50 to spend at the restaurant and two hours of body scrubbing,
lagoon water bath and a Mahana massage. Normally $499, costs $289 a night,
Monday to Friday until December 28. 131 515, sebelhawkesburyvalley.com.au.
QUEENSLAND
There’s no need for
bagsing your poolside lounger at dawn at the Palazzo Versace: the staff will do
it for you. In fact, you don’t know poolside lounging till you’ve lounged by
the lagoon at the Gold Coast’s most luxe address. We’re talking private
cabanas, chilled face sprays, platters of summer fruits, PV’s own sunscreen, a bottle
of sparkling wine and two nights in a superior room. Save up to $910, costs
from $938 for two people, for two nights. (07) 5509 8000,
palazzoversace.com.au/packages.
TRANS-AUSTRALIA
Traverse the country, from the chasms of the Blue
Mountains, across golden hay plains and the vast interior desert on a train
journey across Australia. Save 30 per cent on all journeys in Gold Service  from Sydney to Perth, aboard The Indian
Pacific when you book by December 24 for travel until March 31, 2013. Save
$630, costs from $1584 a person, twin share. 132 447, greatsouthernrail.com.au
MALAYSIA
One of the best shopping destinations in Asia, Kuala
Lumpur is easy to get around, and Malaysians love a bargain, from the five-star
malls to Chinatown knock-offs. Bargain hunters will also love the 25 per cent
saving on the four-star aparthotel Swiss Gardens Residences. The recently
refurbished hotel between Chinatown and the main shopping strip, Bukit Bintang,
and has a free shuttle bus. Book by 14 days in advance until December 15,
travel by December 30. Costs from $103 a night.  1800 846 835, hotels.com.

USA

Soak up the magic at California’s Disneyland, staying at the Disney Paradise Pier hotel, which gets you in an hour earlier than the general masses. Kids stay free with the Disneyland Resort Magic package, which includes four nights’ accommodation, a three-day Park Hopper Bonus ticket, dining with Disney characters and airport transfers. Book until October 31, travel January 2 – February 14, 2013 (excluding January 18-19). Costs from $1009 adults, $325 kids, twin share, four nights. 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com.

NEW ZEALAND
Stay four nights or more at The Rees Hotel Queenstown and
receive a NZD$100 voucher to spend in hotel’s True South dining room, as well
as complimentary wi-fi internet, free parking and a late check-out. Offer valid
for stays from October 7 – December 20. Email reservations@therees.co.nz with
“Booking Code SHD” in the subject line.  Costs
from $390 a person, twin share. +64 (0)3 450 1100, therees.co.nz.

VIETNAM
Be one of the first to stay at the new Banyan
Tree Lăng Cô hotel in central Vietnam, which opens 1 November. Expect pool
villas, fabulous spas and an 18-hole championship golf course. Normally
USD850++ a night, its opening specials cost from USD735 a night (two night
minimum) plus USD765 worth of hotel credits to spend at the bar or the spa. Or
stay three nights, add round-trip transfers as well. Book now for stays from
November 1 – March 31, 2012. Costs from USD1470++ a room for two nights. +84 54 3695 888,
banyantree.com.
Cruising the Nile in style, Egypt.
EGYPT
Cruise the Nile with 11 of your best friends on a private
dahibaya, an elegant, 19th-century style riverboat, and save up to $21,300. The
boat has six cabins and a plunge pool and includes all meals, drinks, entrance
fees and an Egyptologist to explain the region’s rich treasures. Valid on
departures until February 23. Normally, $44,300 costs from $26,780 for 12
people for seven nights. 1300 851 800,
abercrombiekent.com.au.
Melbourne’s Arts Centre
TOURWATCH
In November and December, Melbourne resonates to one of
the great operatic events, Wagner’s four-opera Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle). Directed by Australia’s Neil Armfield and
conducted by Richard Mills, three cycles of the epic will be performed at the
Arts Centre Melbourne. The package includes eight nights at the Sofitel
Melbourne in a superior king room, daily breakfast, airport transfers, four
performances and transport to the Arts Centre. It also includes three small
group touring experiences in between the operas, including a tour of
Melbourne’s fantastic alleyways and arcades, a full day on the Great Ocean Road
and a day on the Mornington Peninsula, lunching and wining. From November 18 –
December 13. Costs from $5760 a person, twin share. (02) 9957 4511,
maryrossitravel.com. 
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

Groovy is the new gold: vintage Ballarat a-go-go!

Nostalgic ... makeover maven Miss Lulu.
Nostalgic … makeover maven Miss Lulu. Photo: Belinda Jackson

Forget the pioneering days of the rush – instead dig the nostalgia of Ballarat’s new vintage scene, writes Belinda Jackson.
“It all started with my glasses. I always wanted cat’s-eye glasses,” says Miss Lulu. Perched on a high bar stool, her redskin margarita is as pink as her hair, which is teased into sky-high 1940s curls. Was I the only person in Ballarat who didn’t know they’re called victory rolls?
This is the swimsuit for the curvalicious. 
“Vintage just suits Ballarat,” says the self-styled 1940s pin-curl pin-up, whose glittering bolero jacket, black bustier, deep cleavage and wide skirts have the whole restaurant entranced.
Eclectic Tastes cafe, Ballarat.

Eclectic Tastes cafe, Ballarat. Photo: Belinda Jackson
Ballarat’s always had a nostalgic scent about it – the re-created gold rush town of Sovereign Hill is on the city’s outskirts and the main drag, Sturt Street, is lined with monuments to past glories, from the Boer War to Burke and Wills’s inland excursion. There’s a bandstand dedicated to Queen Alexandra (King Edward VII’s missus), squat Queen Victoria overlooks the rotundas, turrets and cenotaphs, and the old Southern Cross flag of the Eureka Stockade hangs in the beautiful art gallery. The top hotel is Craig’s Royal and the theatre is Her Majesty’s, one of the best preserved in the country.
Antiques, Goods & Chattels, Ballarat.
Antiques, Goods & Chattels, Ballarat. Photo: Belinda Jackson

But Victoria’s third-largest city has a new groove, with a rush of fresh blood bringing a 1940s-’70s vintage scene to town, spearheaded by the likes of Miss Lulu who, in three hours, will transform you from trakky-dakked slob to pert and perky ’50s pin-up girl or goth rockabilly – or perhaps your heart’s more psychobilly? With your newly set big hair, red lips and a wiggle in your walk, it’s time to hit the streets to dress the part.
First stop is a burgeoning vintage enclave on Main Road, headed by That Little Vintage Shop, a cornucopia of fox furs, fabulously wide-brimmed hats, ’60s knits and evening coats harking back to days when it took time to get dressed.
Owner Jennifer Bottomley studied fashion in ’60s London and has been running the shop for 17 years. “Y’all right there, love?” she calls out to a customer, her northern English accent weaving through the piles of clothes. Her collection dates from the 1920s, but the ’80s is quite ’20s, she says as she runs a hand over a $1000 Canadian raccoon fur, designed for pleasurable stroking.
Across the road, cute little ’50s-style cafe Cake Bakeshop sells old-fashioned paper straws, invitations and party favours for baby showers and kitchen teas while churning out the cupcakes, coffee and macarons in old-school lolly flavours.
Nearby, Antiques, Goods & Chattels suggests serious fustiness, but it’s awash with ’60s kitchenalia and garagenalia, and a carousel horse greets me on entrance. I snap up a fabulous old wooden painter’s stepladder, still authentically spattered with paint, perfect for slinging some woven Arabian saddlebags over (or for changing light bulbs).
Swimwear by My Sister Pat.

Swimwear by My Sister Pat. Photo: Simon Schluter
It’s on the next block down on Main Road that this vintage scene starts to become serious.
My Sister Pat designs and manufactures beautiful ’50s-inspired swimsuits – more like playsuits – with classic halter and tie necks and boylegs that bestow instant booty. I clamber out of my jeans and into a super-cute little blue-and-white polka dot number and, va va voom, I’m transformed into instant ’50s pool kitten. A very slim woman is in the next cubicle; you know, the type who rocks a bikini. Is it mean to note that in the same style swimsuit, she just looks … well, left wanting, to be perfectly frank? This is the ultimate swimsuit for the curvalicious.
Sifting through the racks beside me is Debbie, a rock’n’roll aficionado who’s into the Ballarat Rockers, a social rock’n’roll dance club that meets on Friday nights. She’s shopping for the perfect outfit for an American rock’n’roll holiday through Memphis, New Orleans and, of course, Las Vegas. “Usually, I make my own,” she says, “so I don’t look like everyone else.”
In an age of mass production, My Sister Pat guarantees that no more than six swimsuits are cut from the same cloth. “Except for the red-and-white polka-dot swimsuit, because everyone wants to be Marilyn,” says owner Rosemary Gilbert-Waller. “Except me. I want to be Grace Kelly,” she states, flicking the record player as Connie Francis has a little meltdown and starts to jump.
Connie, Grace, Patsy Cline, Audrey Hepburn … “It’s an era of beauty, and it hasn’t been lost,” Gilbert-Waller says of her label, which is now stocked internationally, from Cannes to Canada. What started off as a vintage shopping trip in Ballarat is fast turning into an education on being womanly and the art of feminine elegance.
“I like going to places where I fit the decor,” says the epitome of girlish glamour, Miss Lulu. The newly refurbished Mallow Bar and the cosy Babushka Bar both get the thumbs up for their retro looks, as does high tea on Sunday afternoons at Craig’s Royal Hotel, with its ’50s chairs and lounges and swish velvet curtains. Eclectic Tastes cafe has a whiff of nanna chic about it, with its knitted tea cosies and teasets, which get the edge thanks to a backdrop of red walls, Mao-pop paraphernalia and raunchy Indian film posters.
The Oceanic Lounge in Portico Wine Bar, on Ballarat’s main drag, Sturt Street, is a local favourite as it’s a regular venue for the nine-piece Ballarat Ska Orchestra. Yes, Ballarat has its own ska orchestra, belting out its signature ’60s Caribbean beats, and it also has its own roller-derby league, where six teams of rockabilly chicks hit the rinks. Expect ’70s boardshorts, kneepads and a smattering of tatts.
Vintage chicks say the new Front Bar is your best option for a drink and a little shakin’ to some ’60s soul sounds without the uni or clubbing crowds. Alternatively, if you were at a loose end on a Wednesday night, you could go go-go dancing. “I just thought, Ballarat needs this!” says Miss Daisy Amazing, a dancer who teaches an enthusiastic crowd the moves of the ’60s. And for $12, you, too, can strut out like a retro Miami groover.
To live the vintage dream completely, you’d be shopping at De’s Recycled Fashions for ’60s nylon dresses – think royal blue with gold paisley – or for vintage crockery and what some say is the town’s best coffee at Vegas and Rose, stockist for runaway sensations Trunk & Orderly’s handmade weekender and school cases.
And for seriously cool vintage fabrics, haberdashery and the cutest kids’ craft gear, The Crafty Squirrel is a must-visit. If you thought crafty equals fusty, the notion is dispelled by designer and uber-craftster Morgan Wills’s perky rockabilly ‘do, married with an apple-green cardie and a floral apron that on me would scream “frump!” but on her is just damned cool. Every Friday, she dons a vintage apron and pops a photo up on her Facebook page to a bevy of waiting fans.
“I love all that cutesy Japanese and Korean aesthetic, and French vintage,” she says, but it’s the Australian kitsch that is totally adorable; souvenir tea towels renewed and reborn into cushions that fly off the shelves. The non-sellers appear to be all from Canberra – no comment. Wills steers us down to the edgy Red Brick Gallery, where a nearby power pole, wrapped in crocheted rugs, leads the conversation naturally into “yarn bombing”, or “knit tagging” if you prefer the English term.
“Ballarat’s always been known for its antique shops,” says long-time antiques dealer Sherryn Bailey of Antiques, Goods & Chattels, “but many owners are now passing away.” In their wake comes the new guard, a wave of crafty artists and tricky-minded business girls. Sure, Ballarat still has Sovereign Hill and its gold rush attractions, but there’s life in the old town yet. It’s just life from a different era.
The writer was a guest of Ballarat Regional Tourism.

Five other things to do in Ballarat

1 Hire a bike and cruise the lovely Ballarat Botanical Gardens and Buninyong Botanic Gardens, established in the 1860s. Welcome Nugget Bike Hire, 0423 268 618, ballarat.com/ballaratonabike.
2 Well up with pride in front of the original Eureka flag at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Australia’s oldest regional art gallery. artgalleryofballarat.com.au.
3 Buy up at the farmers’ markets: Ballarat Fresh Produce Market (first Saturday of the month); Ballarat Lakeside Farmers Market (second and last Saturday); Buninyong Farmers Market (third Saturday).
4 Uncover a hotbed of talent by designers and emerging artists at the quarterly Design Exchange market — October 7, December 16, Mining Exchange, 8 Lydiard Street North, thedesignexchange.com.au.
Walk the monuments of Sturt Street: two kilometres of central gardens with bandstands, statues and fountains.

Trip notes

Getting there: Ballarat is a 75-minute drive from Melbourne. Rental cars can be hired at Tullamarine, or V/Line (vline.com.au). Fast trains operate from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Ballarat.
Staying there:  Martin Place sleeps nine at a pinch in two queen bedrooms and bunks in the kids’ room, which is fantastically kitted out with toys and books, and is also pet-friendly. From $215/night midweek, 12 Martin Street, 0429 439 448, www.montroseofballarat.com.au.
Shopping there:
De’s Recycled Fashions, 202 South Street, (03) 5332 8300.
Miss Lulu’s PinCurl Pin-Ups, 0433 207 814.
My Sister Pat, 74A Main Road, mysisterpat.com.au.
Red Brick Gallery and Emporium, 218A Skipton Street, 0402 416 097, redbrickgallery.com.au.
That Little Vintage Shop, 13 Main Road, 0425 731 639.
The Crafty Squirrel, cnr Errard and Urquhart streets, (03) 5331 4548, thecraftysquirrel.com.au.
Vegas and Rose, 96 Humffray Street North, (03) 5332 4287, vegasandrose.com.au.

Eating there:
Craig’s Royal Hotel, 10 Lydiard Street South, (03) 5331 1377, craigsroyal.com.au.
Cake Bakeshop, 30 Main Road, (03) 5333 3384, cakebakeshop.com.au.
Eclectic Tastes, 2 Burbank Street, (03) 5339 9252.

Living in the vintage scene:
Babushka Bar, 59 Humffray Street North.
The Mallow Hotel, 18-20 Skipton Street.
The Front Bar, cnr Mair and Peel streets.
Miss Daisy Amazing’s Go-Go Dancing, 14 Camp Street, 0448 314 445.
Ballarat Roller Derby Leagueballaratrollerderby.com.au.
Ballarat Ska Orchestrafacebook.com/ballaratskaorchestra.
Ballarat Rockersballaratrockers.com.

More information: Ballarat Regional Tourism, (03) 5320 5758, visitballarat.com.au.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/activity/shopping/groovy-is-the-new-gold-20120921-26aej.html#ixzz27MSQiAa0


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