Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kayu Good Gifts

We're all guilty of committing the Christmas shopping crime sometimes. That is to be distracted by all the pretty things for ourselves instead of checking the almost endless gift list for our loved ones. Well, if you're feeling a little guilty about bursting your budget and yet still haven't found the perfect gift for that special gal, a classy Kayu clutch may just be your guilt-free solution.
My absolute fave Jen clutch made of straw with a turquoise clasp. Lovely palette good for day or night. Perfect arm candy at a beach lounge.

See Jacquetta Wheeler rock the Denise clutch at London Fashion Week!
Not just beautiful and versatile, this stylish selection will take you right up there on Santa's Good List. “Each bag is handcrafted by women’s cooperatives in Asia using traditional techniques, and are made out of sustainably sourced straw and shell.” quotes San Francisco based Jamie Lim, CEO of Kayu. The brand name which means "wood" in Malay, reflects Jamie's love for the outdoors and nature and also her childhood years spent in different parts of Asia, including Malaysia.

The cycle of a Kayu product is just so inspiring. Being made of eco-friendly material and helping the poor by providing a source of income for the women artisans are not enough for this socially responsible label. To stretch the sustainability cycle wider, for every Kayu handbag purchased, Kayu donates one backpack and school supplies to a child in Cambodia.

If a clutch is not quite the perfect gift for your gal pal, Kayu also offers a selected range of handcrafted sunglasses made of bamboo.
In fact, the shades were Kayu's initial launch product and were featured in US Vogue, In Style and Elle. What a feat for a new brand and deservingly so. These sunglasses give back by funding one sight-restoring surgery for every pair sold. Kayu's goodness and coolness just doesn't stop. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that it was showcased at London Fashion Week this year?
Jamie shares that their next handbag collection will feature sterling silver clutches and I can't wait to see them! Kayu is available in selected retailers across the USA, Europe, Brazil and Australia. Not yet in Asia but you can ring up the brownie points at its online store that ships internationally.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Of Wine, Whales and Penguins

Cape Town is a great place for a road trip. With the help of a GPS for this navigationally challenged duo, we headed to the winelands as soon as we touched down. Devon Valley which sat serenely on the edge of South Africa's famous Stellenbosch made a very good start to the hols.


Loved the extra touch of rose petals and celebratory champers

You probably know by now my husband and I can't get enough of animals so off we went to Hermanus for one of the best landbased whale watching in the world. We must've seen more than 50 Southern right whales pass by. We didn't opt to take a closer look at the whales from a boat in fear of disturbing these gentle giants. Although boats are supposed to be at least 50m away from the whales, watching them from the low cliffs was more than good enough. This piece of news could signal that too much attention is unwelcomed.
We took hundreds of photos but never caught a good breaching shot. Here's a high five instead.

Balcony of Whale View Guest House

And how can we miss the penguins at Boulders Beach? A short 40 minute drive from Cape Town you get to see...

Even the penguin is screaming for me to stop moonlighting as PR for Tourism Cape Town so ok, lemme just squeeze in a few more pix.

Table Mountain

Camps Bay

Does anyone know what's this? It looks like a cross between a sheep and a llama.
A cutie running by the beach

He's set on not missing out on the good weather!

 Ok ok, stop already!

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Place in Cape Town

Having my honeymoon a few months after the wedding gave me many days to scour Trip Advisor and writing enquiry emails to explore desert dune camping and a cheetah sanctuary in Namibia, Mnemba in Tanzania and other African gems. My husband and I tried avoiding the obvious choice of Cape Town thinking it must be awfully touristy. We gave in eventually and aren't we glad for the many friends who protested "Oh, you MUST GO!"

To start, let's talk about this quaint owner-run guesthouse we stayed in called Blackheath Lodge.
With co-owner Antony
Delight awaits pass this door

Wall decor on the left made from repurposed telephone cables. "Hunting trophy" made from clay.

Originally built in 1890, the house was refurbished and redecorated by Antony and his biz partner. Eclectic and personal, it felt like living in a house torn off the pages of Elle Decor. Not much of a morning person but I was rise and shine, happy and hungry for their breakfast savoured on the sunny terrace.

Fruit crumble was crunchy yummylicious goodness

Like Singita posted previously, Blackheath Lodge has a nice programme for the wellbeing of its family of staff. Their children are aided by way of school fees, uniforms, stationary, application assistance and other necessary areas to ensure that they get a solid education. Siba (11 years old), Yidwa (6), Yolanda (14), Aden (6), Tanya (21) are able to attend better schools in the city with this support.
The children's achievements are the pride and joy of Blackheath

Guests can chip in as well. Antony shared, "The Blackheath Lodge Education Fund started as a result of a real need to improve the standard of education for children in South Africa. We, at Blackheath Lodge started back in 2006 on a small scale and now through very generous support we now fully fund all our staff's children’s education. "
Local crafts
An insightful coffee table book at the hotel about the way of life in South Africa seen through recipes.

Sunset view on our walk to dinner nearby
Tips are shared equally among staff which is by far the fairest system since people working behind-the-scenes play as big a role to make a comfortable stay. Try to ask for this arrangement on your next hotel stay if it is a smaller, more flexible establishment.

This post is loaded with pix already so will keep the rest of my Cape Town adventure for the next. Having acquired a fondness for the local tea, Blackheath Lodge is just my cup of rooibos tea for a memorable stay.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Safari True Love

Wow, feels like I've been away forever! What a beautiful time my hubs and I had on our honeymoon. From a city to the jungle then to the deep blue. It felt like the most blissful whirlwind.

The best part of all was the safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa. It was everything that it's said to be and more. We love animals and it brought such a sense of peace and joy to see them roaming in their natural habitat and respected by visitors. We were very lucky to see the Big 5: the leopard, lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo. I found a new love for rhinoceros after seeing a baby white rhino of about 3 months taking a walk with mommy. We were also extremely fortunate to have a close encounter with the endangered black rhino that even our tracker, Andrew was seeing for the first time in 10 years. A video of that is at the end of this post.

A baby white rhino skipping along. It will be with mommy till it's about 4 years old.

We actually saw lions before we even checked in, on our short ride to the lodge. What a super welcome.

Each drive was guided by a highly experienced and qualified guide (that's Chris at the driver's seat) and tracker, Andrew who has the sharpest eyes to look out for footprints on the ground and animals hiding in camouflage.

Through my conversation with Andrew, I learnt that Kruger Park's strict conservation effort since becoming a reserve some 100 years ago has not only changed the lives of the community, but also the fate of animals. Poaching used to be one of the most common source of income for the locals but as they learn more about the real treasure of conserving the park and its natural inhabitants, things have changed for the better. There are even many poachers-turned-conservationists now and the safari lodges provide employment opportunities.

We stayed in a gorgeous suite at Singita Lebombo. The architecture mimics an eagle's nest tugged inconspicuously in nooks of the low mountain to enjoy the best vantage point blending in perfectly with the natural landscape, most importantly the structure minimises disruptions to the animals and environment. We watched the theatre with a cast of noisy hippos, water bucks, crocs, and flocks of birds from our room and each morning, we greeted deers having brekkie right at our doorstep.

Photo courtesy of Singita

Our home, amazingly sweet home for 5 days

Photo courtesy of Singita

Can you find the 4 crocs?

Me lazing in at our balcony

Breakfast buddy

What I love most about this place is its efforts to give back. Whilst some properties boast of community involvement, I'm skeptical. I played spy and casually interviewed some staff on the credibility of what's published in their website. True enough, as much as sensible, staff and supplies are sourced locally to help the village's economy. Education support for children and comprehensive training in F&B, hospitality and wildlife studies (for guides and trackers) for adults are taken seriously by Singita. Read more about its efforts here.

Chris sharing his knowledge about Kruger's beautiful nature on a walking safari.

I love 'em hippos!

Hornbill aka Flying Banana

It's the natural behaviour of the rhino to charge when it feels threaten. It usually stops and walks away when it sees that the perceived threat does not retaliate or isn't a danger afterall.

Our love for nature has grown through this experience and we feel the pain of human cruelty to their survival and subsequently, ours. God has blessed us with a balanced eco-system, let's do our part to protect it. Read more here.

It's so good to be back and there will be more honeymoon stories to follow.

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