Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hula Hooping in Paris?

Sure, why not! I've been doing the hula hoop aerobic exercise on my Wii. Not as fun as doing it in the streets of Paris.

Here's how the professionals do it ...

Japan I love you: Street style

Japan was everything I had hoped for and more. We traveled through Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka before heading back to Tokyo again for our flight back to Hong Kong. Despite the frenetic energy and pace, the love of aesthetics is a huge part of Japanese culture. Hence the fact that most things from the people to the landscaping to the way meals are set out are groomed to perfection. It was a whirlwind of incredible food, people and sights to see. Although the lack of English speaking skills does make one feel a bit Lost in Translation, the Japanese still go out of their way to be polite, friendly and helpful. A place where the freshest sashimi just melts in your mouth, where modernity and tradition lie side by side in an urban jungle punctuated with stunning world heritage temple sites, where people wear both ed hardy and yukatas (casual kimonos) on the streets, a hustle and bustle of neon signs and karaoke bars.
Ah, karaoke. How I loath and love thee in equal measure, like a good rum cocktail. Time flies, all seems well with the world, but then you wake up and wonder if you have anything to show for time past except a good hangover and a raspy voice that you desperately hope passes for husky and sexy. My Tokyo karaoke experience is a hazy memory of all you can drink sake and cheesy inaccurate music videos that are hilariously mismatched to the songs, and yes, me attempting to rap to Jay Z. God forbid there is evidence of this in a video somewhere and so I wait, fearfully, with bated breath, clutching my laptop, ready to untag such Facebook monstrosity....

I saw him perform live at the Summer Sonic festival a few days after. His rendition of New York was fairly standard...but if you ask the random group of fellow hostel travellers who had the luxury, nay the PLEASURE, of watching me drop it to the beat (not sure if that's the correct lingo? Word...) I am sure they would say my version was far more entertaining. Booyah, Jay-Z, to the izzle. And all that. (Somewhere in Holland, a fan club will spring in my name...just you wait!)
Now onto street style. For those of you who are actually reading this as opposed to skipping straight to the photos, kudos. Japan is famous for it's street style, and as an avid reader of street style websites/ magazines etc etc, words cannot describe how excited I was to actually be there and photograph it for myself. As a contributor to an online magazine in the works, sadly most of my best work is not here, but I kept some cherry pickings for myself :).
Generally, in the cities, the Japanese make a great effort with their style, looking perfectly coiffed and styled. It wasn't unusual for us to see girls at 10am during the week in heels, full on makeup and hair and styled to perfection. Hair tended to be dyed a light brown, and most girls had on fake eyelashes and lots of blush, very doll-like. They clearly were not headed towards a cubicle or a desk somewhere either. As averse to the sun as many Hong Kong citizens, layering was key. Many wore plain t-shirts under long dresses, jumpsuits or playsuits, which tended to be in a multitude of flowery prints. The women's style tended to be very feminine, again almost baby doll-esque.
I have my fair share of one-piece rompers: A lazy woman's styling fix as it saves on having to decide what top goes with what bottoms etc. And they're so comfy! Although a jumpsuit is much trickier - one can easily go from looking Lauren Hutton 70's chic to belonging to the illustrious group that is the people of Walmart. You have been warned. Unless you're a svelte and fabulous Japanese woman who can pull off a loose print:
Surprisingly, style is not as extreme or quirky in most of Japan as I thought it was pre-trip. The famous Harajuku street style shines brightest on the weekend and is quite tame during the normal weekdays. Boater hats were very popular, apparently inspired by the fixation on schoolgirl style and manga. Although there was one point of contention, stylistically: scrunchies. I saw many many impossibly sophisticated women wearing scrunchies. I know what you're thinking: scrunchies and sophisticated in the same sentence: a stylistic oxymoron perhaps? A fashion paradox? Two words that should never share residence in the same sentence? Perhaps as someone who matured during the 90's and suffered numerous awkward moments during a generally very awkward adolescence, any style associated with this period may tend to get a thumbs-down from me. But as I fight my negative bias of the-thing-that-shall-not-be-named, perhaps I should keep an open mind. Quite honestly, the ladies of Japan don't make them look so bad after all....
This photo illustrates quintessential Japanese style: boater hat, scrunchy, t-shirt under dress and a cute stuffed toy key chain. Let me tell you, running around the streets of Osaka and Tokyo asking people to pose for my camera was scary but giddy fun in equal measure, aided by a loosely translated text (thank you Google translate) that somehow managed to get the message across of "Hi I am a photographer you look pretty now pose bitches" (in obviously a much nicer way- this is the country that brought the world ninjas and nun chucks after all. No, I did not see either. The closest I came to a Samurai was a fruity cocktail we had in a bar called Bar Moon Walk one night. Yes, it was tasty. Where is this aside going you wonder? Or are you wondering why you are still reading this random tangent of irrelevant thought? I wonder how the Japanese type LOL. Okay I'll stop now....hehe) . 私の日本語は素晴らしいです!クールセクシーなセクシー. See? Positively fluent.

Everyone should travel to Tokyo at least once. If purely for the hedonistic pleasure of shopping and eating. And for the street style, of course. And so I leave you with this salient thought:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Up, Up and Away

Lily of France... I've always loved their print ads! And their web site is gorgeous too. But this ad in particular swept me away. It reminded me that I'm flying to Paris in 30 days! I woke up this morning thinking it's only 30 days now. And I can't get this song out of my mind ...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Double click to enlarge

How yummy does this sound?

You'll find another variation of this recipe with a bourbon twist here.

Dear Bed Bugs: Stay out of Paris! Signed, Cynthia


It's in the news everywhere you look (a big segment about bed bugs appeared in today's Good Morning America show).

After researching the tiny pest and measures to control infestation ad nauseum, I wonder why this is such a problem now. Bed bugs have been around for centuries.  That's why people beat rugs and mattresses outside with brooms like in some Charles Dickens novel. And I've slept in all kinds of questionable establishments in my time where I'm sure a bed bug has lurked, although I have no memory of getting bitten. I've never had a problem with the critters. Are people becoming more lax with their housecleaning?

Apparently, the traveler must be on guard against bed bugs, even at the best hotels. My strategy is to encase my belongings in Zip Lock bags. My biggest fear is not so much as getting bit by a bed bug in Paris as it is bringing a pregnant one (or a procreating couple) home with me from my trip.


Fortunately, at home I change sheets often, wash and dry on high heat (which kills the buggers). And while on my trip I will have a secret weapon (talcum powder) at my disposal to sprinkle on my body at night (it's supposed to keep the bed bugs away), and of course the previously mentioned Zip Lock bags.

I can't think about this any more.

Until Paris.

Sleep tight!

Monday, August 16, 2010

You're Free To Move About The World

AT&T is a cell phone carrier that knows how to make a successful promotion. Take a look at these great posters. Using just hands and a phone, American carrier recreates a popular idea of painting hands into the colors of different countries.