We always keep an eye on intricately handmade works of art when we travel either for business or leisure-- or both. And so, fresh from a trip to Northern Thailand, we came home with very tired eyes (from all the colors and textures!) yet very inspired with loads of great finds!
It's one thing to acquire a handmade piece borne out of culture and tradition and another to actually make it relevant to your closets, your living room, your kitchen-- or simply put, your lifestyle. It's your way of giving it a modern yet personal spin that makes this whole 'eclecticism' so interesting and so 'current.'
At Soi Chic, we bring your exotic finds with a contemporary spin. Starting with this amazingly intricate embroidered vest from the Karen tribe of southern Myanmar.
Styled with a chambray button down shirt, cropped jeans, and pool slides. Finished off with the Linda tote from Abre. We will take this look to some exotic locale or to a weekend road trip. Switch the slides to classic black pumps and this look will be work-appropriate in a creative environment.
We know the versatility of the classic white button down a little too well. We wear it with almost anything and in this case the Hmong wrap mini gave our favorite closet staple a playful punch. We love that the shirt is peeking out of the skirt giving it an unexpected twist. Classic black pumps and a structured tote polish the look.
The Hmong knee-length wrap skirt is a statement piece you can dress up or down. Styled with a boxy top and sandals-- we will take this look from work week to weekend. The Chedi scarf brings a jet-set feel to the outfit whether its tied around your neck or on your tote.
There you have it. Five easy looks from our trusty preppy-jet set style formula. Here's to hoping we have helped you introduce your Soi Chic finds into your daily sartorial takes with fun and ease!
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and stylish mother-daughter duo as Suman and Anjie Gogna. Their gorgeous skin, deep eyes and perfect eyebrows are definitely to envy not to mention how they flawlessly pull off laidback luxe style. Suman was born in India and moved to the Philippines thirty years ago. She has since been going back at least twice a year to visit family and shop for her then home-based boutique, Gifts of the Maharani. Her daughter Anjie, a makeup artist, has also been helping her run the business. They recently opened OM: Lifestyle + Café where they serve the best samosas and gulab jamun amidst a treasure trove of embroidered kurtas, printed caftans, hand embroidered fabrics, intricate accessories and unique home décor. Everyone at the HQ has been itching to go to India and our Creative Head, Bliss is the first to live the dream so we asked these experts for pointers and insider tips.
What are your favorite things to do in India? What's the best thing about going there?
Suman: Bond with family and friends, get connected with the root and culture, and eat authentic Indian food. And of course, shop until we drop.
What is the hardest thing about traveling there?
Suman: Personally, I don’t find it difficult because I was originally from there and well connected with the local culture and vibe. For foreign tourists, I would imagine it to be dealing with the public comfort rooms, transportation, foreign exchange and sometimes the language barrier.
Anjie: There are a lot of things I find similar between Delhi, where we travel to, and Manila. So basically it’s the things that make it difficult to travel here that make it difficult to get around there as well. For instance, when traveling in the summer, the intense heat gets draining and makes it harder to move around. There’s also crowds of people to deal with everywhere you go given the dense population.
What are the top three must see places?
Suman: For the first time tourist must to see is Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It’s considered as a golden triangle. Delhi being the capital and still lot of British structures, beautiful architectural sites like the India Gate, President’s House, Red Fort, etc. In Agra, one can find the Taj Mahal, considered as one of the eight wonders of the world. It is a marble monument made by Maharaja Akbar for his beloved wife Mumtaz, embedded with semi precious stones. Jaipur is also known as “The Pink City”. It is a beautiful city of palaces and you will see the highlight of old culture and tradition.
Any advice for first time travelers? What should we expect?
Suman: They should travel with an open mind. They will encounter some beautiful sights and some also not so beautiful.
Anjie: Despite the notion people have of India being unsafe for women, it is just like traveling to any other country where there is always some danger when one puts himself in a vulnerable situation. So basically, it’s the same precautions you must take as with all travels - be careful of your belongings, don’t go out alone late at night avoiding places that aren’t centrally located. Other than that, travel with an open mind. Be open to witnessing everything from sights of intense poverty, to richness of culture, to cows chilling on the roads.
What are the important things for us to bring and what should we absolutely get?
Suman: Travel light. In India, dress more for comfort than fashion. Or better yet, be comfortably fashionable in light shirts with harem pants or long dresses. Be in comfortable walking shoes and bring a hat to combat the heat at this time of the year. Drink only bottled water, and take some medicines for emergency.
Anjie: India is very fashion forward in the metropolitan areas but if you are traveling as a tourist, you still want to dress simpler as it is still a conservative country at the end of the day. Leave your short shorts behind or you could be stared at. Instead, be one with the culture and have fun dressing in Indo-western get ups such as gyspy skirts or harem pants with light shirts. Keeping a light shawl or sarong with you helps so you can use it to shield from the sun, or to protect the hair from dust during commute.
Coming home, you shouldn’t miss packing some Indian sweets, and anything from clothes to home décor or home linen adorned with any hand-done work such as embroidery or block printing. These are arts that have been passed on from one generation to another and no other country’s intricacy in detail can come close to that of India’s.
What is your take on the Filipinos view of Indian culture?
Suman: Filipinos have a mix view about Indian culture for some it’s a lifetime experience, It’s exotic.. Once is not enough. For others, they find it dirty, and there is poverty, the food is spicy.
Anjie: If the Filipino’s view of India is an exotic culture where there is much to be explored, then that would be a view I agree with. But if the Filipino’s view of India is a dirty, poor country that is unsafe, then I think, being from Manila, that is just a completely unfair way to look at India.
What do you want people to know about India?
Suman: India is the second oldest civilization so there is much to explore. It’s a mix culture country from east to west, north to south. It’s beautifully diverse that merely traveling from one state to another, one will already get to experience an extreme difference in culture, religion, language, food habits, arts even the religion and the climate.
Why do you think everyone should travel to India?
Suman: Everyone should travel to India because it has a lot to offer from arts, culture, traditions and shopping.
Anjie: I think traveling to India is a truly enriching experience that as much as possible, one must experience in their lifetime. From culture, to arts, to flavors, it is a country that has so much to offer. All your senses will get activated and possibly overwhelmed with one travel to India.
Any funny/interesting travel anecdotes you can share?
Suman: While we were walking in the old part of Delhi once, a monkey swinging on the electrical wires just came from a building and grabbed my shades straight from my head!
Anjie: We were stuck in a traffic jam on a rickshaw once and witnessed a guy from inside his car swinging a baseball bat out of his car window out of road rage!
How has your traveling to India affected you?
Anjie: We are both constantly inspired by the Indian lifestyle yet we enjoy living it out in a more modern way given that we are based in Manila. That influences our lifestyle from the way we designed our home, our boutique down to our clothing and accessories, which we wear and sell.
What is the best thing about traveling with your Mom/daughter?
Suman: The best thing is we have a company of each other. We enjoy the same things. It’s easier to shop. We could take better care when traveling with each other. And myself, having been born and bought up there, have better knowledge of what is best to do in the local sense like where to go, how to get there.
Anjie: That just means I have the best travel buddy, shopping buddy, and tour guide, all rolled into one!
[All photos generously shared by the Gognas from their personal album]
Watch out for more exotic and exquisite finds at our Indian Bazaar!
We read a lot about our destination for our team's first ever seeking adventure together before we even booked our airline tickets. It was the city's charm, mystery, and coffee culture that got us reeling with excitement prior to departure. It turns out, no amount of reading can ever prepare a group of giddy first-timers in Hanoi.
We arrived in the wee hours of the morning from a red-eye flight but woke up refreshed and rejuvenated to singing song birds beside our hotel and the almost intoxicating aroma of Vietnamese drip coffee.
We stepped out and were instantly greeted by swarms of motorbikes left and right. Soaking in the whiffs of boiling pots we spot in every corner, we found a barber setting up shop on the side street. Bikers in conical hats balancing the local produce and shop vendors getting ready for the day. All these scenarios and more, tell tales of a typical day in Hanoi's Old Quarter.
The tranquil Hoan Kiem Lake divides the bustling Old Quarter from the tree-lined grand boulevards of the French Quarter. Here, one can bask in French colonial architecture with the Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel and the Opera House leading the pack. This side of town is also home to the capital's fanciest restaurants where the wide streets are way easier to navigate than that of the Old Quarter's sometimes stinky alleyways. Stink aside, we still preferred the latter.
However contrasting the two sides may seem, both were interesting enough to be a great source of inspiration to our team. Every corner, every alley, every hawker we encountered can easily make for an exhausting getaway but simply put, Hanoi is a place that grows on you the more you experience it. All the more so after unearthing great finds-- which was the very reason why we were there in the first place.
If you ever find yourself in this charming corner of the world, here's a tip or two..
Think worldly and sophisticated Mademoiselle you just want to hang out with. This hotel is so charming we spent more time here than what we originally planned. It was as if we were transported back to 1920's. We literally had to peel ourselves off our comfortable patio chairs and snap out of girly chitchat.
A "bang for dong" recommendation by our trusty LUXE guide. It was comfortable with good service and is right smack the bustling Old Quarter. It didn't hurt that it had free WIFI too!
Also a LUXE guide reco, this hotel was one of our choices but decided against it, as it sits next to the lake and is a little far from all the seeking action. It is said to have a modish Asian flair to it that I think is worth a try-- next time.
We tracked this down on our first day and covered a good number of blocks and alleys to find it. It's famed for its vegan fare, strong cocktails with good vibes for dessert. After lunch, we discovered the place has a roof garden perfect for sundowners. If only we had the time to while away. 6 Hội Vũ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam
If you only have time for one cup of coffee in Hanoi, it has got to be in Cong Caphe. I'm not big on cold coffee but the Vietnamese drip with coconut frozen yoghurt is to die for.
We chanced upon this courtyard hideaway of a resto and we couldn't be happier. Food is French-Vietnamese experimental bites and is a little on the high side, price-wise. Although the refuge it offers from the chaos of the Old Q makes it all worth it. 48 Hang Be Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
No better way to experience authentic local fare than at the side streets. Where hole-in-the-wall eateries abound, it's best to ask your hotel concierge for recommendations. We had our own share of the 'real deal' right outside our hotel!
There is practically nowhere else to shop in Hanoi than the Old Quarter. This is where you'll find snaking streets of trade each aptly named after their specialty, from silver to silk, to bamboo and even down to coffins (!).
To sum it up, Hanoi is a sweet escape. Try to make it there for more than a weekend as there are lots to see and lots to eat! If you don't have the time, leave the shopping to us. We have sought great finds you can seek right from your desk or your mobile phones sans the three-hour plane ride.
'Til our next seeking adventure!
Your Purveyor of the Uniq,
We think you are in and we've set your currency to ()Change country