cait +tiff

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T / happy monday /

Artwork Credit: Print Magazine

Confession. I have been a font (sorry…typeface) nerd since I was tiny.  Yes.  High school publications were involved.  I won’t say which one because that will take the geek levels through the roof.  So when this little doco showed up on my daily blog roll, I may or may not have ecstatically clicked.  I also may have gotten equally excited about this font around 1995 too.  So if you’re the type of person who also get excited about fonts, this tiny video is adorable.  And if you feel like a deeper diver, this one (of course) and absolutely this one (the envy of all design careers!).

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T / not just temples – siem reap part two.

Here’s the thing about Siem Reap.  It’s not just temples.  Yeah, I know that 700 year old World Heritage Site there, emblematic of Khmer heritage and culture.  But you can still celebrate that and avoid waking up at 4am and getting clocked in the head with a selfie stick mounted with an iPad.  And for those of us who’ve been there more times than I can count, it’s also not a shabby place for a quick weekend getaway (see last week!).  Siem Reap is a base for so many artisans and innovators.  Basically, it’s where the cool kids are at, making gorgeous and delicious things and taking Khmer art and cuisine beyond anything.

I kept hearing from friends it was the place to be.  And many of these places are in Kandal Village.  No, not an actual village.  But a couple of blocks that you can eat and shop the heck out of.  Plus, these guys are organized like a tiny mafia of entrepreneurs, so naturally they’ve got an accessible map of it all that you can grab on the way in.  So when you’re all konked out from the temples, you can spend all your money here.

So on my last weekend in the little city, I wanted to go a little nuts and find all these places.

PS – this little guide is not exhaustive. A weekend is obviously not enough.  Next time – this food tour’s on my racket.

Start at Sister Srey in Siem Reap’s central market area – far enough that it that sufficiently avoids the obnoxious backpackers but still easily accessible.  This little Aussie-inspired café has built up a following among expats and visitors over the past couple of years and I finally got to check it out. In addition to being a training restaurant, they also serve excellent coffee and affordable casual fare like chicken schnitzel sandwiches and YES, avocado toast for brekkie.

When you actually get to Kandal village, your probably want another coffee. Or maybe that’s just me.  Anyways, our coffee Yoda and my buddy Corbett have been waxing poetic about Little Red Fox Espresso for ages.  Their creations are beyond solid. I can’t think of another place in Cambodia that can serve a ristretto.  Also – Montreal inspired bagels (which are apparently a theme in Siem Reap).  And if you’re still hungry in Kandal Village and want something a little more on the vegan side of things, check out Vibe, down the street. We just got one in Phnom Penh and the city is ecstatic about the acai bowls and all the nut milks in the world.

There’s pretty much only one reason I can think of to go to Pub Street.  If you haven’t been to Siem Reap before, then let me paint you a picture: fanny packs, drunken frat boys, gap year kids, and a crap ton of vendors shilling the same T-shirt.  And fish massage.  But I do have to say, this central tourist area has its charm – the little alleys with hidden treasures like Gelato Lab (Phnom Penhers – we’re getting one too!).  I don’t think I need to say more.  That scoop, above, is a Zabaione.  t tasted exactly like one should.  And I probably couldn’t find one anywhere else this side of the Mekong.

All of these eats and drinks have been recommendations from my buddy Mike. He has the luck of getting shipped up here a ton, so the man knows his lay of the land.  But by far, I am most grateful for this one, even if its namesake was off in Madagascar.  Georges Rhumerie was one of the most memorable meals.  They start you off with a complimentary shot of their home-infused rum.  And what follows is a meal (and series of drinks) inspired by Creole cuisines from the Reunion Islands and Georges’ own home of Madagascar.  That means foie gras served alongside chutneys, gratins that seriously pop and the best sausages ever.  Finish it off with baba au rhum and you’re fine.  A three course meal for two, with beverages will not shatter your wallet at roughly $45.  This is Siem Reap’s best secret that I may or may not have ruined.  So make reservations.

So one last thing.  I like me some good artisanal bread.  A starter that’s past through centuries.  A good pungent rye.  And bagels.  Zita and Jana started out on the farmer’s market circuit in Siem Reap and just finally broke their bread with Bang Bang (pronounced like the Khmer numPANG from which it’s derived).  Zita makes the bread and Jana’s all about the cakes.  Look at those babies!  We flew back with a massive loaf of perfect rye and a half dozen of equally yummy bagels (of the New York variety for you purists).

Siem Reap being full of artisans means that you’re going to find things you would never find in Phnom Penh’s drone of occasional repetition.  And most of the treasures you do find in the capital are crafted by the wealth of skilled artisans in Siem Reap.   Ceramics is an excellent place to start.  Before I left, my pal Hillary said I had to check out Louise Labourieres in Kandal Village.  Not only did I get to check out her gorgeous goodies, but I got to meet the lady herself (thank you for that recommendation to Bang Bang!).  Her collection of gorgeously designed and so well curated of pale pinks and torquoises that pair perfectly with the soft cream of her ceramics.

Then just up a couple of doors is Mademoiselle Thyda.  Basically – buy all of your foodie friend gifts here.  Everything in this store is regional and beyond Kampot pepper.  You’ll discover what’s happening on the spice route in the hilly and indigenous northeast, or tiny organic farms that are just starting to dot the peri-urban areas in Phnom Penh.

And next door (see how convenient Kandal Village is?) is Niko’s Studio.  I absolutely adore the French artist’s adornments painted on wooden Buddha carvings.  I got to meet Niko herself and learn about how she approaches each piece.  She even works in this studio itself so you might even get to see the piece you want crafted in action.

All photos by Tiffany Tsang.  Please request permission for use.  Cait+Tiff are not liable for prices of long haul flights incurred.

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T / happy monday* / craving hard

Photo Credit: Lucky Peach

*yes I know it’s Tuesday. But Cait’s still in Monday.  So ha.

You know those moments when you can’t get this one thing out of your head?  It’s not even for anyone’s birthday.  I just cannot get Funfetti cake out of my head.  I have never even had Funfetti cake before.  We don’t even have Funfetti in Canada.  It’s SPRINKLES.

I’m not a person who craves sweet things, but it’s one of those mornings (hello 150 burpees) and I’ve turned into a toddler.  Beyond the burpees, work is getting busy, so you’ll also notice I’m writing this on the wrong day, and I’ve turned into a slightly manic cake monster.

So I leave you with this – a tiny video on making the most famous sprinkle (sorry Funfetti) cake around: Christina Tosi’s Birthday Cake at Momofuku Milkbar.  It’s so iconic, it inspired a skin salve (which I have on right now because it’s an adequate replacement).  I’m going to make Cait eat it for me since she’s in NYC and I might even make an attempt at it myself.  If I ever get out of this chair.  Happy Monday…errr Tuesday.

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T / not going for the temples – siem reap part one.

You’d think that this blog having origins in Phnom Penh would have put up a Siem Reap guide or two by now.  After all, Cait and I have run our fair share of Angkor Wat Marathons, personally brought and sent visitors, the whole shebang.  This time around, I was looking for a getaway that wasn’t the usual haunts of Kep or Kampot.  I looked northeast, partnered up with the wonderful folks at MAADS, and got to check out Templation, their new 5 star property in Siem Reap that prides itself on sustainability.

A combination of burnout related sensations happens when you live in Phnom Penh.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this city and I’ve actually called it home for the past six yearss.  But even for this mild mannered freelancer, there comes a point in time where you need to get the heck out of dodge.

Templation is one of the brand spanking new hotels in Siem Reap that not only prides itself on the modern design, impeccable service and gorgeous setting, but also sustainability.  And they’re part of the MAADS family of hotels that I love so much (check out old faves here and here). So it was the obvious place I wanted to escape to with my partner when we both realized we were more than a bit exhausted.  This morning person sometimes needs a little lie-in.

And with reliable and safe flights going three times a day from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on Angkor Air, we found ourselves checking into Templation just three hours after locking up our apartment. The place is just fabulous and the moment you walk in, you know you’re in a MAADS property, bring warmly greeted by staff and lead to relax at their veranda bar by the pool while they get everything ready for you.

We were lead to our Pool Suite (read: PRIVATE POOL) and we never had any desire to leave the confines of our little 70 square meter escape.  When I did have to work (let’s be honest, the work is never done and I like to respond to clients immediately), I could retreat into the air-conditioned living room for some quick design edits, and then dive right into the pool again.

Oh right.  That pool.  It’s not the usual tiny bathtub that many hoteliers try to pass off as a pool.  This baby is huge.  And the whirlpool jets are cherry on top.  Also, those walls that line your private little space are high, and lined with all the green things so you know that your little foray into skinny dipping is for your companion’s eyes only.  

The other thing about the folks at MAADS is that they are experts at combining modernity with the local vibe.  Every little element I couldn’t help but think that this is how the future of Cambodia living could look like.  Concrete structures that felt warm and inviting.  The perfect amount of minimalism and sparseness in each room so you never felt boxed in by decorative elements.  The walk to your suite even feels like you’re strolling through a lush utopian planet on Star Trek.  And I mean that with the fullest adoration and fangirl sentiment.

MAADS properties also pride themselves on sustainability. But Templation takes this a step further.  They’re near completely energy self sufficient.  This means that they’re producing almost enough energy, from solar panels installed by Solearon, to power their operations.  All of those air-conditioners in their 33 suites and villas that have been designed to be energy effiicent, 21 pools private pools, spa, kitchen and other operations are covered.  And they’re the only hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia’s tourist mecca, to do this.  Oh right, they’re also committed to recycling and composting on the property too.  As a David Suzuki-bred Canadian who is trying to be a little more eco-conscious this year, I’m a huge supporter of this.  

So you could come to Siem Reap to see the temples.  But you could also just come to visit this cultural mecca of Cambodia with all the best artisans and most delicious food, and stay at Templation.  Their restaurant is delicious, with a superb breakfast that is the opposite of your typical buffet and is instead an unlimited a la carte menu that’s part of your stay (read: it’s classy).  Templation also boasts a Bodia Spa right on its premises with a free 15 minute back and shoulder massage offered to all guests (this also means Bodia products in all the rooms!).  So even if you did decide to go for that hike up Phnom Kulen, or rise at 5am to catch the temples at sunrise, you have everything waiting for you when you get back.  Seriously.  Not shabby at all.

Templation is located just minutes outside of the Angkor Wat Temple Complex.  Prices will vary according to season.

This was a sponsored post and thanks to Bernard and the folks at MAADS for reaching out for this collaboration.  We’re huge fans of the MAADS family of hotels in Cambodia and we can’t wait to see what you develop next!

PS – next week I’ll be posting a guide to all the new Siem Reap eats and shops!

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.  Cait+Tiff are not liable for any public nudity charges as a result of the luxury of a private pool.

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T / happy monday / i’m a vulture

Photo Credit: ME! (in kenya 2015)

I was about to board a plane to Siem Reap last Friday (more on that later this week!) when Cait called me with the news.  She’s a wombat.  And a few seconds later, we discovered I’m a vulture.  I would like to add at this point that I’ve decided I’m not a wrinkly turkey faced vulture. I’m Canadian and prefer a good coat.  Aesthetics aside, Cait is right, YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY DO THIS, IT IS TOTALLY ACCURATE.

Except I have not read all of the romantic books.  I have not read ANY of them.  But thank you very much, I am an opportunist (that seat at the bar is MINE).  To the point that I might go a little Tracy Flick.  I’m also extremely happy to know that Phil Hartmann lives in my fellow soul zoo.  Yeah, I just called it that because it sounds great and weird.  So yes, please do this

Anyways, flash forward to Monday and I’m a bit of a hot mess of missed posts, a sore throat, burst pipes and flooded kitchens, and a variety of other things we decided that need to get fixed in the house, stat.  And I’m eternally grateful to Erin for this post she shared last week.

At least I can dream about Bangkok.  Favourite of Asian cities.  I see you in three weeks.  Okay, end of jumbled messy head, not vulture-like at all post.  Here’s a gorgeous video about Bangkok.  You should visit.  It’s delicious.  And on that note, here’s a gorgeous little video from the guys at NOWNESS. Michélin starred French chef meets.  Bangkok.  Graphic love making ensues.

Happy Monday and I hope you don’t have any summer time sniffles.

Chef Bertrand Grébaut in “Paris to Bangkok” by Jérôme de Gerlache – NOWNESS from NOWNESS on Vimeo.

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T / departures (other people’s)

Artwork Credit: J. Emslie

Yay we’re back!  Life is pathetic fallacy right now.  Because in addition to the monsoon come the summer time goodbyes in this city and all the related feels.  The last of which happened to me last week.  Which is probably why I got zapped of all inspiration for a little bit.  So I had to write this small meditation to get it over with.  Obviously. 

This life is goodbyes.  Or as I would prefer to refer to them, “see you soons.”  Over the past few weeks, I’ve said these words to not just one but three sets of friends.  Important friends.  The kind of friends that are like the super comfortable favourite pillows on your bed.  Sorry, was that a creepy way of describing friendship?

At the same time, I’m still on the heels of coming back from California, where I saw more than a few sets of friends that I allegedly said goodbye to over the past few years.   And guess what?  It was like we were picking up from where we left off.  Except maybe we had some more money this time around (yeeeah 30s).  I should also mention that I’m not the best at keeping in touch.  Years of poor connectivity and dropped Skype calls have more or less killed my enthusiasm for overseas phone calls.  However, I am amenable to a long form email.  And I hear that the Internet of things works a heck of ton better now.

The other fun thing about this nomadic community we’re a part of is the awkward friendship starter.  I love Kate’s words on the topic.  Because isn’t that what summer is all about?  All these new people landing?  And everyone else you sort of know, have seen around, would like to get to know better?  Looking back on some of my closest friendships I’ve made since leaving Canada, they’ve always been in the most inopportune of places.  Being drenched in a monsoon in an outdoor group work out.  In a deep dark club because we’re both Asian and should be friends.  The infamous roll of Hello Kitty duct tape and the ensuing noodles!  And sweating together.  Always sweating together.  There’s nothing more bonding than that.

And the goodbyes won’t stop.  Ever.  I’m already preparing the the spate of them that will happen in 2018.  And I’ll depart this gorgeous piece of land at some point too.  So I was trying to find something to capture that. But let’s face it, everything would be drag.  So let’s watch these pretty pictures instead.  Because it’s not goodbye.  It just means the next time I see you, it’ll be a different way of coffee (which will probably cost way more than $2.50), bread instead of noodles, and taxis instead of tuk tuks.  Let’s celebrate that.

Paris – NewYork from MRfrukta on Vimeo.

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T / who i’m wearing

Photo Credit: @kellysnapshappy

Oooh.  That blog post title sounds a little too Silence of the Lambs, doesn’t it?  But it’s a skin that fits.  Okay, enough of the murder-y puns.  Let’s get to it.  Instagram has pretty much influenced everything I’ve put on my body.  And then backed up by huge drives down the blog roll rabbit hole.  Power of social media, right?  But seriously, I can trace the inspiration to the handle.  Haircut (@streicherhair), romper (@denisebovee), face (@glossier), sandals (@courtneyadamo).  All somehow screenshot (even from Instastories) followed by an attempt at imitation.  That’s how trends happen, n’est pas?

So I thought I’d share some faves.  These ladies and brands are definitely not your typical unreachable fashion blogger that’s sponsored by Céline and has a million followers that probably originated from a click farm in India.  These guys are all homegrown.  They’re also professionals.   What they wear is accessible.  And they come from every corner of the world, so you get a glimpse of what’s going on over there.

Photo Credit: Ashley Streicher

@streicherhair, aka Ashley Streicher of the STRIIIKE salon in LA, is the source of my romper fixation.  (I’ve got 10 now).  She also has the best hair (and makes the best hair), the funnest life as a sought after hair stylist and it’s a family business.  Aspirational envy? Yes.

Photo Credit: Lee Vosburgh

@leevosburgh (aka StyleBee) is a homechick from my side of the border!  She’s also an incredibly talented designer and pusher of responsible fashion.  I dig all of that.  She’s really into the capsule wardrobe so every single one of her posts reflects that.  Also, that wardrobe!

Photo Credit: Samantha Wong

@samishome…another Canuck, but Samantha Wong is based in our shared homeland of Hong Kong.  She’s a prop stylist (so check out those flatlays!), but the clothes she wears shows the same due diligence.  Also, you get to see all the cool things and delicious eats that the tiny special administrative region with the divisive politics is all about.

Photo Credit: Siki Msuseni

@sikimsuseni hails from South Africa.  She’s also still in school while working as a stylist and thrift lover who really shows off what’s going on in fashion in Capetown.  The combination of the prep and the pattern is my fave.  But she does dabble in the minimal while showing off her city pride.


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T / happy monday / visionary

Photo Source: BFI

I think it would be a personal dream for both Cait and I to do something like this one day.  To go to a brand we love and say, hey – we have a vision for you.  Lend us some of your goodies, and let’s make some magic.

I love that Bri and Jesse (and their lady teams) constructed this from their own vision.  They had carte blanche from the folks at Gorman and they turned that vision into a reality.

We do this every day in our work.  But to get someone to request your vision.  Well, that’s would be just fab.

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T / i fell in love with korean beauty

My skin story is the shortest one ever.  It’s more like a haiku that goes a little something like this.

Adolescence and Proactiv.
With an undergraduate discovery of Cetaphil and Kiehl’s.
Followed by a Southeast Asian sauna.

No I’m serious.  That’s it.  And I know the privilege and luck I have for this.  Because not everyone gets to just use water to wash their face.  Or forget to put on sunscreen and that’s okay (I actually rarely wear it).  And I know beauticians around the world, and my mother, are probably fainting at hearing this.  But hey.  The ball’s gotta drop somewhere, right?  And that’s probably where the early to mid 30s hit and you actually look at the mirror one day.  Your skin isn’t looking as bright and dewy as you did when you were 25.  It’s actually kind of dull.  A decade of not really wearing sunscreen, riding bicycles in tank tops and shorts, all while living in the tropics is starting to catch up.  Those rare Asian freckles you have, might be starting to become a problem. And you’ve got a certain awesome friend who keeps dropping hints that Korean beauty products is where it’s at.

So when I found out I’d have three hours laying over at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport (Cait’s written about her love of it here) with none other than our wonderful friend, Jane Heng, I had to jump on the opportunity.  In addition to being an incredible designer, Jane’s also amassed a library of knowledge on Korean beauty products that is constantly being updated by a dependable blog roll and occasional deep dives onto Reddit (yup – there’s a Reddit thread for Korean beauty).  Jane also knows all of this because her skin story’s a little longer than mine,

“The truth is I’ve always been interested in skincare because I’ve had eczema since I was a baby. I really went through the worst of it in my teens and was addicted to steroid creams prescribed by my dermatologist. It was only really in my mid 20s and especially now in my early 30s that I’ve been looking into K-beauty because it’s gentler for my skin compared to the harmful steroid cream. What’s great about K-beauty is there also an element into what you put into your body. So I’ve also really looked closely into my diet.”

She knows her stuff.  And she even wrote me a little primer for my combination skin in anticipation for our shopping spree:

“For combination skin, hydration is key because your skin will produce more oil if it’s dehydrated. Air-con will also dehydrate your skin. The key is to use lightweight skin products (so it doesn’t feel heavy during the day) that you can layer to help you hydrate. For sun protection, sunscreen is your number one friend. I put sunscreen on everyday, even if it’s a cloudy rainy day. A good sunscreen will help you protect your skin from the sun and pollution. At night, you can use a slightly heavier skin product so that you wake up with hydrated skin. If you wear make-up, a good primer will help.”

So I landed.  Jane took me on the best K-beauty shopping spree a girl could ask for.  We got a ton of free samples.  And I couldn’t write about it until I had used the products for at least six weeks.  I didn’t think I’d fall in line with using so many products. But here I am, two months later, totally convinced and loving my incredibly soft skin.  Seriously.  Feel it.  I’m totally cool with that.  Thank you Jane!!!

PS – Need a deep dive into Korean beauty?  Check out here, here and here.

These guys are my new go to for protecting myself against those nasty UV rays.  We’ve been warned about our shrinking ozone layer since we were kids and apparently I’m only listening now. Innisfree is probably my new favourite brand out of all of these guys.  Their Perfect UV Protection Cream even comes formulated for oily skin (me!) and goes out real smooth.  And their Sun Spray (similar here) feels a little funny at first, but is such a quick and easy way to get sun screen onto my arms and legs.

This routine is completely aspirational.  I don’t always do it.  I’m still completely devoted to my Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer. And I still don’t quite understand what a serum is.  But a girl can try, right?  I’m still washing my face with water, but I’ve got some things that I layer on top.  In the mornings, it would start with Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum.  It’s pretty much a super moisturizer.  And it apparently helps with skin cell regeneration, which ultimately brightens your skin.  Because who likes dead skin cells and a dull complexion?  And then I’ll add on Innisfree’s Green Tea Skin Care Set.  It’s a package of three products that help to balance any skin issues and offer even more deep moisturizing.  My face might even be as soft as a baby’s bum after this.

And if I’m heading out and decide to put on make up (I actually rarely do), I’ll seal it all in with Innisfree’s No Sebum Mineral Pact.  I had no idea what sebum was, nor that I should care about it.  Sebum is the reason my oily skin can look shiny.  And this little powder takes care of it, and you won’t feel a thing.  It’s pretty much light as air.

At night, I’ll use a product that sounds like it came straight out of the baddies from Game of Thrones.  It’s MISSHA’s Aqua Ice Tear Toner.  See what I mean?  But really, it’s incredibly refreshing, especially in this heat.  It resets my skin pH and ultimately helps it to absorb the MISSHA Aqua Ice Tear Cream that follows.  Thank you free samples.

Like I’ve mentioned before, masks are basically my little meditation.  But if they’re gonna give me a tiny time out and leave my skin freakishly soft, I have no reason to avoid them.  These guys by Skin Food are amazing.  Unlike the sheet masks du jour, you’re leaving a slightly less ecological footprint since you’re washing them off.   The Black Sugar Mask even doubles as a fabulous body scrub.  And then Jane even found me a Nature Republic Hair Pack which basically treats my very bleached locks to a thorough deep condition.  

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.  Cait+Tiff are not liable to any possible Korean beauty shopping sprees as a result of this post.

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T / happy monday/ pride any time

Artwork Credit: Skyler Ray

I started going to Pride in Toronto when I was in highschool.  My best friend had just come out of the closet and we were just so lucky to be from a place that celebrated diversity in all of its ways and means.  It’s actually one of the biggest Pride parades in the world. That was 1999.  Flash forward 18 years and Pride has gotten COMPLEX (check out this podcast for a great episode on the topic).  And I’m so happy that it is.  Because it’s not just one thing.  There’s a reason why there’s a Q in there.

Another great thing that’s evolved over the past two decades is the spread of Pride all over the freaking world.  We just had our own party about it back in May.  Pride and LGBTQ culture means something different depending on where you are.  And I just love that there’s a little doco series all about that.  Gaycation!  Within your own borders or across the ocean, actress Ellen Page and her bestie travel the world, to learn from and discover all the different ways LGBTQ is seen and to expand their own horizons. It’s both her own story and the story of the world. It’s really well done.  And it’s online, which  means you can even celebrate Pride in the dead of winter, on your couch.  You can watch it all online here.  Happy binging.