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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 / 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 / i dream of berlin

Photo Credit: Felix Brüggemann

As I’ve mentioned before, my partner is German, schnitzel and all.  And I have this unfortunate tendency of putting his native land into a box of currywurst, castles and beer.  But it is so much more than its crazy long European history that involved defeating the Romans and all of those unfortunate children’s stories that involve deep dark forests. It is the land where type and graphic design were not only first developed, but also where they are still doing the coolest things.  Did you know that a German company actually owns Trader Joe’s?  Also Angela Merkel is killing it on the world stage these days.

And lately, I’ve been in a German deep dive, and I’ve mostly got my eye on Berlin.  So I thought I’d start there.  I’ve only been there once.  A few years ago and only for a couple of days.  But from the moment I stepped foot in the Kreuzberg I knew I had found my Toronto.  The place I could see myself perhaps spending more than a few days some day.  Let’s call this Day 1 of my Berlin Strategy.


Let’s start with visiting Berlin. A quick browse on Airbnb and you’ll find no shortage of intensely hip, minimally decorated apartments for short and long stays in the best neighbourhoods.  Bri found the perfect one, and you can see all of her favourite fun and colourful Berlin things here.

Hip things aside, Berlin’s also got a rich history in culture.  I’m looking at you architecture, techno and a whole lotta weird.  Have you ever been thrifting in Germany?  The treasures are beyond.

Or maybe you’re one of those people who likes to really get to know a place.  You know, not just for a weekend.  Katie spent a couple of months here and found all the places you would never have stumbled upon during those quickies.


I have my eyes firmly set on Berlin right now.  But I don’t exactly have plans to get there yet (unless someone wants to send me there!)  Thankfully, German TV is going through the renaissance we’ve been waiting for ever since all those Nordic murder mysteries started showing up.  And a couple of these series are even set in Berlin.  Clearly a sign, right?

Deutschland 83 was the one that set it all off.  Yup, set in the middle of the Cold War and that wall is still up.  And a year later, The Same Sky showed up on Netflix.  Both shows involve Eastern spies over Western walls, but each tell such incredibly different stories.

And on the modern side with fewer subtitles, there’s Berlin Station.  More spies.  But this time, there’s iPhones and ISIS are involved.

I’m also uber-excited for Dark.  Germany’s answer to Stranger Things perhaps? Probably darker, less cute and will probably get under your bones a bit more.


The thing I love so much about Berlin is its diversity.  Despite the tough central European exterior, it’s radiates a warmth that has attracted people from all walks and places over the last two centuries.  Just check out its history and you’ll see why.  It is basically not a mystery why the place is hemorrhaging with the cool kids.  It’s an epicenter for creativity basically.  I can dig a place that gets over being cut in half by war, then resurrects itself as the birthplace of techno.   Also, it’s almost too easy to find very good Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food in Berlin.

Check out all of the stories on Freunde von Freunden.  Not only are these guys based over there, but they’ve got 300+ creatives profiled for your deep dive down the rabbit hole.  Get a taste of what everyone’s eating over at Munchies.  And make sure you make Berlin Food Stories your guide upon arrival.  And get your butt to the Markethalle Neun stat upon arrival.

Photo Credit: Marta Greber

There are also a couple of wonderful ladies making the most delicious things (both in Berlin!).  Luisa Weiss (aka The Wednesday Chef) knows how to make all the classic German desserts.   And Marta Greber is capturing every single one of her crazy gorgeous breakfasts (as well as telling you where you should eat).  Also make sure you check out her Instastories.  Her accent is the cutest.

 

 


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C / Malibu on a Wednesday

becca beach

I had never been to Malibu before last Wednesday. My impressions of the place have, up to this point, been footage from Point Break, transitional scenes from The Hills, and that new Miley Cyrus song that I can’t figure out if I like. In my head, it is fancy, expensive, and full of plastic people. Turns out, all of that is true, but there is more.

As a pre-birthday celebration (I really dragged it out this year) my lovely and amazing friend, Becca, offered to take me to Malibu for the day. Due to my current status of semi-employment, a weekday field trip worked out nicely.

Becca picked me up at 7:30am from Echo Park and we got to Malibu around 9am. It turns out LA is really big and there is traffic, surprised nobody ever talks about it.

The Hike

We went to an area called Solstice Canyon, and the hike itself took about 2 hours and about 3.5 miles. There are a few trails in that particular canyon, and we took the one called something like sunset trail, sky view trail, eagle view something, ocean mist, eastern block… I don’t know the name of the trail. There are signs, you’ll be ok. The trail is gorgeous, with amazing views of the mountains, the ocean, and the wildflowers that are currently blowing everyone’s mind. Also fun, we only saw five people and two dogs the whole time we were there.

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The Food

Neptune’s Net! This place goes immediately into my LA hall of fame. I love it here, I love it so much I could marry it. It’s a seafood spot with few other options, and there are two counters to go to, one for the fresh stuff, and one for the perfectly fried baskets of sea creature heaven. Because we are smart, hungry women, we ordered a pound of steamed peel and eat shrimp, 1/2 dozen oysters, a clam chowder, and the combo basket with clam strips, calamari, fried shrimp, and fries. Thirty minutes and 4 buckets of cocktail sauce later, we made our way back to the road.

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*Note: That is an oyster shell full of melted butter, salt, lemon juice, and leftover oyster/sea water. I know it doesn’t photograph well, and I don’t care, its the most delicious thing in the world and I was dipping fries in it by the end of lunch because I am a goddamn adult and I can. 

The Beach

I am under strict orders not to tell you what beach we went to, because it was quiet and peaceful and a little bit secret, and I am not sure how much that happens around those parts. But, if you want to go to Malibu and take me with you, I will totally tell you. We walked past a number of my future homes and a flock of seagulls. Sadly, not the band. (If it were the band, this whole post would be about that.)

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The Drinks

Because we are grown ups and it was a Wednesday, we decided that 2pm was the right time for beers. Becca knows everything, so we went to Paradise Cove, a throwback spot that reminded me of the set from Saved by the Bell, when they ALL went to work at Malibu Sands Beach Club. You know where Zach has a thing with Stacy Carosi? The club owners daughter? Oh Zach, you are so basic, and SO lucky that Leah Remini (who played Stacy Carosi) gave you the time of day. Realizing now, that I know too much about this. Anyway, we had a few Modelos on the beach, watched a come college girls taking selfies get knocked over by waves (very satisfying), sent a few questionable text messages, and earned my first successful California sunburn.

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The Plants

Know what is better than being a little tipsy at 3pm and buying a whole lotta plants for your tiny apartment? I don’t. Cosentino’s is a wholesale nursery right off the highway in Malibu. The place in enormous, and they have a billion gorgeous succulents and plants that are ready for their close up. This slightly over-eager customer MAY HAVE purchased 30 of them, all of which are still sitting on the kitchen table.

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The Ice Cream

Grom, in Malibu Country Market square, is fancy and delicious. I highly recommend the seasonal cherry and dark chocolate combo, and there are chairs outside to watch a 19-year-old in a fur jacket vest, trying to steal from a dry cleaner and get CAUGHT. This is obviously something that happened, and provided quite a bit of entertainment while enjoying out gelato and pretending to talk about other things.

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The entire purpose of this post is to get Tiff to come back to LA. If it worked on anyone else, that’s nice too.

Fin.

caitsig


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T / nitt witt ridge

Photo Credit: Tiffany Tsang

Each time someone asked me what my favourite thing on the Pacific Coast Highway was, I only had one answer. Nitt Witt Ridge.

Now remember.  I’m the kind of person who likes things that are more than a little off the beaten track.  Big weirdo, remember?  I also have a thing for created worlds.  People who live within their own minds, standards and stories, little soldiers carefully arranged gigantess Barbies (another fave is Marwencol).  You might know them as the crazy guy/lady who lives down the block and has ten thousand cats.  I might want you to tell me all about it and then ask you to introduce me to them.   

Which leads me to the subject of this piece.  Also known as the poor man’s Hearst Castle.  Created by a guy nicknamed Der Tinkerpaw who often opted not to bathe.  And canned or jarred everything he would eat.  Oh right, he was also the town of Cambria’s trash man.  So there. Now you have the 411.  But you have to see the place for yourself to understand why the state of California named it a Historical Landmark.

Arthur Harold Beal created Nitt Witt Ridge before ‘reclaimed’ was even a thing.  Every single structure, item, thing in the house was collected. From the trash, from the ocean, from the side of the road, for over fifty years starting from the Depression Era and well into the 1980s before Beal was carted away to assisted living when he was well into his 90s.   Of course, he escaped more than a few times to make it back to his kingdom of trash.  And in 2017, the place is as he left it. 

Naturally, I had to take photos.  The enormous property boasts glimpses into this peculiar mind.  It’s still standing, protected in its landmark status and cared for by eccentric, but less so, Michael and Stacy.  Parts of it ramble, and it remains a private property (see above), so tour guides are necessary.  The place is clearly in its winter, far from the golden era when ol’ Tinkerpaw would allegedly bring ladies in for private tours.  But you can get an idea of its grandeur and the sense that it would never ever be a completed project.

So if you’re chugging up the Pacific Coast Highway, you should stop here at precisely the moment that a tour is about to start.  It’s a piece of history, and a glimpse into an eccentric mind if that’s what you’re after.  And his throne too.


All photos by Tiffany Tsang.  Please request permission for use. Cait+Tiff are not liable for a sudden desire to reclaim everything you find on the side of the road.


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C/ TIFF IS COMING TO LA!

lady time.jpgI can’t really focus on anything today because I am so excited that Tiff lands in LA tomorrow morning! I could barely sleep last night. We are going to be very busy eating things, walking to things, looking at things, and talking about the things that we ate. There are going to be a lot of photos of tacos, and a lot of selfies in the next few days, so if you follow us on social media, get ready to be bored of us.

Mostly, I am so thrilled that Tiff is coming across the planet to see me. I miss my friend and I can’t wait to make a big embarrassing show about it at the airport in the morning.

OK SEE YOU TOMORROW! SORRY FOR THE YELLY CAPS.

caitsig


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T / how i’m eating 2017 / ARTillery’s magic menu

Hello Quinoa Rainbowl! Nice to meet you!.

This week, a red headed birdy sent me a bit of magic!  Jen, whom you previously have known as coffee Yoda and professor of beans, is also a doctor of menus!  (Could mother of dragons be next?)  Over the past few months, she’s been working with ARTillery Cafe in Phnom Penh to give their menu a facelift, and what a great job she’s done!

When it first arrived on the scene in 2012, ARTillery was pretty much the first restaurant in Cambodia to enter the realm of the healthy that went beyond salads.  All of a sudden, raw, paleo, and gluten free, were buzzwords that became part of the Phnom Penh lexicon.  I loved their menu!  And it was a go-to for healthy fresh salads and fun plates.  But like all good things, I overdosed on things.

This is where Jen comes in.  She’s all about flavour, and has a genetic lineage to the healthy, nutritious and delicious.  ARTillery’s new menu is still incredibly healthy.  But it got kicked in the nuts.  Kimchi quesadillas!  Fa-waffles!  Every single macro bowl you could imagine!  And the dish that made me go a little nuts: paleo Disco Fries!

Fa-waffle!

So off to lunch I went today to deep dive into Jen’s garden of fun colourful things.  With a couple of fellow foodies, we went a little nuts.  Sadly not pictured are the Jump Start avocado, coffee, raw cacao and cashew milk smoothie I may or may not have devoured in one slurp.  Nor the Cachata (cousin of horcata of course), or Chunky Monkey (we were obviously in the mood for chocolate).  But I did get a snap of Jen’s amazing green fa-waffle with hummus and garlic tahini sauce (above).  It’s officially my new happy place.

I also learned that I couldn’t tell the difference between jackfruit and chicken today.  These tacos (below) were perfect.

Not your grandma’s tacos. These babies are jackfruit.

It’s healthy with a bit of a whimsy and magic.  Fully customizable bowls.  Protein, gut health, fermented things to your heart’s content.  I like the good things and the healthy things.  It’s exactly how I want to eat this year, and now that I’m desk-bound, my lunch hour just got a little more exciting.  I can’t wait to try that cauliflower bun.  If you’re in town, do wander down a certain brightly graffitied alley and give these guys a try.


All photos by Tiffany Tsang for cait+tiff. Please request permission for use.


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C / art helps

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Look who’s blogging again. I took a break because I really needed it, and now I’m back.

For a while there, I couldn’t think of anything real to say. This is technically a design/fashion/storytelling blog, and the only thing coming from my brain the last few weeks was a string of expletives and blank stares. It’s hard for me to talk about fashion and design thingies when I am worried about the absurd and hateful things happening in my country.

I went to The Broad museum this morning to look at art and get inspired. I also really wanted to take a photo in the Infinity room I had heard so much about. I showed up a few minutes late, got in the wrong line, and my outfit wasn’t cool enough. The cattle herders outside took pity on my confused face and let me in anyway.

When you go into the Broad, it feels like you are going into a giant, square, alien brain that happens to be full of Jeff Koons bubble art and some pretty dark cartoons. The long escalator ride up into the main exhibition hall added all the drama I wanted and I landed at the foot of what looked like giant candy dipped in liquid glitter. (Clearly an art critic here.)

As I walked around more, I saw a gold and white statue of Michael Jackson with a monkey, a few Warhols, some badass sculptures, and a photo of Batman from 1955 which I am pretty sure proves he is real. I also saw revolution in the art. I saw a lot of pain, struggles with oppression, silencing, slavery, racism, and a big ass collage of white dudes in hats that scared the bejesus out of me. Most of the art in the museum is older than I am, but the themes still ring true, and in a way, seeing these pieces made me feel better. Not better in the “everything is ok” way, but like when you would get in trouble but all of your friends did too. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s how I feel.

This is a little bit of what I saw, with my own reactions an no proper citations.

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Puppiessssss!

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It’s so true, for all of us, but mostly you. 

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Misleading rainbow vibes on fatalist prose. 

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Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions

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Ugh, I know. 

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The caption next to this says something like “the bird is angry because it’s plaster.” Yeah man, I would be angry too if you gave me plaster snacks. 

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In my head, this woman was one of Elvis’s girlfriends back in the day. I also want her hair. The Warhol is cool too. 

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Most original photo in the history of the world that I really love. Wish I wore something cooler. 

Art made me feel alright today, and it made me want to write again, which I haven’t wanted to do for a while. See art if you can, and if you can’t go see it, make it. Then make your friends look at it and pretend they get it.

caitsig

 


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T / go away / eat sleep walk ubud

bali-headerThis is the last post on Bali. I promise. At this point you’ve probably had the wonders of Bali driven down every orifice.  So this one is going to be pretty basic.  Everything Ubud.  The one place we slept that we loved, the ten things we ate that blew our mind, the road we re-loved and the one walk we did which I wish we could do e’er weekend.


bali-sleeps-headerWe knew we were meant to be flashpackers when we were 24 and the New York Times had recommended the Alam Indah family of hotels.  At the time we had blown all of our money on this trip to Bali, but we knew we had to stay here.  It helped that Alam Indah’s rooms can be as low as $45 per night during the low season (including breakfast and taxes).   We fell in love with Balinese hospitality and the rich (yet not kitschy) local design of the hotel immediately.  So we knew we had to stay with them again for lucky number eight.

Tiffany TsangAnd this time we could splurge (and not feel the pain of it) for a standing bungalow in the middle of a rice field at the Alam Jiwa.  Balinese hospitality also means that you can order breakfast the night before and they’ll serve it on your veranda.  All of the rooms, no matter what price, have their own little private terrace space.

This time we went for the Jatayu, a massive single room kampong (featuring the most comfortable king sized bed) with an outdoor, rice field-facing bathroom, and the most luxurious private little veranda.  We didn’t necessarily feel like leaving.

alam-jiwa-roomThe entire property, which is structured like a Balinese household compound, is stunning.  Each residence behind a wall and a gentle little path through lily pads and rice fields.  It’s actually mind blowing.  You really don’t need to leave.  Also pool, and complimentary afternoon tea? You really really don’t need to leave.

Tiffany Tsang

Fruit, muesli, yogurt, fresh squeezed OJ and babur (Balinese rice porridge with spinach) at 9am please.

alam-jiwa-pool-and-walkOh right, and breakfast (which is big and divine) served on your veranda in the luscious morning light?  You’d be crazy not to.


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When we travel, we eat everything.  From the pig on the side of the road, to reservation attempts at the Michelin stars, or the new culinary upstart in town.  And that’s exactly what we did again on this trip.  We had really great new little discoveries (like the nasi pecel above), and obligatory pitstops (the babi guling below).

Babi Guling (aka roasted suckling pig, all the parts very much loved).

Babi Guling (aka roasted suckling pig, all the parts very much loved). Skip Ibu Oka, the place Anthony Bourdain exploded into a crowded tourist item. Any of the dudes with a big on the side of the road will be just as good.

Then my partner surprised me with something kind of epic and mind blowing.

Will Goldfarb worked the desserts at El Bulli. Drop Mic. That’s all you need to know right?  Here are some other bits: he moved to Bali, he trains chefs there, and he opened a restaurant  (in an abandoned night club) that is serving locally inspired sweets (and some savouries) and still dabbling in molecular gastronomy and the most delicious cocktails mastered by a barely legal Balinese bartender whose family makes all the local fruit-derived syrups and bitters.  He’s also the nicest guy, and his roster of very cool chefs are the best conversationists.  They will even be aware of the nuances of Cambodian food.  You should absolutely order the 9 course dessert tasting menu. Share with two other work out buddies also visiting Bali, break the diet and have a sugar high.

room-for-desserts

Room for Dessert is located next to Naughty Nuri’s Warung on Jalan Sanginggan (open 4pm until late, 7 days a week). One of these dessert features coconut vinegar. Another has toasted gelato. I’ll let you guess which.


bali-rides-header

Pick a road that leads from Ubud’s city center to Gunung Batur and drive your custom café race (read: scooter you rented from your hotel) up through the rice terraces, through holy bathing sites, and all the temples.   That’s all you need to do to get a sense of Bali.  And if you have time, keep driving north, or west.  Not enough people see this part of Bali.  Tourists mostly stick around the island’s south east bend of beaches, yoga and parties.  But there is so much more in between roads and down a dirt path.  And if you’re feeling intrepid, wake up at 3am and climb the dead volcano at the end of the road.

Tiffany Tsang

Bathers at the holy pools of Pura Tirta Empul.

The roads are smooth.  The green is so lush. And it is so easy to navigate and your fellow drivers are decent and polite.  You have no excuses basically.  Tiffany Tsang

Bring your sarong.

Bring your sarong.

Gunung Batur.

Gunung Batur.


bali-walks-headerThe very last thing we did was a bucket list item for me.  The moment I saw this path through a gorgeous rice field, I just had to.  The Campuhan Rice Ridge is eight kilometers of some of the coolest hikes you can do in the region.  On both sides of you are rice terraces, gorgeous traditional Balinese homes sitting on hills and a bunch of romantically placed palm trees. Here are perfect instructions on how to get there. Bring mosquito repellant and a good pair of shoes.  My flip flops didn’t exactly leave much to be desired.


All photos by Tiffany Tsang.  Please request permission for use.  We are not responsible if you can’t get a room in Ubud because it’s high season and you put off booking everything.


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T / go away / re-interpreting

bali-headerWe rarely revisit places.  With the assumption that a return would probably ruin the a previously held love.  It’s like if I returned to Istanbul, sans coup, I’d feel like we’d be missing something.  Without those 4am fighter jets, it just wouldn’t be complete.  Or alternatively, re-booting Gilmore Girls on Netflix (!!!), without Edward Herrman. Same same but different, right?

Then we did it.  We went back to a special place.  My partner and I needed a break from the world.  The kind of trip that was based on whimsy and great eats and not goals to have every amazing cup of matcha a city in Japan would have to offer.  We were also trying to celebrate lucky number eight.  So why not go back to the scene of the crime*? And sure it was different.  Very different.  But it also wasn’t the post-Eat, Pray, Love Bali that we imagined it to be.

Except for the grid lock in Ubud.  That was bad.  How did it get that bad?

Tiffany TsangSo before I shared every bite you should take and every bed you should sleep in, I thought I’d just ruminate on the art of returning somewhere.  It’s a weird feeling.  Things are completely different and the same.  The store that you bought that dress that you still wear? It’s gone.  The streets are filled with retirees from the West and the East looking to get their yoga on.  And this is low season. Remember that mostly-empty-surfers-only beach we found on our long motorbike trip up to coast?  The hipsters took over.  And all that cook batik went into hiding and has been replaced by resort wear.

But the roasted suckling pig on the side of the road is still delicious.  The volcano you climbed is still there.  And the overrated poop coffee is still available everywhere.  Also, the Balinese are still the most hospitable and lovely people around.  Oh, and the super tanned surfer boys are still riding around Canngu barefoot on their scooters sporting their Sean Penn-@-Fast-Times-at-Ridgemont-High hair? They’re still there too.

Also, a dude from El Bulli opened a restaurant in Ubud (more on that and a bunch of cool special things next week).

Bali is still a very special place.  And we can afford to stay in a room that costs three times what we spent eight years ago.Tiffany Tsang

Tiffany TsangPlaces change.  Going back to Bali was like going home for me.  In the case of home, Toronto stayed more-or-less the same, and it was my friends heading into big life changes. In the case of Bali, bigger changes happened. A gorgeous island suddenly became known to the world. And people flocked.

Eight years on, I’d still be happy to visit Bali again, though.  We’ll just have to keep looking for those special hidden places.


*We visited Bali the first time in November 2008, just a week after the terrorists who had attacked Bali in 2002 were executed.  Ubud and Seminyak were still fairly quiet.  Very quiet actually.


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use. Cait+Tiff are not liable for any costs incurred for sudden excursions to tiny, beautiful Indonesian islands.