You know that friend you have in every city that gives you thee best advice while travelling? Well that's me. And this is my blog.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Vintage Shopping in Jakarta and the New Wave of Indonesia's Hipsterpreneurs

Vintage Shopping in Jakarta and the New Wave of Indonesia's Hipsterpreneurs

After almost two years buried away in Bangkok (doing that whole young professional thing in tech startups), I am updating my pick for the best vintage shopping in Jakarta. I wrote about Pasar Senen before as a pulsing, sweaty second hand market for the people (ie perfect for a poor UN intern living in an alley with goats) where through hours of digging you could find purple leather loafers for $8 and even designer stuff for under $20.

Pasar Santa is different. To shave the prolixity, it will suffice to say that this Jakarta vintage market has, in the last year, turned from a traditional derelict dump like Senen to a hipster hive (still shabby but given its new context can now be called "edgy") of a hundred or so tiny curated vintage shops selling everything such as old vinyls, posters, clothing, shoes, skateboards and more. The food area is awesome too with a whole slew of vegan and healthy gourmet options. 

Changing face of retail in Indonesia

The shops represent a seriously impressive new wave of young Indonesian entrepreneurs (hipsterpreneuers?!), emboldened both by a changing retail landscape and the never ending quest to beat monotony. Because in a market where there are not many accessible brand options (like China), it's too easy to show up to dinner in the same dress (what I think of as the H&M effect). 

The shops have curated vintage stuff that young Indonesians have sourced from abroad like Japan or Europe so you know what you will have is unique. And they take the pain (or pleasure ) out of hunting, adding value through curation. At a much higher price of course. My coolio cat Indonesian friend Sicilia has launched an instagram version of this because as she said, "So many people don't want to look the same as the mainstream."

Here, with an insatiable predilection for second hand bags, I bought my first designer bag by some lady named Diane Von Furstenberg for 1.5 million rupiah (120 USD). 

Even more interestingly is the consignment model most of these brick and mortar shops have to aid sourcing and selection. When I bought my vintage purse in the cool black shop with a random selection of shoes and bags, the young cashier told me I could drop stuff off to sell. Just like that, I could be making monayy?! Unless I'm completely out of touch with reality, Toronto or Paris kids do not have the same sense of empowered salesmanship that makes you think that anything is possible. Thoughts?

Anyways, it is quite expensive. It's 30% fee off price to sell in their semi marketplace and if it takes longer than 3 months to sell, you have to pay them 30% for I guess some sort of display charge. This is according to Sicillia, who tried to sell her boyfriend's shoes at the same shop. 

Now that I work in ecommerce, I am moderately fascinated with how the offline world is adapting. For young Indonesians it seems to be the smoothest transition, as they use digital channels to drive online traffic to the offline and utilizing all the learnings they've gained from the safer online sphere to optimize offline. Sicillia told me that when her shop, Quirk it Up, gets bigger she will be vigilant in getting more offline presence. Her strategy emulates what many Western brands coming into Southeast Asia are doing as well, leapfrogging brick and mortar and testing with ecommerce. 

I am super happy with where Indonesia's alternative scene is heading. I admit to being exhausted by the speed in which trends rip through the country, everyone desperate to jump on bandwagons to revel in the same things, effectively making the hipsters look (more?) like clones/clowns. This eruption of these shops is a protest for individuality in a country with the fourth largest population in the world and I love it. 


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Indie Guide Thailand: Catamaran Party around Bangkok

How to Escape Bangkok for a Day: Ballin' Boat Party in Pattaya !

You know what has always made me jealous of my friends living in Hong Kong? Mind-erasing boat parties. When I heard about the libertine expat life of Asia, these nautical tales of music x waves x homies teased my heart with promises of the ultimate adventure! What could be more thrilling than dancing with your friends on a boat in the middle of paradise?

But living in Bangkok the last year has not really afforded me the opportunities that Hong Kong expats had. I've been NEAR to water, like this Kolour party, but golly I wanted to be the meat in a sky and sea sandwich.

Enter an alcohol brand that has some talented French people running their Thailand distribution. These French dudes have launched a boat party that takes place on a 71ft catamaran right off the coast of Pattaya, called Dillon: La Route du Rhum. 

Luckily for him, cher ami and fellow Trinity alumnus, Steve, was visiting from Toronto that weekend. In true Lil'Fel fashion I took his jetlagged ass straight from the airport to the Kolour rooftop party (one of the coolest parties in Bangkok with electro/house djs) a couple hours before we were set to leave on this boat party day trip thing I had heard about from a friend. Jetlag is for weenies. Despite him being in a moribund state of exhaustion it was definitely the best idea ever.

Here is why this Catamaran Boat Party stole my heart as one of my favourite events in and around my hood. 

1. Close convenient ride from Bangkok. La Route du Rhum boat party is the perfect paradisiac escape for the Bangkok city dweller as it is a simple day trip just a couple hours outside the city. We took a taxi for 1200 Baht from Asok to Jomtien Pier. We left at 745 am and arrived at 1015am. We didn't need to hire a bus or anything, just jumped in any ol' taxi. 

2. Reasonably Priced. For around 2500 TBH you have 8 hours on a boat that goes to a beautiful and secluded island and includes lunch.

3. Unlimited alcohol. Dillon Rum, obvi. I admit an alacrity for daytime drinking.. They served delicious mojitos, punch and other strong poisons if your heart desired it. But tread carefully! By noon you'll be as lubricated as Hemingway by night (a brilliant drunk who also had the perspicacity to say, "Don't bother with churches, governments buildings or city squares. If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.").

4. Gorgeous & exhilarating! The catamaran had a trampoline that we used to skyrocket into the sea..and then eventually tan or chill on. We also stopped at a secluded island where we drank and danced with the local guys. The water was clear and beautiful, nothing at all like the river boat parties in Bangkok. 

5. Young cool people & good vibes. Not pretentious and stiff with Russian models and money grubbin' old expats (despite it being in Pattaya) nor a scrubster backpacker scene either with dreadlocked elephant panters. The group were young professionals, with an overdose of French people..And you know how I feel about hanging out with too many French people, right? On se calme, I'm joking. Mostly expats but some Thai people as well.  Also, anyone could play their own tunes on the boat, which of course I did with my pirated music (heh). 

Anyhoo, this event is great way to travel outside of Bangkok for the day. With good music, people, drinks and most importantly, paradise I suggest you check out Dillon: La Route du Rhum if you have the chance. I don't know how often it will take place, but the next one will be on December 20th. Unfortunately, I will not be attending because I am going to do something a bit..nuts..for the holidays. Will tell you next time! 

If you don't feel like dancing, jumping, drinking, there is space for tanning too

Camille = French babe

From Toronto to Bangkok to Catamaran Boat Party in Pattaya. What a trooper! 

Dancing with my newfound hombre. I brought the music, he brought the whisky. Ying and Yang.

If you live in Bangkok, you'll like:

Let the good times roll

Boat party music: Crystal Fighters 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Indie Guide to Thailand: Jungle Trekking in Chiang Mai

My (Not Recommended) Jungle Trekking Tour in Chiang Mai 

Catniss Moursalien 

Googling gone wrong
I've gotten older and busier and as a result I have less time to research the ultimate travel experiences in Thailand. Lesson learned: high search ranking on Google does NOT equate to great product. To my chagrin, I ended up picking the first and worst tour that popped up when I searched 'jungle trekking in Chiang Mai. I was tricked by a great user experience on the website as the tours are easily laid out for you with minimal thinking.  Problem was that I didn't bother to verify on Trip Advisor or consult any other source at all thanks to my work induced lassitude. If you are a seasoned Thailand expat looking for the BEST EXPERIENCE EVER, here are some of the take aways I got from my Chiang Mai experience.

Which tour?
Cost: 1400 Baht
I took this Chiang Mai Jungle tour: 2 Days 1 Night Tour, elephant trekking + white water rafting + overnight in Lahu Village with eco tours and..

Why so whiney? Disparity of expectations

What I expected: Frolicking with my elephant in water and waterfalls, battling the elements of the jungle together as we ascended the mountain valleys, becoming best friends till we would have to part ways in a bittersweet goodbye. I would continue on a perilous trek through the jungle till we reached a secluded mountain village. The locals would give us shelter and we would give them whisky and we would laugh all night. The morning would come and we would take to the water and white water raft all the way down the mountain until we reached civilization, exhausted and content.  I understand that is way too reasonable to be my dream.

What actually happened

We started our adventure at 10:30am with..a butterfly and orchid farm. Then on to some fatuous "local" market that had fly covered raw materials for cooking, but not much else. I guess it was for our guide to pick up supplies, but come on, do that on your own time, broski. It was a waste of time and felt like a typical tourist trap. I ain't no homeless backpacker with nothing but time to spend! Please don't waste it!

The Elephant Trekking
Then finally we made our way to an elephant camp.  But instead of trekking in the jungle or riverside with our elephant, we took a dirt road. This was maybe the most disappointing part of our tour in Chiang Mai because later I would see all sorts of other tours going through the water and jungle with the elephants. My heart wept in envy. I wish I knew the names of the other tours to recommend to you because it looked truly awesome to see these giant gentle animals making their way through tiny jungle paths and hills.

Our mercurial mammal named Manue. She hipped checked her way to the front of the elephant cue.

The Hike
The rest was an intense, albeit salubrious hike, coupled with some waterfall frolicking. This part was actually really cool. Unfortunately it was super busy with a dozen or so tourist groups floating around and at some points you are hiking on a dirt road. A far cry from being King of Adventure Land. After 3 hours of uphill hike we arrive at our camping ground, greeted by a female entrepreneur selling water and beer out of a cooler. Sort of minimalizes the jungle effect but the water break is appreciated. It's a beautiful view from the top and totally worth it. But be prepared to feel the full wrath of your gluteus maximus the next day.

Jurassic Park theme song would not leave our brain radios!

Hi! We went to U of T..5 years ago. That awkward moment when you and your ol' university friend meet up to travel wearing your totally outdated varsity gear. 

Natural waterfall slide that I was too wimpy to try. 

The Lahu Village
The village was without electricity and was pretty neat, except that the Lonely Planet description was right: the locals don't give a hoot about you. They leave you alone and you sit around with your tour group. One local kid rudely demanded to see my iPhone and then punched me when I told her to say please! Luckily, we bought copious amounts of rice whisky from the local business guy (probably the mayor) to lubricate the rest of the electricity free evening with strangers. I admit this was lots of fun. Who doesn't love watching the sun set and the stars rise on the top of a mountain (while plastered)?

Best part is to abandon your cell phones and addiction to electricity and sit around a camp fire on the mountain drinking cheap local rice whisky sold by the local bartender/711/Mayor. 

A life of simpler pleasures 

 5 star hotel accomodations in the Lahu Village

The Ritz of the Lahu. This is the most developed housing establishment in the Lahu Mountaintop Village. It had brick walls! The rest were rickety wooden shacks surrounded by chickens and wild flowers.

"White" Water Rafting on Day 2
The rafting felt like a children's ride at Disney world. You know the infamously boring Log ride? Where you splash around a little bit on a log with your baby cousin? That's kind of what white water rafting felt like in Chiang Mai in November. This is not the tour's fault but I recommend not getting your hopes up for this if you go in the dry season. It is then followed by a "bamboo" raft, which is just a bunch of bamboos tied together that sinks under your weight. If you're not into thrills then I recommend this quite a bit. Brown water rafting would be a more appropriate title if it wasn't so gross sounding.

The highlights were definitely the mountain village and the quality of our guide, Neung. He played drinking games with us all night and spoke English very well.

6 things I wish I knew before jungle trekking in Chiang Mai

1. Don't book your jungle trekking tour online. 
Book through your hotel or one of the millions of tour groups there so you can find exactly what you are looking for.

2.  Dry season (Nov-April) is not great for white water rafting. So maybe skip it for something else? Still fun..if you're a grandma.

3. Bathe your elephant if you can! 
They are so cute when they lie in the water!

4. Don't expect the adventure of an 1600s colonialist. 
There are so many tourists and everything is over developed.

5. Stretch your muscles before the hike. 
I am debilitated two days later. Legs and booty are super sore even though I consider myself in reasonable shape. The hike will work muscle machinery you didn't even know existed.

6. As long as your expectations are managed, you will have fun! The Lonely Planet said these tours are generally disappointing. If I hadn't lowered my expectations significantly after that, I probably would have been pissed off too.
Listen, if you're a fresh-faced tourist, your eyes will sparkle at everything that shines and this review will sound the whinings of an old cynic. But if you're like me, a pressed for time young professional in Bangkok who knows when they're being ripped off, I hope this review will help you find the Chiang Mai tour best suited to your needs.  In the end it doesn't matter what you do though. As long as you're with people you love, you'll have the best time everrrr (Could I be more generic?). Gimme a woot woot.

Ps. do you like the song (below)?

Also, if you have any recommendations that match my dream trek, please share the love. xox



Mountain Trekking Music
And after all this whining let me digitally serenade you with my latest favourite song, perfect for your mountain hike: Angus & Julia Stone, Grizzly Bear (Synapson Remix)

For more tunes to get your heart beating, follow me on Soundcloud. 


Travelling Thailand and Want to Check Out Bangkok and the Beaches? 
 See best spots of Thailand, here.

Get in on the live action !

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Where to Buy a Turkey in Bangkok or How I Battled this Big Ass Bird and Won

Happy Thanksgiving, Bangkok!

I'm delighted to report that it is not excessively hard to find a turkey in Bangkok for Thanksgiving, as I discovered for my Canadian Thanksgiving party feast I had in October—nor is it stupidly expensive. Thanks to the most useful Facebook group for expats in Bangkok, Desperately Seeking Bangkok, I was given great tips from da hood to host the most epic dinner party of my life with the most butterlicious bird to ever enter my mouth. If you are desperately searching for a place to pick one up either for Canadian or American Thanksgiving or Christmas try these recommendations below.

Did you know that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on a different date than Americans?

 If this sounds like an obvious knowledge nugget, you need to back.right.up, (hoser). To my chagrin it was obviously not obvious to most of the Europeans I had invited to my dinner (if you're Canadian I'm sure you have suffered at the repeated stings of the world's ignorance). The Canadian day is a day of munificence  to celebrate the end of the harvest season the second weekend of October. Whereas the Americans celebrate as a historic symbol of cooperation between the Native Americans and the pilgrims at the end of November. Boom. Knowledge. 

Where to find the turkey: Tops Supermarket
After searching far and wide I found my butterball baby at Tops Robinson Srinakarin at Asoke. It cost a little less than 3000 Baht. I was told that you could find turkeys at Villa Market but for Canadian Thanksgiving I checked at Villa on Sukumvit Soi 11 and I was sorely disappointed.

Warning: I'm not sure if all Tops carries turkeys. I went to Tops Central Silom and they did not have them.

Check the map here for your closest locations.

Cranberry Sauce & Turkey Cooking Supplies: Villa Market
You can find turkey basters, oven thermometers, aluminum tins for the oven and basically everything you could possibly need to cook the shit out of your turkey. I was also able to find canned cranberry sauce at Villa Market Sukumvit Soi 11 (but not gravy..).

Check the map here for Villa Market locations

The Result
This was the first time I had ever touched, let alone cooked a turkey. I enlisted the forces of my French and Canadian friend and it got ugly. We were all turkey cooking virgins but that did not stop us attacking the hell out of this bird with tubs of butter and youtube video intelligence being consulted every 2 minutes ("Oh, there is  plastic bag of guts inside its ass, wtf!"). Being a weekday vegan, this was especially gruelling.

In the end, we hosted a whopping 27 people in an epic potluck dinner of friends from around Bangkok. Being away from my family on my favourite holiday was not easy, but when you're an expat your friends become your new family and they fill those heart gaps with love, fun and food! If you're away from home this American Thanksgiving, I wish you the best of luck with your turkey fest and if you're on a budget or not uber rich, a potluck is the best way to go. You can invite as many people as you want to share in the festivities.

If you have any tips of where you bought your turkey and supplies around Bangkok please share! Happy Thanksgiving, World!

My precious. Our relationship is sweet and tender..

Then..Horror is unleashed from its pink terrible flesh!! 

A battle to the death. I'm not proud of what we had to do.. Sadly we now suffer from PTSD (post-turkey stress disorder)

The kill is well received. 27 people in an epic feast. First Thanksgiving hosting of my life is a great success (Borat accent*). Everyone cooked amazing food too from around the world with the likes of tarte au chocolat, some pasta dish from Vienna, butterfilled mashed potatoes (french touch again), homemade Indian curry and so much more. 

And what better way to dance off your butterball booty than with a night of dancing? Legendary! Happy Thanksgiving or whatever holiday it is that requires big ass birds! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Moving from Bangkok to Jakarta Drunk Post

In Vino Veritas Or. Blind Drunk Blogging after Uber Party. Or. Why you Should Snort Feces Rather than Move to Jakarta

Listen. This lil' momma likes to drink and recently Bangkok has offered her sweet nectar of life up for the gulping. I'm talking about Free Flow parties, baby. A launch party or two every week for a new company or resto whateva. (If you're an intern or student on exchange this city is ideal for you). Last night it was the launch of Uber Taxi in Thailand, and lemme tell you I was Moses in the Red Sea, a midget surrounded by walls of alcohol and my safe passage could only be guaranteed by my ability to drink my way through. I basically opened the flood gates with MY MOUTH. We were standing in the main bar area of Ku De Ta (a miracle, never saw it full before) and every 30 seconds a new drink would pass. I have restraint (yup) but c'mon, I was hanging with the cool kids in the internet crowd, you know, Pomelo Fashion, LINE chat, ex Rocket, and these kitties also like their fair share of bacchanal. Needless to say, mojitos were only the beginning, shots brought the chickens home to roost. Anyways, long story short. The night ended with me taking a time out, riding Rhonda home and answering THIS EMAIL BELOW. 

I forgot about it until I read it the next morning. I was shocked. But you know what, eff it. While I grimace at its crudity I decided to post it because I couldn't have been more honest with you about moving to Jakarta. I understand many people like living in Jakarta as an expat (perverts..nah my old roomie who is a normal female really likes it), but I rather snort fermented feces than ever go back to living there. (Second) long story short, DO NOT DO IT. Indonesia and Indonesians are great though, just not Jakarta. Thanks dude for the email. I understand if you want to never ask me anything again ever for a little while. This buzzfeed article might offer you more insight though :). Obviously if you disagree then go..take a walk. I mean, share your comments below. Jeez, I don't know what it is about this city that channels all of my negative energy. 

    • Hello Felicia,
      S*** here. I am just a guy who is probably going to move to Jakarta soon. I am living in Bangkok now.. yes.. I know maybe it is not a good change... but I guess that is the way it is.. anyway... 
      Are you still living there?
      I came across your blog, congrats for that. I liked it.
      I have already been in Jakarta few times, and I guess I am already aware of its general problems: crazy traffic jams, no roads to walk, etc

      However, I just would like to have a very general point of view of somebody that has been living there (expat) for a while and get to know how everyday life actually can be there.

      I am obviously not expecting Jakarta to be Bangkok... just generally wondering how it would be.

      Don't want to bother you, I know this kind of emails are not pleasant, specially when you do not know the other peson at all.

      By the way, I saw you enjoyed Kolour Sundays in Bangkok some time ago... We had a crazy one last Sunday... 


    • Daily life differences:
      1) Cannot walk. your life will be the culmination of of one a/c bubble to another.

    • 2) The general air around you stinks. That may not be a big deal to you, but as a canadian, i love fresh(ish) air. In jakarta, get used to asphyxiating always.

    • 3) the people don't get the 'sabai sabai' mentality. There is an air of stress and depression as omnipotent as the stink 

    • 4) live by night. day time in jakarta involves only living through work and traffic jams. The only stress free zones come through partying (which, i love..but after one week it gets old)

    • 5) club indo girls (ayam) are easy and western chicks are desperate. No girls get d*ck there or casual sex unless they act completely wanton. the result? women are easy pickings.

      The summary: you will hate your life by day. You will spend most of your time plotting your bali escape and you will have insane party nights. If you are an ugly desperate dude this place will be the best thing ever. (if youre a woman I have coined the term Vagina Graveyard, bc any sensible woman would not hook up with the scum that collects there, thereby starving their lady parts to moribund.

      Anyways, don't ask me for jakarta advice if you are looking for a positive reinforcement for your decision to move there.

If you find yourself here then at least have a good time with these tips on where to drink without prositutes, eat locally and shop vintage in Jakarta, bros. 

Let the good times roll

My Indie Music Reco of the Week ! Cute but too simple