Thank God It’s Eye Candy Friday: A Labour of Love in Bali

Welcome to our first edition of Eye Candy Fridays! Where The Bamboo Stiletto features real beach houses owned by real people (as opposed to those production sets that appear in the movies/TV), so that we all have something to fantasize about over the weekend!

Our Eye Candy Friday debut takes us to the mythical Island of the Gods – Bali, Indonesia – where a young AustralianFilipino couple, let’s call them “Tuan” and “Ibu”, has succeeded in living an idyllic island lifestyle that most of us can only dream about.  Previous residents of Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta and of Thailand’s holiday island of Phuket, Tuan and Ibu fell hard for the charms of Bali and eventually decided to move there. Most recently, the entrepreneurial Ibu, with her keen eye for style and design, launched her own line of handcrafted artisan leather bags. Bag aficionados out there (yes, you know who you are!) check out her quality products here  – – and note that the bags can be delivered to your home, in any corner of the globe!

Feast your eyes on the couple’s swoon-worthy villa, a genuine labour of love as the couple was very hands-on and involved in every step of construction and home decorating. The result is a modern Balinese interpretation utilizing lots of natural granite, sandstone and teak, perched on the cliffs of Jimbaran with majestic sea views.

Tell me you’re not groaning with envy right now in front of your computer:

The villa was designed by German architect Walter Wagner of Habitat Architects. Many thanks to Ibu and Tuan for their awesome generosity in sharing the photos of their gorgeous abode and for allowing us to have such sweet Bali dreams tonight!

Where would you like to have your dream beach house? Will you be dreaming about it tonight? I know I will!

The 411 on the KTT (Guangzhou-Hong Kong Express Train)

We mentioned in an earlier post that we would be doing a quickie run to Hong Kong yesterday.

Yes, I crossed and re-crossed the border in one day. At 8:30am yesterday, I was still at home in my jammies, having finished breakfast with Herr Hubby, washing the dishes, watering the plants on the balcony and checking Facebook. By 8:30pm yesterday, I was enconsced in my kitchen, preparing dinner and waiting for Herr Hubby to come home from work. Easy-peasy. So, you might ask, how did I get to Hong Kong and back home so fast? Here’s the lowdown on our quick get-away.

The first thing you need to know is that there are 2 types of trains to Hong Kong. One is Chinese-owned and operated and the other is owned and operated by Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation, who run the same model of efficiency, precision and cleanliness that is the Hong Kong subway system. The latter, for some reason, is known as the “KTT“.

On both types of trains, the journey to Hong Kong takes 2 hours. Also, ticket prices remain the same for both trains: RMB 187 (premium class coach, one-way; HKD 230 or approx. USD 30), RMB 154 (first class coach, one-way, HKD 154 or approx. USD 24). The terms used for coach classes is quite confusing – as first class can actually mean second class – so you’d better be clear when you’re purchasing tickets. The Chinese trains run more frequently; there is a train running practically every hour. Whereas the KTT is not as frequent, running only every few hours or so. The major difference? It all lies in the degree of comfort. The KTT trains are newer and cleaner, have plusher coach cabins, with wide, comfortable seats – and they have upper decks, which is really cool. Just like travelling first class on a Boeing 777!

As you may have guessed, the KTT is very much in demand so it is best to purchase your tickets (you can pay in Chinese RMB or Hong Kong dollars at the station) at least a day before your trip. We have friends who have winged it, just showed up at the station for their intended journey only to find that the train was already full…and ended up having to wait for the next train. Imagine if you had an international flight out of Hong Kong? (Shudder…)

On the day of your trip, make sure that you come to the Guangzhou EAST Train Station. Bear in mind that Guangzhou has ANOTHER train station with trains departing for other parts of China, which everyone just calls the Guangzhou Train Station (of course).  The Guangzhou East Train Station only has trains for Shenzhen and Hong Kong. You will know you’re at the right place if you pass by places like Citic Plaza, the Westin and Ikea on the way there. Here’s what the station looks like:

entrance of Guangzhou East train station

Once there, you take 2 escalators up to clear security, including baggage x-ray checks, and immigration, before going into the departure hall to wait for your train. It is very easy to forget that you’re actually exiting China and going to another territory – so make sure, first, that you have a multiple-entry Chinese visa (otherwise, you won’t be allowed back in!) and, second, that  you’ve filled out your immigration cards and have enough time to clear immigration. On weekdays, immigration is a relative breeze but on weekends and public holidays, just like at the airport, the queue can be a nightmare, so be warned.

On our first KTT journey, which took place on a weekend, Herr Hubby and I COMPLETELY forgot about immigration, dawdling and wifi-ing at the Starbucks downstairs then wasting precious minutes filling out immigration cards. We were sweating buckets in the long queue afterwards, biting our fingernails while nervously watching the clock. We made it, with only a minute to spare. Never again! Because, believe me, China aviation may completely suck (99% of domestic flights – and even some international flights – are delayed) but China rail lives and dies by (an apparently Swiss or Japanese) clock. Down to the minute, trains in China are precisely, rigidly on time.

departure for Hong Kong – don’t forget to clear security & immigration!

Once you’ve cleared all the doo-da, then you just sit pretty and wait. If you’re on a morning train and haven’t had your cafe latte yet, I hope you dropped by Starbucks (located near the station entrance downstairs) because you ain’t going to be getting any croissants in the waiting hall.

Once your train number is called, it’s time to go down to the train platform, board the train and look for your coach and seat number.

the mighty KTT train…all aboard!

Here’s a look at the two types of coach classes:
Premium class (also sometimes referred to as first class)

Isn’t it posh? Your bum will surely thank you after 2 hours!

First class (also sometimes referred to as second class)

Ain’t too shabby either, isn’t it? So don’t despair if premium class tickets are sold out – as they sometimes do.

So here I was on yesterday’s KTT:

Starbucks green tea frapuccino, KTT ticket, passport & Hong Kong immigration card (yes, gotta fill that in too) & watching the world go by…

While my fellow premium class passengers get busy with their iPads and iPhones

iPhones, iPads in premium class…this is definitely The New China!

I got busy on my iMac, jotting down notes for a job for a Beijing client…this is my new office!

have laptop, can work? yes, can!

As the train rolled on through the Guangdong countryside, our beautiful train attendant, hair and make-up impeccably in place, walked through the cabin, speaking alternately in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, distributing Hong Kong immigration cards, handing out free bottles of water and peanuts and hawking a food and drinks menu. I felt like I was on a Cathay Pacific flight!

KTT SWAG (stuff we all get)

At the halfway mark, an hour into the journey, the train stopped for a few minutes at Dongguan, a city on the southernmost corner of Guangdong province. Then, before you know it, you’re rolling into Shenzhen and you’re at the China-Hong Kong border!

crossing the border…the little green hill & all the greenery is in Hong Kong, the high-rise buildings across the river are in Shenzhen

I had to send an urgent email to my Beijing client so I purchased a KTT wifi access card for RMB 25 (HKD 28, approx.USD 4) so I could quickly access email and get some work stuff done. You will see this wifi access sign on the KTT trains:

get wired up on the KTT

But a word of warning – wifi service on the train is spotty at best, so painfully slow on Chinese soil, and only really springs to life once you hit the border and you’re on Hong Kong territory:

you can purchase this wifi access card from your train attendant…they accept RMB or HKD

The last 30 minutes of the journey is already in Hong Kong territory as the train whizzes past (but does not stop at) Hong Kong MTR stations with familiar names, e.g. Fanling, Shatin, etc, and the landscape consists of quintessential Hong Kong scenery: high-rises dotted by people’s washing, concrete fly-overs, densely congested streets and scurrying pedestrians. As the train approaches its final stop at Hunghom station in Kowloon – get ready to do as the Hong Kongers do: gather your belongings (make sure passport and immigration card are on the ready) while the train is still running and make your way to queue at the exit door. Then, as the train rolls to a stop and the doors open – wake up your inner Usain Bolt and sprint to immigration!

If you’re savvy with Hong Kongers’ “chop chop” (hurry, hurry) attitude – and if you were lucky enough to have been on coaches 1 to 5 (these are the ones closest to the escalators in Hunghom), then you can clear immigration, exit the station and hop into a cross-harbour cab within 10 minutes.

Jou san! IFC, mm goi… (Good morning! To IFC, please…)

So to break it down real quickly: I took the 10:39am KTT, arrived in Hong Kong approximately 12:40 and was sitting down for lunch at the IFC shopping mall in Central by 1pm.

Welcome to Hong Kong!!!

– Sir John Templeton, global value investor and philanthropist.

Thank God It’s Friday, Guangzhou! As the week draws to a close, it’s good to look back on the days past and reflect on all the wonderful things that happened this week. For The Bamboo Stiletto, one of the things we’re grateful for – and humbled by – is that during our first week of existence, the blog has already garnered more than 15o page views from all around the world. Yes, we’ve had readers from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, France…isn’t that simply amazing?

So, from our humble beginnings in Guangzhou, China, all I can say is: “Do je” (Cantonese) and “Xie xie” (Mandarin), with all my heart. Continue spreading the love, everybody! Bamboo Stiletto Hearts, indeed!

Shoe & The City: If Your City Was a Shoe, What Would It Be?

Have you read one of these articles lately which are all about how your shoes are supposed to reveal your personalilty type? Well, how about, what your shoes reveal about your city? Put it another way…if your city was a shoe, what kind of shoe would it be?

I’ve had the privilege of living in three of China‘s biggest, fastest-developing and most fascinating cities: Beijing (7 years), Shanghai (2 years) and Guangzhou (1 month & counting…). When I think about these 3 cities in terms of shoes, here’s what I came up with:

Converse sneaks (summer) / Uggs snow boots (winter)

summer kicks for the Beijing hipster…artsy, intellectual, with just the right touch of ” I’m so cool I don’t care about how I look” grunge attitude
with sub-frozen winter temps averaging minus 20C, comfort & warmth reign over style for the resident Beijinger’s toes

Christian Louboutin stiletto peep-toes (summer) /
Jimmy Choo patent leather stiletto knee-high boots (winter)

seductive, blatantly sexy, oh-so-expensive & not afraid to show it, with just the right amount of toe cleavage, the Shanghai stylista endures suffering as long as she’s tres chic!
for striding through snow & ice…and a fashion runway (just in case). in Shanghai, style always triumphs!

Ok, I must admit I was in a bit of a quandary about this…this city is so hot & humid, deceptively sunny & yet so mercurial, with sudden massive downpours of rain. With the amount of rainfall, enough to ruin your shoes after two outings, at first I thought Guangzhou would be a pair of  sturdy Hunter Wellies (Wellington), as is:

in Guangzhou, blame it on the rain!

But then last Sunday, as we were caught in yet another unpredictable downpour and I was mourning my soaked Onitsuka Tigers (they were espadrille-style…darn), a girlfriend glanced at my feet and said, “You really should get a pair of Crocs.”

Now don’t get me wrong and I hope I don’t offend anyone out there but I just think Crocs are the fugliest shoes on the planet and only babies, toddlers, teens and grown-up men doing manly things like going to the hardware store, look remotely good in them. Grown-up women, news alert! Crocs don’t make you look good. At all.

Then I glanced at her feet…voila!…she had on a pair of Crocs and mais oui, this is what they looked like (my friend is, of course, French):

casual, unpretentious & low-key, perfect for sweltering sun or sudden torrential downpours, to keep one’s tippy toes happy in Guangzhou

Trust the French to find something stylish yet practical to my footwear conundrum in Guangzhou. So, here you go, Guangzhou: Crocs crocband flats.

Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t give my old hometown in the Philippines – Cebu – a whirl with this game. So here’s what I came up with and in this case, my heart is  really where the shoe fits….right at home.

Castaner wedge espadrilles

for perenially sunny, blue-sky days, the Cebuana keeps it easy & casual-chic, ever-ready for kicking off & going barefoot on the beach or instead, slipping on a pair of…

Also, for Cebu:
Havaiianas flip flops

a Cebuana’s unofficial uniform

A shout-out to the Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Cebu peeps out there, do you agree with my shoe choices above?  Let’s make this fun, everyone!!! In the Comments below, tell me about where you live and what shoe would your city be?

Que Caliente! Rafa Nadal in Mallorca

Wimbledon season has officially begun!
I’m super-excited to watch Spanish champ Rafa Nadal, fresh from his French Open triumph and currently ranked #2 in the world, attempt to take the Wimbledon title for the third time. Let’s hope he reaches the finals and plays against either Roger Federer (#3) or Novak Djokovic (#1) for another thrilling showdown of masterful tennis!

Prior to his arrival in the UK, it was refreshing to see him unwind and chill in his hometown of Mallorca, cooking in the kitchen and hanging out with family and friends. Just in case you’re wondering….no, he and I are not personally acquainted…but I am on his Facebook feed. His posts are in Spanish, obviously, but Facebook provides translations, if I want. Rather stalker-y of me, isn’t it? But there you go, that’s the power of social media in today’s world.

Anyway, in anticipation of a 2012 Wimbledon trophy for Rafa, here’s a quick glimpse of the champion relaxing at his beautiful beachside home in Mallorca. He’s looking all sorts of caliente in all the pics, of course (you ladies and gays out there can thank me in the Comments below:-) But we can also see a little bit of what his terraza overlooking the Mediterranean sea looks like. I like the pop of teal on the beach pillows against the white expanse of the terrace, don’t you? We see that he has a pool and, as befitting a top-class athlete, a nice home gym. I do wish we had more shots of the interiors because judging from its exterior, it looks like it would be a stylish beach house inside too!

As for the last pic in the gallery, which has nothing to do with his beach house WHATSOEVER, I have to confess that I saved the best for last. That is simply gratuitous. So, relax, feast your eyes and enjoy. La vida es demasiado corta (life’s too short).

I have to thank the folks over at the Rafael Nadal fan site for the pics, which were culled from Rafa’s exclusive interviews for Spanish celebrity magazine Hola! and for the German edition of Tennis Magazine.

Will YOU be watching Wimbledon? WHO are you rooting for???

On the 194: Gweipor Bus Anecdote


Today I achieved an incredibly significant milestone in my 9 years of living in China. I finally mustered up enough courage to ride on the local public bus – all by myself.

Can you believe it? Nine years in Beijing & Shanghai…where I mostly schlepped it in cabs & the Metro (the latter in Shanghai at least)…and never set foot inside a bus.

Total fear of the unknown.

Today I decided to face that fear head-on, walked to the bus stop outside our compound and got on the 194 bus. Our real estate agent had previously told me this is the bus that would take me from our home to IFC – the office tower where Herr Hubby works. Ok, not exactly the most adventurous itinerary but hey, I’m taking baby steps here.

Of course as I boarded, I had no idea how to swipe my transport card to pay (just like in Hong Kong & Shanghai, we use stored value cards for public transport here). I tried putting it on top of the meter and the driver eyed me with a look that said:”Here comes another clueless gweipor.”

He then proceeded to teach me (in excellent English, I might add) how to use my card, in front of an entire busload of amused passengers. Once my RMB 2 (approximately 30 US cents) had been deducted, I was free to sit and enjoy the ride as I wished. It was a beautiful morning and an excellent way to see the city!

There was even a moment when I bonded with my fellow bus passengers. A flashy lime-green Lamborghini pulled up in front of the gigantic China Minsheng Bank building in the Central Business District. From the driver’s seat emerged a young man, who couldn’t have been older than 20, in a Gap t-shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops, yapping on his iPhone. All of us in the bus stared at the car and at the young man as he sauntered into the bank and then we all looked at one another with a smile. I knew what was going through everyone’s minds…Yes, this is the New China. And for most of those people on the bus today, that young man and his car was the perfect illustration of The Chinese Dream.

Getting a new perspective – aboard the 194

By the way, wouldn’t you know it…all bus stop signs and stop announcements were bi-lingual, in Chinese and English. There had been nothing for me to be afraid of at all! What a liberating experience. I’m totally taking the bus more, from now on.

Welcome to the 1st edition of Monday Fundays!

Welcome to the first edition of Monday Fundays, where The Bamboo Stiletto combines her obsession with chic beach-inspired interiors, the movies & TV and celebrity gossip all into a single fun post!

If you’re based in Asia and have the Star World channel on your TV, then chances are you may already be hooked on this deliciously addictive TV series about a mysterious, beautiful young lady who suddenly buys a beach house at the Hamptons, renowned summer playground of Manhattan high society, and who may or may not have ulterior motives for living next door to the enclave’s reigning power couple, their goodlooking son and heir, and pampered daughter.

The show had me at the Hamptons. As a former New Yorker who once dreamed of spending summers there (and who was actually lucky enough to be invited there by more privileged friends on occasional summer weekends), of course I watched the show from the get go!

I later learned from the show’s production blog that the series is actually filmed in Manhattan Beach, California while the actual beach houses used for filming the pilot episode were in North Carolina.  After the pilot, the show built sets in California based on the interiors of the real beach houses used in the pilot. Real or make-believe – the beach house of the show’s rich, powerful but tragic Kennedy-esque protagonist family is one of the main attractions for me…and one of the reasons why I tune in week after week. Even Herr Hubby had to be forced to sit down and watch with me on the couch if he wanted an evening snuggle! 🙂

To whet our appetites for tonight’s episode, here are a few glimpses of the show’s star attraction below (all images courtesy of ABC network TV):

Beach “manor” of the show’s reigning power family
foyer of that family’s “beach house”
the gorgeous living room…to die for.
the living room from a different angle, showing a lovely kitchen
a glimpse of the couple’s master bedroom
the poolhouse / son’s bachelor pad…really cool. love this room!

Can you guess what the title of this show is? Let me know in your comments below!
Will you be tuning in tonight at 11pm on Star World???

Whatever your opinions might be about his music (I actually really liked his album “Justified”), his movies (in both “Friends with Benefits” and “In Time”, I think he proved that he does have legitimate comedic and action hero acting chops) – or his love life (for some reason, the tabs always describe his relationship with fiancee Jessica Biel as “boring”, which just means that a loving, stable, long-term relationship in Hollywood does not help tabloid sales) – there is no denying that superstar Justin Timberlake is not content to prance around in his Pradas. The guy is actually serious about branding himself as a global style icon.

Case in point: his label William Rast, which has succeeded much like Victoria Beckham has, in silencing critics and establishing itself as a significant name to watch out for in fashion.

Another case in point is Homemint, his new, curated line of home decor accessories in collaboration with celebrity stylist and interior designer Estee Stanley. What’s especially cool about this site is that when you visit for the first time, you fill out a quick questionnaire, then the site matches you with items that best match your “style profile”. I have to say, it was uncanny (some might say, creepy) how items on the site kept popping up on-screen and all I wanted to do was hit that Purchase button…AGAIN…and AGAIN…and AGAIN!!!

Right now, I’m crushing hard on a black leather Moroccan ottoman on the site. It would look SO fabulous in our new living room…and Herr Hubby would have a place to put his feet up when he’s watching TV at night, instead of propping them up on our Chinese medicine chest-designed coffee table! Don’t you just think this ottoman is divine???

Crushing hard on this divine ottoman…to buy or not to buy?

Today, Homemint had a delightful surprise in my email inbox – essentials for summer entertaining, including Justin’s favourite summer cocktail and Estee’s favourite summer salad (might give both a go this weekend at home!) as well as gorgeous little items perfect for your beach house or tropical home. Check out the link above!