Fly Me to the Moon: A Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to All!

The Mid-Autumn Festival is by far our most favourite of all Chinese festivals.

Next to the Spring Festival or “Chun jie”, which marks the celebration of Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival or “Zhongqiu jie” is the second most significant holiday of the Chinese lunar calendar. Also known as the Moon Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival claims a history dating back thousands of years,  becoming a popular celebration for the lunar harvest in the early Tang Dynasty period.

Romantic stories attached to this festival abound in Chinese mythology because of course, isn’t La Luna a symbol of romance in cultures all over the world?

Here’s our favourite story: A celestial husband and his wife were banished from the emperor’s court due to jealousy over the wife’s beauty. Anxious to return to court, the husband obeys when the emperor sends him on a mission; mission completed, the emperor rewards the husband with a pill for eternal life and boundless energy. The wife finds the pill by accident and consumes it; when the husband returns, she flees, afraid for her husband’s anger, and reaches the moon, where she coughs out the remainder of the pill. Unable to reach her, the husband asks for another pill to be made while he makes a home for himself in the sun. Unfortunately, the new pill is of extremely limited quantity, such that the husband from the sun can only visit his wife on the moon once a year. Which is why, legends saythe moon is at its roundest and brightest during Mid-Autumn Festival, reflecting the happiness of a reunited couple.

Romantic fairy tales aside, my own reasons for liking this festival best are simply personal and subjective…

In the days leading to the festival, we are entranced by the sight of little kids clutching little lanterns in their little hands,out for moon-gazing walks with their parents.

One of the adorable traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival is for little kids to go out in the evenings, carrying festive little lanterns. We love watching them in our neighborhood!

Athough they pack on calories with a punch, we do enjoy eating mooncakes! Mooncakes are the round-shaped sweet pastries which make popular gifts during this festival. These days, not only bakeshops, restaurants and hotels make a bundle on selling mooncakes but also Starbucks, Haagen Daazs – and even Angry Birds! – are getting into the mooncakes act too.

THE TRADITIONAL: When it comes to mooncakes, we’re a traditional sort of girl. None of these new-fangled zero-sugar, foie gras, chocolate frappe crap, we prefer the red bean or lotus with egg yolk sort.

THE MODERN: Yep, Haagen Dazs now makes mooncakes too. I’m not a fan. But I do like these new “snow” mooncakes, which I think originated in Singapore and are now popular in China and Hong Kong. Among “snow” mooncakes, the Singaporean ones still taste the best.

THE KITSCH: Oh, China and its boundless appetite for all things Angry Birds. Absolutely kyooooooot! These mooncakes totally cracked us up 🙂

We are captivated by the colourful festive lanterns festooned all over the city. The ones in the residential compound where we live here in Guangzhou are especially beautiful, and even more magical at night.

And lastly, unlike the Spring Festival, which occurs when winter is at its most severe and spring seems to be an illusory dream, the Mid-Autumn Festival happens when weather in China is at its finest. You can be in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou and during Mid-Autumn, the weather always seems to be on the cusp between summer’s end and winter’s beginnings. The sun shining gloriously through the day and the full bright moon gleaming at night, just a hint of chill in the air, making it a sheer joy to be outdoors. Perfect weather indeed for moon-gazing!

This year, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls right on the eve of the Chinese National Day holidays, making it an extraordinarily special celebration for the Chinese…as well as for the rest of us, as we all anticipate a week-long holiday. Woot woot, y’all!

We could feel almost palpable excitement in the air, in supermarkets as people rushed to buy gifts for loved ones, in the train station as throngs prepared to journey home to visit families, and even in our compound as kids dashed home on the last day of school before a week’s break, their faces colourfully painted and bringing makeshift paper lanterns home after school celebrations.

So, The Bamboo Stiletto is off as well, on a short break with Herr Hubby, my dear Stiletto-istas. We’ll be in touch again in a couple of days with a holiday dispatch!

Until then, my fondest wishes for “Zhongqiu jie kuai le!!!”...a Happy & Fabulous Mid-Autumn Festival to you and your loved ones!!!

Advertisements

Counting blessings at the end of the week, y’all…let’s have a FABULOUS weekend!

__ATA.cmd.push(function() { __ATA.initVideoSlot('atatags-370373-5cbb16148ffd8', { sectionId: '370373', format: 'inread' }); });

Posh Nosh: Robata Grill and Bar, Sofitel Guangzhou

Recently, we landed a little writing/editing gig for City Weekend Guangzhou – for you non-China based folks, City Weekend is a popular English-language expat rag, with print and online editions in Beijing and Shanghai. Here in Guangzhou, we now have  a newly revamped online edition but no print edition (not yet).

Whether you’re an old China hand or a greenie fresh off the plane, their magazines and website are indispensable, telling you all the events & doo-da in your city, crammed full of directory listings on everything from hospitals to hotels (with telephone numbers and helpful bi-lingual addresses), classifieds to help you in your search for the perfect apartment or ayi.

What our new gig basically entails is we get a chance to posh nosh in restaurants around town, hang out in hotels, swan around in spas and be besties with all the PR chicks and guys. Then, we head back to our  home office in Casa Stiletto and write about all the divalicious antics we’ve been up to! Tough life but hey, someone’s gotta do it!

Our first “assignment” was to have lunch at Robata Grill and Bar, the sleek-chic, modern Japanese resto at the Sofitel Hotel Guangzhou. We were on it like jam on bread or, I should say, like sushi on rice, haha!

We opted for Robata’s “Sake Experience” – a sake-pairing set menu, but minus the sake. Regretfully. We were sorely tempted but it was lunchtime on a schoolday after all. We would have passed out, snoring, for the entire afternoon! Here’s a quick look at our posh nosh.

Assorted Sushi

Faced with this giNORmous platter of sushi, it was easy to forget that we still had more courses to come, we just wanted to gorge ourselves!

Assorted Sashimi 

Seafood so fresh, just kind of melts in your mouth…Robata jets ’em in from the best in the world: Japan, Maldives, Finland, Australia…

Assorted Robatayaki

This grilled shrimp, Mirin-marinated pork belly & sweet potato, all cooked robatayaki-style, was a highlight for us. Flavours a-mingling! The pork? To die for!

Parilla-Grilled Australian Angus Beef with Duck Fat Fries

This baby satisfied our inner carnivore big time! Luscious Australian Angus beef ternderloin, grilled on the Argentinian parilla, & paired with Duck Fat Fries. Yum!

Tofu Cheesecake with Apple Miso Sorbet

Capping off our meal was Tofu Cheesecake, paired with Apple Miso Sorbet and fresh fruits.

Wasn’t that lunch just oishi-desu??? To read our full dining review on City Weekend Guangzhou’s website, please click here. To find out how to get to Robata Grill and Bar at Sofitel Hotel, Guangzhou, please click here.

Until our next nosh – Stiletto-istas, smile & stay posh! 🙂

2012 Emmy Awards Red Carpet Honor Roll

Red Carpet report alert, Stiletto-istas!

Did you watch the 2012 Emmys, from whichever corner of the world you’re sitting in? Network primetime in New York City means afternoon in Los Angeles, California…which means TOO GODDAM early in the morning for us here in Asia. But anyhooz, fuelled by cups of caffeine, The Bamboo Stiletto was up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, for yummy breakfast coverage of 2012 Emmy Awards red carpet fashions.

Here’s our top 5 picks of loveliest dresses on the red carpet – along with their runway equivalents: (all images courtesy of the Press Room -64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards and Red Carpet Fashion Awards)

  • Claire Danes in Lanvin

Let’s start off with the Emmy-winning Best Actress for TV Series – Drama! “Homeland” star Claire Danes looked hella luscious in this elegant, bump-friendly yellow Lanvin. Love how it drapes her figure, so flattering – you’d never guess Ms. Danes is actually pregnant. Herr Hubby and I are seriously addicted to her show & can’t wait for Season 2. Although her character creepily freaks me out (she’s so damn good in it)!

  • Ginnifer Goodwin in Monique Lhuiller

Shout-out to a fellow hometown girl! Designer Monique Lhuiller, who grew up in our ‘hood in Cebu in the Philippines, really outdid herself with this divine dress on “Once Upon a Time” actress Ginnifer Goodwin. Girlfriend looks too exquisite for words. Love the colour & that assymetrical hemline…as Ms. Goodwin walked the carpet, the skirt billowed out beautifully after her. So reminded me of Audrey Hepburn in “Funny Face”…that classic old film supposedly inspired by Richard Avedon, Diana Vreeland and the good old days of Vogue? (maybe before your time, young ducks!)

  • Jessica Pare in Jason Wu

Some of FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s most iconic looks have come courtesy of designer Jason Wu, so I guess somehow in my mind, his dresses always seem to remind me of her. Take this elegant Grecian-inspired one-shoulder white gown on “Mad Men” star Jessica Pare. Old Hollywood glam is so spot-on for Don Draper’s wife and yet, I can totally imagine the very 21st century First Lady looking so right in it as well!

  • Jena Malone in J. Mendel

The colour of this rich burgundy gown by J. Mendel would have looked too old on young actress Jena Malone (who’s currently shooting “The Hunger Games” sequel “Catching Fire”), but the uneven, strappy neckline (and that thigh-high slit, naturally) succeeds in making it fresh, youthfully edgy and age-appropriate.

  • Julie Bowen in Monique Lhuiller

Such an unexpected burst of colour on the red carpet…we luvz it, don’t we, Stiletto-istas? “Modern Family” star Julie Bowen looks like the winner that she is (she went home with the Emmy statuette for Best Supporting Actress, TV Series-Comedy) in this refreshing lime-yellow Monique Lhuiller. Like a tall, cool glass of limoncello!

Special Honourable Mention – Jessica Lange in J. Mendel

Sigh! When we grow up, we want to look like the Queen of Fabulousity, the Mama of Glamourama that is Jessica Lange, Emmy winner for Best Supporting Actress, Mini-Series-Drama. Just look at her. 63 years old? Girlfriend just GLOWS in this fab scarlet J. Mendel gown…And naturally, we are major fanatics of her seriously twisted show, “American Horror Story”. We can’t wait to see what perversely demented character Ms. Lange is going to unleash upon us in season 2. Love her!

That wraps up The Bamboo Stiletto’s fab fashion report for the 2012 Emmy Awards, ducks!

What about you, who did you pick for best-dressed on the red carpet? Did we pick the same hot babes? Or, did you have other choices? Thoughts…objections??? Discuss in the Comments below!

Monday Funday: Christian Louboutin’s Biggest Fan, More Imeldific Than Imelda Marcos…WHO Is She?

And our happy Monday Fundays return, Stiletto-istas – welcome back!
A quick recap of our last edition: if you recall, we had asked you to guess which young, successful country/pop music sweetheart romancing a Kennedy scion this summer had just bought a divine beach house next to his family compound in Hyannisport, Cape Cod, Massachusetts? Several of you guessed it correctly…yup, it’s Taylor Swift! (to read that previous Monday Funday edition, click here)

Aaaaaw! Isn’t young love just sweet & these 2 munchkins simply adorbs? Summer lovin’ on Cape Cod…Taylor Swift puckers up for a kiss with boyfriend Conor Kennedy, son of RFK Jr., and grandson of RFK and JFK.

Moving on to today’s Monday Funday…let’s begin with a little Bamboo Stiletto “origins story”, as they say in film industry lingo.

It was the summer of 1999. I had just moved from Hong Kong to New York City where that fall, I was due to attend graduate classes in business at Fordham University’s Manhattan campus in Lincoln Centre.

I was waiting for the number 1 train heading downtown at the subway station nearest my Upper West Side apartment. Next to me, also waiting for the train, was a lone, slim, well-dressed woman, blonde hair scooped neatly into a ponytail. For the life of me, I can’t remember now what she was wearing but what vividly transfixed me were her shoes. They were, by far, the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen in my life. In a gorgeous teal colour, ideal for summer. Showcasing her perfectly pedicured toes most adorably.

At this stage in my life, my love affair with shoes had already begun in earnest. Remember, I had lived in Hong Kong in the 1990s. Manolo Blahnik already had a popular shop in Hong Kong (back then, hordes of Japanese tourists could be seen queueing outside the shop; these days, the queueing hordes are all from mainland China). Blahnik and Jimmy Choo were already available at Lane Crawford. But this woman’s shoes…I did not recognize.

For a few seconds, I argued with myself. Should I act like a tourist in New York and simply ask a complete stranger, who did her shoes? Or, should I simply suffer in silent admiration? In the end, I couldn’t stand it…inquiring minds had to know! Before the train came roaring in, I mustered my thick-skinned courage, smiled at the unknown lady, paid my compliments regarding her shoes and asked, whose and what were they?

She smiled at the compliment, did not seem surprised (and, in fact, seemed to take it for granted that her beautiful shoes were certainly worthy of a stranger’s admiration) and then, she said: ” They’re by Christian Louboutin.”

It  was the first time I had ever heard of Christian Louboutin. It was also, indeed, a case of lust at first sight.

Alas, it was a case of wanting what I couldn’t have. At least not while I was in grad school and didn’t have a bean in the world. It wasn’t until years later, while in the Beijing rat race, during a Lane Crawford warehouse sale, that I was able to buy my first ever pair of Louboutins.

Since then, I’ve only managed to buy two more pairs – and only when massively discounted by Lane Crawford at its Hong Kong and Beijing stores.  Never bought them at full price; I mean, I AM a self-confessed shoe whore, but just CANNOT justify that kind of money. Here’s a look at The Bamboo Stiletto’s Louboutin stilettos – to date:

My Louboutin stilettos…one of these babies is already 8 years old, my first ever pair! Guess which one? Haha! Easy-peasy. Scuffed from use, you can hardly see the logo anymore.

Of course, by now, Louboutins have become so famous that Jennifer Lopez has sung about them;  they’re mentioned by rappers alongside other bling accoutrements as Cristal champagne and G6 private jets. Even “Sex & the City” character, Carrie Bradshaw, and her well-known Manolo Blahnik fetish, ended up choosing Louboutins for her wedding to Mr. Big. Over the years, my infatuation with Louboutin began to lose its lustre.

I was, however, reminded of my past love affair when the Wall Street Journal magazine recently ran a feature on the designer himself and his amazing shoe archive, housed in one of his homes. Mr. Louboutin has five residences: in the United States (Los Angeles, California), in Egypt and Portugal, an apartment in Paris and a lovely 13th-century chateau in the French countryside region of Vendee. It is here, in a restored oak barn, that Mr. Louboutin keeps an archive of more than 8,000 pairs of shoes, culled from his 20 years in the industry. He has room for 14,000 and is presently looking to hire a curator to manage the archive.

Uh, DING DONG! Monsieur Louboutin, where do I sign up to apply??? Who do we have to kill to get that job? Hahahaaa! Stiletto-istas, here’s a glimpse of Mr. Louboutin’s French country home (all images courtesy of the Wall Street Journal magazine’s September issue):

The 13th century Chateau de Champgillon in the Vendee region

The chateau’s oak barn, which was restored to house the shoe archive

Stiletto-istas, this is it! Our Holy Grail…our place of worship. Christian Louboutin’s shoe archive.

Can you imagine working as the curator for his archive and getting paid in shoes – like this little sexy thang?

The designer himself, Monsieur Louboutin, at home. Doing some shoe organizing. Celebrities…they’re just like us!

Anyhooz – we were fascinated to learn that Mr. Louboutin’s shoes have fans whose obsessions are of such magnitude that they can start their own Louboutin archive. Imelda Marcos supposedly had 3,ooo pairs of shoes?…phooey shoemey, girlfriend has NOTHING on these Louboutin shoe-crazed women!

One fan, in particular, is so fanatical that she currently owns more than 6,000 pairs of Louboutins. She is known to walk into a Louboutin shop in Paris or New York and buy between 60 to 80 pairs…right on the spot! Can you imagine the fabulousity??? Good thing this glamorous Louboutin fan is loaded in her own right and can afford her indulgences; known as “The Queen of Romance” for being one of the world’s bestselling romance novelists, she rakes in millions each year on royalties alone.

Who can be more Imeldific than Imelda Marcos? WHO is she? C’mon and ‘fess up, Stiletto-istas, you may have even read one of her books. It’s Monday Funday y’all, give me your Best Guess  in the Comments below and have a beautiful week ahead!

The Happiness Project: Happier at Home

Thank God It’s Friday, Stiletto-istas!
You may have heard of American bestselling author Gretchen Rubin and her book “The Happiness Project“…well now, I got all sorts of excited when I read in the Huffington Post that she has just come out with a new book, “Happier at Home”.

Ah, a subject close to my Bamboo Stiletto heart! And I’m sure to yours too! I mean, I’m sure we’ve all spent a lot of time and effort to try and make our homes as lovely, as welcoming and yes, as happy as possible. So when our loved ones come home at the end of a long, tiring day, their troubles and worries just melt away when they walk in the door.

I immediately skedaddled over to my favourite bookstore in Hong Kong (yes, I cross borders for books, people!) to get my happy pawpaws on this little gem.

The Bamboo Stiletto hearts this book! You will too!!!

What really had me at hello was Ms. Rubin’s darling little one-minute video trailer tease about the book on her website. Click on this link and view the vid – 10 Ways to be Happier at Home – here. And I dare you to tell me that you’re not tickled pink (or purple) by her suggestions? Which ones were your favourites?

As for moi, our faves were:

  • Don’t let anyone get too hungry.
    (Don’t you think this is so true? Hungry people are miserable people! I think maybe this is why fashion industry people have reputations for being such b—-s. These poor ducks are starving, of course! They would so cheer up if they would allow themselves to have a muffin once in a while, don’t you think? This is why Herr Hubby and I always have an ice cream bar in the fridge. Just in case.)
  • Everything looks better arranged on a tray.
    (OMG! Again, so true! I only discovered this when I really got super-duper involved in my amateur efforts at styling our flat here in Guangzhou. I am now obsessed with trays in the way that I used to obsess about Roger Vivier. Seriously).
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
    (This appeals to the obsessive-compulsive in me. I’m the type of person, for instance, who cannot, just cannot have dirty dishes in the sink overnight. Even after a dinner party that ended at 2am. Them dishes had to be washed. Yes, this actually happened in Shanghai, where we didn’t have a dishwasher. And no, I did NOT have live-in help, unlike some of you lucky ducks here in Asia. I washed all the dishes, pots and pans AND cleaned the kitchen till everything was spotless and smelled like Lysol (by nearly 3am). And you know what? It was therapeutic 🙂

Lastly, one of my absolutest faves and I’m admittedly biased because I applied this myself at Casa Stiletto BEFORE I’d even heard of “Happier at Home”  – and Gretchen Rubin herself admits that this one is controversial – TA-DA!

Purple pops in our living room at Casa Stiletto 🙂

Have a FABULOUSO weekend, Stiletto-istas!!! Be HAPPY AT HOME 🙂

Gweipor Anecdote: Accidental Comedy during Mani/Pedi

My dear Stiletto-istas, I must ask you a question that’s been incessantly bugging me for some time now: who died and laid down the commandment that manicures and pedicures must now be mandatory?

Now don’t get me wrong, babes – I love, absolutely love going for mani/pedis, especially when enhanced with unlimited mojitos and a gabfest with gal pals! – but wasn’t there a time when these excursions were considered an indulgence? A treat?

These days, when I’m out and about in flipflops, peeptoes or open-toed sandals, if I haven’t been to my manicurist in a few weeks and my pedicure is showing slight signs of chipping, I feel so self-conscious I might as well be showing visible coloured panty lines to the world! No, mani-pedis have become routine, to be regularly scheduled, just like visits to the dentist, with mojitos substituting for Novocaine.

This week, a particularly virulent bug of unknown origin infested us and we were down with a nasty bout of the sniffles. Deprived of our torture bootcamp sessions, as well as running, tennis and yoga, we made valiant attempts at working – but the bloody colds medicine was putting us straight to sleep in front of the computer – so after a couple of futile attempts, we gave up and decided instead to go for a manicure and pedicure.

In the expat ghetto where we live in Guangzhou, the “beauty salon” is run by a Cantonese husband and wife team; he does hair while she does hands and feet. They are immensely popular and on weekends, it is necessary to make appointments well in advance. Having operated their salon in the compound for several years, they’ve seen countless expats come and go, and feel it is their responsibility to vet any newcomer who ventures into their shop. I was casually peppered with several questions as to where my husband and I were from, where did he work, what did he do, etc. I was then asked where I work, what do I do, etc.

Not feeling brave enough to tackle Cantonese and anxious to please with my Mandarin, I replied (with a fair amount of confidence): ” Wo shi tai tai.” (I am a wife / I am a housewife).

My manicurist shot an incredulous look at me…then glanced quickly at hairdresser husband, followed by rapid-fire Cantonese where the only word I understood was “tai tai”. I was given another once-over (head to toe) then…they both burst out in loud, hearty guffaws of laughter. They laughed so hard that the wife, my manicurist, had to stop buffing my nails for a few minutes.

Eager to join in the hilarity, I wiggled in my seat and asked (in English):” Why? What’s so funny?”

Quickly composing herself, my manicurist assumed a straight face and returned to buffing my nails, stating:
“No…no funny. No funny.”

I was confounded. When I pressed her again, she just kept repeating the same words:”No funny.”

I inadvertently glanced at myself in the mirror and remembered their head-to-toe once-over. I had absolutely no lick of make-up on, my hair carelessly pulled back in a topknot ponytail, and I was dressed in a scruffy t-shirt and shorts combo that had definitely seen better days. Honestly, I could have easily been mistaken for an ayi (housemaid). Except that even ayis (especially recalling the ones we had in Shanghai) were better dressed and groomed.

And – looking like this trainwreck! – I had introduced myself to them as a “tai tai”. Aiya! No wonder they had gone into hysterics!!!

Note to self: when calling oneself a “tai tai”, remember to look and dress the part next time. 🙂

If she had said, “Wo shi tai tai”, I bet no one would have reacted with hysterics. Haaay! (photo courtesy of the 2006 film “Gweipo”)

Do What’s Necessary…

Good morning, sunshine!

Last week, I don’t know what in hell’s name possessed me but I decided to sign up for my first session of morning bootcamp here in Guangzhou.
What on earth is bootcamp, sensible folks like you, my dear Stiletto-istas, may ask? Well, in short, it’s hell on earth. Basically a circuit training programme, where a physical fitness trainer has the cushy job of barking orders at masochists like myself who have volunteered for an hour – 60 doggone long minutes! – to wake up at the crack of dawn when no decent human being should be awake, be subjected to instruments of hardcore physical torture and absolutely dire lessons in humiliation. Twice a week, every week.

As if this doesn’t sound agonizing enough, in Guangzhou, our bootcamp classes are held not in a comfy, climate-controlled gym but outdoors at a park (a lovely, lush green one, admittedly) outside the compound where I live.  Bear in mind that we’re in the sub-tropics here, mates…by 7am, it’s already boiling outside, believe you me. Like I said, I don’t know what in hell’s name possessed me…

Admittedly, I’d done bootcamps before. Most recently, in Shanghai, where a bunch of us showed up for 90 minutes of punishment every morning for 10 days in the winter. We were in a gym most of the time but a couple of times, we were outdoors, where I tell you, all your jiggly bits get so frozen, they almost don’t jiggle! Almost…I have to say, when we completed our 10 days (especially after hitting what feels like a roadblock on the 3rd or 4th day), we’d bonded so well, the feeling of collective accomplishment was amazingly overwhelming.

I remember doing outdoor bootcamps too, during summers in New York City, at Central Park – where we really got yelled at by extremely bossy, musclebound gym rats, military-style: “You call that sprinting? My GRANDMOTHER can run faster than that!!!” But I was in my twenties then. And as we duckies of a certain age out there know all too well, our bodies’ amazing capacities for strength, endurance and resilience are all at its peak during our twenties. Even when we are also totally abusing it at the same time, with excess partying, drinking and well…anything excessively fun when you’re young, reckless and utterly foolish 🙂

So last week, I showed up on time for my first bootcamp session like the good little girl scout that I was and watched apprehensively as the other women came trickling in. All were outfitted in Lycra with zero to very little body fat and all of them, including our trainer, were blonde, tanned, lean and muscular. In stark contrast, I was in a ratty old t-shirt, had zero muscle tone, more jiggly bits than I cared for and the closest I’ve come to being blonde are my highlights courtesy of L’Oreal;  I can boast, however, of having a year-round tan, with no need for touch-ups.

Anyhooz, I was super-intimidated. Even though everyone was really nice and friendly, it was obvious I was the only newbie and I was thinking I’d be totally screwed for the next 60 minutes or so when along came , huffing and puffing in the morning sun, a cheery Australian lady, who wasn’t blonde nor tanned nor lean and, shall we say, looked like she could belong to MY fitness level. I mean, I was huffing and puffing myself just getting to the bloody park! (which is right outside our compound gates).

Aussie Lady glances over at my (probably panic-stricken) face and bellows heartily:“No worries, luv! You can’ t be any slower than me!” I cheered up at that and thought: “Why, she’s my new BFF!” and immediately stood next to her.

What was I thinking? Aussie Lady and, needless to say, all the Lycra Ladies kicked my ass. In the dirt. Boom. I mean, seriously, these people were like Lycra-clad Energizer bunnies!

A couple of times,  black spots started dancing before my eyes and I couldn’t even complete a circuit, instead hanging my head between my knees, gasping for oxygen and praying desperately that I wouldn’t retch, keel over and collapse, or both. It was embarassing – and frightening – how out of shape I had allowed myself to become, without my realizing it. I had never felt so slow, so clumsy, so heavy…and so old.(even though some of these women were at least a few years older than me).

When that session finally, mercifully, came to an end, everyone made soothing noises about how the first day is always the toughest day, that it was completely understandable for me not to complete a circuit and that, with time, sessions may still be tough but that my body would be able to handle it.

I found that difficult to swallow as, for the next three days, I couldn’t even walk, bend over, crouch or basically even sit, without yelping in pain. My body was so sore that when I went for a much-needed massage, it felt like another hour of torture instead of providing me with relaxation and relief.

I was all set to throw in the towel, I tell you. After all, I rationalized to myself, I’m already playing tennis twice a week and doing yoga twice a week…what do I need this misery for?

And yet…something stubborn inside me refused to give up, just like that. Yes, my body was sore afterwards, but it felt sore in all the right places. If you know what I mean. It meant that my body was getting what it badly needed…that by going back to bootcamp, I was actually doing myself a favour and doing something right.

Sighing, I texted my trainer and confirmed that I’d be back for more punishment in the coming week. She replied: “Yay! I know that you don’t feel like it now but seriously, your body will be thanking for you for it.” Geez, I certainly hope so!

So, determined to at least improve upon my pitiful show of endurance last week, early this morning, I laced up my running shoes and went for a brisk walk/jog around Ersha Island. And guess what? It was such a beautiful morning. It felt so amazingly good to be outdoors, to be alive, healthy and free, to be breathing, my heart beating, my feet pounding the pavement, that I was looking at everything around me with newfound appreciation.

Apart from the neighborhood Starbucks, its driveway bustling with the the bicycles of gweilo (foreign) teachers from the American International school next door and the airconditioned BMWs and Benzes of affluent Chinese yuppies on their way to the skyscrapers acoss the river, the island was quiet and still. The parks and running trails were almost deserted, with only a few old geezers doing their tai-chi or also walking and running, like me. I’d completely forgotten that at this time of day, the world is absolutely enchanting.

My body was indeed thanking me, so were my eyes….and, most importantly, so were my heart and soul:

Ersha Island’s lovely riverside running path…totally deserted in early morning except for an old geezer or two 🙂

The trail leads me past the tennis club with these gorgeous blue, tournament-class courts & a breathtaking view of the central business district’s skyscrapers across the river. This is my favourite spot to play tennis on the island.

Apart from the tai-chi geezers and the occasional runner, the only people hanging about the riverside are a couple of hopeful fishermen, angling for a bite.

The island’s gated residential communities are populated by an army of security guards, gardeners, ayis (maids), who all report to work very early, usually on their bicycles.

You can see that I’ve navigated around the island, from the distance of the IFC tower across the river, which was much closer to me in the earlier shot at the tennis court. The parks on Ersha Island are incredibly lovely, more so early in the morning.

The Guangzhou Tower winks at me in the distance as, with body, mind heart & soul at peace, I finally head back to a place where I belong: HOME 🙂

Have a beautiful week ahead, everyone!

Gobsmacked: Shopping at Sanyuanli Clothing Market

Up until today, we’d ventured to all kinds of wholesale markets in Guangzhou, from the pet fish market to the bling-bling market… but we’d actually never been to a clothes market. Duh! It was high time to rectify the situation so, with two girlfriends whom I’d bamboozled into showing me the way, off we went.

Our destination was the wholesale clothing market district of Sanyuanli. My girlfriends had forewarned me that because of the overwhelming sheer volume of clothes for sale, it was best to tackle the shopping by going one market or building at a time. So, baby steps, dear Stiletto-istas, baby steps…

I thought I was used to shopping in markets by now, in Beijing & Shanghai, in Bangkok & Manila, but when we got there, I swear to God, I was still overwhelmed. Absolutely gobsmacked. This market had five storeys and there were sooooooo many shops, selling soooooo many clothes, from women’s, men’s, children’s clothes, you name it, they had it all. Piles upon bundles, plastic bags upon sacks, it was insane! Some shops had prices quoting by the kilogramme! Some shops didn’t bother about any sort of display at all; clothes were simply strewn about, spilling out of plastic bags that looked suspiciously like the black plastic garbage bags you see only in kitchens. Walk into these shops and you feel like an unwitting extra in that horrifyingly addictive reality TV show, “Hoarders.”

And to think this was just in a single building…this entire district had streets upon streets, with buildings upon buildings, all devoted to clothing. For instance, a quick peek at the building next door revealed an entire barrio crammed with shops all selling jeans.

Anyhooz, I was busy walking around wide-eyed with mouth agape, that I completely forgot to take photos of the market for you guys. I do apologize for that but – worry not! – our morning wasn’t completely wasted.

In order not to go completely batshit-crazy in the market, I’d decided to concentrate on hunting for very specific clothing items. Clothes which I know I can always use here in Guangzhou or Hong Kong, with sub-tropical climates, are always handy in tropical countries like the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and can always be counted on as summer staples.

Stylish white cotton tops and/or dresses: this was my mission.  It took a couple of hours of combing through that market but I’m happy to report…mission successfully accomplished! When I got home, I then had fun playing amateur stylist and putting together outfits and accessories to go with my newly purchased whites. Here are the results!

White eyelet smock top with 3/4 sleeves. Pair with candy-hued shorts (like this scarlet pair) & accessorize with a funky necklace to enhance its simple neckline. Doesn’t the white top just pop?

Another white eyelet number, this one with an elastic waistband & shoulder (so you can choose to bare both shoulders or go assymetrical, with one shoulder bared). For a soft yet sexy look, pair with white denim cut-off minis (like this) or your scruffiest Daisy Dukes. Accessorize those tanned bare shoulders with a dramatic statement necklace.

This entire outfit is so totally moi, it’s practically my uniform! Loose white embroidered top (check out that gorgeous detailing around the neckline & sleeves) paired with creamy khaki shorts & a matching jute & wood necklace. Slip on flat or wedge espadrilles & you’re good to go. Gaaah, so adorbs!

The party top! All sleek, shiny & sequinned in a very simple, chic cut. Imagine with your favourite skinny jeans and…your sexiest pair of STILETTOS, OF COURSE, DAHLINGS! Sizzle, sizzle!

Let me share a secret with you, seeing as we’re all besties here and all: I actually already had a similar top to that top above sitting in my closet at home, the exact same cut, style, fabric & sequins, but in silver, not in white. Except that my old silver top was purchased at Calvin Klein and had cost me an absolute BOMB (this was when The Bamboo Stiletto was still a corporate rat racer and was earning accordingly, having no time then to bargain-hunt in markets). You will absolutely die when I tell you how much the white Calvin look-alike above actually cost me. 🙂

Speaking of corporate rat racers, here’s a stylish look for the office. Working girl, you can go from business meetings to a working dinner with this ensemble:

A practical yet pretty white top with lace & eyelet embellishments is feminine yet businesslike when paired with a pencil skirt in neutral hues like this grey. Amp up the style with a simple necklace or an elegant belt. When heading out for dinner with work colleagues or business clients, a stylish alternative to the usual blazer is a great scarf.

And, lastly, here’s a sweet look that’s ideal for a surprise lunch date with the boyfriend or the hubby. Especially if it’s a special lunch date, y’ know, like meeting his Mom for the first time (wanna make a good, demure ladylike impression, right, babes?) :

A simple white eyelet sheath spells dewy romance when paired with soft pearls & strappy sandals. A statement scarf – such as this gorgeous silk beauty designed by our creative & talented friend VAL – definitely adds ooooompppphhhhh! Interested in snagging a signature VAL scarf like this for yourself? Easy-peasy. Just click on http://expressionsbyval.wordpress.com/

So, those were the results of our morning hunt for alles weiss at Sanyuanli. Not bad, eh? And NOW, apres le shopping, you nosy Stiletto-istas may be asking, what was la damage? Let’s see, you can see that we bought a total of 5 tops & 1 dress, correct? Our total cost for this entire loot came to RMB 415 (approximately USD 70). Less than a hundred bucks, can you believe it? The Calvin look-alike sequinned top? That was the best bargain of the lot, costing me RMB 35 (about USD 6!!!). The dress was the most expensive, with a cost of RMB 120 (about USD 20).

My girlfriends reminded me that actually, the cost per item was still rather high because I had only bought one piece of each item and seeing as we were in a wholesale market, the prices could still have gone lower if I had bought multiple pieces. Gaaaah! Whaaaa…??? How on earth do these people make any profit? The mind boggles!

So now that we’ve successfully completed our baby steps-shopping at Sanyuanli, we look forward to sharing our future, more confident shopping forays with y’all. Excited, Stiletto-istas? Because we sure are! 🙂

How to get there: Very simple. Take the Guangzhou metro to Sanyuanli station, take exit D and the market is right on top. No need to even get out onto the street. Another, more comfy option, is to cab it & ask the driver to drop you at Sanyuanli ditie (metro station), walk down into the station and look for exit D. Make sure to bring cash only, plastic not welcome in most places in this market. Happy shopping!

Guangzhou Tourist: Shamian Island

A few days ago, our itchy stilettos took us island-hopping, from our home on Ersha Island to what is arguably one of Guangzhou’s prettiest and most charming historical destinations: Shamian Island.

What is basically a sand bar nestling in the middle of the city’s Pearl River, Shamian (which literally means “sandy surface” in Chinese) has always played a prominent role in Guangzhou’s colourful past. At one time or another, it was a trading outpost (Qing Dynasty era) then a strategic defense outpost (Opium Wars) and then a foreign concession territory halved between the French & the British, (1/5 French and 4/5 British, post-Opium Wars), during which time a building boom occurred as consulates, hotels, banks, churches and residences for the wealthy flourished, an architectural legacy largely responsible for the island’s charm today. If you’re visiting Guangzhou and if you’ve got a weakness for old architectural eye candy – snap up your camera, get your arse over to Shamian Island and get trigger happy, baby.

Speaking of baby, nowadays, Shamian Island is mostly notable among Americans seeking to adopt Chinese babies as the last stop of their adoption journey in China before they head back home to the United States. The American consulate in Guangzhou, as of this writing still based on the island (while the massive new bunker-like consulate in the city’s new Central Business District is being completed), is apparently the only consulate in China which issues American entry permits for adopted Chinese babies. A white American couple wheeling a Chinese baby in a pram down Shamian Island’s leafy tree-lined avenues near the gargantuan White Swan Hotel is so commonplace an occurence that no one bats an eyelid at the sight.

Here’s some picturesque postcards from our little morning stroll on Shamian, starting with its beautiful old buildings:

We crept inside this divine little church, Our Lady of Lourdes, and enjoyed a blissfully peaceful moment while contemplating its gorgeous glass-stained windows. Friends have mentioned to us that this church has an English-language Catholic mass on Sundays:

The Holy Family depicted beautifully on stained glass windows

Even the friggin’ Starbucks on the island is pretty:


Dotting the spaces around the island’s trees and parks are these whimsical statues:

A case of life imitating art?

Statues of musicians playing…

…and a couple of real-life old geezers actually playing sweet music in the park and charming all of us who passed them by.

Not surprising that this photogenic island is a favourite photo op destination for bridal couples – we must have counted at least 8 couples puckering up the cameras during our stroll (along with their requisite entourage of photographers, make-up artists, stylists, etc) ! Here’s a shy one :-), so hella cute, aren’t they?

pucker up & pose, kids!

Models vogueing it up are another common sight on Shamian, with the ubiquituous photographer and lighting assistant in tow, as well as make-up stylists and wardrobe handlers dragging along racks of clothes. Here’s a little eye candy for ya:

Strike a pose, you can do it: Vogue.

What struck us as most delightful about Shamian Island was the lack (or rather, the absence of) gigantic motorbuses disgorging gazillions of tourists being sheperded by an obnoxious loudspeaker-toting guide. Granted we were there on a weekday morning but we hardly spotted any tourists at all, leaving the island’s idyllic atmosphere intact. We kind of hope it stays this way…

And as we wrap up playing tourist for the day, we leave you with a glimpse of this cheeky apartment building on Shamian – take a look below, we figure the building’s inhabitants may be the happiest people in Guangzhou, don’t you??? 🙂

The apartment building’s facade, with some curious red thingies on the front gate…let’s take a closer look, shall we?

welcome to the Gate of Eternal Happiness…we bid you, enter!!!
SMILE, Stiletto-istas!

How to get there:
Getting there by Guangzhou metro is straightforward & cheap. Get off at Huangsha station, head for exit D, just cross the overpass and you’ll end up at a little footbridge connecting to the island. Alternatively, hop into a cab and just say, “Shamian Dao.”

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: