Monday, April 21, 2014

In My City: Bangkok

Today’s “In My City” post features Urban Mantra’s hometown of Bangkok! 

Just like they say that the French possess an innate fashion sense, I find the Thais to be a generally well-dressed lot. They take great care in their appearance. The average person on the street is neatly dressed with a basic sense of style, Indeed, I would describe the Thai dressing sensibility as smart and well put-together. To emulate that style, take what I’m wearing here. A pastel pink top and a black & white striped skirt (with pockets!) paired with black heels and a hot pink bag. Somewhat matchy-matchy but not overdone. Hopefully smart and put-together? The top was purchased at Siam and the skirt at Terminal 21 (one of my favorite places to shop in Bangkok and described in greater detail in an older post). 
Top from Siam, skirt from Terminal 21, shoes from Banana Republic,
necklace from J. Crew, Lauren by Ralph Lauren Newbury tote
Now let's talk about shopping in the so-called City of Angels, known to turn even those who hate shopping into shopaholics! Whether it’s trendy clothes, cute shoes and bags, local handicrafts or home wares, you are sure to find something that fits your budget. From high end malls to street shopping, you can have your pick of the lot! So where do you go for what? Where do the locals like to shop? Where can you get the best stuff at the best prices? Urban Mantra’s got you covered. Read on for more details…
  • MBK is an old favorite for budget-friendly apparel (clothes, shoes, purses, makeup), accessories, and souvenirs 
  • Terminal 21 is located right in the city center and is a great place to buy trendy clothes and accessories. You can spend a whole afternoon there, wandering through the little stores and exploring what they have to offer. I also love the kitchy airport theme they have going on at this mall. Each floor is a different city and is designed accordingly. It’s actually quite fun! 
  • Are you the type of person who likes to load up on things if you like something? Then Platinum Mall is the place for you. Here, prices of goods are cheaper if you buy in threes vs just one. For example, if you are looking to buy gifts for a few friends, or a bunch of jewelry, or perhaps different colors of nail polish, then this is a great place to come! 
  • Chatuchak is a huge street market open only on weekends but boy, can you find great stuff here! You can find everything under the sun here in terms of clothes, shoes, bags, scarves, jewelry, etc. But personally, I love, love, love coming here for the unique home decor items and local Thai handicrafts sold at a much lower price point compared with anywhere else. This outdoor market is shaded but still, be mentally prepared to deal with the discomfort of the heat! 
  • If shopping for high end designer goods or the recognizable name brand stores (eg, Zara, Mango, Forever 21, etc), then head on over to Emporium, Central, or Siam Paragon 
  • For street shopping for clothes by up and coming local designers, Siam Square is the place for you. Be sure to bargain!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Songkran Fun

The Thai people are known to be friendly, fun-loving, and easy-going people. Perhaps no other event exemplifies this characteristic better than the Thai New Year festival of Songkran. During this time, Bangkok city turns into one big water festival. At every nook and street corner, you'll find groups of people armed with water pistols, hoses, and large tubs of water with the single-minded goal of dousing passerbys. There's no escaping this water attack - you will get soaked and that too, repeatedly! The water symbolizes the washing away all sins and bad luck from the year before and purifies you for the start of a new year. This glorified water fight couldn't have been better timed. This is also around the time of year when Bangkok heat starts to become stifling, and the cool water offers a much needed respite.

It has been several years since I happened to be in Bangkok for Songkran, and I had almost forgotten how much fun (or painful, depending on how much you appreciate being put through a veritable rinse cycle) it can be! The other day, I happened to walk along the streets and captured a few candid shots of Songkran revelry. Unsuspecting tourists and locals alike, no one was safe from the water wars going on around town. I'm of the belief that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And if you're a true Bangkokian, you will join them! After taking a few pictures from a safe and dry distance, I set my camera aside. I walked up to some people holding a water hose and said, "Hit me!" in Thai. A few seconds later, I was dripping wet down to my shoes!

On a side note, Songkran marks the beginning of spring and the harvest season. Songkran is believed to be derived from the Sanskirt term sankranti and coincides with many other spring festivals in India, like Vaisakhi and Gudi Padwa. Some compare Songkran to Holi but without the use of rang. Whatever it is, it's one hell of a fun time where adults and children alike join in on some good natured mischief-making!

Note: The first two pictures have been taken from other sources but the rest taken by yours truly.
Songkran turns into a foam party too (source)
 I wish I could have witnessed this in real life! (Source)
Just because they're little girls doesn't mean they can't play hard! 
Hey! Come join us!
A water and dance party happening on the streets
A tuk tuk, a tourist, and a water gun
Beware the person who holds a water rifle on a speedy motorcycle
Old uncles know how to have fun too!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

In My City: A Tale of Twin Cities (Mumbai & DC)

In My City is a series of posts about shopping and fashion in different cities. I have asked blogger friends from around the world to share their favorite local shopping spot(s) in their city along with a picture showcasing their street style.

Today we have Ashwini from The Zing of My Life talking about her favorite shopping locales in two of her favorite cities - her hometown of Mumbai and her current hometown of Washington DC. Ashwini is one of our favorite blogger buddies - sweet in nature with a sense of style that we'd describe as "easy chic". She always looks stylish and put together. Without further ado...take it away, Ashy!
When Richa & Shruti invited me to write about the 'In My City ' feature, I got down to thinking about my shopping patterns and style...where do I shop really? Lot of stuff is from here in the US, which makes sense since that is where I live currently. But then, quite a lot of stuff is from my shopping expeditions in Mumbai. So well, I am going to take some liberty here by taking you through my fave shopping jaunts in two cities - Mumbai and Washington, DC.
Picture 1: Neon necklace from Colaba Causeway, Mumbai
Picture 2: Fringe necklace from Hill Road, Bandra
Picture 3: Gold-tone ring from Langford Market, Mosaic District
Picture 4: 
Statement necklace from Groopdealz | Print-dress from Target
Anyone who has lived or visited Mumbai, a cosmopolitan city in India on the western coastline of India, will tell you that street-shopping is an activity you have to add to your must-do activities list. There are many street-shopping nooks in the city but my fave two are Colaba Causeway, which is right in the heart of the city, and Linking Road/ Hill Road in Bandra, a hip and posh suburb.

Colaba Causeway is a historic neighborhood right beside the famous landmark of Gateway of India. It's a long winding alley with small shops set up on the footpaths selling exotic jewelry, tops, skirts, bags, watches and what not. My fave part is scoring ethnic, statement jewelry pieces for an amazing price...bang for your buck kinda deal! A lot many pieces that I feature on the blog have come from this old, rustic shopping place. Don' forget to duck in and sip on a cold beer and some urban snacks at the Leopold Cafe which is right in the center of the buzzing area.

Linking Road is another street-shopping destination in the city and unlike Colaba Causeway, which is sorta cozied away into an alley, this place is located on a high-traffic road in Bandra with a mix of brand shops and street-shopping shacks. You have shops and shacks lined up on one side of the road and little alleys joining it. On the other side of the road, you have this high-end stores. A typical irony, something for which Mumbai is famous for and you will experience it in every corner of the city you visit! Linking Road offers a variety ranging from cute tops, dresses, leggings, accessories but my fave part is the shoe-shopping. Amazing collection at an even amazing price, given that you do know how to bargain! If you want to take a break and put up your feet for some time, you have street side carts and restaurants serving delicious snacks and beverages.

Hill road, Bandra is another shopping area I recently discovered which is not too far from Linking Road. A plus point of Hill road is the Elco chat corner serving spicy Indian savory snacks.

And now moving on to hip destinations in the US, specifically near Washington DC where I live now. Most of the shopping I do here is from malls and Tysons Corner is a magnificent shopping hub in the DC suburb area. It has all the stores and brands you can imagine, both regular and high brands including clothes, jewelry, beauty, home stores and what not. It houses some of my fave brand stores - Banana Republic, H&M, Aldo, Nordstrom, The Limited.

Another upcoming neighborhood is the newly built Mosaic District in Fairfax with an array of boutiques and more specifically my most recent discovery - Langford Market. With its well curated assortment of clothes, and accessories, it is fast becoming my preferred shopping destination.

I am not a big fan of online shopping for clothes mainly 'cause I absolutely need to try out an outfit before I buy it. I do indulge in shopping for accessories on the jewelry-and-fashion-deals website Groopdealz. I have been known to receive some gorgeous statement pieces in my mail for amazing deals! And then of course, I am guilty of taking the occasional detour while grocery shopping at Target! Now haven't we all been there done that :)

Well, that was my absolute favorite shopping destinations...Thank you Richa and Shruti for inviting me to write for this fab feature. Like they say, retail therapy is a mood elevator and if you are in Mumbai or DC make sure you check out these places to get a flavor of the city!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

3 Things Thursday

Today I'm linking up with Raj from Pink Chai Living, Nisha from LoveLaughMirch, and Salma from The Write Balance, for "3 Things Thursday" - a great way for us fellow bloggers to share tidbits of our lives and talk about things that are currently on our minds. Here are the 3 things on my mind this Thursday...

1. Baby, you melt my heart! Soon after baby K was born, the hubby unexpectedly got assigned a short-term project in Singapore for work. Within a matter of days, we had to pack up our stuff, get a passport made for the little one, and then fly out. Despite how we left NYC in a mad rush, I was really excited about the turn of events. With Singapore being so close to Thailand, coming home to Bangkok was a no-brainer. And so, since last November, I’ve been enjoying the love of family, the comforts of home, and the familiarity of the city in which I grew up. Plus, both sets of grandparents are here in Bangkok which means the following things: I receive a MAJOR helping hand in raising the baby, baby K gets doted on like crazy, and the grandparents are over the moon that they get quality time with their darling grandson. It’s a win-win situation for all parties! Recently, baby K turned 6 months old and I can't help but feel blessed that I’ve been able to be there through his milestones and achievements, big and small - his first bite on a piece of mango, when he first learned to sit up and roll over, his sleepy yet fresh smile when he wakes in the morning, his mundan (hair shaving ceremony), his squeals of delight when I take him swimming... I know it's a sappy thing to say but I've truly enjoyed this special time with my baby! 

2. Foodie heaven. Bangkok has a big street food culture and I'm a big street food fan. It's a match made in heaven. If you've been following my Instagram account these past few months, you'll have seen my posts of local Thai street food that I've been gorging on. ongan juice, pad thai, fried plantains, fresh coconut water, and various other delectable delights! 

3. Lust bag. I'm not one to go after the latest "It" purse but lately, I feel like my Instagram account is flooded with fashion bloggers sporting the YSL, oops I mean Saint Laurent, clutch. And now, I'm lusting after it! Something about that single "Y" on the Saint Laurent Y Ligne Clutch makes such a quiet statement. So elegant, so chic. I really want it...badly. Buy me one? 
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