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A trip to Laos is a bit like stepping back in time to when days were quieter, lazier, and simpler. In a way, time has stood still in this country without the trappings of mass tourism and commercialization. On a short visit to the city of Luang Prabang, not once did I see chain restaurants like McDonalds or Starbucks. The mode of transport was usually open-air tuk tuks and the sight of air-conditioned vehicles was rare. The locals were laid-back and sweet-natured. The whole experience was utterly refreshing. But don’t mistake all of these characteristics for a place that offers little to do. Quite the opposite, in fact! There is lots to explore within a 3-4 day time frame for Luang Prabang.

The highlights and inside travel tips from our trip are below, in the form of 10 do's and don'ts. Read on!

1. As a former French colony, Laos still has some remaining French influence. Do visit the local French bakery, La Banneton Cafe, for melt-in-your-mouth croissants and pain au chocolat that are baked fresh daily. I recommend a visit first thing in the morning when they open. That's when everything is the fresh out of the oven!

2. Do take part in watching the Buddhist monks make their daily, early morning walk through this city of temples to collect alms from the locals. This means having to wake up at 5:30 AM but the sight of a 100 monks or more in their bright saffron robes quietly walking down the street is a sight to behold. Do consider partaking in the offering of the alms (usually sticky rice). My husband and I did this and it was really quite memorable. 

3. Do plan a visit to the tribal Hmong and Khmou villages. The villages are about an hour's drive out of Luang Prabang. It was heart-warming to see the adorable little children come out to greet you with excitement and to observe the villagers in their daily activities.

4. If you're inclined to be more active during your trip, then I would highly recommend a trek to the famous Kuang Si waterfall. This is the 10 km trek that will change your life! We made our way through rice paddies, fields of hops, jungles, muddy slopes, and tribal villages. Many visitors opt to go directly to the waterfall but I would find that anti-climactic. The fun is in the journey of getting to the waterfall itself! And the views of the lush rice paddy fields along the way are worth the extra calories burned!

 5. Do visit the breath-taking Kuang Si waterfall! The striking turquoise color of the water comes from the limestone rocks. After the 4 hour trek, a jump into the cool, refreshing waters was just what we needed.

6. Do venture out to enjoy some local food. Having grown up in Thailand, I could identify a lot of similarities between Thai and Lao cuisine. At the same time, Lao cuisine is quite distinct in its own way. Surprisingly, it was incredibly easy to find vegetarian food in Luang Prabang as almost all the restaurants have veggie options in their menus. I would highly recommend the restaurant Tamarind which offers an excellent array of the local cuisine (suggestion: Go for the sampler plate pictured below!).

7. Of course, the trip isn't complete if you haven't visited the many temples (or "wats") of Luang Prabang. After all, that is the defining feature of this small city-town. However, I would say that most of the temples can be visited within a couple hours time. As the temples are all clustered nearby, one can easily walk around. These temples are quite distinct in architecture from ones you may have seen in Thailand. I simply fell in love with the rich gold tones of these wats!

8. Do consider staying in one of the guest houses in Luang Prabang. We had stayed at the Victoria Xienthong Hotel which used to be the residence of the last Lao royal family. While it was beautiful and we enjoyed our stay, we also realized that there are many guest houses in the city that are very attractive and quaint and may cost less.

9. Do visit Utopia and spend a few hours lazing there with a book and drink in hand. This is a restaurant/bar that overlooks the Mekong River with daybeds set up for you to just sit and chill for hours.

10. Take a walk through Luang Prabang by night. The city becomes transformed after the sun sets. Suddenly, there's a lot more buzz in the air and the warm lighting outside the stores and restaurants beckon you to enter. Everything just looks more quaint and cozy! 
If you follow my Instagram account, you'll know that I made a recent visit to Laos. "Laos? What's in Laos? Is that even a country?" That's generally the reaction I seemed to get when I told people that my husband and I were taking a trip there. Yes, it's a tiny country in Southeast Asia that probably suffers some neglect when compared to other popular tourist destinations like Thailand and Vietnam. But Laos turned out to be one of the best trips we've done in a while! I'll be sharing a separate travel post with tips and recommendations on what to do and where to go if you visit the city of Luang Prabang.

As any country in Southeast Asia during the month of August, the weather was quite hot and uncomfortable during the day (with some relief from the seasonal rains). But I couldn't necessarily pack shorts and skimpy tops for the whole trip! We had plans to visit the many famous temples of Luang Prabang and partake in the daily morning ritual of offering alms to the monks, which required conservative dressing. So I had to strike the balance of being covered while still wearing light, breathable clothing. This outfit I wore on the first day was actually perfect for the weather. The loose neoprene top was very breathable as were those bright yellow pants!
Top: SheInside | Pants: Zara | Sandals: Charles & Keith
Purse: Ralph Lauren | Sunglasses: Polaroid
Shopping around the local street market of Luang Prabang
Funky artwork and paintings at the street market
It was a hot, hot day but that didn't deter us from exploring the
quaint alleys and interesting corners of the city
Drinks with the hubby at a local cafe we stumbled upon that overlooked the Mekong River
Posing in front of an old, abandoned Buddhist temple...because that's just what bloggers do!
I've always been fond of the nautical look - the combination of stripes, whites and blues just come together in such a chic and classic way. On a visit to the National Museum of Singapore this weekend, I went into the summer nautical mode by pairing my cropped striped tee with navy blue palazzo pants. This gorgeous building with its elegant Victorian windows and grand entryways served as the perfect backdrop!

Of course, my trip to the museum wasn't just about picture-taking from the outside! I actually stepped inside and spent a few lovely hours getting lost in the interesting exhibits on display. I'm not one who craves museums or seeks them out. But once I'm there, I usually get drawn into a different world. This time was no different - the exhibit on "700 Years of Singapura" brought to life the history and multi-ethnic origins of this country. The "50 Made in Singapore Products" exhibit leads you through the decades of many known and trusted brands, such as Tiger Brand, Tiger Beer, and Bata, that made their manufacturing start in Singapore. Quite enjoyed the vintage items on display there. Later, I enjoyed a nice cuppa at the indoor museum cafe, soaking in the natural light filtering in through the glass rooftop.

If you haven't visited the National Museum of Singapore yet, I would certainly encourage you to spend a weekend afternoon doing so. There are lots of activities geared towards toddlers and kids as well, so it makes for a fun family outing!

Photography credit to Karnan (www.luminosity-pictures.tumblr.com).
Cropped tee: F21 | Pants: Jaspal | Shoes: VNC | Necklace: Zara |
Purse: Coach | Sunglasses: Charles & Keith

20 years ago, before the advent of iPhones, laptops, and other techy gadgets, I like to believe that people led a quieter pace of life. People spent time communicating face to face rather than through text messages. They read more and when they did, they read books not Kindles. They posted letters rather than  clicking the “send’ button on an email.

Sadly, this way of life seem like a remnant of the past, a quaint habit…a yesteryear nostalgia. Take my memories of 20 years ago, for instance. I remember in my school days, a research paper for a class would necessitate a visit to the library where I would search for books in catalogues and lumber around with heavy encyclopedias crammed with information. There was no internet and Wikipedia for a shortcut until later in my high school years.

When doing roadtrips with the family, we referred to actual maps, creased and worn from repeated use. There was no convenience of Google maps.

All through my childhood, I devoured books, getting lost in tales of fantasy, sci-fi adventure, and mysteries. Now I devour newsfeeds on Instagram and Facebook.

All this seems so “vintage-y” now and it’s with a twinge of nostalgia that I look back on those days. So many of the conveniences afforded by technological advances have made our lives easier. So much so that it's practically unrealistic to go back to doing things the old way, like using encyclopedias or real maps. But before technology took over our lives, we were also less siloed, less distracted, less harried. How many times do you look at your phone when having dinner with your loved one? I know I’m guilty of repeatedly checking my phone during mealtimes. And let’s face it, we all use our smart phones as a social crutch when sitting and waiting for someone or while eating alone so we don’t look like complete losers! Whatever happened to just sitting and watching the world go by or doing some quiet self-reflection?

So what am I trying to say here? This writing is a reminder to myself to strike the right balance and not fall victim to the ringing phone, the beep of a newly arrived text message, and the constant need to respond to an email right away. It’s okay to step away from it all and enjoy some retro activities…like talking to a real person in front of me. 

Dress: Zara | Purse: Marc Jacobs | Bracelet: Gorjana | Watch: Kate Spade | Shoes: Bangkok 
Photography by Utek Leong. Check out his photoblog on www.youtakephotos.com or his instagram account @utekkie.
People say Singapore is a "little red dot" with only a limited number of things to do, that it eventually gets stifling and mundane if you live here long enough. As I continue my exploration of this island country, I'm constantly surprised by the interesting places I discover. I suppose I'll reach a point where I've exhausted all the places to visit and things to do in Singapore. But I don't anticipate that happening anytime soon.

Last weekend, I made a jaunt to the Green Corridor, a heritage nature trail that connects several green spaces along a 24-km stretch of land. The lush grassland offers a refreshing change from the downtown cityscapes. Adding to the sense of charm and mystery is the presence of an old abandoned railroad (Bukit Timah Railway). I found the Green Corridor intriguing from both the historical and recreational perspective. Historically speaking, the railroad was first built in the 1900s and connected Singapore and Malaysia until it was decommissioned in 2011. Although it has only been a few years since the cast iron railway was silenced for good, nature has already reclaimed it as her own. From a recreation point of view, the Green Corridor is waiting to be explored by hikers, bikers, runners, and casual strollers! Depending on how ambitious you're feeling, there are routes of various distances along this green stretch. As a first-timer, you could start from the railway bridge and make your way over to Holland Village. Yup, a respectable walking distance of 1 mile (1.6 km), which would end with food & drinks (map here). Now, doesn't that sound like a nice weekend activity?
Adventures await! (Bukit Timah railway track)
Top: H&M | Skirt: Bangkok | Earrings: Crazy&Co | Purselet: India

Photography credit goes to Karnan who captured lovely pictures of the railway and surrounding area. You can visit his website as www.luminosity-pictures.tumblr.com.