{Shoptalk} Drunk on the Moon, Newtown

I came across vintage furniture shop Drunk on the Moon by accident on the little strip of shops and restaurants on Newtown’s Australia Street, home to the excellent Black Star Pastry cafe. The shop is tiny but packed with a really well curated selection of vintage furniture and home accessories, like wooden dining tables, small wooden pigeon hole shelves, ladders, ice chests, stools and lots more. Like a little piece of the Brooklyn Flea in Sydney’s Newtown, the prices are really reasonable and it’s one of those places where you fall in love with everything, from the big pieces to the small. Oh, and if you’re into typography there are vintage Scrabble letters for $1 a piece.

Drunk on the Moon, 247 Australia Street, Newtown, tel: 0409 841 451, www.drunkonthemoon.com.au

Image courtesy Drunk on the Moon

6 great places to shop in Phnom Penh

Bliss – a gorgeous shop and day spa on Phnom Penh’s Street 240

By Liz Ledden. Article first published on Travelwire Asia, 6 January 2012.

IF you haven’t visited Cambodia then shopping may not be one of the first things that spring to mind about this fascinating southeast Asian destination. However, Cambodian silk is stunning, high quality and often quite affordable, as is the silver jewellery. There’s a burgeoning fashion scene with both locals and expats producing innovative designs, a flourishing art scene and gorgeous homewares abound.

Phnom Penh’s premier shopping destination for fashionistas, Ambre features stunning, colourful clothing by Cambodia’s best known fashion designer, Romyda Keth.  Situated in a French colonial era building, the shop is divided into colour coded rooms over two levels. In addition to evening dresses and stylish separates there’s a selection of menswear, childrenswear and more formal offerings for weddings and events. Romyda’s designs sell for much more in her overseas stores, so shopping for her designs on her home turf is a treat.
37 Street 178, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (0)23 217 935, open 10am-7pm Tues-Sun

Casual, cotton, cool clothing can be found at beautiful Bliss, a pitstop on Street 240 for stylish locals, expats and travellers for over 15 years now. Think floaty kaftans, breezy tops and light cotton sundresses with a focus on eclectic patterns, plus funky fabric bags, tropical chic quilts and cushions. If the gorgeous goods on offer weren’t enough, there’s an idyllic day spa onsite for a post shopping massage.
29 Street 240, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (023) 215 754, open 9am-9pm Mon-Sun

Jasmine is another must-stop shop on Street 240’s strip of gorgeous boutiques. It features Cambodian silk and organza creations of the dressier variety, with beautiful silk shirt dresses in block colours a standout. It is highly priced for Cambodia with pieces in the US$100-$200 range, but for the workmanship and quality of materials used it offers good value by western standards.
73 Street 240, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (0)23 223 103

Russian Market
An obligatory stop on any Phnom Penh site-seeing circuit, the Russian Market is a shopping stalwart for several good reasons. It is cheap as chips (even before bargaining), it features brand name clothing that has found its way to the market from the city’s many garment factories, it’s full of local character and colour and sells all manner of Cambodian trinkets, home décor, accessories and potential gifts. Look for local NGO Mith Samlanh’s ‘Too-It Too-it’ stall which sells funky objects made from things like newspapers and recycled rice bags.
Corner Street 163 and 444, Phnom Penh, open sunset to sundown 7 days

Kravan House
A one-stop shop for Cambodian made souvenirs, Kravan House has a little bit of everything stashed inside an ubiquitous narrow shophouse. There’s a cabinet of covetable silver jewellery, silk bedspreads, handbags, carvings, and a rainbow of silk, cotton and organza scarves woven in the Cambodian countryside. The staff are friendly and prices here are super cheap compared to some of the surrounding shops hawking similar wares.
13 Street 178, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (0)23 990 195, open 8am-9pm 7 days

Chocolate by the Shop
Belgian chocolate made in Cambodia has to be the ultimate east-west fusion dessert, especially if it’s their delicious Kampot pepper variety. The pepper used is from Kampot province in Cambodia’s south, and is highly regarded for its fragrant, full flavour. In French colonial times it was coveted by Parisian chefs and is now being rediscovered by a new generation of travelling gourmands. Stop by this cute chocolate café to try some enveloped in dark chocolate, and be tempted by their other sweet offerings too.
35 Street 240, Phnom Penh, tel: +855 (0)23 998 638

{Shoptalk} The House, Chiang Mai

The House is a cool cafe and shopping compound in Chiang Mai’s old city, crammed with colourful wares from melamine kitchenware in The House Shop, to covetable clothes in Ginger and gorgeous wooden furniture and artworks in Nomad.

After perusing, playing and purchasing there’s a beautiful cafe (Ginger & Kafe) for sweet treats and caffeinated goodness – a slice of lemon curd cake and an iced chai here totally hit the post-shopping spot. The House is for lovers of colour and contemporary Asian style, and maximalists in particular will be in shopping heaven.

The House, 199 Moonmuang Road, Chiang Mai, tel: +66 (0)53 419 011-12, www.thehousethailand.com

Image via The House

{Shoptalk} Le Van Au Furniture

I now feel a little bit more in the secret Saigon know with reader Franziska’s revelation of a stockpile of charming old, restored furniture – the kind you wish you could find but seems few and far between in rapidly modernising Saigon.

Wrought iron lanterns, antique wooden chests, art deco sideboards and gorgeous chests of drawers compete for space in a rustic old tin roofed shed, with a further (and better) treasure trove inside a dark, cavernous warehouse through an old wooden blue door to the right.

No purchases were made (this time) but thoughts of sending pieces home by the shipping crate load definitely crossed my mind!

Where? Look for the Pho 2000 on Pasteur, just off Le Loi and across the road from the Paris Deli and Cafe Terrace at Saigon Centre. Enter the decrepit looking archway to the right that leads to a motorbike parking area, and all will be revealed!

Le Van Au Furniture, 122 Pasteur, D1, Saigon, Tel: 0903 701 426

{Shoptalk} Luang Prabang finds

What: Embroidered cooking apron
Where: Textile market, Sisavangvong Rd
Price: 25,000 kip/US$3

What: Lao Mountain Coffee (organic – grown in Laos’ Bolavan Plateau region) and Lao honey
Where: Kopnoi, Ban Aphay, nr. L’Etranger Books and Tea
Price: Coffee – 70,000 kip/US$8.75; Honey – 30,000 kip/US$3.75

What: Black and brown scarf, handwoven by Phuthai people using naturally dyed organic cotton
Where: Laha, 165 Pakharm Village, Sisavangvong Rd
Price: US$15

What: Blue and white cotton scarf, handwoven
Where: Ock Pop Tok (Lao for East meets West), Sakkarine Rd
Price: US$10

And some things for our daughter and baby on the way…

What: Embroidered reversible hat (above) and red bonnet (below) for impending new arrival, both made by Akha people
Where: Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre, base of Mt Phousi, behind Dara Market
Price: White hat – 60,000 kip/US$7.50; Red bonnet – 40,000 kip/US$5

What: Cotton/batik wraparound top
Where: Night market, Sisavangvong Rd

Price: 20,000 kip/US$2.50

What: Akha hilltribe doll
Where: Kopnoi (see details above)
Price: 80,000 kip/US$10
(NB: All US prices approximate)

{Shoptalk} Hanoi & Hoi An

Just a few little things I found in Hanoi recently (plus one thing from Hoi An!):
1) Black bamboo placemats (set of 6)
From: Miscellaneous carbon-copy tourist shop, Nha Chung Street
For: 90,000 dong (approx US$4.50)
2) Hilltribe girl paintings (x 2)
From: Phuong Dong Art Gallery, 127 Hang Bac Street
For: 60,000 dong each (approx. US$3 each)
3) Mother of pearl lacquer tray
From: Van Loi, 87 Hang Gai Street
For: US$9
4) White stone chopstick holders (set of 10)
From: Thuong Gia 1, 7 Hang Trong Street
For: 50,000 dong (approx. US$2.50)
5) Pink, turquoise and white ‘prayer flags’ (for Z’s room)
From: Breeze, 2 Nha Chung Street
For: US$16
6) Scandinavian-look fabric (1 square metre – for diy wall hanging on a canvas)
From: Hoi An Cloth Shop
For: 50,000 dong (approx. US$2.50)
N.B. All Hanoi addresses are in the Old Quarter

{Shoptalk} Vincom Center – Saigon’s shiny new mega-mall

Saigon is not a city known for its mall culture. Sure, there are a couple of small malls like Saigon Centre, Tax Centre and Paragon out in Phu My Hung, but most pale in comparison to those found in Bangkok or Singapore or other large Asian cities…until now!

Vincom Center opened this weekend – a ‘real’ mall right in the heart of Dong Khoi Street, Saigon’s glitzy main drag. While some naysayers may bemoan the mall’s detraction from bustling markets and small, independent businesses, most Vietnamese people would probably disagree – Vincom Center’s presence propels Saigon into the new Asia, a continent aspiring to prosperity and consumerism and flashing one’s cash. Evidence? The hordes and hordes of Vietnamese visitors to Vincom on the weekend dressed to impress and posing for photos both inside and out. The people watching was just as much a spectacle as checking out the shops!

As for those – it’s basically a mix of everything Saigon has to offer plus a few newbies, all in one convenient, air-conditioned building (no more dodging motorbikes and waffle ladies and dying in the heat to get from one favourite store to another). There are high-end brands like Furla, Armani and Jimmy Choo (though it’s not open yet), mid-range places like French Connection, Mango, Levis, Converse, La Senza and Accessorize, and a whole floor of kids clothing and toys (among the brand names was one of my favourites – a dodgy ‘fallen off the back of a truck’ shop selling similar stuff to Saigon Square with some great 50,000 dong/US$2.50 pieces – fresh from the factory floor, but a bit lost enroute to the US or wherever!).

As for food, there are ice-cream chains Fanny’s, Bud’s and Snowee’s, a second outlet of one of my favourite cafes – Kita, the ubiquitous Pho 24 and Highlands Coffee, Thai Express and some Korean chains, and a second Saigon outlet of MOF – the cool Japanese dessert place I blogged about recently.

Overall, I think it offers a welcome change to the Saigon retail scene, and in the hot season, a cool and comfortable place to escape to if you’re up for schlepping ’round the shops. Now if only there was a decent bookstore….

Vincom Center, cnr Dong Khoi & Le Thanh Thon, D1, Saigon

More from the market…

Ok, my latest market hauls are starting to get ridiculous! For what you get for the price I mean, and the freshness and tastiness of the produce. I posted a while back about what US$1 will get you at a market in Saigon and since then, I’ve been more and more overwhelmed at the amazing array of fresh food I can buy at such a great price – this despite the fact my local coffee shop owner insists I’m being totally ripped off!! The other day, I bought the following for the grand total of US$3.50:

  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 5 passionfruit
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 green capsicum
  • bunch of shallots
  • bunch of coriander
  • 1 small pumpkin
  • 2 big carrots
  • 1 eggplant
  • 6 limes
  • handful of green beans
  • 1 expertly carved whole pineapple
Most have been devoured already – I roasted most of the vegetables in a dressing (olive oil, balsamic, dijon mustard, garlic, dried thyme/rosemary/basil, salt, Cambodian pepper and a squeeze of lime) and the fruit has mostly been used up in breakfast smoothies. Now why am I sometimes so lazy I order pizza for dinner I wonder…maybe I should print this out and stick it on the fridge!