Jaipur, the pink city



The walls of Amber


After visiting Amber Fort our first morning, Ingrid and I together with our smaller group of friends went on our own adventure and separated from the tour group. We hired cars and went exploring Jaipur. We had one agenda – shopping! And I really wanted to see Jaipur up close as it is considered one of the best examples of Indian urban planning using Vastu Shastra or the science of architecture based on directional alignments and astrology.

Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, is about 11 kms away from Amber. In 1727, the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II moved his capital from Amber Fort to Jaipur. Here he was able lay out a very well planned city – wide roads, zoning rules, network of grid streets. There’s even a mathematical formula with the way the streets were laid out – cut into six sectors separated by wide streets of 111 feet. Apparently 111 is a holy number in Hinduism and considered lucky. Commercial shops were designed in multiples of 9 (27); nine signifies the 9 planets of ancient astrological zodiac and twenty-seven signifies the 27 naksatras. Source.


We entered one of the seven gates of Jaipur’s old walled city. I was in awe. It was really PINK! Most buildings, like the Amber Fort, were made of red sandstone.


In 1853, the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur and the whole city was painted pink to welcome him. Up to now, the city is still painted and maintained in pink.


On-going maintenance.


I was so amazed to see so much local enterprise and modern commerce in a place that is completely frozen in time.


Ingrid and I were just in awe. I kept saying, “It’s authentic! Nothing is contrived!”


There was so much activity. It was beautiful, scary and exciting.


The Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds built in 1799. Don’t let the imposing 5-storey facade fool you. This building is just one room deep on the top three floors. The purpose of this palace was for royal ladies to be able to watch the city streets and the market without being seen by outsiders. Back then royal women (yes, plural) were not allowed to be seen by other men. It’s like one big architectural veil with latticework windows made of plaster and stone. Interesting to note too that the ornamentation is only focused in the front not the back of the building. Amazing.


Finally, our driver took us to Gem Palace… after much debate and deception attempts. He kept saying “Gem Palace, no good. I take you to better place.” But we had a goal. We had to see Gem Palace. Turns out, there is a system in Jaipur where business establishments pay up to 30% commission to tour operators who recommend shoppers – this includes hotel concierges, taxi drivers, tourist guides etc. Places like Gem Palace do not pay commission and that’s why drivers will try to discourage you from going.


The driveway of Gem Palace


I am fascinated with woodblock print fabric and was amazed to see it as wallpaper at Gem Palace.


I loved the feel of the place! The jewellery was beyond! The rooms were fantastic in it’s old-world character. The Gem Palace was established in 1852 by the Kasliwal family of Jaipur. They have been jewellers for over 8 generations, even serving some Mughal emperors. Their shopping bag bears the crest of the British empire twice because of their appointment by the Earl Mountbatten, Governor General of India and Richard Gardiner Casey, Governor of Bengal.


There were photographs of kings and queens from around the world – Princess Diana etc. Iconic personalities like Jackie Onasis, Mick Jagger And also some Hollywood stars like Gwyneth Paltrow.


We were entertained by an Italian-speaking gentleman who, as it turns out, is a 7th generation Kasliwal gemologist. Samir Kasliwal helps run their family’s precious business. I guess he figured out that we were major fans of jewellery, he brought out some of the most amazing pieces I’ve ever seen! And he let us play with them!!!


Ingrid’s piece was gorgeous. You must read her story of this place. The emerald opens up like a locket to reveal a very interesting “surprise.”


We all got to try the most precious pieces! These were museum quality! Needless to say, we were like kids in a candy store. I’m not exaggerating… I will never forget this experience.


O.M.G. The size of my diamond (I like saying “my”), was bigger than my thumb!


Here’s a closer look at the piece I wore. Sigh.


And the reason why I love Indian jewellery, they embellish the back side of each piece even if it’s not seen by anyone but you. Whoa!


A grand sarpech made of emeralds and diamonds. This is the jewellery that adorns the turban at most Indian wedding. It’s for men.


It was hard to leave Gem Palace. But we had to rush. I was determined to shop at Anokhi, specializing in woodblock print fabrics. Same thing happened. Our driver tried to trick us to going to his recommended shop by saying Anokhi was 45 minutes away and that it was closing at 7:15. But I insisted. I said I had an appointment and that I knew it closed at 8pm. Ingrid and I got there 10 minutes before closing time. I hoarded and later panicked about excess baggage.


We got a very little and quick taste of Jaipur. But it was really colourful and exciting. Here Claudette’s driver assisted us in crossing the street (inside the Pink City!). It was 50 seconds of hell. I was screaming my head off – half frozen and half wanting to sprint. But I knew that doing that would kill me instantly. So we took baby steps and screamed like crazy women.


After surviving the hellish road-crossing, we were met by a not-so-amusing holy cow. The horns! He definitely wanted to be left alone.


A page from Fiona Caulfied’s Love Jaipur book. My friend Alicia Sy recommended this and I’m glad I found it. It’s not easy to find this book. When I got to my Jaipur hotel, I checked the bookstore for the “Love Jaipur” book and the bookstore keeper directed me to the Kama Sutra section. Toink! Haha. This book is filled with inside information on where to go, what to do, where to buy and how to experience Jaipur so you’d fall in love with it. It’s a series by the way; she also has Love Delhi, Love Mumbai etc. The book itself is beautiful – made in acid free paper and fabric cover. It even looks letter pressed (there’s an old book binding and press industry in Jaipur). It also comes in a cotton and silk pouch.


I went away with some fantastic purchases from Jaipur. Treasures, not because they are precious in price, but because they were all carefully crafted by hand.

And in the short time I was there, I fell in love with Jaipur.

I will be back.



Lily and Stella’s not-so-fancy Fancy Nancy party


I should have written about this joint birthday party right after it happened. But you all know what happened. I had another school party for Stella, who turned 2 the next day. And you know how that turned out. I’m over it now and finally I can post photos, in between India stories.

If you remember, the theme was supposedly Fancy Nancy. I tried doing everything myself, so it ended up being very casual and not so fancy at all. But thanks to good food, Katy Perry music, art activities and old fashioned games like musical chairs, the kids were entertained.

I’ll skip the decor because I’ll have you know that I am not at all crafty. I always try to be. But when it’s panic time, I just keep it simple.

The only thing I made an effort on were these giant pompom flowers made of tissue. I got the how-to from Martha Stewart. I ripped all of them eventually. The grain of the paper went with the pulling of each layer so I had lots of rips. But I persevered. I made about 10 and hung them over the garage. The kids thought it was fancy enough.


I ordered one cake for each girl. Here’s Lily’s.


And Stella’s. I took these photos while carrying Stella, so they aren’t very clear.


The next day, I took tighter shots of Stella’s cake. That’s some incredible detail there.


Mini burgers and other easy food for an afternoon not-so-fancy “soiree”


The C.E.O. was impressed.


We had Craft Camp, an art activity.

Craft camp had these cute animal masks that could be blown up to look 3D. They brought all the art supplies.

Soph chose a tiger.


Decorating their masks.


We got Stella started with drawing and doodling at an early age. Like her older Ates.


Soph’s mask. Oh look at her two little teeth. They have since fallen off, both naturally. Saved us a trip to the dentist. The second one was a bit traumatic though, she was hanging on to the tooth at school and lost it on her way home.


Our little friend Matmat.


Kids loved Craft Camp. Check out their Facebook page


Lily, with cousin Bianca and friend Alex, showing their mask creations.


More Craft Camp stuff. They brought their own tables and stools.


We also got 3D Me. Each kid got a little stuffed toy charm with their face on it. For more info, check their Facebook page.


The 3D Me little toy charms are so cute!


Lily loved her 3D Me!!


What I lacked in decor and ambiance, we made up for in activities and fun.


Thank you to Craft Camp and 3D Me for accommodating my request at the last minute. You made the kids happy. Both Craft Camp and 3D Me are represented by Booths Republic, 0917-8003323/0922-8980314 boothsrepublic@yahoo.com


Here’s Lily’s favourite part…

Finally, Jaipur



Our bus’ window.


Warning, this blog entry is photo-heavy. I am too attached to my images. It was heartbreaking to edit them out. So here are the ones that made the cut. There are hundreds more in my iPhoto. But for purposes of story-telling, these will do. I had to split the article so I wouldn’t slow down your screen. Please click on “Read more” below to see the entire photo blog after the jump.

Like I said, this was a whirlwind tour of India. I always considered myself a traveller rather than a tourist. Patrick and I like to stay at places for 5 to 7 days, with no planned itinerary. We do the must-sees then we avoid tourist traps. The rest of the time, we try to live like locals. My mother always told me to see local markets and places of worship to get a taste of a new place. This trip was not like that. I joined a tour group for the first time.

I was with a bigger group. The itinerary was well-planned and tight. Our days were packed with all the must-sees. Plus, factor-in the land travel time between Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and back to Delhi, this “road trip” left very little time to explore local shops and markets. But my little group of friends are resourceful. We pooled our talents together and we were able to do micro trips to specific shops. More on that in future posts.

I know most people wanted to see the Taj Mahal. And let me tell you, it is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s has always been on my list. But this trip, for me, was really all about Jaipur. I’ve always been fascinated with Jaipur and the region of Rajasthan.


Our road trip from Delhi to Jaipur in the middle of the night.


We arrived in Delhi in the middle of the night, like at 2AM. Then we boarded our bus to Jaipur. It normally takes 4-6 hours by land depending on who you talk to. Ours took much longer because trucks were out during the night, hence slower speeds and heavy road traffic. Our driver probably deserves an entire entry about him, haha, but I’ll spare you the gory details. Just look at the first photo. Yes, he hit “something” on the way to Jaipur. We don’t know what it was. All we heard was a freaky shatter of glass. Then we all went back to sleep.


This is what woke me up. Hello Jaipur!


And so, twelve hours into my journey I missed my daughters painfully. They would love to see these guys on the road.


And Mr. Camel.


After a quick stop at our hotel, we continued on to see Amber Fort.


The ride up this hill was breathtaking.


All along I thought the town was named after amber – the gem stone. But it is actually pronounced “Amer”. Amber is about 11 kilometers from the city of Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan. This was the capital of the ruling clan of Kachhawa from 1037 to 1727AD after which it moved to Jaipur.


Upon entering the gates of Amber Fort, we saw this woman dressed in colourful clothing cleaning the rocky floor by the gates. This was a common sight inside the walls. (Annoyed that this was saved in low-res, grrr).


For sale.


Outside the gates, vendors sold all sorts of colourful things.


I was fascinated with these elephants. But I didn’t get to ride them. Most touristy books recommend riding an elephant around the fort. We didn’t have time. Besides, I got the picture.


A happy welcome.


Amber Fort turned out to be one of my most favourite sights in India. I want to go back.


Claudette Vitug and Ingrid aka the baghag.


Chef Stevie Villacin (look at that bird flying towards him)


Carved marble screens.


There were so many layers at the Amber Fort, around four. More photos after the jump.


Click here to see the rest of the story and photos

In India

Sorry for the absence of activity. As you may have figured out, I am in India. It had been an incredible few days in Jaipur, Amber and Agra. I have tonnes of pictures to share with you. But I just don’t have the patience or time to upload them now because I’m on my iPad. So I’ll just have to repost some instagram pictures for now. Also please read Ingrid’s blog for her daily updates about our trip.

I fell in love with Jaipur the moment we entered the area after what seemed like 8 hours of a hellish bus ride. It was extremely bumpy and our driver liked to overkill the brakes. But i was up for an adventure and loved that the place was so far and hard to get to.

It was all worth the pain – sore back and legs and possibly whiplash – when I saw elephants and camels beside my window. The kids would go nuts here! I was in a different place, one that seemed to be frozen in time.


Snake charmer, Amber Fort. India
Snake charmer at Amber Fort.


At the concubines & Queens' court in Amber Fort, Jaipur, India
At the Zenana of Amber Fort. This is where Man Singh housed his 12 wives and other concubines. There were carved screens along hallways and windows to protect his royal ladies from being seen by guards.


I heart India.
Then we travelled to Agra. And on our way stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, built by Emperor Akhbar in 1571. It became the capital for only 14 years. Here you can see a great example of Mughal architecture and try to imagine how Akhbar lived.


Thank you Ingrid @thebaghag for taking my photos in #india
Photo taken by Ingrid. We took thousands. this is still in Fatehpur Sikri.


Fatehpour Sikri #india
Fathepur Sikri’s Diwan-i-Khas. Love that central column supporting walkways on the second floor.


Taj Mahal. Beauty beyond words. #india
The next day in Agra we got up before sunrise to see the greatest monument built for love. Beauty beyond words. But I was also reminded of the brutality of the Shah Jahan, who killed all his brothers and male relatives so he could be emperor.




We took thousands of photos here. Thanks @thebaghag for the photo. #tajmahal #india
One of the gazillion photos we took. This is by Ingrid again. I wore a K&Company dress. I really wanted pink so it worked out.


Love Jaipur
Love Jaipur by Fiona Caulfield. Great book. I will go back and go to her recommended places.


I knew this trip was like an introductory course – India 101. Or a crash course I should say – three cities in a few days. I’ve decided that I will go back to Jaipur soon and spend at least 4 days there … with Patrick. Jaipur is beautiful, charming, authentic, not contrived and pretty in pink. It is rough and harsh but there are so many layers of wonderful. And I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Ligne Roset in Manila



Ligne Roset’s Pebble


A couple of weeks ago I briefly attended the launch of Ligne Roset at Bonifacio High Street. Mawen Ong, owner of Bo Concept and Natuzzi, invited me to see her newest baby. Ligne Roset is housed on the third floor of her BHS building at MOS Design Gallery. It was a rainy day and I was not in the mood to get all dolled up. But I still dropped by because Mawen is such a nice lady. And I’m always up for design events.

Glad I went. Saw beautiful pieces. Ligne Roset is a French luxury brand that works with over 70 celebrated designers, most of whose pieces have won awards globally. Very high quality. And price tag. I didn’t get to ask about the price range. The designs were just beautiful!

In a file interview, Michel Roset, the creative director of the brand, discussed the issue of copies and fakes. “It is true that our designs are copied, but as believers in original design, we are always ahead of the rest and this ensures an excellent image for the company: that it is successful in what it has set out to do, and that it is constantly evolving.”


Ottoman by Noe Lawrance Duchaufour for Ligne Roset


From a culture that’s constantly redefining the art of fine living — from fashion to cuisine, from design to cinema  — comes the latest word on statement furniture: Ligne Roset, the revered French brand of contemporary design, with a storied history in its quest for pushing the envelope in creativity.

From its original home in the artisan towns of eastern France, Ligne Roset brings a 150-year-old tradition of exceptional craftsmanship and design ingenuity to Manila’s living rooms. Ligne Roset comes to the Philippines by way of Mos Design Gallery in Bonifacio High Street, a design gallery that features a global mix of designers — such as Vitra, Tom Dixon and, now, Ligne Roset — as well as a thoughtfully drawn selection of favorite iconic pieces of 20th century. The selection of brands at Mos Design Gallery covers a wide spectrum of different attitudes and sensibilities in contemporary design, and Ligne Roset, with its varied lines of award-winning furniture, is a much-anticipated addition to the design gallery’s top-tier luxury selection.

Source: Ligne Roset press kit


Lines Sideboard by Peter Maly.  A modern minimalist design, Lines features an interlocking grid of broken lines. It also comes in a shelf. And Clouds, an installation by R&E Boroullec.


Another way of using Clouds, designed by Rowan and Erwan Boroullec. “Innovative, sophisticated and colorful tile concept for the home. The tiles can be hung from a wall or ceiling and used as a piece of art or a room divider. They can be arranged in infinite ways and produce a unique three-dimensional effect. Available in two fabrics and seven color combinations with each tile being bicolor.” Photo source: Press Release.


Clouds again. These tiles are growing on me. I’d love to put that in my old antiquey living room. And the sofa and ottoman are called Facett, also by the same designers as Clouds. It is named Facett because the stitching hints at the different facets of a precious stone. Photo source: Press Release.


I walked around the space and found this wall installation that caught my attention. It’s not from Ligne Roset. I think it’s by Juan Alcazaren. I could be wrong. Does anyone here know?


I went closer and found out that those cute lamps were just found plastic objects from home.


Tweetie de Leon-Gonzales, me and Lorraine Belmonte


Mawen Ong and me. I was in need of a haircut then. So I just used bobby pins and purposely went for a messy look. I wore a Comme des Garcons jacket.


Bea Agnir, George Pua and Patrick Reyno


Mary Go, Kathy Go and Felicia Atienza


Mos Design Gallery
3rd level Mos Design
B2 Bonifacio High Street
Fort Taguig City.