SPUN: An Intimate Gathering to Celebrate Food
Cristie Schrader turned her nostalgic love of cotton candy into one of Seattle’s hippest new ventures when she started spinning the confection professionally just last year. SPUN is the only gourmet and organic cotton candy company in Seattle and one of the only ones in the country.
Cristie started testing out flavors with esteemed Tilth chef, David White, and has moved forward from her original lavender and lemon to now a handful of unique flavors that give the old-timey sweets a whole new spin.
revel + fete has been fortunate enough to work with SPUN on several events, including its launch. It was at SPUN’s launch party that we rolled out, via a collaboration with OOLA Distillery, our first batch of exciting cotton candy cocktails. We recently headed out for an intimate gathering at Cristie’s house to test out some new flavors and other booze and food pairings.
Prior to the event, Cristie shared that she would be using the evening to test run five new flavors: pear, white peach, sweet dill, anise and smoked maple mesquite. We decided that all guests should bring an assortment of items to try with the various new flavors. Before the machine was even turned on, Cristie’s dining room table was covered in liquor and a cornucopia of sweet and savory treats ranging from fried chicken to pizza, spices like basil and tarragon, pudding, olive oil and more. We set out to further prove that cotton candy is more than just a trifle for a toddler’s sweet tooth; cotton candy could be the new craft ingredient.
We started with the pear, which was subtle but paired extremely well with the tarragon. Next came the white peach, which while also subtle in taste was extremely versatile with both sweet and savory items. My favorite pairing for peach was as a topping for my pepperoni pizza. And while I willingly admit the idea is pretty disgusting, it tasted amazing and I will have a hard time eating pizza without it now. The final 3 were the most robust. We created an amazing cocktail by mixing the dill cotton candy with lemon sorbet and prosecco. Mixed with olive oil, it made for an amazing dipping sauce for bread and popcorn. I was nervous about the anise, it’s one of the few flavors I actually hate; the outcome however was a pleasant surprise. You could taste the anise without it being overpowering or pungent. We made several tasty cocktails with it, using prosecco, whiskey, sake, and even red wine.
The star of the evening though was, without a doubt, the smoked maple mesquite. For starters, the presentation alone was entertainment enough. Having known that smoked maple mesquite was going to be on the menu, I was completely surprised to find that we would actually be smoking the cotton candy. Upon spinning the beautiful golden brown maple mesquite, we’d then cone and bag it, and literally smoke the cotton candy through the bottom of the cone. After the bag slowly inflated with the smoke, we’d tie it off for a few minutes, before opening it to a burst of smoke and an aroma both rustic and mouth-watering. We all looked at one another, grinning wildly and yammering about how beautiful it looked and how amazing it smelled. It was almost as though each of us was too afraid to reach in and take the first bite. Cristie pointed the cone at me and took a handful of the stringy concoction and both excitedly and humbly had my first taste. It was one of the best things I had ever put in my mouth. And then began the smoked maple mesquite free-for-all. It was like riot. Hands were ripping into multiple cones, people were smashing the treat into every kind of food and drink in sight. There were moans and giggles and silent awes. It was a total food orgy. To be honest there wasn’t much the smoked maple mesquite didn’t pair well with; but I think it’s safe to say the two favorites were the fried chicken and the vanilla pudding.
To read more about our amazing night, including some of the recipes we created there, check out the story in our upcoming first edition of revel magazine, out April 1st. If you’d like to sample some of SPUN’s new flavors mentioned here, check out Cristie’s website or come out to the live reading of the Karen & Ellen Letters on April 18th at Soul Seattle, where Cristie will be spinning and smoking the maple mesquite for the audience.
A WEEK IN NEW ORLEANS
I lived in New Orleans pre-Katrina and recently returned for a week-long vacation with my boyfriend who had never been. New Orleans has always been and will likely always be the city I cherish most in the States. I spent more time in New Orleans on this trip than I have since living there, and I slowly started realizing how much this historic city is changing. It really creeps up on you. Neighborhood demographics are getting younger and more mainstream. Hip bars are popping up at intersections you wouldn’t dare step foot in eight years ago. And in a city known as widely for it’s fried food as it’s drinking, there even seems to be a strong revolution for healthy living. And while there are still mountains of problems for NOLA to overcome in the wake of Katrina, it was so touching to see this amazing city grow and stretch itself. So, here’s your guide to New Orleans from the perspective of a tourist returning home.
I really wanted to make sure the trip was the perfect introduction for my boyfriend. So, every decision was a huge struggle for me. The first thing I labored over was where to stay. Most people traveling to New Orleans will immediately look for hotels in the French Quarter; and to be fair, when I moved there, that was the only neighborhood I bothered looking for apartments and eventually settled in. And while the Quarter is definitely where you will see the most action, it’s also the equivalent of staying in Fisherman’s Wharf/Hollywood/Times Square/ <insert tourist neighborhood of your choice>.
We ended up staying in the Lower Garden District for the first half and the Quarter for the second. This ended up being more accidental than strategic; but as I discovered, it’s hands down the best way to do New Orleans. Here’s a quick guide to the best neighborhoods, where to stay, what to do and see, where to eat, and the pros and cons of staying in each:
FRENCH QUARTERThe truth about the French Quarter is, unless you are there to drink, you will get bored in a day or two. It is beautiful and absolutely one of the most unique neighborhoods in America. But it’s definitely geared toward the average American tourist. Bourbon Street, to be quite honest, is disgusting. I took my boyfriend down the notorious strip, and after about ten minutes he was ready to move on and not return. It’s worth seeing; but unless you’re a frat boy or an alcoholic from rural Ohio, it’s not going to do much for you. There are better places to get drunk. So, walk a few blocks, get yourself a hurricane or hand-grenade, hope you don’t get pick-pocketed, then head to greener pastures.
I recommend doing the Quarter during the week, when there are less tourists and tourist-predators. Here’s how we enjoyed our time there:
DRINKSkip Bourbon and hit Decatur and Toulouse. Decatur is still a bit touristy, but boasts bars that are slightly hipper, less crowded and more relaxed. Toulouse, to me at least, is the one spot in the Quarter that is more local than visitor. There are also some really great bars hidden throughout the Quarter that are worth traveling off grid to see.
PravdaA quiet vodka bar, in the style of gothic 30’s, with a huge back patio. It’s really one of the more beautiful bars in the FQ.
CarouselCarousel is exactly that: a bar affixed to a spinning carousel in the center of a hotel. It’s a relatively new and totally grand space that merits a quick drink while you’re carousing around.
One Eyed JacksHow can you go wrong with a bar named after the Twin Peaks brothel? OEJ hosts New Orleans’ best 80’s night each Thursday. It has a stubbornly loyal crowd, who have been attending since its open in 2004. And while you may hear some Madonna or Banarama, you’ll find that most of the music is 80’s electropop, new wave, and glam metal; less Cyndi Lauper, more David Bowie. You’ll also occasionally run into the random celebrity filming in town (New Orleans has recently been coined “The Hollywood of the South” due to huge tax breaks for filming and production). In 2005, I booty-danced with a very intoxicated, 16 year-old Lindsay Lohan here.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith ShopThis bar has become increasingly crowded over the years, likely because of its history. It is the oldest bar in the United States, and the owners have done nothing to make you think otherwise. It’s an old relic of a building, standing awkwardly in a quieter part of the hood. Some of the walls are barely there, it’s dark and dingy and such a joy if you can get in before the crowds take it over.
GaysThe gay part of the Quarter is comically referred to as The Fruit Loop. The gays have spread their wings over time, so what was once a loop is now more of a T. As most gay parts of town are, The Loop is a hot mess; but in the most entertaining way.
Good FriendsThis bar holds a special place in my heart as my first and only bar-tending gig. It’s a little less raucous than it’s neighboring bars at St. Anne and Bourbon, but there’s still plenty of activity. The best reason to go, according to my boyfriend, is its signature “drink”. A Separator is basically soft-serve ice cream mixed with creme de cafe and bourbon. There is nothing quite like it. And if you’re real nice, they’ll pour some Godiva liqueur over the top.
Other great gay spots are the 1500 Club (a quieter, straight-friendly hangout), Lafitte’s in Exile (the oldest gay bar in the country), and the Bourbon Pub (the hub of gay nightlife).
SEE/DOSkip the walking tours and venture out on your own. You’ll find some great shopping on Royal Street, really cute alley cafes hidden amongst the lower end of the FQ, and loads of vintage shops on Decatur. There’s a hidden bike and scooter rental on Decatur, which is a great way to cruise around the Quarter and neighboring Marigny.
There are plenty of tourist attractions in the Quarter, but only a few worth taking the time to check out:
JACKSON SQUAREThis is the site of the historic and iconic St. Louis Cathedral. It’s also home to scores of palm readers, artists and street performers. The highlights, for me, are a walk down the picturesque Pirate’s Alley and lounging on the grass in Jackson Square Park with a separator and watching all the chaos and gorgeous architecture that surrounds you.
AQUARIUM OF THE AMERICASMy boyfriend thought it was a bit busted, but it’s supposedly the second best in the country. I’ll let you decide for yourself. It’s worth going to for one reason alone: the people-watching. There are some really uneducated people in the South and they never fail to disappoint at the aquarium and zoo. I’ve heard people ask if jellyfish are food, if eels were snakes, and why that turtle is flying. Beyond that, there are some great exhibits. Additionally, you can get the Audobon package which includes admission to both the aquarium and the zoo, with a riverboat ride from one to the other. The Audobon Zoo is the third best in the country and absolutely stunning. It’s one of my favorite places to take visitors in town. You can also catch an IMAX at the aquarium, if that’s your thing (it serves as a great respite from the heat if you’re there in late spring or any time during the summer). If you do go, though, I urge you to skip “Hurricane on the Bayou.” I promise it’s not what you think. It was our only regret on the trip.
OLD ALGIERSFrom the FQ you can take a free ferry across the Mississippi River to Old Algiers. There’s a quaint church square, amazing views of the NOLA skyline and FQ, and the Mardi Gras Museum. I’ve never actually been to the Mardi Gras Museum, but I hear it’s pretty good and worth the trip if you’re not actually there for Mardi Gras. I don’t suggest making your first trip to NOLA a Mardi Gras trip. Head over in mid-May when the weather is perfect and the crowds are minimal. Definitely return for Mardi Gras, though.
EATThere are plenty of great places to dine in the Quarter. To be honest, there are few standouts. As in most cities, I think the best restaurants reside in some of the quieter more local neighborhoods. Some highlights, though, are The Court of Two Sisters and Galatoire’s.
STAYI am extremely picky when it comes to where I choose to stay when traveling. I’ll be the first to admit I have very specific needs and am a total pain in the ass. Additionally, New Orleans is unlike most cities in that you can’t just hop onto Hotels.com and find something. We spent a couple hours scouring the internet and making phone calls before we found what has become the only hotel in the French Quarter I will ever stay at again.
The Royal HotelThe rooms are modern with minimalist decor, the location is ideal and there is an amazing range of rates. We scored a gorgeous, albeit small, room for $89/night. It was dressed completely in black and white, with wood floors and high ceilings and a pristine marble bathroom with the biggest tub I’ve seen in ages. The hotel also has some pretty hip suites with huge wrought iron balconies overlooking Royal Street. It’s located just beyond the ado, so you’ll get quiet nights and still be within a few blocks from the Bourbon and Decatur Street nightlife. Plus, you’re just 2 blocks from the Verti Mart (a French Quarter staple for late night eats and groceries, which happens to deliver, if you’re feeling lazy).
THE GARDEN DISTRICT When you think of New Orleans, I’m sure the only neighborhoods that come to mind are the French Quarter and the Garden District. They are held in such esteem for their beauty, shopping and landmarks. The Garden District has grown and changed a lot over the years, proving more and more a formidable competitor to the Quarter.
DRINKI know, you’re shocked, there are places to drink in New Orleans that aren’t the FQ. Not only are there other places to drink, but there are better places to drink. Magazine Street hosts most of the standouts in the Garden District. When I lived in NOLA, Magazine was the hipster neighborhood. I’ve noticed it’s becoming more and more the mainstream hood for locals to eat, shop and drink.
The BulldogI don’t know how new The Bulldog is, but it was new to me. It’s located in the heart of Magazine Street, with a huge patio out front with a fireplace and easy access to the passers-by.
The Balcony BarThe Balcony Bar is probably the most notable bar in the LGD (Lower Garden District). It’s been there for ages, and has what I believe is the only bar balcony on Magazine. Late at night, food carts flock to it, so there’s always plenty of grub nearby.
SEE/DOThere are few, if any, tourist attractions in the Garden District. The most notable being Audobon Zoo and Lafayette Cemetery #2. The best part of hanging out in the area is just walking around and taking in the scenery. Here’s where you should roam:
Magazine StreetIt’s become, over the years, the heart of the Garden District. There’s tons of great shopping here, from vintage clothing to antiques, fine art to modern rustic furniture, even jewelry shops and cute boutiques. Magazine stretches about 30 blocks of non-stop shops, cafes, bars and parks. It’s a great way to spend a day, starting at St. Andrew and making your way across the LGD to Audobon Park and Zoo at the riverbend.
Audobon Park / RiverbendAudobon Park is a stunning stretch of park scattered with ancient oak trees, sprawling lawns and tons of wildlife. It’s centered between the universities, the zoo and the riverbend. The park at the riverbend, known as The Fly, is a favorite spot of mine in town. At the far edge of the city, overlooking a quieter strip of the Mississippi, you feel like you’re in the rural south. Park yourself on the grass or a dock, pop open a bottle of wine, and watch the sun set over the river.
St. CharlesHome of the historic streetcar and lined with enormous mansions. There are several bars and restaurants closer to the CBD (downtown), but once you get further down St. Charles, there’s not much to do but get lost in the shaded tree-lined street and elegant estates.
FreretThe Freret neighborhood was entirely new to me and a hidden gem. It’s probably NOLA’s newest neighborhood and reminds me of Magazine Street in the early aughts. It’s a smaller, quieter strip just above the universities where you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t a local. What Freret lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. Head up in the evening and get the best hot dog you’ll ever have at Dat Dog, then head to the modern and hip Cure for cocktails.
EATCommancer’s PalaceCommander’s Palace is the big touristy restaurant (Emeril Lugasse was a chef here for years). And while it is touristy, people know it for a reason. It’s great eats in a scenic section of town.
Toup’s MeateryIs a new hot spot in the Carrollton part of the Garden District. Deep-throat in delight their house-cured meats and homemade sausages.
The Company BurgerYou can find this Eater.com-approved burger house just a few blocks from Dat Dog. It’s comfortable, quality eats in a relaxed part of town.
CochonGo to Cochon for authentic, delicious cajun eats without the pretension or gimmicks of the wannabe spots in the Quarter.
STAYThe Garden District only offers one trendy hotel that’s worth staying in: Hotel Modern. It’s been newly purchased and renovated and is already selling itself as the up and coming hub of activity in the Garden District. They’ve brought in urban street artist Monique Ligons from Philly to anoint the 6-story facade with an original mural and are feverishly marketing to visiting celebrities. It may not be the Standard just yet, but give it a year.
The other, more reliable option is vrbo. There are tons of private shot-guns and cottages for rent through the website that will give you a more authentic feel and better rates. I’d stay in the area surrounding Magazine and Toledano for proximity to food and alcohol.
BYWATER-MARIGNYThe two neighborhoods just east of the Quarter are quickly cementing themselves as the Williamsburg of the south. The Marigny offers a more compact scene on Frenchmen Street. This is where you’ll find the best local bars, tattoo parlors, art houses and unassuming cafes. The Bywater is home to a lot of the more popular bars amongst locals, they’re just spread across the neighborhood, with no clear thoroughfare. The architecture and foliage here is reminiscent of Key West and was the neighborhood the bf decided he would live in.
DRINKMiMi’s CafeMiMi’s is the epicenter in both location and scenester-ness amid these sister-hoods. This is where everyone’s favorite local bands play and hippest artists show. It’s also got killer Southern food and cheap drinks.
R BarIt’s a bar. It’s a hotel. It’s an art house. It’s full of local hipsters and intellectuals.
Blue NileGet your jazz/blues fix on here.
Cajun’sThis bar cracks me up. It’s in a part of town where you wouldn’t be caught dead 8 years ago, but is home of 4 pretty cool bars. It’s also the greatest cross-section of people you will see in one place. Hipsters, Queers, Ghetto-chic and white trash all live in harmony in this karaoke bar with $1 Everclear jell-o shots.
SEE/DOThis is through and through a locals part of town. Sit in Washington Square with some food and a bottle of wine. Go antiquing. Check out the art market on Frenchmen. Walk along the railroad tracks and some of the old, overgrown factories.
EATPretty much any cafe you duck into in the area is going to be good. Oddly enough, I really recommend the most touristy-looking place here:
Marigny BrasserieThis restaurant on the corner of Frenchmen and Royal has the perfect views of Frenchmen and Washington Square from its bar. The food is KILLER and the bloody mary’s are amazing.
OTHERSome of my favorite spots in town don’t lie within any of the above neighborhoods. Be sure to check out the following:
LOLA’SThis is without question the best place to eat in New Orleans. It’s a little hole in the wall that sits on lusciously gorgeous Esplanade Street in the heart of the Bayou St. John neighborhood. They don’t take reservations and you will inevitably have to wait for a table, but I swear to everything that matters to me, you won’t regret it. The best thing you’ll eat here isn’t actually on the menu. So be sure to ask for the garlic brussels sprouts. Then follow those with one of their famous paellas.
THE SWAMPI know, I know, swamp tours are totally cheesy. They are also a really great way to see Louisiana’s unique and crucial wetlands and nature. You’ll look stupid buying tickets and feel stupid doing it; but you’ll love it all the same.
JULIA STREETTake a quick walk down this street which separates the CDB from the Warehouse District and LGD. It’s where you’ll find some of the best museums (CAC) and art galleries. When you’re done, stop in for lunch at the Sun Ray Grill.
LOFT 523The location of this downtown hotel doesn’t offer much except centrality. The hotel itself though is gorgeous. You get a 700 sqft. loft with brick walls, 16ft ceilings, modern and huge bathrooms, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Plus, it’s walking distance to both the Quarter and the CBD and just a block from the streetcar.
OUTSKIRTSTake a drive along the coast through Gulfport and Biloxi, two Mississippi towns ravaged by Katrina. There’s casinos, Katrina history, and when else can you say you went to Mississippi. It’s just 40 minutes from New Orleans and en route to Mobile, AL. Mobile AL is about 2 hours from New Orleans and probably the most quaint, cute, welcoming big city in the South. It makes for a great day trip. We actually stopped in Mobile, then drove up to Montgomery for a night, which was also a nice town to stop in. See where Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, Hank Williams grave, F Scott Fitzgerald’s old house and museum, and some really awesome overgrown and abandoned warehouses on the north end of town.
BALI FOR BEGINNERS
You could spend a month on Indonesia’s most alluring and famous island and it would still only feel like a few days. I have traveled pretty extensively and consider Indonesia’s most famous and alluring island the most diverse and enjoyable destination I’ve been thus far. Since there is so much to see and do, and you’ll inevitably fall so madly in love, start with a week and head to the epicenter of activity: Seminyak.
Seminyak is on the south coast of Bali, and is just a fifteen minute drive from the island’s international airport in Denpasar. The Seminyak is just north of Kuta and Legian, which also offer a wide range of city activities, shopping, hotels and beaches. What separates Seminyak from its neighbors is a wider array of activity on a broader price scale. You can stay in a $60/night hotel and walk next door for a $300 dinner; or head down the overgrown alley to a hidden gem that serves the best $2 lunch you’ve ever had.
There are several strategies for taking on Bali and taking advantage of the currency conversions. Many younger travelers head that way for a week in paradise on barely a dime. Some go to spoil themselves, spending big money for egregiously opulent digs. I think, if you can swing it, the best thing to do is split the middle. Treat yourself to some perks you wouldn’t be able to afford in other places, but still come home with cash in your pockets. Know what’s even cooler than finding a hostel or hotel near the beach for $55/night? Spending an extra $100/night for a private villa with your own pool, outdoor living room and kitchen. AND you’re still paying less a night than you would at any even halfway respectable hotel in the States.
When I spend more than a handful of days anywhere new, I like to split my time among several hotels in different neighborhoods. Seminyak is the perfect place to do this. While the area isn’t huge, it has two distinct neighborhoods, both of which you’ll want plenty of time to explore.
DOWNTOWN SEMINYAKStart in the downtown area of Seminyak, which lies immediately north of the Legian border. This denser part of town offers more bars, cheaper eats, street vendors and about a mile of beach lined with beach bars, nightclubs, parties and even bungee jumping.
HOTELWhy would you stay in a hotel, when you can stay in your own villa? Villa Seminyak is hands down the best hotel experience I’ve had for the price I paid. Villas start at about $140/night, depending when you go and what kind of deal you can score. The villas are located just off Jalan Raya Seminyak, the main street in Seminyak, and are a 10 minute walk to the beach. The majority of the villas have a private pool, an outdoor kitchen and living room, and spa-style bathrooms. Daily breakfast buffets and wi-fi are offered free to all guests. Additionally, there is an onsite spa and restaurant, and the option for a private chef to cook a traditional Balinese dinner for you in your villa’s outdoor dining room. And if you’re into bicycling, you can rent bikes from the lobby.
Spend your first day exploring the neighborhood. You’ll find tons of boutiques on Jalan Raya Seminyak. The bars span entirely down Jalan Capluk Tanduk from Jalan Raya Seminyak all the way to the beach. At the bottom of Capluk Tanduk, make a left down the beach for the beach bars and nightclubs you hear so much about. I had one of the best nights of my entire life at a bar on the beach here. We watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean as an amazing beach party, including fire dancers and hot Australians, formed on and around the beanbag chairs scattered under chinese lanterns all over the beach. And a bit further down the beach I went bungee jumping and had killer street food.
On your second day, hire a taxi for the day (this should cost about $30US) and head to Ubud in the North. Ubud is one of Bali’s cultural centers but is more famous for its rice plantations and the Sacred Monkey Forest. In Ubud you’ll also find more authentic shopping at more reasonable prices. You’ll also be smitten with the stunning little town, which is surrounded by 360 degree views of jungle mountains, rice fields, and gorgeous temples. It is one of the most heavenly places I’ve seen. Head straight to Monkey Forest, where you can buy bananas to give to the hundreds of monkeys who laze around this sanctuary that is woven around streams, waterfalls, enormous banyans and ancient temples and tombs. Stop in at Cafe Angsa for a quiet view of a giant rice field, great service and cheap Bintang. My friend Erin and I didn’t want to leave this cafe because it was so pleasant and relaxing. Dinner at Bebek Bengali or Lamak won’t disappoint, either. On your way back from Ubud, be sure to stop at the world renowned Uluwatu Temple for sunset from the cliffs, Balinese fire dancing and even more monkeys.
PETITENGETAfter a few days in the downtown area, head a little Northeast to the Petitenget neighborhood of Seminyak. Here you’ll find less partying and more creature comforts and pristine beaches.
Get yourself a guesthouse at Cicada-Seminyak, just a block from the beach and a short walk to the shopping district of Petitenget. At Cicada, you’ll get a slightly cheaper rate than at Villa Seminyak, with just as money amenities and in a more luxurious neighborhood with better views and beaches.
Now that you’ve checked in, walk down the road along the creek to Jalan Petitenget, where you’ll find a spa (I don’t recall the name, but you can’t miss it) with great services and ridiculously cheap rates. I spent 4-5 hours in there and less than $45.
After you’ve gotten every spa treatment you’ve ever wanted, walk down Jalan Petitenget toward downtown, where you’ll find a group of shacks next to a field. Get the fried chicken here. They will make you pick your (live) chicken, then kill it in front of you; but it’s worth it. It is hands down the best fried chicken I have ever had. Then follow the sigs to Petitenget Plaza, where there’s tons of boutique shopping and the restaurant where I ate most of my remaining meals.
Junction is a designer’s dream: an open aired restaurant and bar, made entirely out of plywood, set-up as an apothecary. The food is gourmet Balinese with French influence, and its uniqueness is only outdone by its great prices and ambience. Junction serves food all day and at night is a mellow hangout bar, apart from the occasional art show or dance party.
Speaking of dance parties, what has likely put Petitenget on every hipster traveler’s radar is the brand new Potato Head Beach Club. It’s just north of Cicada on Jalan Petitenget and is a sight to be seen. This 3 story beach club’s entire facade is made of old vents and shutters that jut out into the sky and curve around the building’s exterior and into its bar and restaurant. In the back is an enormous lawn that looks out over an infinity pool and beyond that onto the ocean. The beach club has nightly parties that are the paradigm of the Seminyak fashion and music scene. You’ll dream of this place years after you’ve left.
Other great spots to eat and drink in the area are Living Room, Tulip, and Satay Cafe.
This is a good start. I’ll be back soon enough with Bali pt. 2.
"Teenage Love" - Teenage Love - Single - Magic Wands
MAGIC WANDS | Teenage Love
Sounds like: A modern day “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club meets 70’s discosoul
MAGAZINE | My Rugged 211 | Free & Easy Magazine
Japan’s Free & Easy is a contemporary men’s lifestyle magazine focusing on the rugged side of American Heritage. Launched in 1998, Free & Easy is an encyclopedia of what made the 20th Century American male so captivating. From vintage denim and chambray to motorcycle maintenance and dog washing Free & Easy is here to show you how to live like a modern day Dean, McQueen, or Newman. Today Free & Easy is an inspiration to many top male designers. Their readership includes Paul Smith, Thom Browne, Nigel Cabourn, and Ralph Lauren
PERFUME GENIUS | Hood
The controversial video by Mike Hadreas’ Perfume Genius should be less the topic than the amazingly stark but poignant song itself. “I wish I grew up the first second I held you in my arms / Underneath this hood you kiss / I tick like a bomb / You would never call me baby / If you knew me true”
This entire album is absolutely stunning. Other notable tracks are: Take Me Home | Floating Spit | Rusty Chains
"Tears" - Kitsune Parisien II - We Are Knights
WE ARE KNIGHTS | Tears
Sounds like: Radio Dept | Apparat
This dreamy, electropop lazy-summer-anthem makes you feel like everything in the world is just right.
"High Green Grass" - Evenfall - Sebastien Schuller
SEBASTIAN SCHULLER | High Green Grass
Sounds like: Gotye | DNTEL | Sigur Ros
Other notable tracks: Awakening | Open Organ
Stunningly beautiful music with very simple, stripped vocals.
FASHION | River Island Navajo Belt
While it might be considered in poor taste to have a Navajo print in Aztec colors, this belt is still pretty amazing.
$26.86 at ASOS.
"Amongster" - Give You the Ghost - POLIÃA
POLICA | Amongster
Sounds like: 90’s R&B and 00’s trip-hop had a baby that grew up to be a hipster.
Other notable tracks: Dark Star | Lay Your Cards Out
TRAVELOGUE | Why You Should FLY Into Cambodia
We had been traveling around Southeast Asia for a few weeks when we decided to head to Siem Reap, Cambodia to check out the ancient city of Angkor. At the time, we were in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. We already had airfare back to Bangkok and knew from there we could take a bus to the Thai-Cambodian border. But for the sake of saving time, we figured we should check out how much it would cost to fly direct from Chiang Mai to Siem Reap. Tickets were something like $170 per person; and since there were 3 of us and our friend Robert was covering all travel expenses, we opted to just fly back to Bangkok and bus in.
This would turn out to be a huge mistake.
The bus ride from Bangkok to the border town Aranyaprathet is about 6 hours. The ride was quite beautiful though and pretty comfortable, all things considered. We had read that once you arrived in Aranyaprathet you could walk across the border through customs and into a small town called Poipet. The travel guides didn’t offer much information on Poipet except that there was a casino at the border and that a cab from there to Siem Reap would cost about $30 and take about 4 hours due to neglected road repairs. It advised to take an early bus, as the border closed at 9pm.
We arrived at the border at around 8:45pm. We literally jumped out of the bus and sprinted with hordes of other people to Thai customs, which we cleared pretty quickly. Between Thai and Cambodian customs is where the casino is, evidently nestled in a football field-sized lawless land. At this point we had about 7 minutes to get to and then through Cambodian customs. As we started jogging toward the customs office, we found ourselves surrounded by a pack of children.
In our time in Thailand we became accustomed to children begging for food and money. So we weren’t at all jarred by this pack, except that they were a bit more aggressive than the Thai children we were used to. We did our best to run through them and felt pretty successful until we made it to the customs office. As we made our way into the queue, we realized that these children were merely pretending to beg. In actuality, they were distracting us from the few kids who were behind us cutting our bags open with razor blades and stealing from us.
We only had about 4 minutes to get through customs though, and had no intention of staying overnight in between borders, so we called it a loss. The kids had gotten away with two cameras and hundreds of dollars. The biggest loss for all of us was the hundreds of photos we’d taken during our previous 3 weeks of travel. We pressed on.
Thankfully, we made it through customs just in the nick of time. Sadly, being the last 3 people into the country, most of the taxis were now gone. There was one taxi left, which Robert approached. As Robert began to haggle, I looked around at this town we had found ourselves in.
Poipet is something you reserve for bad Sally Struthers Feed the Poor commercials and war-torn movie sets. There’s garbage everywhere, the buildings are literally falling apart before you. There are seemingly lifeloss bodies laid out amongst the streets, and cattle and naked children aimlessly roam around. I had never seen anything like it. There were hardly any lights, most buildings were lit by fire or candles. The whole town smelled like sewage and decay. It was devastating. You always know these places exist, but you never think you’ll actually being standing amid it one late night.
I returned to Robert, who was frustratingly trying to talk the lone cab driver down from $60 to $30. The driver knew he had us by the balls. There was no way we were going to spend the night in Poipet, and he knew it. Finally, Robert relented. That is, of course, until the driver asked for the money up front. We were pretty sure this was merely a ploy to demand more money at any point along the road. He argued that it was for gas, as his tank was on empty. After some discourse, we were able to agree on half up front and half at arrival. As we walked toward the trunk to unload our luggage, he shook his head quite firmly and said the trunk was full. So, we begrudgingly climbed into the sedan and rested our luggage on our laps.
The man we had haggled with then said, “Your driver speaks no English.” He then smiled and walked away. A behemoth of a man, then approached from a dimly lit shack, silently got into the car and started the engine. As soon as I saw that the gas tank was in fact full, I knew we were in for a rough ride. And without a word, we drove off into the pitch black night.
The “highway” to Siem Reap is only about 50 miles, but takes 3-4 hours because it is almost entirely dirt road that has been largely ignored for the past 35 years. The streetlights are few and far between, and on several occasions the road actually runs through streams and sandlots. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Unfortunately, the road would be the least of our problems that night.
The “highway” to Siem Reap
After about twenty minutes on the road, our driver pulled off the “highway” and into the jungle. He pulled up to a small shack and without a word or gesture left us alone in the car and entered the shack. As he entered, a man with a large gun peered out the door.
"What the fuck is going on?" I looked back at Robert and Monique, wide-eyed. "The gas tank is full!"
"We know." Monique looked about as grim as I felt.
"Our seats and floor mats are padded with something." Robert seemed almost amused by this.
"Mine too. Do you think it’s drugs?"
They both nodded yes.
"I have to pee."
"Well, we’re stopped. Just pee behind that tree."
I would have rather have peed in my pants than exit the car at that point. Before I could say exactly that, the man emerged from the shack with something in his hand. He got into the car and handed me a brick of cocaine. He awkwardly smiled, then turned on the car and drove back to the highway.
This when we all realized we were only guised as taxi fares. In all reality, we were now drug mules. The trunk didn’t have room for our luggage, because it was full of cocaine. And now I was holding cocaine. Our seats and floor mats were padded with cocaine. We were in the middle of jungle, in a third world country, in the dead of night, running cocaine along a dirt road into the city.
My mind was immediately flooded with all the possibilities, none of which ended well. Kidnapping, murder, Cambodian prison, murder, robbery, murder. And I had to pee so bad.
The driver made two more stops and by 12am we were all holding bricks of cocaine. It was the scariest 3 hours of my life.
We arrived in Siem Reap at 1am, physically and emotionally exhausted. But, we were alive. Our driver pulled into a parking lot on the side of the road, put out his hand for his money, then peeled out leaving us there with just our bags and relief.
TAXI APP | Uber
Uber has changed my life. I take a lot of taxis, at home and when traveling. I find the entire taxi process to be a pain in the butt; save for in New York, getting and then dealing with cabs is one of my least favorite processes. It either takes 20 minutes to get one, or you end up with a chatty cabbie, or get taken for a ride. And paying! My god, who ever thought paying someone could be so difficult; either they don’t take cards or don’t have change or some story you don’t entirely buy that leaves you spending more than you should.
Uber changes all this. Go to their website and create a profile. Then download the app. And here’s what happens next time you need a ride:
1. Open the app2. The app automatically finds your location (with about a block margin of error)3. Then either confirm your location or update it.4. On the map it shows all available cars, based on their proximity to your location.5. Click on the closest car and immediately get an eta.6. Confirm your pick-up.7. A towncar arrives at your location.8. The door is opened for you, there’s a bottle of water waiting for you and you are taken to your destination in silence.9. Arrive and exit. Your account is automatically billed.
Prices vary per city, so you’re getting standard area rates rather than an umbrella rate. Standard city rates are available on their website, along with fixed rates to/from the airport.
Uber is currently available in:SF Bay AreaSeattleWashington, DCParisChicagoNew YorkBostonRecently Uber announced they would be expanding to 14 new cities, with a heavy international focus.
Get it here.
TRAVEL APP | OffMaps
Most travel apps are lacking the key component that makes them worthwhile in the first place. International data roaming is brutally expensive. What’s the point of having all these amazing travel apps if it costs too much to actually use them while you’re abroad. OffMaps has brilliantly bypassed this problem by offering their entire catalogue offline. So, if you need to find a hip bar, cheap hotel or awesome design house while in Helsinki, you don’t need to find a hotspot or pay $20 in roaming to do it. Not only does OffMaps provide you local maps, it gives you the Wikipedia profile for your city, public transit info, and even restaurant reviews.
Even with an international data plan while I was in Mexico last month, I still spent an extra $80 on my phone bill. And the majority of that roaming was spent on trying to use apps and the internet to find hip places to check out while I was either hungrily or drunkenly stumbling along the cobblestones of Old Town Puerto Vallarta. I only wish I had been using this app then.