Gratuitous garden photos

Technically, it's now Autumn. But we have had several weeks of 30C plus days, and warm nights, and I always think the silliness that is deciding on a season based on a calendar date is particularly true of March in Adelaide, which I always think of as our hottest and driest month. At any rate, while the retailers have the memo, and have adorned their shop windows with coats and boots, it's definitely summer dress weather in real life. I thought I'd try to do a bit of a round up of what's been going on..

 Corner of a master ensuite. This is a double vanity unit with scalloped sconces set on the mirror.

Doing
I've been working, a lot. I haven't ever really written much about client work on the blog, but I do share images on the fly sometimes over on my Instagram.

Formal sitting room, the bookcase being painted. There is navy blue grasscloth on the walls


Back wall of the kitchen

Love the big farmhouse sink and classic lever tap

This house is a project I've been working on with my clients for the past nearly 2 years. It's now up to the bit that is exciting to photograph - all the months of drafting, dirty building site and frames and spaghetti junctions of wires is coming together and we now have the more visually exciting part of joinery, wallpaper and curtains that I can share glimpses of.

W/C with beautiful hand blocked wallpaper reflected in the mirror above the panel. We chose a lot of blue in this house to compliment the original stained glass windows

Finished bookcase with blind, wall sconce and books in. Just waiting on the cushion for the window seat.

It's a family home, and my client has been brave with her choices in colour and there's lots of wallpaper. I am so pleased with how it's all looking! We are now up to the furniture part and are waiting on a lot of orders to arrive. I'll share some photos once it's all a little more finished.

We've also finally started on our garage/ studio project at home. This is the final element of our total renovation of our house. After a very long lead up to starting, the slab was finally poured and the frame started going up, all very quickly. Hopefully within a couple of months it will all be finished, and I'll have somewhere to put all the stuff cluttering our back veranda (all the tools/ bikes/ gardening equipment) and the Sitting Room (all my work related samples etc). I'll post more about the design as it gets to the more visually interesting part, because while small it did require a lot of fiddling about to get it looking right, as well as functioning well.

Ground floor frame

I've also been working on a Beach House project, which has been fun. It's a starting from scratch job, furniture wise, and will not be a permanent house but rather a holiday house, so this changes the approach I'd normally take to a project, and I've started at one point, and ended up at another with the design as my thoughts gradually evolved on the whole thing. Firstly was that a beach house here in South Australia is very different to a Tropical beach house, of which images abound both here in Australia in our tropical North, and up through Bali and over to Florida, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic etc. Palms, bamboo, bright coloured prints, British Colonial style etc don't really look place appropriate here- we have a Mediterranean climate and the house has native scrub nearby in sandhills. There isn't therefore very many inspiration photos to draw on as starting points. So I've just made it up as I've gone along with what has felt right to me.

Guest Bedroom scheme - Aqua bedspread, the small print for the bedhead, and leaf print for cushions

It's also very easy to go crazy with seaside theming - Navy/White stripes, Seagull pictures, mini lighthouses, coral prints, and on and on... There will naturally be a lot of seaside theming, but I wanted to pull back a little from it and not get too literal. The existing house has good bones, and generally all the finishes are perfectly fine to work with, but it is quite 'shiny' in some ways (highly polished floorboards), so it's been about taking it down a few notches to make it feel less yacht- moored- at -Monaco and more relaxed and layered.

Main living area. Matching colours too perfectly would not give the relaxed, layered feel I'm after.

The colours I'm using for the main living area are a sort of dusty Aqua and shots of red to highlight mixed in with natural linen and white linen on the sofa.  Lots of raw timber for the dining table, coffee tables etc... and I've sourced all sorts of fun things for Art for the walls...


Including this vintage 1910-1920 wool bathing suit with greek key detail, which has been framed. I posted this on Instagram and had a few questions as to where I found it... so to preempt anyone else asking, it came from Etsy.com. I've sourced decorative things/ art from all over - eBay, Etsy, 1stdibs, Bluethumb and local galleries. Decorator Art (by which I mean the ready made, ready framed prints) has a place in design, I suppose, but it can vary enormously in quality. You can find all sorts of interesting, more individual things if you're prepared to put in a little more effort in sourcing, and to think creatively about it.  It doesn't have to cost a lot either - none of the things I've found so far have.

Aside from work, it's been the start of the School year, so I've had a myriad of Parent Information Nights, Welcome Drinks, Class Drinks, Movie nights, Swimming Carnivals, a couple of trips to Hospital with  two of the children (one had a fish bone to dislodge from her throat, the other needed an appendix out, both now fine) and then a few dinners out with friends to keep the candle burning at both ends.

I've also been addicted to a Spanish mini series, called Grand Hotel (entire series on Netflix). It was first filmed in 2013, and has high production values (it's subtitled). Set in a Hotel in Spain circa 1907, it's a little bit Downton Abbey and a little bit Agatha Christie, a little bit scheming mafia family style, with a forbidden romance with a dishy male lead meaning it ticks pretty much every genre box. I loved it, and am bereft now that I've finished watching all 64 episodes (or something like that).

Grand Hotel

Wearing:
One purchase that I've absolutely LOVED this summer has been this Binny dress, which is called the Victoria. It ticks all my Summer dress boxes - cap sleeve and higher neckline to give sun protection, loose, which makes it cool on a hot day, plus comfortable to wear, and a reasonably modest length, which is essential with children as you tend to bend over a lot. It's cotton, so I can throw it in the machine and being white can bleach it when something stains it... It also walks the line between dressy and casual quite nicely. I will happily wear it on a weekend around the house with flat sandals, or with wedge espadrilles during the week to work in. I have given up trying to get anyone in the family to take a photo of me, and my efforts at a selfie didn't work out so well... so here is a photo from the Catalogue. I look exactly the same in it (ha!).

Binnywear Victoria dress - a winner

Cooking:

I started the year off well with a lot of baking for the children's lunchboxes... and have gradually slid back to no treats as the term has worn on. But I have made a bit of an effort with dinners, and trying to put a few new recipes into rotation. One thing that I cook a lot is a slow cooked lamb shoulder. This works for having friends over, or for a simple family dinner mid week. It's super quick to do the marinade in a food processor or thermomix or mortar and pestle, and then it takes around 4-6 hours to cook, which means it's a good thing to start cooking in advance.

Thursday night's dinner

Slow Baked Lamb Shoulder (Karen Martini - Feasting cookbook)
Ingredients 
2 Tbsp sea salt
8 cloves garlic
6 sprigs of rosemary, stripped and chopped
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
100ml olive oil
3 Tbsp dried Oregano
1.8-2.2kg lamb shoulder, boned (I have also done bone in)
100ml white wine vinegar

Method:
Preheat oven to 150C fan forced
Grind salt, garlic, rosemary, peppercorns in a mortar and pestle (or food processor), add the olive oil and dried oregano.
Open out shoulder and rub all over, place in baking dish, splash over the vinegar and pour 150ml water in the base. Cover with tight fitting lid and bake for 2.5 hours. Remove the lid/ or foil and then turn up heat to 200C for 5-10 minutes until nicely browned. The meat will be so tender it will fall apart, and I like to serve it with a couscous mix (parsley, lemon, roasted almonds, spanish onion)  and steamed green beans.


Reading:

The thoughts I wrote about Art above, dovetails in nicely with a book that I bought and read this weekend - Imogen Taylor's "On the Fringe". Imogen Taylor worked at Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler for 50 years, the venerable English decorating firm. Her memoir is about her time there, the projects she worked on, and how they did things post WW2. Everything was bespoke and invented by the designer, from mixing paint colours on site, to finding scraps of wallpaper or fabric and recolouring and remaking it for projects. They revived many old trades, designed lamps, furniture, carpets and rugs for projects, and in general are about as far removed from what a lot of people term Interior Decoration these days as you can imagine. Again, there is space for all types in this world - not everyone has a bespoke budget for one. But the creativity at a time when there wasn't really a design "Industry" makes this a really interesting read.


I've also added a couple of second hand books to my reading list this month. I use Abebooks to find second hand books I'm looking for, and am eagerly anticipating a copy of "Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House" in a few weeks. One Instagram account that I've been following designs Private Libraries - they specialise in out of print books revolving around Gardening, Interiors, Architecture, Food, Fashion and Biography. They are Kinsey Marabel & Co, who are located in the USA. A great source of tip offs on interesting books to buy or borrow from the library.

As I've mentioned Instagram, I thought I'd include some accounts that I've been enjoying following.

Ivy and Bricks restored house facade

Firstly, for renovation and restoration lovers there is Ivy and Bricks a beautiful, grand 1908 house in the US. It's being meticulously restored to a high standard.

The start of one of Timothy Long's short videos

I love watching Timothy Long, Fashion Curator's little mini videos on Instagram. He works in the UK in museums, and will do little videos of the garments from the store rooms behind the scenes with explanations on the detail in the clothing. Fascinating!

Jupeculotte - Pierre Balmain dress

Fashion historian and curator Jupeculotte posts interesting fashion photos from the past, with descriptions on the clothing/ designer/ fabric/ social context.

I will finish up by saying I was saddened to see this week that Bill Leake, the Australian Newspaper's Cartoonist died suddenly from a Heart Attack. The tribute they put in the paper was brilliant. He was a very clever satirist, who railed against the Politically Correct Thought Police, and naturally offended, prodded, and questioned through the age old medium of satire, as the best do. A political cartoonist from the old guard, he was clever, and thought provoking, and I can't imagine the letters to the Editor page without his funny jabs at life in modern Australia. Cartoons and Satire have long been a tradition in Western Democracies, and as we have seen with the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the cartoonists have become targets for extremism from both the far left (he was relentlessly trolled on twitter) as well as the religiously extreme of all persuasions.




I hope you had a great weekend. It's a long weekend here, and I'll leave you with a photo of sunset on Saturday night  where we were having drinks- we get spectacular sunsets in Adelaide. The CBD can just be seen poking up in the centre of the photo (this view was taken from a house in the foothills).



I was idly clicking through the "Just In" section of Matches Fashion, when I noticed a peculiar trend was starting to emerge.


I think we can blame it on Iris Apfel.

Iris loves an oversized accessory, jacket or anything else really, and her influence in fashion in the past 10 years cannot be overstated. She is the 90 plus year old darling of the fashion cognoscenti. Along with young women who are dying their hair grey, fashion designers are drawing inspiration from the proportions of a certain Older Women style

Gucci - Is it just me? I get strong Ronald McDonald vibes from this

So it's no surprise then, to see oversized sunglasses being the "thing" of the moment. Even if they're starting to get incredibly oversized, to a point where you could easily go incognito as no one can discern your face behind the frame

Karen Walker

But other items have also become curiously large.

Raey

Jumpers/ Sweaters, where you can't actually see hands poking out.

Stella McCartney

Voluminous skirts, shirts and trousers that look as if you're playing dress up in your Mother's clothes aged 4.

Saint Laurent

It's distinctively unflattering, including the jeans style I last wore circa 1999 when waists were still high, the cut was loose, and a mid wash denim was all the go.

Red Valentino

I will be avoiding all of this like the plague. Being of average, rather than supermodel, proportions I would absolutely drown in all of these things.
Attico

But then I saw something that can be worn by a women of any size or height and who has a love of accessorising. Ankle Bracelets. It appears they're a thing. A £165 thing. Sorry to inform you though that they're already pre -sold out in every colour.


I'm thinking I'm probably going to sit these looks out, although I'll watch with breathless anticipation to see if the youth of Adelaide adopt these global trends - you?

Images via the Just In section of Matches Fashion
Peas and Carrots hand embroidered cocktail napkins

After all the pre Christmas, post Christmas and general celebrate-we're-on-Summer-holiday drinks I've been knocking back over the past month and a half, I've decided to give my liver a break and not drink alcohol for the next month, at least. The irony that I've decided that now is the perfect time to post about Cocktail napkins is not lost on me.

mineral water....


As long term blog readers will know, I have a love of embroidery. I also have a love of setting a nice table. So when the two collide, I'm in - Table Linen is my Achilles Heel. 

Marghab "Irises" margandy placemat and napkin in white on white


A company called Marghab produced probably the highest quality of hand embroidered table linen in the world. Sadly, they went out of business in 1980, but they were in operation from 1933 until that time, so that means there are pieces available on the vintage market, although it is now quite collectable and prices are high (although not when compared to new products from the likes of D Porthault etc). Here in Australia Marghab was sold by David Jones and Georges department stores, and overseas it was sold in various high end retailers throughout the US such as Neimen Marcus and Marshall Fields and some specialty stores in Europe. 

A close up of the fine embroidery, all of which was hand done.


It all originated in Madeira, an island of Portugal, where the women were highly skilled embroiderers, and the quality of the embroidery exceptional as a result. Marghab used fine quality lawn, and a product they worked with a mill in Switzerland to produce themselves, a sort of organdy fabric that was much harder wearing, despite its delicate appearance, that they called "Margandie". It's fairly transparent and a little stiff, and is used more often in the placemat sets, such as the Irises ones above. Embroiderers were paid by the stitch.

my cocktail napkins in different coloured backgrounds. I have two of the geranium sets, one in white and one in linen.


After purchasing a couple of sets of cocktail napkins on eBay for drinks or afternoon tea, my Mother in Law said she'd never seen them in this format before - she seems to think that the Cocktail napkins were not sold in Australia. She recalls Marghab being a popular choice for a wedding gift, with the guest hand towels, tray sets (placemat and two napkins for your morning breakfast tray), tablecloths placemats and matching napkins being reliably well received gifts back in the late 60's, early 70's. My Mother in Law also remembered them as being fairly expensive, however for the quality of the hand embroidery, well, I think they were likely a bargain when compared to the machine made linens that are very expensive today.

Pimms cup sitting on Sailboats

So, what is a Cocktail napkin? I hear some of my Australian readers asking... 
These are very familiar to American readers, but for some reason have never really been embraced here. They are a sort of cross between a coaster and a napkin, a small rectangular format cloth napkin that can be wrapped around a drink, or to sit a drink on top of, or to wipe fingers on after eating hors d'oeuvre.  I have been using mine for afternoon tea when serving cake or sandwiches, as well as evening drinks, and with so many different patterns on offer.. it's easy to theme and get a little carried away. 

 Geraniums are a perfect match for cabbage ware

Somehow, I seem to now have a small collection. Madeira linens in general are very good quality, so even if you're not keen on the Marghab patterns that are available, you'll find that other very high quality hand embroidered napkins and linens by other companies may have something that catches your eye in the vintage market.

So, I'm now enjoying my mineral water on one of the Fish napkins, but will return to full cocktail mode in another month's time. So, chin chin and bottoms up!
Ta Prohm temple, Siem Reap

Our long summer holidays are about to finish here in South Australia with the children back to school this week, and earlier this month we took a family holiday to Cambodia. Some blog readers may recall that we went on a holiday to Vietnam last January, which we absolutely loved. Our flight back from Vietnam stopped over for an hour in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and this was so tantalisingly close to the ancient Angkor Wat it made me think about going back to that region and exploring the jungle temples that it's famous for.

We started our holiday in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Cambodia is very much a developing Asian country - far behind its neighbours Vietnam and Thailand due to the civil war and reign of terror that Pol Pot instigated in the 1970's. There is a lot of investment now flowing in from neighbouring countries, such as China, South Korea and Malaysia, and Phnom Penh is a good representation of the crossroads that the country is at. Towers of glass and steel are going up at a rapid rate next to old French Colonial traditional dwellings and shops, street markets and ageing infrastructure. The typical tangle of electrical wires running overhead, the open sewers in some sections of the city (to be fair, these are reasonably hidden from view - our Tuk Tuk took a short cut one day which was fairly eye opening), the small rubbish piles in the street waiting to be collected, the snarls of traffic and motorbikes with multiple passengers clinging on and interesting things being carried on them...all scenes that are typically Asian- city chaotic, although this is a far smaller capital city than places like Bangkok or Saigon (the population is around 1.5 Million).

Golden Buddha in Wat Phnom

We found it difficult to walk anywhere from our hotel with the children - as many visitors to Asian cities in this region will know, road rules are fairly loose (they will drive down the wrong side of the road, mount footpaths and not necessarily stop at red lights) and with young children you risk being knocked down if you loose your nerve crossing the road (you have to step out into the traffic, moving slowly at a steady pace and keeping eye contact with oncoming drivers and scooters who will slow down and drive around you. If you stop, or run, you risk being hit). Coupled with the fact that many footpaths end up blocked by cars parking on them so that you have to walk out into the street, we instead mostly used Tuk Tuks when out and about to get to our destination. They're little motorbikes with carriages on the back that can weave in and out of traffic and therefore travel faster than cars which can get stuck in the lengthy traffic jams.

outside the coronation pavilion at the Royal Palace, no photos are allowed inside of the richly decorated interior, throne and ceiling depicting the story of Cambodia

We had two full days in Phnom Penh, and our first day we spent touring the Royal Palace complex, which has a lot of Thai style pagoda structures (high pitched roofs adorned with glittering gold tiles) in the manicured grounds encompassing museums, coronation halls, religious temples (the Cambodians are Buddhist) and the famous Silver Pagoda (the floor is made of silver and it contains a buddha encrusted with diamonds). The 65 year old bachelor King lives at the palace with his mother, the Dowager Queen. His father was incredibly popular, and you still see portraits of the older king displayed, however the current king seems to have generated a somewhat more ambivalent attitude, his passion was ballet dancing which he did professionally in Europe in his youth , and he doesn't seem to be so in touch with the people.

Royal palace, looking toward the pavilion from where the King addresses the crowds in the square outside the palace walls on state occasions.

We visited Wat Phnom, which was the founding temple of Phnom Penh located in the middle of the city at the top of a man made hill. Founded in the 14th Century it has monkeys swinging in the trees around it and the scent of incense wafting over all. There are many Buddha statues, with offerings left at his feet of food, money and incense. The Cambodians are very welcoming of the mainland Chinese tourists, who make up the vast bulk of their tourism market, and have pragmatically put in Buddhas that they called "Chinese Buddha", because the Chinese worship Buddha in a slightly different manner.  Buddha is adorned in modern clothing, jewellery and lipstick, and some of them had interesting rainbow coloured LED light displays flashing behind his head. It's a slightly disconcerting clash of old and new, of consumerism and humility before a deity.

Chinese Buddha, who looked like he'd had a hard night out on the town to me, and yes, he is wearing a Louis Vuitton necklace gangsta style...

We visited the tiny National Museum, which houses may of the old statues and artefacts from temples that still remain in the country (looting has been a huge problem for centuries), we visited the Russian Market (large clothing and fresh food market crammed with factory overruns and fake designer goods as well as traditional Cambodian handicrafts), and spent the afternoons when the heat would become more intense by the pool at our French Colonial hotel under the shade of the palms.

National Museum courtyard

We next travelled up to Siem Reap, which was the main purpose of our trip, to see the Unesco World Heritage listed temples in the region. Siem Reap is the closest town to the temples, which lie in jungle a short distance away. This is the jewel in the crown of Cambodia, and they are justifiably proud of the temples. Siem Reap is far more developed than Phnom Penh for the tourist market, most of whom fly in and out on direct flights and do not visit the rest of the country, and it is quite a different experience.

having a "Dr Fish" foot massage in the old town after a day trekking in the temples. The fish nibble at your feet

The old town is very clean with stall holders hosing down the footpaths every morning, it's pedestrian friendly, and lined with cafes that would look at home in any western city in the world. I was at one point actually served my drink in a mason jar while sitting on a Tolix chair which was a little disconcerting, but clearly the influence of Pinterest has gone a long way. The markets sell similar goods to those in the capital, however price wise it was far more expensive (relatively speaking - Cambodia is a cheap travel destination in general). Everything is paid in US dollars in Cambodia, and the starting price in Phnom Penh was always $5 (then you begin to bargain), but in Siem Reap it was all a starting price of $10.

inside Angkor Wat

We ate our best meals of the trip in Siem Reap, at two restaurants overlooking the river that served excellent Asian food (with prices to match - these places were cheap by our standards of eating out at home, however compared to the cost of meals in the main food street in the town, Pub Street, they were fairly expensive). The main Khmer national dishes are Loc Lac (a mild beef curry which originated in Vietnam, but has been claimed as Khmer for 50 years, much like pavlova is contested between the New Zealanders and Aussies), and Amok (fish or chicken poached in coconut milk in a banana leaf with some spices). Many of the other things on menus are more recognisable as being purely Thai or Vietnamese in origin, which fits with the Khmer people being at various times controlled by the Thai and Vietnamese, and there are a lot of French pastries and baguettes on offer, showing the influence that French colonisation still has in the country. Siem Reap is so westernised though, that many of the cafes in the old town serve exclusively western food - I don't think I've ever seen such a concentration of places advertising Wood Fire Pizzas in my life as in Pub Street, and that includes in Italy.

at the top of Bayan, with its may faces

But I've saved the best for last - the Temples. I can't really explain how awe inspiring they are, and the feeling of wonder and discovery that you get on your first viewing. The Temples (there are something like 40 in the immediate vicinity of Siem Reap, with Angkor Wat being the largest and most famous) were built by God Kings from the 11th Century, who worshipped the Hindu faith. Hinduism had spread into Cambodia via trade with India along the coast line, however the temples were built in jungle farther North from the coast (today it takes 5 hours by car to travel from Phnom Penh, so a journey by boat from the coast up the river to Siem Reap would have been lengthy back then).


The scale is absolutely incredible and despite seeing photos, you can't be prepared for the first sight of Angkor Wat rising out of the jungle, surrounded by its perfectly straight, wide man made moat. It's the largest religious structure in the world, exceeding the Vatican or Manchu Pichu, with every surface intricately carved - an 800m long bas relief stretching around the outer edge of the main building depicts battles and scenes from Hindu mythology.

a monk blessing tourists in Angkor Wat

We visited only 5 temples with the children, despite being in Siem Reap for 4 full days. Each temple would take at least an hour, to an hour and a half to explore (Angkor Wat is so large that it took us about 2.5 hours to get through), so most days we picked a couple of the larger and more famous ones and explored them. While it could seem that you'd get a little tired of temples, this is not the case - each one is so different from the other. Our favourite was Bayan, which has strange heads carved into the top of the structure, and layer upon layer of labyrinthine rooms at the base that the children enjoyed exploring. It had probably the best carvings that we saw with elephants, monkeys, fights and parades and religious ceremonies depicted.

this photo gives some idea of the scale - my 6 year old standing under a tree root

Ta Prohm is the one made famous by the movie Tomb Raider, with giant trees growing out of the ruined temple from the time when the temples were abandoned and the jungle left to reclaim them for several centuries. The Elephant terrace's carving was incredible, and I personally loved all the gates into the different temple complexes - rising out of the jungle would be a bridge with an enormous carved stone rail of seven headed snakes being pulled in a tug of war stance by warriors (these were to protect the temples) and an enormous and high gate carved with the head of a deity in a very high stone wall that dwarfed the tuk tuks and cars travelling through underneath.


a view out the back of a Tuk Tuk of an entry gate

Exploring the temples is hot work. It is the dry season during January, but even so temperatures would be in the low 30's and very humid. So pacing ourselves with the children in tow was key - we spent the afternoons swimming at the hotel, and would then wander out into the town for dinner after sundown. Exploring the temples I took wet washcloths from the hotel so that hot children could put them around their necks or wipe down their faces to keep cool, and of course bottles of water (although there are plenty of opportunities to purchase food and drink in the area from stallholders).


Our hotel choice, the Park Hyatt, was a good choice for many reasons - it was well located for a short walk into the Old Town, but it also put on a traditional puppet show, or dance or martial arts display each night during drinks or dinner in the courtyard. My boys in particular were very impressed with the martial arts display and the fact that it was done in such a relaxed manner with informal seating (rather than going to a restaurant where they did that as part of a set 'show' which was commonly offered in the town) worked better for the ages of our children.

Surprisingly, Australians are not as commonly seen in Cambodia as in other Asian countries in the region, and I suspect that it may be because Siem Reap is inland, and not on the coast (Australians do love a Beach destination for holidays in Asia). The majority of tourists are from neighbouring Asian countries (the vast majority coming from Mainland China), the Western tourists, who are a far smaller number, tend to be split between French, Canadian and American. At this stage the supervision of the temples is fairly relaxed - you can walk around and over most of them, without having to stick to set paths unless you're in a very ruined temple where areas may be cordoned off due to potential danger from collapse. I can't imagine that in 50 years time this will be the case, as all the foot traffic, touching of bas reliefs etc will inevitably wear down the temples. The government is also constantly working at restoration projects in various temples, so some areas are out of bounds as they are reconstruction sites.

So, if you're interested in visiting Cambodia, here are some recommendations of places we enjoyed:

Eat:
Malis in Siem Reap, our best meal of the trip
Chanrey Tree in Siem Reap, the food was also excellent

The "Living Room" at the Park Hyatt, Siem Reap

Stay:
Phnom Penh - Raffles
Siem Reap - Park Hyatt

Travel:
We flew direct from Singapore into Phnom Penh on Silk Air. After 3 nights in Phnom Penh we travelled by car with a driver and guide 5 hours to Siem Reap on the main highway (this is single lane both directions, and was finished approximately a year ago, so is new and fairly bump free). This cost approximately US$120. There are flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, however they are operated by Cambodian based airlines, who have very poor compliance records (no accidents, however they are all newer operators post 2010). For this reason we decided driving was safer. There are direct international flights in and out of Siem Reap should you not wish to visit Phnom Penh, and our return flight was direct from Siem Reap to Singapore on Silk Air.

Travel with children:
I'd say that our youngest child, who is now 6, was about the minimum age you'd want to take children to Siem Reap. It's extremely difficult to explore the temples if you're not able bodied - the paths and floors are uneven, there's a lot of climbing up incredibly steep steps, a lack of balustrades, and vast distances to walk. Trying to use a stroller would be impossible, and most very young children would find the walking and climbing hard going in the heat.  We chose not to use tour guides, as we felt our children wouldn't have the patience for it, so we ducked in and out of the temples as we chose, which worked better for us. All three of our children (ages 6,8,11) really enjoyed visiting and exploring the temples and were quite overawed by the scale and age of them, they enjoyed bartering in the markets, and travelling in the tuk tuks. Cambodian people are lovely and very welcoming to children and made a huge fuss of them all, especially our youngest.

Shopping:
I didn't buy anything on this trip (the children bought hats and some t-shirts). The market shopping consists of factory overruns of brand name western goods made in the area, and the fake designer goods found all over Asia (Chanel bags, LV jewellery, scarfs etc). The goods that are local include very well made and delicate basketware (some of which I have seen sold in the Dior home shop in Paris), Cambodian silk scarfs, rather luridly coloured paintings, and carved timber goods. You can buy reproduction antique buddhas and temple bowls etc should you feel inspired to recreate your holiday at home, and at the temples you can purchase rubbings of temple reliefs on rice paper. There are some shops at the base of the Foreign Correspondents Club on the river in Siem Reap that have high quality items for sale, including local pottery, bronze artefacts, and a photography gallery of stunning black and white large format photos that put to shame any of the terrible iphone photos I've included in this post! Generally speaking, I found the best items to be in the shops in the Hotels we stayed at, but I will say that I didn't get a lot of time to explore the shopping in any particular detail.

We really enjoyed visiting Cambodia - it has a fascinating history, and to compare the temples with Western achievements in Architecture at the same period in history shows the incredible artistry and sophistication and wealth of the country at that time and its influence in the region. My only wish is that I had more time to explore more of the temples, however this just means that I'll have to return one day.
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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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