One of the main reasons for visiting Hoi An was to find the lanterns the area is famous for. A monthly lunar festival is held on the full moon, where the whole town is lit up with lanterns. Although we missed the festival, we found the makers of the collapsible bamboo structured lanterns. I am not a fan of the silk used, so we designed our own for One Kings Lane in lots of shapes & sizes.
Hoi An is a coastal town, once the main trading port of Vietnam & largely built by the Japanese & Chinese. Beautiful old shop fronts line the street selling their wares. The buildings & their facades fascinated me more than the most of the souvenirs. Bouganvillea & other climbing flowers drip from the eaves & faded lanterns look beautiful against chalky walls of turquoise & yellows. Walk the streets of Phan Boi Chau & have a look at the colonial riverside building that houses Brother’s Café. Wander through the central market for bamboo baskets, fruit & vegetable, handloomed natural mats, kitchen utensils & everything else. Cross over to Ngyen Thai Hoe to the lantern shop and pop your head into some of the historic houses. Then finish for lunch at the 2-story Mango Mango looking over the river. This is owned by gun slinging Vietnamese American, Duc. Delicious food, with a mix of subtle Vietnamese, Japanese & fresh produce flavours (leave room for coconut & passionfruit ice cream).
Best to do this in the morning before it’s too hot or in the afternoon & then finish at Duc’s other restaurant, Mango Room.
It is easy to spend days walking the streets of old town, Hanoi. Cruise Noodle & Potato Streets amongst all the other specialty streets. I was looking for handcrafted bits’n’bobs to put in my October container sale for One Kings Lane. I found giant hanging incense, handforged scissors, bamboo birdcages, feather shuttlecocks, handcarved stamps, and even bamboo bicycles!
A pitstop whilst shopping in Hanoi took us to uber cool cafe, Cong Caphe. You enter through a green door into a simple, yet perfect interior. Wooden floors & tables of soft mid tone browns, surrounded by antique wooden & found chairs, padded with chinese cotton print cushions. Lounge chairs are also in the mix, both upstairs & downstairs, & the light throughout is gorgeous.
The kitchen is teeny tiny with no cooked food on the menu, but plenty of yoghurt drinks, crossiants & other delicious things.
Check out the menu, beautifully handwritten in hardcovered old books. The tables are adorned with stenciled enamelware, fully blown roses against a backdrop of army green walls & exposed brick.
There are 2 locations in Hanoi (&rumour of opening in London)
152Đ-Triệu Việt Vương, Hai Bà Trưng
32-Điện Biên Phủ, Ba Đình
US-based company, One Kings Lane had asked me to go anywhere in the world on a shopping trip to fill a container to sell online, coinciding with the release of my 5th book Gypsy in October 2013, and Vietnam was the destination!
I had been told about the basket fishing boats of Hoi An by my friends Morrison & Robert as an idea to put on my shopping list!
And on my early beach walk this morning, they were revealed in all their fascinating sculptural beauty. The beach up from super fancy hotel , The Nam Hai was scattered with them. Looking like beached whales, they are woven, then tarred for water resistance with a single loop rope on their perimeter to hold a carved wooden paddle. I watched as a fisherman rode a wave into shore maneuvering with circular motions of the paddle. He was as wirey & thin as a whippet!
They will definitely be appearing in the sale, I just have to convince a couple of fisherman to part with their baskets!
Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf’s sister) and the love of her life (although he was gay), Duncan Grant were artists & part of The Bloomsbury Group. They lived in Charleston House, in Hastings part of the larger artist & writer group who lived around the way.
They painted the interior of their house & lived a very bohemian life between the wars, part commune, part free love. Conscientious objectors to the war, they lived a life that was against everything normal and accepted, an incredibly modern life. They had little luxuries, but what they did have was their creativity. Instead of using a tablecloth, Vanessa painted the tabletop, and the walls to substitute for wallpaper. The architectural details were highlighted in out-there colours, that were not traditional to the time.
Bell painted patterns and circles, which adorned window panels, door surrounds, doors, wardrobes, tables and any other paintable space in the house in repeat. So unusual, but beautiful and perfect. Everyone who lived in Charleston House had an incredible eye for colour combinations. The bathroom was the most beautiful shade of punchy green! The extensive garden that you see pictures of (devastated there were no photos allowed in the home) is an indication of where their inspiration comes from. Much like myself, nature played a huge part in their colour choices.
The garden is filled with: apples, cosmos, Japanese windmill, sweetpea, dahlias, hollyhocks, Gladys, thistles, nasturtiums, poppies, waterlily, plums, roses, rosehip, honeysuckle, onionballs, figs, grapes, snapdragons, butterflies galore, cornflowers, clementine & forget-me-nots.