Happy in HALONG BAY!

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Hanoi is because I wanted to see The Halong Bay.  I was not able to do this the last time I was in Vietnam so when my friend Bob told me he was going, I decided to join.  The best way to see Halong Bay is by taking a one or two day cruise.   We chose the Paradise Luxury cruise liner   http://www.halongbaytours.com/cruise/paradise-cruise.htmlwhich was really very beautiful and convenient as everything was except for the drinks were inclusive.  The whole experience was actually very exclusive as there were only around 12 rooms on the boat.  I felt that I was taken back in time when people travelled much more slower and gentler.

The only downside to the whole experience was the very long drive to Halong Bay from Hanoi.  Other than that I would definitely recommend this experience to everyone.  What makes the experience really memorable was truly the magical and dream like views that Halong Bay provides.  Often I would catch myself just lost in the scenery thinking how it looks like I am in another planet.  Do take a look at the first few hours of my Halong Bay experience.

This is how one should travel around Halong Bay!

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Hanoi Highlights!

If you’re a foodie like myself then Hanoi has to be on top of your must visits.  The city has some of the most vivid restaurant culture that has been steadily growing ever since the economy of Vietnam started booming more than a decade ago.  My friend Trung dutily narrowed the choices down and this entry is all about that.

If your up for a lazy delicious Brunch then head over to “The Kafe”  http://thekafe.vn/index.php/en/   Located in one of the more busy areas in Hanoi is this lovely restaurant with so much energy and from what I heard is always very busy.  The menu is very international and the flavours are very fresh and bright.  I loved their fresh juices and the vibrancy of their plating.  Me and my friends had the most delicious brunches ever that tied us over till dinner.

We wanted to walk our brunch off so we decided to head over the Vietnam Art Museum    http://vnfam.vn/index.php?lang=en    for a different kind of sustenance.  The feeding of our souls so to speak. The Museum is very beautiful and is filled with Vietnamese art from different decades of its recent history.  We all totally enjoyed this place as the air conditioning was excellent.  Hanoi during this time of the year is extremely humid.  I particularly loved the laquer art and the stair wells of the museum which were made from wood and were really elegant.

Before we knew it it was dinner time and Trung suggested we go to something more “authentic”  like old world Vietnames cuisine so we ate at  ”Chim Sao” http://chimsao.com  I really loved the space as it felt very old world.  The cuisine was Vietnamese but it had this vintage vibe to the flavours with the thought of what we be eating in Hanoi if this was like 1910?  LOL!  The results were very delicious and actually very healthy with lots of vegetables and  very little protein and carbs in the form of steamed rice.  Vietnamese cuisine is really quite healthy and I truly miss this already.

One of the best Brunch places in Hanoi!

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Hello Hanoi part 2!

Having a “local” friend to take you around their town makes your trip extra special.  We were all so fortunate to have my friend Trung take us around his town.  Trung is Vietnamese Canadian and he recently moved back to his roots in Hanoi.   So coming back to Hanoi with Trung opened my eyes to a brand new perspective.

We met right after lunch and he quickly took us around town.  What I really noticed about Hanoi is the proliferation of excellent coffee shops dotting almost every other street.  The coffee they serve is actually very good and while I was there I had an average of 3 cups a day!  LOL!  My personal favourites were “CONG CAPHE”  http://www.congcaphe.com  A derivative of the  Viet cong  era.  This coffee shop is very charming and their coffee is very delicious. We had the coconut cream coffee and I was very impressed.

We decided to walk along the main lake in Hanoi and did a bit of the touristy stuff but to be honest it was so hot and humid that soon after that we wanted to just sit in a comfortable coffee house.  Good thing Trung had another charming coffee shop called COSA NOSTRA  https://vi-vn.facebook.com/cosanostrahn.  This time the feel was more luxurious with a certain dark patina to the interiors. I was very impressed with the leather chesterfield sofas that I was told were locally made. We all decided to rest after that and meet up for dinner.

Dinner was at  CAU GO  http://www.caugorestaurant.com  The restaurant features the best views in Hanoi as it overlooks the beautiful lake. Coming here during the evening gives you a gorgeous view of the city with all the lights.   Eating in Vietnam is always good but this place was so delicious that we ate here twice in our short visit to Hanoi!  Trust me it was that good!

We wanted to experience what the night life was like in Hanoi and although the entire city shuts down at 2am we were still able to go and visit some after hours club called HERO which just opened that very week we visited.  Trung even said that it was also his first time there. We filled our first day pretty well and in a nut shell that was my fist day in Hanoi!  Not bad for less than 24 hours.

This is CONG CAPHE! One of the most original and charming coffee houses in Hanoi.

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The Cosmo bash 2014

I felt that Christmas came a couple months early because of the annual Cosmo Bachelor Bash 2014!   It’s one of the shows that I never miss as I only leave completely inspired!  LOL!  This year’s beef fest was in a corporate mood. Saga events headed by Robby Carmona and Elmer Lapena left no single fantasy untouched, uncovered and unexplored.

Every single “Office” fantasy was checked out of the bucket list leaving everyone a bit hoarse from all the screaming and completely exhausted from all the heart stopping moments from the models.  What I love about the Cosmo Bachelor bash is the level of intimacy that the show provides.  You really get to feel the energy and the excitement from all the testosterone that occurs onstage.  I had the privilege of getting a back stage peek before seeing the show and was really quite impressed with this year’s line up.  Had to say hello first to a couple of friends and then I happily found my seat and really just took everything in.

I must congratulate Myrza Sison for a JOB WELL DONE!  I mean each year it gets hotter and hotter!  A huge congratulation has to go to SAGA events for another show stopping extravaganza!  No wonder you are on top of the game!  Enough talk and enjoy the photos my friends!

Happy to see my friend Ivan all ripped and ready! He is also preparing for an IRON man this weekend! Good luck my friend.

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Loup Noir pop up store at K I S H

From the entrepreneurial spirit of Janina Dizon comes Loup Noir!  This cool leather line that would certainly make Manila denies quiver with excitement!  Leave it to Janina to find the energy and the time to share her fashion find to everyone here at home!  I think this is really worth a gander and taking your credit card is indeed a must.

I for one have my eye of the lovely zippered clutch.  LOL!  I suggest you head on over KISH this Saturday and come early as the pieces are very limited!

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Hello Hanoi!

I decided to take a few days off and head over to Hanoi Vietnam.  I was going to meet up with one of my best friends to celebrate his birthday.   I have been to Hanoi once before and what I remember about this place is the delicious food and the amazing coffee!

I took the first flight out on Cathay Pacific and by 11 am I was already in Hanoi.  I stayed at this lovely boutique hotel called the  L’Opera  M Gallery  http://www.mgallery.com/gb/hotel-7832-hotel-de-l-opera-hanoi-mgallery-collection/index.shtml   The location was great but the decor seemed very early 90′s and the rooms were a bit odd and  too dark for me.  But the staff were really friendly and helpful.

I was really pleased that my room was already ready when I arrived and I did not have to wait till 3pm which was what I was expecting. So I had time to meet up with my friends for a welcome Vietnamese coffee and some massive catch up as I felt like I have not seen them for many many months.

After coffee I was really looking forward to a hearty Vietnamese lunch and we were told that Porte D’ Annam would be a great choice.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Porte-DAnnam-Restaurant/305174616334660?fref=nf  It was also a nice walking distance from our hotel.  Although it was really really hot and humid I enjoyed my walk that day as it made me see more details about Hanoi if I were in a car.  We stopped by several art galleries and even said a small prayer at the Cathedral which was right beside restaurant.

The restaurant was fantastic and the price points were excellent!  We practically ordered the entire menu as we were all so hungry from the heat and the walk. LOL!  My best dish was the pork ribs that were so perfectly flavoured and cooked  this is a real must when you come to Porte D’Annam!   We were all so lucky as we had  our friend Trung who made sure we had the best recommendations for restaurants and activities.  Thank you you Trung!   These were my memories for the first few hours in Hanoi.  Enjoy!

Someone once told me that always look out of the window when you are travelling as you never know what will inspire you.

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BENCH’s The Naked Truth!

Once every two years one of the most anticipated and anxiously awaited event occurs.  This is the BENCH denim and underwear show!  The brain child of one of my people I deeply respect and admire Mr. Ben Chan.  Every time he does this show I feel like Christmas came early.   This was the show that everyone wants to see and I mean everyone including my mother!  LOL!

I was so fortunate to have been invited to the show and I wanted to share with you my experience.  Every time this show happens  it’s always something bigger, better and more outstanding then the last.  This year was even more special as BENCH invited an international crew to do the show.  From the moment I walked in the MOA ARENA I was impressed wight the stage.  The circular stage would really beneficial to the  audience as this would give everyone a better view.

The lighting designer was also flown in from the US and I heard that he is the same one who does the lighting design for the American Idol show!  The performers also were flown in all the way from Canada and this really added a different dimension to the entire production.

I also noticed that the models they had were really a breed apart as  BENCH scouted and casted international runway models from all over the world!  Making this year’s show feel really global and international.  Not to be outdone where the Philippine Models and Endorsers who I could only imagine prepared for several weeks for this show.  The many hours of gym training and the dieting really paid off as most of the celebrities really looked ripped and amazing.

I for one had a great time.  It was a show that balanced fashion and entertainment on a spectacle that only BENCH can produce. The fact that they moved the date for the following day as the weather was extremely bad shows how compassionate and understanding Mr. Ben Chan is.  I just want to personally congratulate BENCH and everyone behind this amazing company.  MABUHAY KAYONG LAHAT!

Now take a look at the photos and enjoy!

So grateful that I was able to get invitations to the show. Thank you so much Ben Chan for this!

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The Roberto Chabet – Tribute Exhibition!

As a lover and supporter of the art I have had the honour and the pleasure of being introduced to many artists and have witnessed the impact and influence these artists have in our society.  One such artist that has had a tremendous effect in the Philippine Contemporary art world has got to be Roberto Chabet.

His recent demise really created a dent in the hearts of his students, followers and fans. So I was so happy to hear about a very special tribute that his “children” gathered together to pay tribute to this great man.  It was such an amazing experience as you could really feel the love and passion of all these amazing artists at the CCP.

I thought it was such a blessing to have been able to experience this kind of tribute as Roberto Chabet has truly left his legacy through all those that he has touched.  I strongly urge all of you to visit the CCP and catch this very special and beautiful show as in many ways I think it will open your mind to the state of where Philippine contemporary art is now.

For more information on the exhibition and many more exciting cultural events click this link, http://culturalcenter.gov.ph.  Get out there and be inspired!

My art partner in crime Malu Gamboa and I had a photo shoot at the CCP that day. Here she is looking amazing in my new collection called "De Chine"

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BTS Holiday 2014 De Chine – Look book shoot

With each collection we do comes a very special photo shoot.  This is where the vision becomes more tangible and where all the ideas comes into fruition.  The saying that it takes a village to create fashion is so true with this part of the fashion process.  There are so many hands involved all going toward to the same direction that often it becomes extremely exhausting.  However with the fatigue is overcome with each beautiful image we have achieved.  The final images will all be posted on my website at www.rajolaurel.com  However I would like to share with all of you some of the “Behind The Scene” photos from the shoot.

I have to say that after so many years in the industry I still get very nervous & anxious with each step.  Although I have complete faith in my team there is still the feeling of having butterflies in my stomach. LOL!  Do take a peek into what happens behind the glossy images of our “De Chine” look book shoot.

A huge heap of thanks to Arnel Papa for lending me his amazing pieces! You are truly an artist!

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IPPUDO is now in MANILA!

I am a RAMEN Fanatic!  I love it!  I consider RAMEN one of my comfort foods.  It takes me back to childhood where my Grandfather Lolo Pepe who was the Ambassador to Japan for many years introduced me to RAMEN.  It was a bond that would be cemented by broth and solidified by the perfect noodle.

Japan would be my special place where I learned to appreciate and love the culture.  So much so that it has been such a high influence in my aesthetic and work.  Today the RAMEN craze is HUGE in Manila and one of the biggest names and players of RAMEN has descended in Manila!

IPPUDO is a name that sends chills to the bone for RAMEN lovers like myself, thoughts of trips to Tokyo just to experience IPPUDO comes to mind. When I heard that it was coming to Manila I was so excited and even more when I was invited to one of its special tasting events.

My friend Raymond Guttierez invited me to join him to celebrate IPPUDO’s coming to Manila. We were all required to wear Kimono’s and something Japanese inspired.  The best of which would be given by access travel a trip to TOKYO!  How exciting was that?

Everyone came prepared and I loved looking at all the various costumes that the guests came in. The winners of the trip to Tokyo were Andre Chang and Ash Rye both looked very Japanese and very fierce indeed.  However for me the real winner was everyone who came to enjoy the food at IPPUDO as everything was really delicious!  I had the Karaka-Men RAMEN which was on the spicy side , I loved it!  Before the main course I enjoyed the bevy of savoury starters like the Pork Buns and the GYOZA but most memorable were the crunch cucumber dish that was just spectacular!

If you’re a RAMEN lover like myself then head on IPPUDO at the MEGA fashion hall of the MEGA MALL it’s on the 3rd floor.  It will be certainly worth the trip!

Let the RAMEN GAMES begin!

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