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Laos — thefashionatetraveller.com

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Fashion on Holiday

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have a slightly different fashion aesthetic when I’m on holiday, and in hot climates, than I do in urban environments (my everyday life and on holiday in big cities). I think many of us do. It’s called being appropriate.

At home, and especially at night going out, I like to dress up, wear glammy, shiny things and big stompy boots or luscious platforms. I like black pumped up with a bright colour to contrast.

But in hot climates, being comfortable and dealing with the heat figure much more prominently in my style decisions. On hols recently, I wore a green cotton knit halter neck dress with empire line a fair bit. It covered my swimming costume on the way to the beach, covered my tummy with the gathers under the bust, and resisted wrinkles being a knit. At home, I’d probably only wear it edged up a bit, with slinky black leggings and a vest or jacket over it (and funky jewellery and groovy shoe-boots).

I well remember being in Vang Vieng in Laos a few years back, and it was HOTTTT!! I was sitting there in a café (NOT a Friends one!) wearing something summery, and my husband and I saw a goth or emo couple across the road who looked a bit like we do when we go out clubbing, except with huge backpacks on their backs. All black clothing, big black platform boots (possibly New Rocks, it was hard to tell from across the road), industrial style bondage pants with straps and d-rings, piercings, drawn on eyebrows…the lot.

Now on the one hand I congratulate them for maintaining their own personal style no matter what. I almost wanted to wave to them, as they were from a similar alternative music “tribe”. But on the other, they were dressed totally inappropriately for the heat. I’ll bet the locals gave them schtick for sticking out and looking like freaks. And I somehow felt a little embarrassed for them.

If they were on holiday in Germany, or Japan, or any urban, industrialised nation, they’d fit right in. But in the heart of backpacker territory, in the steamy plains of Laos, near rushing rivers and jutting karsts, they just seemed out of place. (And how they kept their drawn on eyebrows in the sweltering humidity is beyond me – unless they set them with hairspray. They probably did!)

What do you think? Is it more important to keep your style even in tropical climes? I like to think I stay edgy in small details, but there’s no doubt I am dumbing down my alternative look. And I have my limits.

* I don’t wear Birkenstocks – they’re ugly, and do NOTHING for my wide feet.

* I pack flat or lower heeled/platformed shoes for walking around in.

* A pair of dainty mules for night is enough for going out to dinner.

* I ONLY wear crocs/plastic shoes, when actually on a river or scampering across rocks by the sea.

And look – they’re purple.

* I actually wear a cap – the only time, apart from jogging, when I do. You have to protect your scalp, and your eyes, from the fierce heat. It’s ferocious in South East Asia, man!

* I pack fabrics that don’t crush, so I can easily stuff ‘em into my backpack.

* I wear my glasses more, and contact lenses less. And leave the spooky lenses at home.

* If I’m in Muslim areas, even if it’s hot, I cover up more. I notice what the locals wear and take my cue (not so much the hijab, but whether arms are covered, knees showing or not etc.)

* In Malaysia, I wore a tank top beneath the halter dress, as the V was just too low on its own, and wore my light, long sleeved kaftan in Malay restorans.

* I don’t pack the hair straightener, instead putting my hair back in a ponytail, slick it back behind my ears, or just let the salt water set it into loose waves.

* I wear less make-up and usually only at night going out.

* I still wear a little black at times, but not all over. D still wears his same Marilyn Manson and Wolfmother black t-shirts!

(All pics except the shoes are from the holiday in Laos).

What about you? Do you compromise your look a little when on holiday in hot places? Do you dress up as much when away, as you do at home?

My travelling past

While I’ve been to the UK four times, and Ireland twice, it’s Asia that always draws me back to herself.

It started 23 years ago with my first trip to India. Boy, did that explode my world! Scared shitless my first day in Bombay (as it was then called), I nevertheless grew to love the chaos and colour, the smells and the buzz of the place.

I went four times to India, each time for three months or so, adding up to a year there. I can still speak fluent Hindi (well, to the level of a 3 year old), largely getting my practice in via cab drivers here in Sydney. I stayed in Delhi, Lucknow, and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh; Patna in Bihar; Bhopal, Jabalpur and more in Madhya Pradesh; Bombay, Nagpur and small villages nearby in Maharashtra; and Bangalore and Hyderabad down south.

In Patna I rented a house with some friends in a Muslim part of town for a month and lived amongst them, wearing the chador when out of the house, buying at the markets, cooking for ourselves and just experiencing Indian life. In Nagpur I spent a week living in a slum. I’ve slept on the pavement with the locals at the airport, when we landed at an inconvenient hour and no hotels would be open. I’ve had yummy dinners at Gond villages, been Christmas carolling under the stars, spent too many hours on trains, had things nicked. But what experiences and memories I have.

Ten years went by and I didn’t travel. And then I met Dom, and it all started again. He’s English, and we had a long distance relationship for three years while his visa application for Australia was being processed. Each time I’d go to the UK I’d visit Thailand or Malaysia on the way there or back. I stayed on beautiful Phi Phi Island before the tsunami, and the lush green Tioman Island, and got acquainted with Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

We honeymooned in Cambodia (Dead Kennedys song!), seeing the spectacular Angkor Wat, the lush green Battambang, the bustling Phnom Penh, the beautiful ocean off Sihanoukville. Then we flew to Vietnam, exploring the cultural heritage of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, trekking in the stunning mountain area of Sapa in the north, cruising Halong Bay and the Mekong Delta, eating the best food ever at Hoi An among centuries-old houses, and checking out beaches in Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Cua Dai. What an adventure.

More recently we’ve travelled in northern Thailand and Laos. We’ve had a cold beer Lao in Vientiane as the sun went down, seen the natural beauty of Vang Vieng, strolled through Luang Prabang with its gold-topped wats and temples, trekked in Luang Nam Tha, marvelled at the ruins of Wat Phou in Champasak, and enjoyed the river rushing past our bungalow in Si Phan Don.

We’ve seen the beautiful islands and beaches of Thailand too – had bunglows on Ko Samui before they got bulldozed and developed as lush resorts, and swam, snorkelled or dived at Ko Phangan, Ko Tao, Krabi and Railay.

We threw in a holiday to Fiji (Yasawas, Mamanucas, Nadi, Suva, southern coast) and one to Western Australia seeing Perth, Monkey Mia and Ningaloo Reef, just to mix it up a bit.

But it’s back to South East Asia we’re returning for Christmas. There’s a little island off the coast of Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and it hasn’t been overdeveloped yet. In fact, there are only 25 bungalows on the island. We so want to go while it’s still small, and quiet.

And before then, I head back to Malaysia in November – KL, Penang, Langkawi and maybe even Ko Lipe, here I come!