May 11, 2020 – By Susan Bender
The day I got married 6th July 2019 was a spectacular and glorious day, 236 days later I’m counting down the days until our honeymoon (2 days left to go). You can imagine the unbridled excitement and joy I’ve felt during the build-up to our 4-week long trip.
We started to make plans in January, at the time of our wedding we didn’t think about a honeymoon or where to go; we forgot to cut the wedding cake too! This once in a lifetime trip will take us to a host of countries in South East Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam) to explore a myriad of adventures by boat, e-bike, horse, cart, and even a hot air balloon.
Holiday hair is one of my concerns, my hair is temperamental at the best of times, I literally have to look at water and my hair turns frizzy! I love to swim in the sea and the thought of having to wash, condition, serum, blow-dry and straighten my hair after every swim filled me with dread.
I worked out I would lose roughly 3 days (if I washed my hair twice a day) of my holiday, not to mention the excess, water, electricity I’d use; plus the amount of hair products and equipment I’d need to carry with me to last over 3 ½ weeks would just about fill a small suitcase.
So I called my hairdresser Renda from Hideout London (she’s super strict with what I use on hair and has even confiscated products I’ve bought in the past). Renda advised me that her clients always braid their hair when they’re either having a baby or going on holiday. On my doorstep the next morning was Muriel Cole (I call her the fastest braider in the West), she completely braided my hair in under 3 hours.
I remember having my hair braided as a child (I always hated it) over having my hair pulled and plaited so tight I’d go to bed sobbing with a sore and throbbing head… Braids = low maintenance hair, I could now jump in and out of the pool/sea and not have to worry about the state hair; also no extra hair products, hair dryers, straighteners plus the added bonus of extra space in my suitcase for shoes!
The honeymoon was going to be a once in a lifetime trip, I would normally reconsider undertaking such an epic journey that involved internal and multiple country flights. But then again it is our honeymoon.
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Packing for a trip that included the variety of landscapes, modes of travel, weather, activities, plus the extras; medication, hand wipes/sanitisers, vitamins, face masks, (Covid-19 was prevalent in some of the neighbouring countries we were visiting), wasn’t going to be easy. People assume that because I’m a creative director/stylist I’m great at packing, ‘Wrong’. I find it extremely challenging, what I choose to wear is usually determined by how I feel at that moment in time, I also like choices, a lot of choices.
We tried to pack light and shared between us The Journey Hard lightweight compact cabin sized wheelie by Moleskine, the backpack, a medium holdall, and theLucia bag by Mehry Mu made of natural raffia knitted by local Turkish ladies.
We’re all set and ready to commence our journey.
Our magical honeymoon started in the humid, cosmopolitan metropolis of Bangkok. We headed straight to the Sukhothai Hotel in a taxi and entered a leafy drive with lotus ponds to the right and tranquil gardens surrounding the two impressive minimalist buildings of the hotel. This urban oasis would be our home for the next few days.
First on the agenda for our pit stop in Bangkok we visited Philip Huang PH lab where we created bespoke indigo hand dyed pieces using 100% plant based natural dyes. It’s fascinating to learn about the process which is 100% natural using fermented indigo dye created from water, clay, alcohol and fruits.
Philip works in collaboration with the local “Indigo grandmas” (and some aunties) from an indigo farming village in Isan, Thailand. He merges traditional know-how, knowledge (that has been passed on for generations) with the aesthetics of contemporary life to create modern designs. Natural indigo also has antimicrobial, antibacterial and sterilising/deodorising properties.
We went to Chatuchak Weekend Market beforehand to purchase a couple of plain white hoodies and t-shirts made from 100% organic cotton; indigo dye only binds to natural fibres. In the midday heat it’s best to wear clothing made from natural fibres, I wore a Yolke prowling leopard shirt and Frame belted shorts made from recycled cotton.
The whole process took a couple of hours; we learned how to create unique tie dye patterns, binding each item individually with elastic bands, dipped them into a foaming vat of indigo, then massaged the indigo into the clothing and left them out in the open air to oxidise. After around 20-30 minutes we washed them to get rid of the excess dye and hung them out to dry.
Our brief stay in Bangkok was the beginning of a magical, exciting, cultural, and thought-provoking journey. Next stop, the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar, and taking on one of my biggest fears.