Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Girly Girl's Guide to Mumbai

          As my time in Bombay winds down (I leave for the states in three days – time really flies), I’ve had several moments to look back at how much I learned about this crazy place. I thought it might be helpful if I put together a little guide with my favorite stores, restaurants, activities, etc. to do and see if you ever find yourself in the Indian city.

Missing the malls back at home? Get your fix at Mumbai’s biggest and most high-end enclosed shopping center. Housing both international and domestic brands, this is a great place to spend the day. The high-end Palladium houses Zara, Diesel, Gucci, Etro, Chanel, and many others. My advice? Head to the second floor where you will find Gossip Shoes, which sells sandals so fabulously bedazzled they would make Giuseppe Zanotti cry. Take your time here, as they have hundreds of gorgeous pairs to see, and all are less than $60 USD. If you are hungry, Smoke House Deli in the courtyard serves delicious ladylike meals, juices, and cocktails. The adorable “scribbled wall” décor doesn’t hurt. Also in Lower Parel is the flagship store of Indian homeware shop Good Earth. The café here is divine for lunch or dinner, with a warehouse meets shabby chic appeal. Nearby is the Four Seasons Hotel, which houses Mumbai’s famous rooftop bar and lounge, Aer, with panoramic views of the city.

Colaba is fast-becoming the chicest district in all of Bombay. Take a train to UNESCO heritage sight Churchgate Station, and marvel at the Raj architecture in the vicinity. After sightseeing at the Gateway of India and getting a glimpse of the famed Taj Hotel (and all of the designer boutiques it houses), head up the street for lunch at Indigo, or, for a more romantic meal, The Table. After lunch, take a quick cab ride to the touristy Colaba Causeway, where you can get your fix of cheap jewelry, harem pants, and if you are lucky, Topshop castoffs that didn’t make it to the shipping department. Narisons Shop on the causeway not only carries the funniest tee-shirts you have ever seen (made by Indian brand Tantra), but has a stunning selection of silk kurti’s in every size imaginable as well. More shopping gems in Colaba include bohemian-chic boutique Bungalow 8, “the Barney’s of India” Bombay Electric, and designer emporium Kitsch.

Bandra has a reputation of being Mumbai’s coolest suburb, and after exploring, it is no wonder why. Linking Road has all of the cheap thrills one can imagine (handmade shoes for $5! Kurti’s for $3!) but can get quite overwhelming for someone not accustomed to the hustle and bustle. Seek refuge at Café Mangii, near the Nike Showroom, for a wonderful, and peaceful meal. A rickshaw to Carter Road will allow you to taste the heavenly frozen yogurt churned out by Yogurtbay, which you can bring across the road to enjoy seaside. Another great dining option is Pali Hill Café near Pali Market. A gorgeous home goods boutique is located adjacent (unfortunately, I forget the name) where you can pick up stunning scarves, authentic textiles, and my favorite Kama Aryurveda beauty products.

Find yourself in need of some hair styling? B:Blunt Salon in Juhu, on JVPD Scheme, is one of the top salons in the city. I have spoken about my wonderful experience there with Michelle, but all of the stylists are top-notch and professional. Juhu is also home to Bru World Café, a coffee shop which is one of the few in Mumbai that you can get a smokey African or Columbian brew at. If you like the nightlife, Trilogy in the Sea Princess Hotel is the place to see and be seen on weekends. With cover charges up to 3000 rupees per couple ($60), you are almost guaranteed to have a good time in the swanky environment. Near Juhu is the Santacruz area, which is home to super-unique boutique Attic (another brand opened in Colaba) which carries Indian-inspired yet totally Western designs that would be as at home in Bombay as in New York. All of the pieces they carry can be custom-made to your exact color and sizing preferences, which is something that you don’t see to often in the U.S.

Café Mysore, Matunga – Want to try an authentic South Indian dosa? Café Mysore in King’s Circle is my top choice. Order a King Coffee, and their signature Mysore Dosa, and you are in for a no-frills (eat with your hands, cafeteria style on metal plates), gastronomic treat.

Enrich Salon, Matunga - Enrich has locations all over the city, but the ladies here are top-notch at brow threading and body waxing. You can't beat the price either, you come out completely hairless for about 1000 rupees ($20).

Chor Bazaar, South Mumbai - Want an experience that you can only have in India? Take a taxi to Chor (meaning "thief" in Hindi) Bazaar, specifying the antique market. After trekking through small alleyways lined with stolen car parts and grazing goats, you will arrive at an antique market unlike anything else in the world. Incredible finds await, from Goan Christian relics, stolen off of churches, to giant gilded elephants, to chandeliers of the highest standards, to authentic coins from the British Raj era, and even the Mugul dynasty. Bring your camera, and your bargaining skills, and make sure you visit on a quiet weekday other than Friday, which the main antique stores clothes and there is a market of all things odd and old in the alleyways. 

Reality Tour, Dharavi – Beyond the luxe boundaries of the places I mentioned here, Mumbai houses a huge amount of slums, and Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, is worth a tour. Tour company Reality Tours gives private and group 2 hour tours of the slum, starting in the commercial section, which produces up to $650 million dollars USD worth of products each year, as well as the housing areas, and thoroughly discusses the inner workings of this massive community. Not only is it completely eye-opening, destroying many of the perceptions foreigners, and even native Mumbaikars, have about the slums from films like Slumdog Millionaire, but it also shows you how people can be happy with so much less, as long as they have close family bonds. The tour costs 500 rupees ($10 USD) per person, and 80% of the profits go towards Reality Tours slum rehabilitation projects, including a kindergarden, technology training course, and cricket programs for youngsters.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cutie Beauty

The infamous Jill Stuart Cosmetics Line Spring 2012 campaign, sold only in Asia
          I spent the past week in Bangkok and I am officially in love with the city! The people are wonderfully kind, the food is absolutely amazing, and the shopping is right up my alley. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to visit South Asia, and I can say now that I will certainly be back, as seven days was nowhere near long enough to explore the city, and I didn’t even get to the pristine beaches!
          There are hoards of amazing Thai designers, with boutiques on the third floor of Siam Center Mall – I recommend checking it out. While the clothes were beautiful and unique – think the pastels of S/S Louis Vuitton mixed with the silhouettes of Miu Miu – my goodness, they are tiny! The women of Thailand don’t seem to buy clothes any larger than a US 4, and the lengths were far too short for me. Oh well, it was a pleasure to look.
          I was also in foodie heaven. It has been several months since I have had red meat, or sushi, so let’s just say that I had my fair share of both. My favorite sushi roll was one that I have never seen in the US – basically a California roll without rice, rolled in paper thin daikon, or radish. It was incredible. I even went back to the restaurant for dinner on my last night to experience it one more time. In terms of Thai food, which  has always been one of my favorite cuisines, I ate quite a bit of it, as well. My mainstay was the infamous Som Tam, or Papaya Salad with dried shrimp and peanuts. While it is spicier here, to cater to the Asian palette, that is no problem with my newly-acquired Indian taste buds. The street food here is also insanely delicious, pork and chicken satays grilled with just the right amount of flavor are available on every corner. And if you are a little adventurous, why not try the fried insects? Those also seem to be in great supply, although I did not get the chance to taste them. Finally, how could I fail to mention the young coconut water? It is absolutely a divine thirst-quencher. Sorry, Zico, you just are not the same.
         Something thing I did stock up on, when I wasn’t chowing down? Cosmetics, of course! Watson’s Chemist is a chain which carries all of the top Japanese drugstore brands, which I have followed for years. The days I spent browsing on StrawberryNet were finally made so much better in that I could look, touch, and try the products. Here are some of the goodies I picked up, which are not only adorably packaged, but beautifully formulated as well:

Canmake Cream Cheek #3 – Much loved on Makeup Alley, I knew I had to try this, as I think cream blush looks so much more natural in the summer than powder. Since my current favorite blush was stolen (Bobbi Brown’s Pale Pink), I have been in the need of a natural flush that perks up my complexion and doesn’t clash with my pale blonde locks. I found it in this! Creamy in consistency, it melds into cheeks for a natural fifnish. The shade I got is shimmer-free, which I prefer, as I usually add a bit of glistening on the tops of cheekbones with Benefit’s High-Beam. I will definently be packing this gem in my kit on a future shoot.

Lioele Water Drop BB – I’ve been trying every BB cream I can get my hands on since they first came to the US last spring. While Dr. Jart’s was formerly my favorite, as some of the others broke me out, this is my new pick. Not only does it match my skin tone perfectly, but it has SPF 27 sunblock, and gives perfect coverage for a day at the pool or beach, which for me, is essential. While I’d love to go totally natural, my skin has a bit too much redness. This is the cure, as it looks like you have on no makeup. Plus, the pale blue and silver packaging is adorable – the poorly translated text just makes it even better.

EttuSais Lip Essence – I purchased this top-selling Japanese lip balm at Zen Department Store, a fabulous central tenant at CentralWorld Mall. They have really unique items at all price points, if you find yourself in Bangkok, this is a must go! It is Thailand’s answer to Bloomingdale’s. Anywho, this lip balm certainly deserves it’s top-selling status.  My lips always get quite dry on planes, and on my way back to India, this totally remedied this common ailment. The peach scent is quite sweet. Also, who can resist the Sanrio characters on the packaging? Not I.

Canmake Jewelstar Eyes – New obsession. This creamy, metallic shadow is going to be put to hard work in my kit. I purchased #7, which is a silvery green (although described on the website as an "antique gold with silver, gold, and red pearl particles") that is absolutely unlike anything I’ve seen. While it would crease without a base for everyday wear (I recommend Urban Decay’s Primer Potion), it will be gorgeous on shoots for a unique smokey eye. I’m imagining blending it with my favorite Chanel Illusion D’Ombre shadows to get a smudgy, sexy slept-in look…

Majolica Majorca Puff de Cheek – Majorlica Majorca is made by Shiseido, and is a drugstore line targeted at teens and young women. Basically, I purchased this blush because it looked like a Macaroon, and I am a sucker for French desserts. However, it has awesome pigmentation, and the color I picked up, PK301, is a lovely coral-peach that is what Benefit’s Coralista should be.

Biore Cleansing Oil – Okay I’m not exactly sure as that is the official name, as it is in Japanese, but this product is fabulous. I am a huge fan of cleansing oils, my former top picks being Dermalogica’s Pre-Cleanse and the infamous Shu Uemura, but this comes close. It takes off all traces of mascara, sunscreen, and foundation, and doesn’t break me out. Plus, the scent is lovely. For those who don’t want to splurge on a cleansing oil, this is a must-buy.

          I can’t fail to mention that dressing up your iPhone is an absolutely necessity in Asia. In fact, one of Bangkok’s most popular malls, MBK, has an entire floor devoted to stalls selling iPhone cases, accessories, straps, stickers, and everything in between. Not one to resist fashion-izing (is that a word?) anything, I picked up this bejeweled bunny case to remind me of my time spent in Bangkok.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Oh Baby!

         Here is a fun fact about myself: I love the smell of babies. OK, not dirty babies (obviously…) but the fresh, clean babies who have just been washed head-to-toe with Johnson & Johnson. So, I guess you can say that I actually like the quintessential “No Tears” scent. Hence, whenever I need to pick up body lotion in a pinch, and need a product that won’t break me out, I always reach for their classic Baby Lotion.
          Upon my usual browsing of the local grocery store, where I am constantly asked, “mam, what you want?” to which I reply, “I’m just looking” (the concept of just standing there and staring at the different varieties of beauty products does not really exist here in India, as most products are kept behind a counter and you go in and request what you want. I think that this would have you using the same products repeatedly, and never trying anything new! You know you are a makeup artist when one of your favorite “hobbies” is browsing the drugstore.). Any who, a certain product caught my eye: Johnson’s Baby Cologne. My first thought, who puts cologne on a baby? But my second was: let me buy this immediately!

          I purchased the scent “Heavenly” for a mere 125 rupees (approximately $1.50) and what can I say? I’m in love. It is a lovely light perfume to apply just after a shower, as it smells clean, crisp, and well, heavenly. It is the perfect scent to wear when you don’t want to wear a heavy fragrance, but still smell pleasant.  
          Upon further investigation (online, of course) I found that this wondrous perfume is imported from the Philippines to India (and some Philippino grocery stores in California) and a cult-hit with ladies all over the globe. Huh, I knew I was onto something. I will write about the other scents when I purchase them.

P.S. – I only use Baby Shampoo to wash my makeup brushes. It is gentle enough not to damage synthetic or natural hair, but gets them super clean!