Aloha and welcome back! I am sorry it’s been so long since my last post but I’ve been busy doing what I do best (galavanting around the world aimlessly). Last summer I traveled to Europe and I also just returned from 2 months in South East Asia. Needless to say I have a lot to share with you guys…both stories and global treasures galore! Besides my shopping excuse for Isle Empress Boutique, I actually did have a purpose for these last two trips. My goal was to see the last two of the Seven Wonders of the World. In the Summer of 2015 I visited the Coliseum in Roma, and this last summer I conquered my last World Wonder by climbing The Great Wall of China (making that not my 7th, but actually my 9th wonder of the world, if you count Ephesus and Göbekli Tepe Temple in Turkey ;)! But who’s really counting right? Anyways, I’ll get back to those and share with you some incredible experiences I had traveling to these unfathomable places, and of course show you all the very special adornments I brought back for you as well!
As for now, I’ve just return back home to Maui from an amazing adventure through China, an extensive buying trip in Thailand, and also an extremely necessary vacation in Indonesia. Giving thanks for such incredible opportunities to see new places, meet new people and connect with old friends abroad.
I chose to go back to Thailand for the majority of my collection, as I have been many times before. Traveling there is comfortable and easy for me, and the artisians are just beyond belief. Once you arrive it is fairly inexpensive and has everything you could wish for (except waves, sorry surfer girls). But truly, Thailand has everything from beautiful islands and National Parks to wild city life, advanced technology, and futuristic fashion. Though among all the metropolitan madness, there is a rich culture you won’t find anywhere else. The honest Buddhist ways of living and the devotion they have for their King (may he rest in peace) is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. Coming from a country so divided, its beautiful to see the mutual love everyone shares for their leader and the pride they hold for their country.
Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, yet it is very close to the mountains. This is one of my favorite places to go treasure seeking. There are countless different indigenous Hill Tribes throughout Northern Thailand, Laos, and all the way up through Burma. Each with a very different signature style and technique to their textile. For example, the Hmong Tribe is known for their embelished embroidery and the Akha Tribe for their intricate beadwork, just to name a few. While in Chiang Mai I enjoy taking a day trip to the mountains. You can also book a trek in the city that takes you white water and bamboo rafting, riding on elephants, and to villages where you can meet the Hill Tribe people that make these divine crafts. When buying them directly the artist gets more profit, so many of my items available are fairly traded.
The Karen Hill Tribe has always been one of my first stops in Chiang Mai. They are known for their 100% pure tribal silver jewelry. Unlike sterling silver, nothing is made in molds, every piece is handmade so there is no two exactly alike. The purity of the silver makes it soft and malleable and molds to your body like a glove. Some of their signature designs include innate weaving and tribal stamping. I have been importing the Karen Hill Tribe silver for over 12 years and its always fun to go back and see the new designs they have come up with over the years.
Following my bohemian dreams I was drawn to all the cotton tassel and pom pom jewelry that I found on this trip. Each piece hand stitched with alluring style and eye catching colors!
While in Indonesia, I went to the island of West Timor to get to a smaller island called Rote. While there, I discovered some of the most incredible hand stitched textiles I have ever seen before. I met a family that fabricated the lovliest shoulder bags made out of antique/vintage “Buna” (hand stitching) and “Ikat” (hand weaving) textiles from the So’e, Fatale’u, and Molo Villages from East and West Timor. Each bag has a different patchwork design. Cotton tassels and exquisite beading. Timor used to be a Dutch colony, so some of these bags will have antique Dutch coins added for a unique touch.
In Beijing I stumbled upon a little hidden gem, a Tibetan shop filled with gorgeous antiques and exotic ethnic jewelry. Needless to say, I selected a few of my favorites statement pieces to add to the assortment.
Another collection I re-stocked up on is this stunning silver smith designer who makes all one-of-a-kind jewelry with different semi-precious gemstones from around the world. Each piece is hand cut and set in a glamerous 92.5 sterling silver setting. From turquoise to quartz, opal to onyx and beyond. My favorites are the new statement rings and matching bracelet sets that just hit the shop!
In Bangkok my favorite place to shop is the Chatuchak Weekend Market. A football field size labyrinth where you can find anything from home wear, food, jewelry, to vintage denim. It’s a savvy shoppers paradise, not for the claustrophobic or lighthearted. One must have serious shopping stamina to handle this market. There is no navigating around that place so my only advice is drink lots of coconuts to stay hydrated, and keep your eyes peeled! Oh, and bring lots of cash. Credit card machines are hard to come by for small time vendors. There are ATM’s and money exchanges there if need. If your buying in bulk, start your bargain with one, and then slowly reduce the cost with each piece you add. Learning a few basic phrases in Thai is also crucial for respect and bargaining purposes. It is polite, and shows you may have been there before and know the value of goods. You are less likely to get ripped off ;).
When searching for diverse fashion and exotic jewelry, South East Asia has it all. A bountiful bohemians dream. A mix of indigenous crafters, artists, and countless tailors that can create you anything. From ethnic to chic, vintage to contemporary, and all at affordable prices! Just be ready to bargain.
As much as I could travel forever and shop till I drop, there is nowhere I’d rather come home to than sweet Maui, where tea time with my Ohana awaits.
Click the shop link to see the abundance of new rare finds on the Isle Empress Etsy Shop and check back periodically, as I have so much more to list!
Direct message for inquiries regarding products or if planning a trip let me know if you have travel questions, maybe I can help!
Stay tuned for some of my own personal designs I had made while in Asia last month! Your going love them!!!