tulum

creative direction CYNTHIA NGUYEN
photography SELF PORTRAIT in collaboration
with NEST, NATALIJA
and Saltwater Collective
“Go where you feel most alive”
Oh, Tulum—the coastline of Mexico where the mellow sounds of the water and the slow music intertwine to become background sound to your scenes; where the taste of the salt is in the air and the breeze softly kisses your face. These were all the kind of moments and reactions I felt when I either found myself still at the shore of the beach or sitting in the outdoor living room of my beautiful, temporary beach home, at NEST, or even biking along the beach strip, under the palm trees. The calm views, the tasteful decor and the care people bestowed on me, warmed my heart, as these things brought joy to my time in Mexico.

in this photo
swimsuit SALTWATER COLLECTIVE

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dress shirt NATALIJA

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tote bag CLUB MONACO hat LACK OF COLOR
My time in Mexico started by plane from Toronto to Cancun. From Cancun airport to Tulum, I took the ADO bus. This transportation method was a recommendation made by a friend who is a local and from my experience, it is accessible from the airport, safe, and extremely cost-effective and easy to use. Normally a private shuttle or cab straight from the airport to Tulum can cost anywhere around $60-$100 USD. The price for a one-way goes for about $10-14 USD per person from Cancun to Tulum, and $8-10 USD from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. Be aware that the some businesses, including airport operated and restaurants will overcharge you as a tourist. Ask for local pricing when possible. The best way to explore the local streets of Tulum is by bike and NEST Tulum kindly provides them for their guests. Surveying prices along the beach strip via bike for scuba diving, snorkelling and tours are a good idea to compare rates. You can also ask your concierge for their go-to tours and they will be able to help you.

in this photo
Vanille 44 LE LABO

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top NATALIJA skirt NATALIJA

It must have been years since learning about Tulum’s Cenotes. I would collect countless photos and underwater references. I would day dream about uncovering the wildlife and scenic region below the surface of the water. I knew that if I didn’t personally experience the Cenotes while I was in Tulum, I may not have another reason to go into a body of water. Boundaries were to be pushed and fears had to be overcome. About less than 4 weeks before my trip, I didn’t know how to swim. I was long developed in my adult years. I was ridden with regret that I had not learnt how to swim for this long. Over my childhood, I had developed a fear of water over traumatic events. The fear of water had also lend itself into such effortless routines, such as making face washing more difficult. It had taken me two informal lessons, taught by a love one and one formal lesson by an instructor before I was able to accomplish some sort of familiarity with moving through bodies of water.

 
It was both emotionally and physically draining to navigate through my lessons in order to get back to where I had previously developed a feel for comfort in the water. It wasn’t until the second last day during my time in Tulum that I  decided I had to try swimming and snorkelling in the Cenotes. It took me five to ten minutes of clinging onto the stalagmites and even holding my tour guide’s hand to get comfortable in the freezing water of the caves. I felt that I would be more embarrassed to partake in a group, and instead opted for more privacy in a one on one session, allowing me to go at my own pace. After the few minutes of struggle was over, I surprised myself with remaining calm and poised under water. I was not only swimming and snorkelling, but I was filming and holding a flashlight. For someone who had the severe fear of water— multi-tasking and breathing properly was a challenge to get used to. Eventually, the scenery became more of a distraction, and my breathing and body movements became consistent, and I was able to personally experience the Cenotes in the way I only dreamt of.
 
 
Since the beautiful NEST Tulum is an eco-friendly, boutique hotel, the power is generated from solar, wind and generators. During my first evening with the property, there was a power outage due to the wind currents. There was no electricity, no wifi, and no music. Only the sounds of the ocean, the sight of the little stars that litter the sky and candles that lit the path back to your room. If it were anywhere else, you’d find yourself uneasy. But since it happened in Tulum, it felt almost acceptable. It felt okay to disconnect and notice your surroundings. To take in what was in front of you and be grateful for all that you have. Tulum is not a place just for beautiful photos but for adventure and rest.“Every once and a while. Take off your life. And rest.”
– Nayyirah Waheed

Vieux-Montréal

creative direction CYNTHIA NGUYEN
photography CYNTHIA NGUYEN & CASSANDRA D’AMBROSIO in collaboration with
HOTEL PLACE D’ARMES

 With only a single vacation day left in my calendar and the desire to get away from home,
a trip to Old Montréal made the most sense.

It began with mobile messages being exchange with one of my long-time, best friends, Cassandra, regarding Rupi Kaur’s [#1 New York Time’s bestselling author of milk and honey] tour performance being sold out in Toronto. We netted out with a plan to mission to Montréal to go see Rupi recite her poetry at Le National.

That mission ended up being our very first trip together— cute, right?

Below is a summary of Day 1 and my Old Montréal hotspots.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6TH, 2017
.
AT 5:45AM
.
Woke up and got myself out of the home
to catch the 6:40AM VIArail train from
Toronto Union Station to Montreal.
.
MOOD: craving for a coffee and grilled cheese.
AT 12:00PM
.
Two coffees and bagels later, Cassandra and I have arrived at Gare Centrale aka Montréal Central Station.
.
At this time, it’s too early to check-in to our hotel rooms at HOTEL PLACE D’ARMES. We drop off our luggage at the hotel with the lovely and most informative staff. I find that it’s super helpful to ask your concierge of the hotel for suggestions for places to go, eat and worth-wild seeing. They’re filled with amazing recommendations and will go as far as to curate a list and label a handy map for you.

AT 1:30PM
.
TOMMY
200 Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal, Quebec H2Y 1T3
.
Our first #mtlcoffeecrawl stop— ordered my latte, grilled cheese sandwich, quiche, and croissant. Cannot tell you how obsessed I was with the ornate mouldings on the ceiling of the cafe.

AT 4:34PM
.
HOTEL PLACE D’ARMES
55 St Jacques St, Montréal, QC H2Y 1K9
.
Finally checked into our hotel.
We are greeted with a gifts, a personal note and divine classical music being played from the alarm clock system in our room.
AT 4:54PM
.
At this point in time, Cassandra and I were on the verge of tears… of joy over the fancy bathroom shower.

Funny how a beautiful hotel room with a high-tech, oversize shower can make someone feel so deeply? That’s what I call a stellar interior. With the exception of the mini fridge. Two-thirds through our trip, we called front desk for help because we struggled to uncover the location of our mini fridge.. turns out to be what we had thought was our safe to store valuables.


The hotel’s 169 richly appointed rooms feature elegant, lavish interiors with century old brick walls.

AT 6:25PM
.
En route to Le National to see Rupi Kaur.
AT 6:50PM
.
Arrived at location and got pizza from next door. Got inside the theatre. Got her new book, the sun and her flowers. Watched Rupi from 7 till 9. Was in tears at the end, thanks to her last poem that she recited called ‘Broken English‘.
AT 9:15PM
.
FLYJIN
417 Rue Saint-Pierre, Montréal, QC H2Y 2M4
.
Dinner time. Ordered the wakame salad, pork dumplings, chicken dumplings
and too many cocktails.

If you like good Asian fusion-food and a swanky, underground atmosphere (and you’re also a low-key deep house music fan like myself), this is the place to be. This is celebrity chef, Antonio Park’s Japanese restaurant & bar that sits in the heart of Old Montréal. This restaurant goes from hip dining venue into a trendy after-hours club with featured DJs spinning music you never thought you’d enjoy. (Yes, Cassandra— this statement implies you.) If you ever find yourself in these parts of the city, I recommend at least going in for a cocktail or two and test drive the Stairway to Buddha. As if I wasn’t already amused by Cassandra’s presence, the making of this cocktail alone is pure, great entertainment. FYI, we both returned to this place two evenings in a row.

This summarizes day 1 in Montréal.

 

long blazer ZARA (SIMILAR) high-waisted trousers ZARA (SIMILAR) shoes JIMMY CHOO earrings BOUTIQUE MINIMALISTE

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7TH, 2017
.
BRASSERIE 701
.
701 Côte de la Place d’Armes, Montréal, QC H2Y 2X6
.
Brunch, featuring: two classic benedictines, lemon-flavoured butter croissants, fresh fruit and a side of jaw-dropping beautiful interior.
MILE-END
.
For vintage and thrift shopping, this the area to visit. Discover new olds at stores like: Local 23, Empire, Bohême Friperie,  and Annex Vintage. View map here.
Tip: You can use the Metro to get from Place-d’Armes station to Laurier station to get to Mile-End.


 

LE ROBIN SQUARE
.
520 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC H2Y 2Y9
.
Featuring: foie gras mi-cuit, beet salad, butternut squash soup (not shown),
mac & cheese.


 

 


vegan leather jacket APRIL77 top ARITZIA skirt LOCAL23 earring BOUTIQUE MINIMALIST

 

It was a hectic yet bittersweet morning for Cassandra and I as left to take the train back home the next morning. We had only spent 48 hours in this beautiful city. I wish we could’ve stayed longer. I already miss the architecture, the lemon-buttered croissants and well-dressed men. But I feel more thankful than ever to have made it back home without a fractured ankle (it was only sprained). We really valued the food scene, range of vintage shops and sophisticated nightlife there. But most importantly the quality time we got to spend together over the 48 hours of being there because as we get back to our lives, it becomes busier and much harder to make that kind of time again.

Where are your favourite places in Old Montreal? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to follow along on Instagram to keep up with my adventures. xx

 

Hạ Long

photography CYNTHIA NGUYEN
accommodations by PARADISE CRUISE
in collaboration with POSH SQUARE

 

TRAVEL        

Thousands of Towering Limestone Islands

It’s only been the fifth or six time that I’ve traveled to Asia and only to Vietnam. This time, I didn’t just remain at my lovely grandma’s house— I made a ridiculous amount of effort to fly up to the north side of Vietnam to Hanoi within an 8-day window vacation from Ho Chi Minh City, to visit Halong Bay. Halong Bay is known as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. To give you a bit of a run down, Halong Bay spreads on an area of around 1,553 km², including 1,969 islets (small islands), most of which are limestone topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the emerald-coloured ocean. Despite the celestial blue skies, Asia is unimaginably humid compared to your average sunny destination, but between the little islands of Halong Bay, the salty breeze carries you through the waters.

 

It goes without saying that there was no better way for me to experience the majestic views than on a cruise boat floating through the whole thing— I was constantly exposed to photogenic views and magic. I was married to my camera and smart phone. Coming back to Vietnam has always been made up of beautiful memories spent participating in family feasts, festivities and staying close to relative’s homes. My experience was not like other people who have actually traveled through this very country. Before my recent visit, I have not been to Hanoi, Mui Ne, Hoi An, Nha Trang, or Con Dao, let alone Halong. Not until April 25th, 2017, did all that change. It was a constant battle trying to make the trip take place but eventually it happened. I hopped on a plane for a 3 hour flight* from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and was on my way to Phu Quoc.

*Note: I strongly recommend not flying with Vietstar airlines— as you’ll experience ALOT of delays. I would pay the $40 extra to fly with Vietnam Airlines to avoid the troubles. Another tip people don’t tell you is if you’re traveling around Vietnam on tours, in hotels and on cruises, Vietnamese residences pay only half of what you pay for. So if you’re lucky enough to know someone who’s a resident in Vietnam who can come with you, kindly ask and have them book your travels and accommodations around the country as it’s half off! (They will ask for their Vietnamese resident card or passport to validate.)

 

Food was all inclusive during this trip. From the hotel‘s breakfast buffet we stayed overnight in Hanoi, to the snacks and refreshments they provide you before you board the boat as well as lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch again. It’s almost insane to say that I was not successful with taking any photographs of my meals* on this beautiful boat as I was too busy eating and taking in the stunning views. Food was absolutely amazing on this boat, as it was not only all you can eat (with a la cart for dinner) but it was a harmonious blend of Vietnamese and French cuisine. From sea bass to filet mignon, surf and turf all the way to their scrumptious desserts.

*Note: I may re-edit this post and add some iPhone photos of my food!


During this trip, the more I ate, the more I felt the need to be active. Thankfully Paradise Cruise offers a cool itinerary to keep their visitors busy. We had the pleasure to visit the Surprise Cave (Hang Sung Sot in Vietnamese) on the first day. The surprise cave is the largest cave in Halong Bay discovered by a group of French explorers in 1901 and received its’ name for being one of most amazing caves in Halong Bay. The second day, we visited an islet called Titov Island, named after the Russian astronaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov during his first visit to Halong Bay. Titov Island remains the only island which has a beach in the bay with a 200-step path that leads to a spectacular view point of the majestic World Heritage Site.

Silk pleated top by J.CREW (similar here)
Celestia wrap maxi skirt by POSHSQUARE
Open toe woven mules by LORD&TAYLOR
Spencer boater hat by LACK OF COLOR

What does one wear while visiting Halong? Sandals for the sand and trainers for the hikes up the islands. Perhaps a pair of heels if you plan to stay overnight on a boat. A button down blouse to wear as a cover during the evening. And the usual basic essentials, hat, sunnies and lots of flowy pieces. Wearing white is always a good summer go-to solution too. However, somehow and some way, inside my carry-on consumed with what looks like all-white is one navy outfit I managed to bring.

Cerulean Walls

Zara Blue Oversized Button-Down Tunic
H&M Brown Faux Leather Skinny Belt
J.Crew Friendship Bracelet
J.Crew Jade Etta Pumps
Fossil Rose Gold Boyfriend Watch
Danier Leather Red Cross Body (Tucked as a Clutch)

Happy Saturday Everyone! Throw back of my outfit from my trip to San Francisco. Sometimes a simple tunic with a skinny belt does the trick for early mornings when you don’t feel like putting in so much effort in what you’re wearing– especially for those lazy and indulge-in-breakfast days. You can pull out more of the tunic around the belt for some extra room after you’ve eaten and still look put together! I realized I’m wearing RBG colours…get it? #insertsdesignjoke Shout out to my stylish and ice cream-lovin’ girlfriend Nikki, since it’s her birthday today!
Photos: Max Kandler

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Lombard Street

Aritzia Wilfred Sabine Dress
TNA Anorak Military Jacket
Danier Leather Handbag
Fossil Rose Gold Watch
Nine West Capped Toe Flats

Another update from my trip to San Francisco. Walk to Lombard Street and to a secret park for an even higher view of the city. Followed by making a quick stop to Ghirardelli Square to ease the sweet tooth– included indulging in cupcakes, sundaes and chocolate purchases… For dinner, In-and-Out burger combo and clam chowder in Fisherman’s Wharf. For entertainment, went to Musee Mecanique, an antique coin operated arcade in the Fisherman’s Wharf with 1930s to 1950s restored carnival games and an old fashion Indiana Jones-themed pinball machine– the best part about this place was that they also had restored photo booths. I still find photo-booth pictures so ridiculously precious compared to a couple of MB on your smart phones to look at.

Photos: Max Kandler

PS. I’ve updated and trying out Disqus as my commenting platform.
Still got all your old comments in the old blog’s archive, no worries!


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