Spa review: Massage at Sukho Thai

Earlier this week, I headed for a 60-minute massage at Sukho Thai in South Mumbai. I had done a lower body workout that morning, so I knew my legs could do with some R&R.

Sukho Thai Mumbai spa massage

The serene atmosphere in the reception area helped me forget the chaos outside. After I changed into super-duper comfy pyjama set (I wanted to steal it!), the masseur led me into the massage area.

With calming music and dim lights, I eased into the massage chair, and left everything into the hands of my very skilled masseur.

The massage began with a foot soak in lukewarm water. Then as the masseur worked his magic hands with oil on my feet, ankles, calves and shins I felt the tension melt away.

Next he pressed the right spots to release my quads and stretched my legs to open the hip muscles and hamstrings (we all have tightness here but don’t know it).

Then we moved to the upper body. The masseur hit the right spots pretty hard to ease out my neck area, stiff due to my weight training and long laptop hours.

Then the masseur guided me through shoulder and back stretches, which were pretty intense. For people not used to yoga or deep stretches, it could be bit of a surprise (I didn’t have any issues though).

And then, it was all over. I enjoyed the last few moments of the delightful Sukho Thai experience with a bowl of fresh fruit and ginger tea. I left super-charged to take on the rest of the day.

Sukho Thai massage spa Mumbai

For me, the real test of a massage is how well I sleep and how I feel the next morning. The massage at Sukho Thai passed my test with flying colours. I slept soundly and woke up without any stiffness. After a cardio and abs workout the following day, I left the gym feeling like I hadn’t worked out at all. As I write this, I feel more energized than I have in months.

The 60-minute aroma massage at Sukho Thai is Rs 1890 (inclusive of taxes). They also have other therapy options such as with hot stones, scrub etc. Visit the Sukho Thai website to know more, or call +919821008877.

Note: This post is a Chic Promotion. The massage was complimentary but has not influenced my views of the service.  

Living in an art gallery

There’s something about Chiang Mai. This Thai hill town seems to have me in its grip. When I visited Chiang Mai with my mom last December, I didn’t know I’d be back a year later. There were no omens or portents, just the nagging feeling that I hadn’t explored the city well enough. Call it fate, call it provident, but yes, I was back mid-December 2015. And this trip was completely different from my earlier one a year ago. I lived in another part of Chiang Mai, and as a result, I got the opportunity to explore the artsy side of the city: I stayed in an art gallery just off Nimmanhaemin Road.

No, I mean hotel.

Oops, I mean an art hotel.

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai

Art Mai Gallery Hotel houses an art gallery on the ground floor, but the art is not restricted to exhibition space- it’s everywhere… on the walls, in the corridors, and oh, in the guest rooms too. And the artsy touches are everywhere.

As you’ve guessed it, this recently-opened hotel is paradise for art lovers. From the painting exhibition on the ground floor to the art-themed rooms, you will see paintings by Thai artists at every corner you turn. I must say, this is such an enterprising way to promote Thai art to people from around the world.

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai

The hotel’s décor was in the vein of industrial minimalism. See these exposed pipes and the shades-of-grey colour scheme?

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai

The decorative accents blend in perfectly with this look. Like this side table.

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai

But much as we’d like to, we can’t really sleep and shower in an exhibition. So we were assigned a room on the second floor.

Review of Art Mai Gallery Hotel art rooms

Each floor in the hotel has a different art theme, and we got nude art:

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai nude art painting

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai room painting

Then there was this cute easel. To which S said, “Why does it say P-O-D?”

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai art easel

And I said, “It’s an illustration, see? They’ve drawn two eyes. They want us to draw a face around it, or a cartoon or whatever we want.” It’s an art hotel after all. I didn’t have the courage to express my (non-existing) artistic side, but it got me thinking about learning drawing again. (Maybe a 2016 resolution?).

The industrial theme continued in the room, like this old-looking desk and “aging” bathroom tiles look too, with some hints of modern design.

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai desk in room

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai bathroom

Anyhoo, a hotel is not just about art. So we had a large comfy bed, big screen TV (which we unfortunately didn’t have time to watch), a kettle station, mini fridge etc. Pretty much the standard stuff. My favourite amenity? The powerful shower. 😀 And my favourite service? The evening snackie the housekeeping lady left on my bed. 😀

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai bathroom shower

As for food, the hotel restaurant Jarid may seem a bit on the smaller side, but they put up a good breakfast spread, making the most of the buffet table space and using cute chalkboard-style placards for dish names.

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai Jarid restaurant

There were the usual suspects of cereal, breads, fruits, potatoes, Thai staples like rice, noodles, soup and we could ask for our choice of freshly-cooked eggs. The food was freshly cooked, packed with flavour and a very satisfying start to the day.

Hotel Art Mai Gallery Chiang Mai breakfast

Just what the doctor ordered before an action-packed day in Chiang Mai- trekking, river rafting, visiting the 3D museum, shopping and exploring the boutique stores around Nimmanhaemin.

Chiang Mai 3d museum giant foot

I’d stay in this hotel again if I could: tres chic, great location (in the heart of the hip part of town) and fabulous art.

To know more about Art Mai Gallery Hotel, visit the hotel website.

Wora Bura Resort: Quaint Thai haven in Hua Hin

When I first visited Hua Hin a few years ago, I never thought I’d be going back again. But in a strange of twist of fate (if such a thing exists), here I was on the bus with S, on my way to this beachside town in Thailand.

Hua Hin is a four-hour bus or car ride away from Bangkok. Since it’s not as popular as Pattaya and Phuket, there are fewer tourists, which means no jostling crowds, no overcrowded beaches and less chances of bumping into people you know. 🙂

We stayed at the Wora Bura Hua Hin Resort & Spa, a tiny David compared to the Goliath that is Sheraton Hua Hin at the outskirts of the town (fabulous hotel). But while it’s not as big as the Sheraton, it’s got what you need in any beach resort, but with lots of old-world charm and personal attention.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

We were welcomed at the Wora Bura reception with warm smiles and a lemongrass cooler. Traditional square tiling, whitewashed pillars and greenery subtly highlighted the hotel’s Thai provenance.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

With only 70-odd rooms in Wora Bura identified by Thai cities and towns instead of room numbers, the Wora Bura has that homely feel you don’t get in a chain hotel. The beach is just a short walk away (from any room), as is the swimming pool, the spa, the breakfast room and the beach-facing restaurant. A gazillion extra brownie points for this, because we didn’t need to walk around the hotel forever or call for a buggy.

Wora Bura Resort: Quaint Thai haven in Hua Hin

Our stay began with a late lunch at the restaurant by the beach, where Mr S tucked into Thai seafood fare. The restaurant may have just half a dozen tables, but with their attentive service, gentle sea breeze and the beach view, we relished our extended lunch hour.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

We strolled back to our room through the manicured garden, across tiny bridges and the swimming pool as kids played Marco Polo. We briefly stopped to admire a gorgeous villa room named Phuket, with fancy drapes and a cute porch.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

Our room had a Thai décor theme, true to the spirit of the resort. It was not just earthy accents, but rustic-looking doors and padlock, a wooden key (no plastic key cards!) and the old-style tiles that made us feel like we were in Thailand. A refreshing change from standard-décor hotel chain-rooms that often lack a local touch.

The hotel steps lead to the main beach of the town, which is quite clean and not really crowded. You can lounge on the hotel deck chairs, chill on the beach, frolick in the water, scream at the tiny crabs, collect shells…. We did all of this!

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

The highlight of our stay at Wora Bura was our spa experience. Our hour-long couples’ massage was in an airy room (with private bathroom) cooled to the right temperature, and expert masseuses who spoke some English. The massages we’d selected were the “light” ones, but they were still rigorous enough to rejuvenate us. By the end of the massage, I was ready for the (tiring) bus ride to Bangkok airport. I slept through most of the bus journey back to Bangkok (something I can never do), that’s how relaxed I was.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

When we checked out, we knew that our stay at Wora Bura had been way too short. We were there only one night, but managed to pack in the 18 hours we were there. We’d have loved more time to relax in the hotel and explore the town. The hotel had a free shuttle service that dropped us to town and night market.

A third trip to Hua Hin? Who knows?! If yes, my chosen place of stay will be Wora Bura Resort. 🙂

Why Powder Room is a candid recount of Indian fashion

Why Powder Room is a candid recount of Indian fashion

Last year at the exhibits area of Lakme Fashion Week, I had a long talk with an upcoming designer from Kolkata. There weren’t too many people around and he was in a chatty mood so we ended up talking about things beyond the fashion shows. Among other things, he recalled his first fashion week party, when someone turned to him and asked, “Who are you wearing?” “They are so fake, and they love name-dropping,” he grinned. Just then, a designer friend dropped by, and both started making jokes about the appalling amount of bling they’d seen at the ongoing fashion week shows.

This kind of candour is unheard-of in the fashion industry, and this is the barrier Shefalee Vasudev has tried to break through in her first book Powder Room. In the book, the ex-Marie Claire editor explores the underbelly of Indian fashion, attempting to demystify the “beautiful” industry and focus on the fashion professionals’ not-so-glam life. In the process, she also comments on Indian society, its aspirations and the value attached to labels (high fashion brands and Bollywood icons).

Powder Room

Benarsis, Bling and Bollywood

Powder Room takes us on a journey across the fashion industry through a series of stories shared by fashion insiders. For instance, Tarun Tahiliani speaks about brides’ tantrums and bling, an aspiring model says she is willing to jump on the casting couch, and a family of Patola weavers shun Bollywood stars.

Yes, the Patola makes an appearance too- one of the several traditional weaves that’s dying slowly. There are only a few who understand the need to revive region-specific textiles even as boundaries disappear. So you can get a kanjeevaram sari that’s not made in that town, or Maharashtrian paithani that’s made in Varanasi. I’m not sure how many fashionistas would want to own any of these.

Shefalee has travelled across India while writing the book, meeting people and reporting their stories and experiences. A journalist to the core, her reportage is carefully worded to let the reader decide on what they feel about the spendthrift Ludhiana Ladies and the small-town ladies tailors “copy” big designers.

Crafts and Commercials

However, you do feel the indignation as she reports on a family of Patola weavers who struggle to keep the craft alive, even as they shun Bollywood stars and “commercial” versions of their products. The indignation turns to amusement as she writes about the “editorial support” luxury brands offered to Marie Claire.

The contrasts that exist in Indian society often creep their way into the narrative. The monthly salary of the ambitious sales assistant at Emporio Mall cannot buy her more than a belt at the store. Meanwhile, the rich seek out designer wares, and middle class women want Zara copies and “Katrina blouses”. I remember seeing Preity Zinta’s “Veer Zaara suits” at the local fabric stores and Mangaldas Market. And Vidya Balan’s saris are everywhere already.

As part of my experience working at a fashion brand, I’ve learnt that almost everything in fashion magazines is up for sale. All you got to do is the fill in the cheque with the right numbers. And if you read extensively on fashion, you’ll know how a writer “loves” this designer’s collection, and already has that brand’s dress on her “wishlist”. Shefalee calls for fashion writing to be part of mainstream journalism- backed by facts and investigative reporting rather than just gush pieces. After a famous Bollywood-cum-bridal designer’s fashion show, a journalist muttered, “That was ghastly!” But of course, that would never get reported, not even in the mildest form of real fashion criticism.

What should you do with Powder Room? Depends on who you are- if you’re part of the fashion industry or want to be, then read it. And if you’re not part of the industry and never want to be, you should read it. Fashion is, after all, a business like any other.

Powder Room by Shefalee Vasudev is available at leading booksellers and online stores.

Chic Find: Stylish casuals from Guru (yes, we mean fashion)

Chic Find: Stylish casuals from Guru (yes, we mean fashion)

Jeans and tees are everywhere! Name a brand, and it’s the casuals we all wear. But if you’re looking to be casual without looking like a clone, it’s time to explore another brand.

And here’s a cool casual wear brand I discovered recently: Guru.

Guru t-shirt

So what’s Guru?

Don’t get fooled by the name. Guru is of Italian origin, though it’s now owned by Bombay Rayon. Present across Europe, Guru ventured into India a couple years ago. The Guru store is a wonderful place to step outside your casuals comfort zone. BTW, the Guru logo is a daisy.

Guru store in Mumbai

What Guru stands for

High-quality denims and casuals. Guru is for the fashion lover who values quality in fabric, print and style.

Denims at Guru store

The Guru style

Casual, edgy yet understated. In other words, very European. You won’t find the “typical” tshirts and jeans at Guru.

Menswear casuals at Guru store

Girls casuals at Guru

Must-try clothes at Guru

Denims: The white pair of jeans I tried at the store seemed a tad tight, but they fit me perfectly when I wore them couple days later. Also, the denim is super light, so I don’t feel hot in them despite the Mumbai heat. BTW, I also loved this denim jacket and trousers:Deim trouser and jacket at Guru

T-shirts: For their autumn/winter 2011 collection, Guru has tied up with the Paramount Pictures for movie-inspired t-shirts, from Grease, Footloose and Escape from Alcatraz. They were fun, vintage-looking tees. My favourite one was from Forrest Gump:

Guru Paramount Tshirt

The autumn/winter 2011 collection had waistcoats, jackets, jeans and tshirts. For girls, there were also a few dresses. The colour palette was muted with dull blues, greens, pinks and greys. Of course, black played an important role too.

One great thing about the store is that they have selected the right clothes for Mumbai. For instance, the heavy winter wear was kept to the bare minimum though the manager informed me that some customers did buy their winter clothes.

Don’t miss:

The visual merchandising and the interiors. The creatively-displayed garments and the strong Italian and international theme resonates throughout the store. I saw little bowls of pasta and coffee cups displayed with the garments. Besides, the colour-coordination is wonderful and the styling is just what a collegian would want to do with her clothes.

Visual display at Guru store in Mumbai

What’s missing:

Even though there are plenty of belts at Guru, I’d love to see more accessories like shoes and bags. Being a casual wear brand, it’s unlikely you’ll get a party dress or classic black trousers here.

The price:

Prices at the Guru store are higher than the most popular high street casual wear brands like Levi’s and Pepe Jeans, but lower than Diesel. For instance, a couple pairs of jeans were over Rs 3000. Some things at the store have “surprising” pricing, like a belt for Rs 1495. But the guys at Guru are confident that the Guru fan appreciates the quality that he gets.

Final word:

If your typical style isn’t casual, then Guru may not be the place for you. But Guru’s casual wear will excite those who love denims and t-shirts with attitude.

Speaking Chic was invited to review the Guru store by the brand. As a goodwill gesture, Guru gifted me a pair of jeans.

Chic Reviews: Lakmé Citrus Rain Fruit Detox and Strawberry face washes

In part 1 of the series, Speaking Chic readers shared their reviews of Lakmé Fruit Blast Melon Melt and Pear Butter Mask. This post is part 2 of the Lakmé Fruit Blast range.

Lakmé Citrus Rain Fruit Detox face wash

(Reviewed by Kavita)

About the face wash:

Lakmé Citrus Rain Fruit Detox Face wash is a rich and frothy face wash with a concoction of fresh mandarin and sweet orange. It sweeps off all traces of dirt to give your skin a Vitamin C rush that will release stress and leaves the skin refreshed, zesty and re-energized.

Price: Rs. 85 for 50 g; Rs. 135 for 100 g.

Lakmé Citrus Rain Fruit Detox Face wash

Kavita says:

This face wash is quite good—especially for winters. It keeps my skin fresh and moisturised for 7-8 hours after use. Just a little product is enough for myself as it foams well. I feel the freshness as I apply the product and even after I wash it off.

Unfortunately I don’t get a fresh or citrusy fragrance from the product—that would have been wonderful. And at times, my skin feels slightly “stretched” if I apply more than usual or rub for a longer time. But overall, I’m quite satisfied with the product. It was ideal for winter!

Rating: 3.5/5

Lakmé Fruit Blast Strawberry face wash

(Reviewed by Chaitra)

About the face wash:

The strawberries in the product, with Vitamin B and C leaves the skin smooth and youthful, while the micro-beads scrub away impurities, leaving your skin refreshed and delicately perfumed with the fragrance of strawberries.

Price: Rs. 85 for 50 g; Rs. 135 for 100 g.

Lakme Strawberry Blast face wash

Chaitra says:

The product is exactly what it claims to be—gently exfoliating the skin, though it feels more like a massage than a scrub. It foams well, and makes my skin look clearer, brighter and fresher. I get compliments when I use this face wash. Like the other day, my colleagues thought I’d got “something done to my face” at the salon.

The effect lasts long, and I love that it feels more like a gel than a typical face wash. The only drawback: it makes my skin a bit dry sometimes.

Rating: 4.5/5

Have you used products from the Lakme Fruit Blast range?

Chic Reviews: Lakmé Fruit Blast Melon Melt and Pear Butter Mask

Speaking Chic readers review the recent Lakmé winter launch: Fruit Blast face washes. (This is part 1 of the series).

Lakmé Melon Melt Fruit Quench Face Wash

(Reviewed by Noor)

About the face wash

It’s a cocktail of muskmelon and watermelon in gel form that will deep cleanse, refresh and cool your skin. Rich in Vitamin A, B and C, the creamy gel will lathers to transform your skin into never before freshness, radiance and hydration.

Price: Rs. 70 for 50 g, Rs. 125 for 100 g

Lakme Melon Melt Fruit Quench Face Wash

Noor says:

This face wash has an amazing fragrance—that’s the first thing I noticed about it!

The face wash gave me a “fresh” feeling, but only for the first five minutes. My skin felt amazing  for those few minutes, but I wish this effect lasted longer. Besides this, it’s just like any other face wash.

While you can use the face wash in the morning, I recommend Lakmé Melon Melt after a day out as the skin needs to feel cool after being out in the heat.

Rating: 2.5/5

Lakmé Fruit Blast Pear Butter Deep Hydrating Mask

(Reviewed by Deepti)

Lakmé Fruit Blast Pear Butter Deep Hydrating Mask

About the mask:

The mask contains pears and pure shea butter and is formulated for deep cleansing and intense hydration. Soft, buttery yet grainy textured pears are rich in vitamin C and K that help revitalize skin. Shea butter helps moisturise the skin, promoting cell renewal.

Price: Rs. 150 for 50 g

Deepti says:

I like this mask—firstly, it made me feel cool and fresh. After using the product, my skin felt soft and supple, and I was happy to note that the freshness lasted a long time. The soft, creamy texture and the invigorating fragrance is a bonus.

What I didn’t like was that if I applied a cream or moisturiser after using the mask and stepped out of an air-conditioned room, my face would become oily.

Overall, I liked the mask, and I would recommend it to my friends.

Rating: 3/5

DisclosureSpeaking Chic received these products for review from Lakme.

Part 2: Coming soon

Makeup Review: Body Shop Concealer

A concealer pencil? That was my first reaction to the Body Shop concealer when I saw it online. But the concealer was recommended by a friend, so I tried it out at the Body Shop store in a Mumbai mall.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if this cream-based concealer was doing its job well—hiding dark circles, redness and pigmentation. But the more I use it, the more I’m convinced that it works great when applied correctly. The coverage is adequate for a concealer, but not buildable.

Body Shop concealer Body Shop Concealer

I blend the concealer either using a concealer/lip brush or my ring finger. The latter is perfect for when I’m on the run; I apply the pencil directly on the problem area, and begin blending. While using the brush takes slightly longer, it blends better, though I usually do the final “round” of blending with my finger.

I follow the concealer with a dab of compact powder and carry it in my purse to touch up when needed. The makeup lasts long (it stayed in place from 1 pm to 10 pm, even as I ran from one part of the city to another).

The only thing I don’t like about the concealer is that it needs to be sharpened regularly. But luckily, one twist of the pencil is enough, so not much product wastage.

Speaking Chic verdict: I recommend the Body Shop concealer for busy women who have little time for makeup, are looking for a “lighter” option to foundation.

Speaking Chic rating: 4/5

Which concealer do you use?

Makeup Review: Lancome Teint Miracle Foundation

My mom doesn’t like makeup. Her idea of makeup is lipstick and maybe a compact. She’s never applied foundation. So convincing her to try Lancome’s Teint Miracle Foundation was the tough part.

Lancome’s Teint Miracle Foundation is the latest from the stable of the brand’s scientific research-based products. The foundation uses Aura Inside Technology—a natural light creator—to recreate skin’s inner light. Teint Miracle Foundation uses the right combination of  new pink bioptic pigment and blue bioptic pigment to make your complexion appear lit-from-within.

The foundation’s main draws: it boosts radiance and you appear flawless.

Mom and I put these claims to test just before she headed out to lunch with her friends.

Lancome Teint Miracle Foundation makeup We were both impressed with the rich-feel product packaging. As I helped my mom apply the foundation, I discovered it blended quite easily. (The Lancome makeup artist had told me earlier that the foundation was light, so if you’re looking for heavy coverage, this is not the right product for you.)

I set the foundation with some loose powder and waited a few minutes to check the foundation’s magic. Five minutes later, her skin seemed to glow, like she’d just done an expensive facial. And while mom doesn’t have any blemishes or pigmentation, her skin tone and texture seemed even, and mom looked radiant! Really.

As she headed off for lunch, I was afraid the foundation would get smudged or wiped off, or that people would know she’d done something to her face. But when she returned, she was still glowing, and beaming from the compliments she’d got from her friends. 🙂

Other reasons why we liked the foundation: it’s non-comedogenic (my mom’s skin didn’t break out), has SPF 15, is oil-free and stays on for a long time.

One reason I didn’t like the foundation: When I tried the foundation on myself (in the correct shade), it didn’t seem to do the same wonders it did for my mom.

Verdict: My mom loved the foundation, and will use Lancome’s Teint Miracle for special occasions. That’s a big thumbs-up!

Rating: 4.5/5

Price: Rs 2700

Disclosure: Speaking Chic received this product for review from Lancome.

Chic Reviews: Fashion films

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If you’ve leafed through a fashion mag lately, you would have spotted a Diesel ad. There’s a picture of a guy hanging upside down from a bus window kissing a girl, and the copy advises you to Be Stupid. Attention-grabbing concept, to say the least. But the campaign has caught the attention of UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, which recently banned the ads saying they were racy and indecent.

While some say the campaign was well… stupid, let’s move away from the Diesel debate and take a look at a recent trend in fashion campaigning—short films. Here are the Speaking Chic mini-reviews:

It started with the Chanel No. 5 ad, a story in the Orient Express, with glimpses of Istanbul and the Bosphorus. Starring Audrey Tautou, I found the ad (and the protagonist) mesmerising and enthralling.

Speaking Chic rating:  4/5


And then there’s Christian Louboutin’s Dancer in a Daydream with the designer tap dancing with two long-legged ladies. Great fun to watch, and their trademark red-soled shoes are a striking part of this film.

Speaking Chic rating: 3.5/5

Dior’s Lady Blue Shanghai has a dreamy, surrealist feel. But despite David Lynch’s direction and John Galliano’s creative touches, the film is very close to umm… boring. Marion Cotillard’s Dior outfits, the bag, the decor, are splendid, but not engaging enough.

Speaking Chic rating: 3/5

As for Prada’s First Spring: Love. The. Clothes. But that doesn’t make a film, does it? A motion picture has the power to tell a story,but this film didn’t do that. (If I wanted to see the Prada collection, I’d flip through their latest runway show.)

Speaking Chic rating: 3/5 (only for the clothes)

What do you think about the recent fashion and luxury ads? Are they high on high on fashion, low on substance?

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